Small Towns, Big Mountains, and Rainforests

Friday, 02 August 2013 15:30
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Sunflowers along the wayExploring a lot more of Washington State.


I left Palouse Falls after a nice evening of camping out and headed north to Ritzville to get some gas. Ritzville is a small town on the edge of a lot of Washington farmland, and it appears to have seen better days. I stopped in at the "pretty good" grocery store from some water, then got back on the road. Unlike central Oregon which is mostly just forest or desert, most of central Washington is growing something or another...I passed wheat, corn, soybeans, sunflowers, potatoes, hops, and a bunch of other crops on a road that went ruler-straight through the fields. Most of the traffic was tractors and combines, and I saw maybe another one or two cars.

No gas here, unfortunately Lots of Indian names for towns in WA, including Seattle, Yakima, and Tacoma Been a while since they sold any cars here Add Christina, and I've got a Wyeth painting
It was wheat harvest time in eastern WA This way to adventure and excitement Not quite as ritzy as advertised They also grow some sunflowers among the wheat fields

The next stop was the somewhat larger town of Moses Lake. I checked in at the local farm-centric hardware store, and picked up some good high quality domestic nuts to replace all my ball joint hardware so as not to repeat the fun I had in Waitsburg. The guy at the counter didn't know the price off the top of his head, so he gave me all four for $1.00. Can't beat that kind of service. I found a quiet corner of the parking lot to work on the car, and in about half an hour I had all new hardware on. Hopefully, that's the last time I'll have to work on that.

After Moses Lake, I headed south to Othello, which felt more like a town in Arizona or Nevada than Washington state. Many Mexican immigrants have moved to the area over the years to take advantage of the large number of agricultural jobs, and they've brought a lot of their culture with them. I think I saw more taquerias per block here than I did in Yuma.

Moving on past Othello brought me to the northern border of the Hanford site. Hanford was originally built to produce nuclear material as part of the Manhattan Project in World War II. It went on to produce most of the fissionable material for America's nuclear weapons program into the '80s before it was finally decomissioned. Unfortunately, they weren't super-careful with the waste disposal and storage, so it's also one of the most toxic places on the planet and the site of the world's largest environmental cleanup effort. Ironically, it's also the site of large wildlife refuge that's made up from the land that was the former security buffer zone around the reactors, so the entire area has been untouched since 1943, which makes it great for the birds and the fish. Supposedly, the nuclear waste and the wildlife never meet.

Lots of interest at the time about what was going on B Reactor, from a safe distance. This is where the WWII material was produced.

After driving past Hanford, I made my way to Wapato, WA, the site of my Airbnb stay for the next couple of nights. I had one end of a little rancher tucked back in the middle of an apple orchard and occupied by the Wilsons, a retired farming couple who used to own that orchard. They were very friendly and helpful, and they insisted that I park the car inside their garage too, which was nice. The room was clean and spacious, and a good spot to use as home base for exploring the area.

I went into Yakima that evening for dinner and to sit at a nearby coffee shop to work on some blogging. The town was small but friendly, with a nice downtown area and some good restaurants. Somehow at the coffee shop, I ended up helping a group of kids from the local community college with their physics homework (plain vanilla inclined plane stuff), which was actually a lot of fun. I also got my blogging done, so overall it was a good night at Northtown Coffee.

The next morning, I got up and dropped by a nearby fruit stand to pick up some of the Yakima Valley apples and peaches (which are really good), then headed up to Mount Ranier for some exploring. The weather had turned a little cloudy, unlike the crystal-clear skies I've enjoyed so far on the trip, so Ranier wasn't visible from Yakima like normal. Still, I figured it looked like a nice drive, so I went on up. It was indeed a nice drive; I stopped at Rimrock Lake to enjoy my snacks and enjoyed a lot of views and overlooks on my way up the mountain. Unfortunately, it never got to be entirely clear, and the top of the mountain had a constant level of haze and cloud cover, but it was still pretty impressive. I think I've hit most of the major volcanoes in the Cascades now (Lassen, Shasta, Crater Lake, Bachelor, Three Sisters, Washington, Hood, St. Helens, Adams, Ranier). I don't know if I get one free or something after all those...

The White River, near Ranier It's always this color; volcanic ash soils get into the water Mount Ranier, a bit hazy A couple local residents Another shot of Ranier in the haze

I left Wapato bright and early the following morning, and headed out on another meandering drive through Washington. My destination for that night was in Auburn, WA to stay with the Carters, who are fellow Roadster enthusiasts who generously offered their guest room. I stopped in Cle Elum and at Snoqualmie Falls on the way, and by late afternoon reached the Carter's home. Steve and I hung out in the garage talking roadsters and admiring his 1500 for a bit while his wife prepared dinner, then we all sat down to a meal and had a nice getting-to-know-you chat. Afterward, we picked some blueberries in their backyard for breakfast the followng day, and then retired to the living room for more discussion before finally turning in for the night.

The blueberry cake the next morning was fantastic, and I received a couple of big pieces to take with me for the rest of my day. The plan that day was to explore the northwestern peninsula of Washington and its rain forests a bit before pausing the trip for a few days (more on that later. ) It was still overcast but not actually raining when I headed out first for the coast. I got to the ocean at Ocean Shores, and in a very literal sense--you can drive on the beach there, so I actually got to dip a tire in the Pacific as a symbolic gesture. I'll see if I can find somewhere along the Atlantic to do the same when I get there.

On the beach at Ocean Shores More driftwood than you can shake a stick at What your GPS thinks when you drive on the beach

I continued north from there to the Hoh Rainforest, where I was able to take a lengthy hike along the Hoh River and into the forest itself, where there were big moss-covered maples, giant Sitka Spruce trees, lots of ferns and other ground cover, and a number of mushrooms and toadstools and other rainforest-type foliage. I found a nice campsite along the Hoh and crashed for the evening. It was a little chillier and more damp than I've gotten used to, but the tent did a nice job of keeping me warm and dry. I've been really impressed at its ability to eliminate condensation inside. Not quite sure how it does it, but it works.

The river was a cool blue color Moss grew on everything Chillin' out under the moss Part of a spruce
Moss-covered maple It's all very green More moss A fungus among us

The next morning, I stopped at a little diner in Forks, WA (home of the "Twilight" series for you sparkle vampire fans), then continued through Port Angeles and down through Bremerton to the airport at SeaTac, where I hopped a flight to the sunnier climate of New Mexico. I'll be down there for a few days, but back on the road within a week.


#1 lectacave 2013-08-06 10:23
A fungus among us - haha! Fascinating all around...
#2 laceytrynn 2013-08-06 16:20
love the moss-covered-tr ees pics -- surely doesn't look like my imagining of WA state!

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