As I said in my previous post: Sometimes, when life has kicked you in the teeth, the best thing to do is make some time to find a little joy. There hasn’t been a whole lot of that lately, but it’s time.
I haven’t felt inspired to write, even though plenty of blog fodder was available from a scenic and educational road trip October 4-9. Finally, now that another road trip is in the works, I am ready to write about that other journey and the therapeutic road trip that followed.
Just 15 days after my last post, on July 1, Dad passed. The following months were a blur of activity – everything from arranging flowers for the service over a long holiday weekend to updating my mother’s legal paperwork to changing the name on the phone bill. Mom had lived first with her parents, then with her husband, so at 85 years of age, it was time for her to learn how to be independent and it was not easy. By September, I was ready for a change of pace and started thinking about taking another road trip. When I asked Mom if she would like to go, she jumped at the prospect.
I suggested we head north and before long, we identified the North Cascades Highway as something we would like to see. I checked the Ebird Hotspots map to see if there were any good bird-watching places along the way. Scenic drives were identified. Waterfalls located – a favorite of my mother’s. Before long, the itinerary had become impossible. The North Cascades Highway closes every winter, sometimes as early as the first week of October. Snow geese over-winter in the Skagit River estuary, arriving in late October. We opted for the scenery instead of the snow geese, vowing to return in winter to see them.
Eventually, the itinerary was set. We would go north on I-5, spend two nights in Anacortes and the day in between exploring the Mt. Baker area. Then, it would be over the North Cascades Highway, south to Kennewick, and back to Portland. Along the way, we visited Rocky Reach dam near Wenatchee and took the final jetboat tour of the year to Hanford Reach. On the last leg of the trip, we stopped in Hood River where we bought apples.
Along the way, Mom and I enjoyed scenic beauty, brisk mountain air, and the sunshine of Washington’s east side. The trip rejuvenated us both and went a long way toward healing my mother’s anxiety. As it turned out, our timing couldn’t have been better. September was the 4th wettest and October set a new record as the wettest ever. We saw mostly gray skies on Washington’s west side and clouds totally obscured Mt. Baker from our sight, but luckily, we saw very little rain. Our last afternoon on the road, it started to pour down, but we had already seen our sights and were on the way home.
Snoqualmie Falls is a 268 ft. waterfall on the Snoqualmie River. It is one of Washington’s most popular scenic attractions, but is perhaps best known internationally for its appearance in the cult television series Twin Peaks. The old Snoqualmie Lodge, top left, has been modernized and is now the Salish Lodge & Spa.
What a treat to step out on the balcony of our room and watch the day dawn over Padilla Bay, with the North Cascades in the distance.
View from the Wildcat Cove boat ramp at Larrabee State Park, along Chuckanut Scenic Drive.
Whatcom Falls as seen from the stone bridge, Bellingham.
Mt Shuksan is a glaciated massif and not a volcano like nearby Mt Baker. It is an eroded remnant of a trust plate. It is located 11.6 miles south of the Canadian border and rises to 9131 feet. (We never did see Mt. Baker, as it was obscured by clouds all day.)
View of fall colors around Bagley Lakes from the Mt Baker Visitor Center.
Seeing the bridge from this viewpoint was one of those picture postcard moments. Golden hour and a splash of fall color only made it better.
Sunset over the Strait of Juan de Fuca as seen from Deception Pass Bridge.
Strange as it may seem, Gorge Dam is 2.5 miles upstream from this powerhouse, which is nestled against a cliff at an angle on one side of the Skagit River.
Gorge Creek Falls were rather popular with professional photographers prior to February of 2003, when the falls were drastically altered. It appears that a massive flash flood tore down the canyon, ripping out several trees adjacent to the falls, removing the very large boulders that lay between the two tiers and immediately below the falls, scoured out the walls of the canyon and in some places even dug the canyon deeper. Having visited these falls several times before the event, this was quite a shock. The high water marks can be seen on the gorge walls, and a massive gravel bar now occupies the gorge just above where it enters Gorge Lake. Height 242 feet, with 5 drops, the longest of which is 100 feet.
As luck would have it, out trip odometer read 666.6 miles as I parked the car at this overlook. So, the devil made me stop to enjoy the view of Diablo Lake. I’m glad, because the view was gorgeous and faint rainbows could be seen here and there in the whispy clouds.
Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River, 545 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean. The dam is 236 ft. high and 5,962 ft. long.
At 50.5 miles long, Lake Chelan is the largest natural lake in Washington state.
Salmon in the fish ladder at Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River.
“Pothole” wetlands at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. These scablands were formed during repeated Ice Age floods from glacial Lake Missoula.
Unknown thorny wildflower seen at Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.
View across the Columbia River from Sacajawea State Park in Pasco, Washington.
This is the jet boat that took 22 of us up the Columbia River from Richland to see Hanford Reach, which is only accessible by water.
The Hanford Reach National Monument is a national monument. It was created in 2000, mostly from the former security buffer surrounding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The area has been untouched by development or agriculture since 1943. The monument is named after the Hanford Reach, the last non-tidal, free-flowing section of the Columbia River in the United States, and is one of only two National Monuments administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The world’s second full-scale nuclear reactor was the D Reactor at Hanford which was built in the early 1940s and went operational in December of 1944.
D Reactor ran through June of 1967, and was ultimately cocooned in 2004. D Reactor is unique in a couple of ways. First, the reactor’s Control Room is the property of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and has occasionally been part of an exhibit and placed on display at the museum. Second, the D Reactor’s early days of operation weren’t as smooth as operators would have liked.
It appears that in the late 1940s, after the D Reactor had only been operational for a few years, scientists detected a problem with the reactor operations. They were so concerned that D would fail that they built another reactor, called the DR Reactor, right next door. The D Reactor’s early days of operation weren’t as smooth as operators would have liked. By October of 1950, DR (which stands for D-Replacement) Reactor went on line as the fifth plutonium production reactor at Hanford.
The spectacular White Bluffs of the Columbia River line the river for about 20 miles north from Richland. The bluffs are 900 feet tall at their highest point and are composed of gravel, sand, and silt deposited by ancient lakes, the Columbia River and its tributaries. They are a stacked column of many different depositional periods, taking millions of years to accumulate. In the intervening years, the Columbia River has cut through this sediment, exposing the bluffs.
We talked a lot during the trip, about all sorts of things past, present, and future. On the last leg of the trip, as rain pelted the windshield, we agreed that while our May trip was a much-needed break from day-to-day stress and worry, our October trip was a rite of passage. It marked the end of one journey: a marriage of 65 years and 11 months, a life shared, the torment of Alzheimer’s. It also marked the beginning of a new journey: making the best of what comes after Life Happens.
Now, in the middle of winter, the snow geese of the Skagit River estuary beckon. And rumor has it, a lot of bald eagles, too. The coming road trip will be a short one – just 3 days and 2 nights – and it marks the beginning of what we are confident will be a really good year.
Henry David Thoreau once said: Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
I don’t expect the snow geese to come sit on my shoulder, but it sure would make us happy if they come and let us enjoy watching them …