We awoke this morning much later than any other day on our trip. I guess knowing that we don’t have that far to go has made us slow down a bit. The day was clear and beautiful, and we could hear the low hum of milions of megawatts of power being generated just across the way. We had a nice sit-down breakfast at a cafe on the other side of the Columbia,still overlooking the dam, just to delay a bit more.
Our departure took us southwest along the banks of Banks Lake. Wind was whipping across the lake and down the steep canyon walls that line the lake. It’s a very long, narrow lake, and as with many things that we have seen, the scenery was spectacular.
At the south end of the lake we reached Highway 2 once again and turned west at Electric City. Just on the other side of Dry Falls Dam, we saw a turn off for the Dry Falls themselves,and decided to investigate. What we found was a visitor’s center overlooking a very deep canyon with water at the bottom and at one higher level, but no real “falls.” The signs state that Dry Falls had once been the world’s tallest waterfall until the last ice age changed the flow of the water. I’m sure Neolithic tourism took quite a hit in the area when that happened.
Our road took us higher and away from the canyonland of the Columbia. We crossed mile after mile of the same rolling wheat field loneliness that had preceeded Coulee. At one point, we crested a hill and could see the white-capped Cascade Mountains looming in the distance. The green fields continued, with an occasional puff of distant dust to indicate a solitary tractor preparing a field for planting. Eventually, we began a steep decent into through dryer scrub vegetation to the town of Waterville on the banks of the Columbia.
At this point, the Columbia is lined with the fruit orchards that make Washington famous for its apples. Cherries seemed to be the fruit in season at the moment, so we stopped at a roadside stand for some Wenatchee Cherries. These are some of the most incredible things I’ve tasted. The cherries are more akin to nectarines in size and flavor, and nothing like the wimpy Bing Cherries we find in drinks and desserts back home. We munched, trying not to stain the interior of the car, until we reached the town of Wenatchee, proper.
Wenatchee is the largest city on this side of the Cascades until you get to Spokane. It sits at the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers,and serves as a gateway to mountain skiing or to the eastern lakes, depending on which way you’re going. We were headed west, across the mountains, and still on Highway 2.
Not far from Wenatchee we reached the town of Leavenworth. This is a town with an obvious identity crisis. While sharing a name with a town known mostly for its prison in Kansas, this town has gone with an Alpine theme – totally. Every building, from the McDonalds to the lowliest merchant, looks like a Swiss chalet. They even pipe oompah music through the town square. It would have been fun to stop a bit, but we had a target for the day.
The road took a winding route next to the Wenatchee River. We had done the northern Cascades Loop through Cascades National Park in previous trips, but this was our first time on the southern portion of the loop. There was much more traffic than the northern route, since this is the most direct connection from Seattle across the mountains. I tried to avoid hitting anyone as I also tried to watch the river, which is a paddler’s dream — wide, with enticing rapids. Several rafting companies advertised tours of the river, and some day I may have to return.
The road turned steeper for awhile, and eventually we reached Steven’s Pass. A ski lodge and chairlift were just to the south of the pass, and even though the pass is only at 4300 ft, there was still snow in patches on the upper slopes of the mountain. As steep as the ascent was, the descent was even steeper,or at least seemed so. It also seemed like most of the traffic was coming our way – away from Seattle for an early weekend on a Friday.
Just before the town of Skyhomish, we reached Deception Falls on the Tye River. There was a half-mile loop trail through the falls system, so we stopped to explore. In addition to a series of waterfalls on this river, the trail followed a path through some old growth forests. Huge evergreens stood in a swath of moss carpeting and ferns. It was certainly worth a stop. As we walked the trail, we realized that Washington State has most of the spectacular scenery we had seen along our entire trip. It may not have bison, but it has snow-capped mountains, rolling fields of grain, desert steppes, and oceans, should one so desire. We decided then and there that this would be a one-time trip, and that in the future we would FLY directly out to Washington.
The other side of the mountains brought us back to reality. The traffic increased,and we dreaded the thought of I-5 through Everett. We thought we would take a side route that would take us to the interstate north of the problem areas, but got lost, then stuck in construction. We would have probably been better off sticking to the main roads.
Finally on the interstate, things flowed smoothly. As we travelled further north, we could clearly see the Olympic Mountains, Mount Baker, and the Canadian Rockies. The only place that was not clear were the San Jaun Islands, and it looked like they were getting dumped on. We debated putting the top back up, but figured we could beat the rain.
We turned off the interstate onto the roads that lead across the reclaimed farmland to Samish Island, and soon could smell the salt water. The roads were littered with debris, and at one point we crossed a place where a telephone pole had been blown down. We made it to the island and pulled into the Wright driveway, and found that we had just missed the storm. We also found out that there was no power on the island. So, after unloading the car, it was another dinner out, a drive along the Bayview-Edison Road in the convertible.
When we got home from dinner, I guess my body realized it didn’t have to travel for a few days, so I completely conked out. I slept from 7:00 PM until 7:00 AM – twelve full hours. The power was back on, so this is actually being posted Saturday morning.