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Sea, prairie, mountains: Whirlwind 1300 km road trip, Part IV

Sunday morning came too soon and I was still tired. Not the best way to start the day, so I decided to take it easy and to just hang out at my mom’s house until it was time to leave at 1 p.m. As Jane Austen said, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” As a result, we all had time to visit in an unhurried manner. One of my brothers was mowing the lawn when I got up, so I got to see him, and my other brother called. Everyone’s tired the day after a big family wedding! So much goes into preparation, anticipation and, for some, travel. It was nice to just relax before we left. My mom is an ace gardener and I regret not living closer, in part, so I could learn from her. It was fun walking around, just seeing what she was growing. The gourd plant was going strong and it got plenty of sun alongside the house. Her pepper plants were also doing well. I don’t have much luck with peppers here in Southwest British Columbia. Others here might but I don’t get enough direct sunshine. Her back yard was a riot of color and, while she wasn’t very satisfied with it, I thought it looked great. The mountain ash tree was heavily laden with  berries. Interestingly,  all the mountain ash I saw during our road trip was drooping from the heavy weight of a bumper crop. It reminded me of the drunken birds I saw once in Missoula, Montana. They were intoxicated from eating fermented mountain ash berries. Birds were stumbling around in the snow and we thought something was seriously wrong until our neighbor told us they were simply drunk. Bird booze! Inside the house, Mark was packing us a good, healthy lunch. It was warming up and was going to be a scorcher of a day. We we decided to take the freeway back to Canada to save time and that meant we were going to be driving through quite desertous areas. Years and years ago, I used to get heat stroke about the time we reached Moses Lake. Thank God for air conditioning!

It felt peculiar staying so little time, but it was a whirlwind trip, so we said our goodbyes and headed to the freeway. Soon we were driving east on Interstate-90, the longest  highway in the United States, running from Boston, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington. We would only be covering a short length, cutting north to Interstate 5, which parallels the Pacific Ocean, from Mexico to Canada. That was many miles in the distance, though. To the west of Spokane, the air was hazy. When choosing this route, I had forgotten about the fires that had torn through the areas we would be passing through. The vegetation was so dry, it looked like tinder. That dangerous. Miles away, it was still hazy when we dropped down to the Columbia River. I love descending the plateau to the river, a steep grade with incredible vistas. Never tire of it! Just over the bridge, we stopped to stretch our legs at the rest area near Vantage. I have never  seen giant wind turbines so close. The blades were not spinning, which made them even seem more unearthly.  The linearity of the base and blades, along with the smoothness of the white metal contrasted well with the desert. It looks like a creature looming over a ridge in the photo at the right. From here, we’d gradually start rising in elevation till we reached the apex of Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Range. The mountains are the dividing line between east and west in Canada and down through the States. Terrain to the east is uniformly dry and wet. We hadn’t reached the top yet, though. Soon, we were driving right through the fire zone. We had yet to reach Cle Elum, where fire claimed 61 houses, burned 3000 acres, and required 1000 firefighters. We were driving next to another burn area near Kittitas. The fire had not jumped the freeway, but it got very close. We passed miles and miles of burned ridgeline. The area is little more than a wind tunnel! Driving by this burned area made me remember that real estate development and common sense have been moving in opposite directions for some time. In the 1980s and 1990s, building began to take place on sites that never would have been considered safe before. In a fire zone? On a barrier island in a hurricane zone? Below the 100-year flood mark on a river? Newcomers are often unfamiliar with the areas into which they’re move and don’t know about the hazards. No one tells them and they often haven’t researched it on their own. Of course, it does come down to what is allowed to be built where. Here’s a good article on the subject about these burn areas: “Fire-prone areas: to build or not to build,” by the Seattle Times. (No burn policies, too, but that’s a different story.) After Cle Elum, we started to climb. The terrain changed and soon we were in the mountains. The approach and decline from Snoqualmie Pass is so gradual, it feels like Sunday driving, but at a certain point, you’re over the top and have entered the temperate rain forest, similar to the zone in which we live. We’ve just dropped from mountains to sea level and our ears have popped. Several times. Cutting north on Interstate 5, we bypass Seattle, but not city. Soon the traffic thins out, as we enter the corridor north of Everett. We’ve come full circle because this is where we cut east when the journey began, two Fridays ago. I try to catch sight of Mount Baker, but the sun is going down and when I do see it, the light quality is poor. I just savor it with no camera lens between me and it. We reach the border. Short lineups, so only a half-hour wait, which was great. It was cloudy but not rainy and we barreled home through White Rock and over the exhilarating Alex Fraser Bridge, the second longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. We were thinking of our cat Rosie, who our friends had cared for in our absence. New Westminster shot by, then Burnaby and Coquitlam. Soon we were in Port Moody. On Jane Street. Home sweet home….


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Sea, prairie, mountains: Whirlwind 1300 km road trip, Part III

Saturday, August 25th, was the day of my nephew’s wedding and we still had a little over two hours left of our road trip, so we couldn’t dawdle. We passed the turn off to Grand Coulee Dam, a sight worth seeing if you ever have the time. As a rule, I don’t like dams, especially on the Columbia River, where they have so tampered with salmon habitat. But, as far as spectacles and examples of civil engineering, you’d be hard put to find a more awe-inspiring hunk of concrete. Built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from 1933-1942, it is a tourist attraction, in addition to being a producer of hydro-electricity.

American folksinger Woody Guthrie wrote this song about it in 1941:

“Grand Coulee Dam,” words and music by Woody Guthrie

Well, the world has seven wonders that the trav’lers always tell,
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well,
But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair lang,
It’s the big Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam.

She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,
Comes a-roaring down the canyon to meet the salty tide,
Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the West
And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.

In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and wind ward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave,
Well, she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.

Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of ‘thrity-three,
For the farmer and the factory and all of you and me,
He said, “Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea,
But river, while you’re rambling, you can do some work for me.”

Now in Washington and Oregon you can hear the factories hum,
Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum,
And there roars the flying fortress now to fight for Uncle Sam,
Spawned upon the King Columbia by the big Grand Coulee Dam.

From here, we followed Highway 2, past the turnoff to fascinating places we surely would have wanted to stop, ordinarily. We’d only been to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park once and, then, only right before it closed. The pictographs are amazing, but we’d yet to see ancient trees turned to stone. Maybe next time! No sooner had we passed that turnoff than we crossed the mighty Columbia River, gem of the ocean. From there, we passed  through a series of small farm towns, some with civic pride, like Davenport, others suffering neglect, like Reardan. I remember when it was a bustling little farm town, but that was in the 70s and the years since had not been kind to it. Along this route, columnar basalt is visible along the roadside. It looks like rusty iron, corrugated, and stood on end. The tall, hexagonal shapes are caused by thick, cooling lava that swells up and contracts. It’s amazing stuff! For the rest of the way, it is pretty much flat, save a hillocky area that I like because it breaks up the monotony of driving in a straight line. Spokane is the second largest city in Washington state and, just on the outskirts, the terrain becomes treed with Ponderosa pine. It towers over the landscape, yellow, with rugged bark. We take a back route to Mom’s to save time and, as we pull into her driveway, the dogs start barking. I walk to the front door, stepping on acorns under the huge oak tree which shades the whole front yard. She gave me many, which we’ll plant soon. I’m hoping one or two will survive our little black squirrels and their fall foraging.

Because we arrived at 11 a.m., we had time to settle in, visit and get ready, as the wedding wasn’t until 3 p.m. Finally, we were heading north, to the little community of Elk, Washington. A wooded rural area, it has a post office, a community hall and considerable community spirit. As we sped by its park on a back road, Mom told us the formerly state-run park was taken over by the people in the locale. She said the rural community used it for town picnics and celebrations. Very nice to hear and it was a charming park. We continued driving through land that was slightly hilly, traveling up rises, around corners, down into little valleys. It took us about 45, all told to reach Camden Ranch, the venue.

Many people were attending Jeremy’s and Jennifer’s wedding and it was the coming together of four families. There were guests from Texas, Colorado and New Mexico, in the United States, and we’d come from British Columbia, Canada. Others came from the coastal areas of Washington state and many more were local. Five bridesmaids, five groomsmen and three flower girls led the procession. It was a fairly big wedding. I’ve created a gallery of photos of the wedding venue for you to show how lovely it was there. My nephew and his new wife are on their honeymoon and haven’t seen their photos, so I’m holding back on photos of them until they see them first.

After the event, we trundled back to the car and headed down the road, opposite the way we’d come. Mom wanted us to see the Camden Creek Lavender Farm, so we drove on through the shadows and vales, as the sun was over the ridges. I got out to take a look. It was the first time I’d seen so much lavender in one place and the breeze carried the scent. Ecstasy! As we left, Mom commented that it always seems to take less time to return home, and the country, towns, city flashed by. Soon we were back home and resting…we had to drive all the way home the next day. (Last installment on Wednesday)





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Sea, prairie, mountains: Whirlwind 1300 km road trip, Part II

If you have to make a duty trip, it is best to do something for yourself along the way, otherwise, the journey will be onerous and fatiguing. We learned of my nephew’s wedding date after our vacation time for the year had been assigned, so, congratulations aside, we were faced with a quick weekend run. Had we flown out of Vancouver, it would have been exhausting: a one-hour drive to the airport, arrival two hours early for international flights, a two-hour layover in Seattle, a half hour drive to my mom’s. Seven hours altogether for one and a half hour flight time! Whereas, the drive was only nine hours and we’d get to see places we honestly liked. Leaving Friday afternoon, we drove halfway, then treated ourselves to an overnight stay in a quirky little town along a route loved, enjoying the scenery.

We rose at 7:00 a.m., after a restful sleep at the Waterville Hotel, sat ourselves down around a big round oak table in the parlor, sipped orange juice and nibbled on fresh raisin scones from the Blue Rooster Bakery. Just like homemade! Then, we carried our coffee mugs out to the verandah and greeted the day. Across the street, in Pioneer Park, a few people were setting up shop. When we arrived the night before, I noticed what looked like a shuttered art fair. In the light of day, I saw the very kind of old, white-painted, wicker furniture I covet and it turns out it was an outdoor antique fair. Since we collect antiques, we decided to take a boo. It was still early enough for dew on the grass and everything seemed hushed. Only one or two proprietors were about…  Tents and RVs lined the park perimeter and we heard the muffled sounds of people about their ablutions. It was time for us to get on with our day, too, so we walked back across the street to the hotel. Mark took our luggage to the car and then we snapped a few shots of the hotel grounds. I took a photo of him by the old garage next to the park. Few people were about and it seemed we pretty much had Waterville, Washington to ourselves that Saturday morning. It would shape up to be a very hot day and, as Mark stood there, I envisioned a big, old pop cooler on the sidewalk, full of orange and grape Nehi.

Pulling out, we headed east. The day was already bright and sunny and we were thankful for air conditioning. Aside from an occasional hawk, we saw no living thing and there was a serene quality that city dwellers recognize when they find themselves in rural areas. Ripe wheat, field after field, golden, with a backdrop of rich, blue sky. The Prairies. So sedate, hard to believe that what we were traveling through the site of ancient, epic drama. The foundation of the Waterville Hotel is made of basalt boulders quarried nearby and, but three hours away, lies Spokane surrounded by towering basalt columns shaped like crystal rods. Where there is basalt, there was fire. I asked Mark how close we were to Moses Coulee, one of my favorite places. Not far, he said…. Fire and ice. Fire and ice. We were witnessing the scene of formerly catastrophic volcanic and glacial activity. Plus, while it would only take us 180 minute to zip through this region, it took many ages to form and reform.

We’ve been driving this route for 10-15 years. When we were first getting used to the terrain, we noticed humongous boulders in fields. Farmers would simply drive their tractors  around them. They were oddly spaced, too, only here and there. Eventually, we learned they were called glacial erratics, giant rocks deposited by moving glaciers. They weigh many tons and are now features of the landscape. According to Dan McShane’s Washington Landscape blog, erratics in part of the Waterville Plateau have been “protected under the National Natural Landmark program.” His blog post is illustrated by two oil paintings by his wife, Bellingham artist Lisa McShane: “Winter Fields,” and “Erratic and the Road.” The latter looks like it must be Yeager Rock near Waterville, which weighs 400 tons. McShane’s work is fantastic and she certainly captures the eeriness of these geological wonders, detritus of a much earlier age. The source of the basalt in this region is volcanic activity that formed ‘flood basalt.’ Eastern Washington was flooded in the Miocene and Pliocene to the tune of 63,000 square miles (160,000 km2), in one of the largest floods of its kind. “Over a period of perhaps 10 to 15 million years, lava flow after lava flow poured out, ultimately accumulating to a thickness of more than 6,000 feet (1.8 km)” states an article on the Columbia Plateau in Wikipedia. “As the molten rock came to the surface, the Earth’s crust gradually sank into the space left by the rising lava.”

I love rocks. Stones. Geological formations. Outcrops. Striations. You name it, I like, it. My first job out of high school was as a researcher for the U.S. Bureau of Mines and Geology, a sweet job I netted thanks to the efforts of our neighbor, a geologist. Many years before, I’d caught the rockhounding bug from my grandfather, who lived in Central Oregon, another rock lover’s paradise. Driving through this area of Highway 2 sends me! Next up was Moses Coulee, another favorite. It has some of the best examples of rimrock I’ve seen. Whenever I travel through it, my senses heighten and I absorb the silence of the canyon walls. Some day, I want to drive the length of it, if it’s possible. I am interested in being in the presence of such massive hunks of rock. Moses Coulee was gouged out of the landscape by raging torrents of outburst flooding caused when enormous glacial ice dams broke repeatedly, emptying ancient Lake Missoula. This lake held about half the volume of Lake Michigan, 2,100 cubic kilometres (500 cu mi) of water. Lake Missoula was enormous: 7,770 square kilometres (3,000 sq mi). About the size of Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island put together. Its outflow scoured areas throughout the entire Northwest United States. The dam broke 40 times over 2000 years. Lake Missoula emptied into the Columbia River, then into the Pacific Ocean by way of was is now western Montana, northern Idaho, eastern Washington, and northwest Oregon. The amount of dirt and ‘stuff’ that was dislocated by the flood equaled 210 cubic kilometres (50 cu mi).

Still in the ‘geo-zone,’ we drove east, anticipating a glimpse of Dry Falls, our last major landmark of interest this trip. Imagine an enormous deluge from Lake Missoula thundering over rimrock 17 times the length of Niagara Falls. Beyond deafening! Now imagine it dry and you have Dry Falls and its silent testimony. We didn’t have time to drive down to it, but we took a quick peek at the scenic overlook. Though times are quiet in these areas now, ancient history belies it. Interestingly, until the 1920s, the immensity of what occurred wasn’t fathomed until geologist J. Harlen Bretz had a Eureka moment and realized the scabland channels of Washington state were caused by water. His hypothesis caused outrage among the scientific community and for 40 years, he fought for his beliefs and his work. He was vindicated eventually, but it took until the 1970s to fully quash opposition and to prove he was correct. Since then, the area has been subject to great interest and study. As for me, my mom’s from Missoula and this area seems to be in my blood…. (Part III runs on Monday)

"Dry Falls, near Coulee City, Washington." - NARA - 294037, 1935



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Sea, prairie, mountains: Whirlwind 1300 km road trip, Part I

It would have to be darned important to lever me off my little patch of dirt this summer. You see, I am pouring all my energy into getting my Etsy shop up this summer. It’s a big project and is taking longer than expected because I am also creating a new logo and corporate identity package. In addition, I’m making new banners for my blog, shop and soon-to-be Facebook business page. A considerable amount of work. Earlier in the spring, I let my mom and mother-in-law know I wouldn’t be able to visit this summer because of my workload and self-imposed deadline. My husband would be going without me and I would have a working staycation. There was some gnashing of teeth but I stood firm. Soon after, my nephew rang.

Jeremy: What are you doing on August 25th?

Jan:        August 25th? (I braced myself.)

Jeremy: I know what you’re going to be doing!

Jan:        You do?

Jeremy: Yes! You’re coming here!

Jan:        I am?!

Jeremy: Yes! I’m getting married!

Aunt Jan listened. Of my mother’s and father’s five children, my brother, Steve, was the only one to have a child, so Jeremy was and is the ‘apple of our eye.’ Aunt Jan ceded some ground and, last week, I shopped and wrapped. Friday, we drove down; Sunday we drove back. A whirlwind 1300 kilometer road trip for a lovely outdoor wedding on a sunny day under a cloudless sky.

My trip officially started when I drove to downtown Vancouver to meet my husband at his workplace on the waterfront. When I pulled up, I saw a passenger ship moored alongside Canada Place. The Celebrity Millennium would have entered the city through the Burrard Inlet, a long fjord of the Pacific Ocean along which Vancouver was built. The grey sky
over North Vancouver didn’t extend far, thank goodness. In fact, it ended at about the point where I stood, under the Vancouver Sun building, above which was sun, blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Good omen! We, then, set our game plan in motion. The Plan: travel by way of the Peace Arch border crossing, head south to Everett, Washington, then turn east, toward our destination, Spokane. Reaching the border meant driving through Vancouver during Friday rush hour traffic and it took an hour and a half to drive 20 miles! Along the way, though, we saw some nice sights, one of which was Vancouver City Hall. Built during Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee, in 1936, it is a lovely example of Art Deco architecture and received heritage status in 1976. From there, we continued driving south. Very heavy traffic and I’m amazed to think that people commute like this  every day. Surrounded by single occupancy vehicles, it made me wonder if any of them ever use public transportation. Vancouver’s new Skytrain line traveled in the same direction they were going, after all. By the time we reached the border, we were happy to see that all lanes were open and traffic moved briskly. It took us all of 12 minutes to enter the U.S. of A. Soon we were zooming down the freeway to our cutoff at Everett.
We love taking US Highway 2 because of the gorgeous scenery. No hectic freeway rush or homogenous restaurants, either. The road trip route took us over Stevens Pass which is always a thrilling drive, no matter the time of year. The Cascade Loop is one of the state’s most scenic areas. Who can resist driving through towns named Sultan, Gold Bar or Skykomish? Or seeing Mt. Index? The jagged, snow-covered mountains are a dramatic backdrop for the green whitewater of the Wenatchee River. The only time I ever saw a Golden Eagle was when crossing Stevens Pass en route to Montana, years ago. They are enormous, having wing spans of up to seven and a half feet. I remember watching it through the windshield as it glided on air currents overhead. Stevens is also a mountain pass that feels like a mountain pass, with a steep ascent and descent…. We quickly left the mountains, crossed the iconic Columbia River, then drove up a steep, winding canyon with hairpin turns. Soon, we reached 

Big Bend Plateau, named for a bend in the the Columbia near Wenatchee, which we’d just passed through. It was the end of the first leg of our whirlwind trip and we were heading for one of our all-time favorite towns. Happily beetling the short distance to Waterville, we passed an old barn with advertising along way. Then, after nosing our car into the parking lot of the Waterville Hotel, we got out and stretched. Having driven through this tiny town for over 20 years, it was the first time we’ve stayed longer than the time it took to picnic at Pioneer Park or walk our dog, Shiva. It was high time. The old hotel, built of local brick in 1903, has been on the National Register since 1984. It has a deep porch with Adirondack chairs and is the perfect place to slow down… It was nice sitting in the library and just being around the original furniture. In the morning, we breakfasted on orange juice, coffee and raisin scones from the Blue Rooster Bakery in town. The proprietors are lovely people who have owned the hotel since 1996. They have renovated it room by room. According to the website, “the Waterville Hotel received the Washington State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation Officers Award for Outstanding Achievement in 1999.” I want to return for a one-week stay, at some point. (Wednesday: “Sea, prairie, mountains: Whirlwind 1300 km road trip, Part II”)

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