The world feels a bit apocalyptic lately. There’s been a growing sense in the back of my mind that if I don’t make time soon for all the things I want to see on this earth, I’ll miss my chance and never get to them at all. So, on a gray morning in mid-May, Luke and Elizabeth and I packed up the car and headed north out of Colorado to check a few more items off the bucket list.
In retrospect we brought way too much stuff with us, but you never know what you might need on a trip like this. My main concern was boredom in between the interesting bits. I brought books to read, a journal to write in, camp games to play, even the old family hymnal in case we felt like a sing-along. I’m not a fan of organized religion, but my issues with it don’t extend to those lovely ancient hymns. In the traveling days of my childhood, those were the songs that passed the miles.
The books, games, journal and hymnal sat untouched in the trunk for the entire trip. An audiobook reading of “The Fellowship of the Ring” brightened a few tedious stretches of road, but for the most part it was the journey itself that kept us entertained.
We brought boxes of nonperishable food, and most of it came back home with us. Canned and dehydrated provisions and energy bars could not compete with all the fresh local fare we enjoyed along the way.
We brought raincoats, rain hats, sun hats, an umbrella, LifeStraws and matches and never needed any of them.
For myself I packed something like twelve shirts, and then wore the same merino wool top for almost the entire expedition. On the other hand, I brought five different pairs of footwear – snow boots, chelsea boots, trail runners, water shoes, sheepskin booties – and ended up using and being grateful for all of them. You just never know what you’re going to need.
We stopped for lunch in a 1950’s-themed diner in windy Wyoming, skimmed through the northeast corner of Utah and spent the first night in a truck stop parking lot in southern Idaho, just trying to put the miles behind us on this first uneventful leg of the journey. We were on the first runthrough of our road trip music playlist and hadn’t got tired of it yet, so we turned it up loud and sang along.
Back in January when we started discussing the trip, we had planned to stop in Salt Lake City to see Temple Square. I’m no flavor of religious, but I can appreciate fine architecture. Unfortunately the Temple is buried in scaffolding now for renovations. We’ll visit it another time, when the construction is done and we can appreciate it in all its majestic glory.
The next morning we stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho, to see Shoshone Falls. The “Niagara of the West” is fed by the once-mighty Snake River, but agricultural diversion and drought have all but dried this part of it up. Here is what’s left of the Snake just upstream of Shoshone Falls:
The falls were flowing at a sad trickle when we arrived, just before the viewing area officially opened. That big dry riverbed tells a cautionary tale about climate change and unsustainable water use.
Some baby marmots were frolicking together on the viewing path, and there were several larger adults nibbling grass in the picnic area. We had never seen marmots before and had to consult the googles to find out what we were looking at. Yellow-bellied marmots are apparently common in the Twin Falls area.
Shortly after we arrived, the dam released a pleasantly noisy and scenic flow over part of the falls. I’m guessing this is done during the park’s open hours to attract tourists. The riverbed itself was still dry, but at least we felt like we had seen an actual waterfall. Birbs for scale:
Later we stopped for lunch in the Basque Block of Boise, Idaho’s Old Historic District. This colorful enclave is dedicated to preserving and commemorating the language and culture of Europe’s Basque region.
We bought a bar of chocolate in the Basque Market because we liked the wrapper. The excellent chocolate was a delicious bonus.
We had a nice lunch at Bar Gernika, named for a small town that was bombed by nazis during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Picasso’s famous painting, “Guernica,” is referenced on a mural next to the pub.
The Snake River winds back up and around to mark the state line between Idaho and Oregon. We crossed the river for the second time and continued north.
At a rest stop in Oregon we found a little water mill that had once powered a tool shop.
We drove through Deadman Pass, where I-84 follows the old Oregon Trail. This is a steep and winding section of highway that loses 2,000 feet of elevation in six miles of hairpin curves. The views are great.
We crossed the Columbia River into Washington, and made a small detour in the sleepy town of Zillah to see a defunct gas station shaped like a teapot.
Fun fact: there is a “Church of God Zillah.” Presumably unrelated to the Japanese monster.
The weather was unpredictable on this first part of the journey. We’d had rain off and on ever since we left Denver, but so far it had hospitably followed a pattern of raining while we drove and being clear whenever we stopped to look at something.
I was obsessively following weather forecasts for the Olympic Peninsula. I wanted to hike Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, but so far the seasonal road to the trailhead was still closed to vehicles due to an unusually snowy spring. Walking to the trailhead would add an additional three miles to the hike. But aside from that, the Hurricane Hill trail is all about the views from the top. It wouldn’t even be worth doing on a foggy, overcast day with poor visibility. So I watched the forecasts and hoped for open roads and one day of clear weather.
We spent the second night in a dirt parking lot on Snoqualmie Pass Summit, next to some (open and heated, yay!) public restrooms and a gift/coffee shop that had closed for the night. We left early the next morning, before the shop opened, which was too bad because I had read good things about their hot chocolate. The air was cold on the pass.
Tangent: in California I used to ride Stormy on the Pacific Crest Trail where it ran through Anza. Back then I just assumed that at some point in my life I would ride or hike the entire length of it from Mexico to Canada. At my age that project doesn’t sound like fun anymore, but I did enjoy seeing a trailhead for the PCT as we continued on through Snoqualmie Pass.
We took another short detour off the Interstate to visit Snoqualmie Falls.
Photos can’t capture the real essence of big waterfalls: the thundering roar, the fresh mist on your face, the sense of dynamic energy. Snoqualmie Falls did not disappoint.
Saw this colorful boi there! Love his little racing stripe.
In Seattle we stopped to see the Lenin Statue. It had been defaced with paint; apparently someone was mad at it about Ukraine. Maybe they got Lenin mixed up with Putin because they’re both named Vladimir?
Elizabeth for scale.
We also visited the Troll Under the Bridge.
Next we stretched our legs at Gas Works Park, which is what it sounds like: an old gas works that has been converted into a public park.
The park sits on the shore of Lake Union and offers nice views of the Seattle skyline. The weather had turned clear and fine, and people were out playing with their boats and water planes.
From Seattle we took the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry across the Puget Sound to the Peninsula. It would have been faster to drive the long way around, just because of the wait times for boarding. But we had never taken this kind of ferry before, and this seemed like a good opportunity to check it off the bucket list.
Next up: Olympic National Park!