Archive for the ‘Posts about places’ Category
Posted on July 3, 2012 - by Nadia
July 3, 2012 Wrangell, Alaska
Independence Day is a four-day fling that builds in intensity here in Wrangell as soon as June is history. I arrived two days ago to the log rolling contest; sadly, I watched the canoe races start while I was at the chiropractor; now I hear live music from downtown while I watch skinny kids fling themselves off the dock, off the cargo containers on the dock, into the mid-rising tide at the center of town. Celebration, hoc and ad hoc is in the air. This morning, I listened to women discuss their Fourth of July outfits – one if it’s warm, one if it’s not. There is much discussion of how long it took to warm up after last year’s parade when a hard, cold rain relentlessly fell. Everywhere, people greet and part with, “Happy Fourth!” and “Have a safe and happy Fourth.” Wrangell is a funny blend of bruised knuckle working town and tourist stop, and it has been since Josie passed this way. George Vancouver cruised through in the 1790s. Then the Russian’s came in the 1840s and erased his names and plunked down their own, engaging in a bit of a mini-great game over control of the mighty Stikine River, which empties here and gives whoever controls it – Tlingit, Russian or Brit – a sense of merchantile control over the unreachable but rich interior of British Columbia . Josie may have stopped here. Many of the Klondike crowd did, sleeping in tents pitched in a clearing near the church. Thousands of them took a forced rest here as steamships stopped for fuel and supplies at a town so richly situated that it has served as a supply stop for more than 1,000 years. They were a scary crowd to some, who told their daughters not to stray across the mid-line of town because you never knew what ne’er do wells were among the gold rush crowd. For awhile, modern Wrangell was a town that timber built. As I type, two guys are on the dock, turning big logs into big discs with extra long chain saws. It seems to be part of the Fourth, but there is no crowd. Maybe they’re chunking up the podium for the Queen of the Fourth competition, which is hotly contested, judging by the posters in windows and the number of contestants and their emissaries who have asked me to buy raffle tickets, the sale of which seems to be a measure of one’s royalty. As timber faded, and the Stikine fishery was put on a greatly reduced limit, tourism grew. The couple at the table next to me sound British, and are very seriously instructing their children on the importance of seeing wild animals in nature and not a zoo. Apparently they took a tour of the Annan bear reserve, just around Wrangle Island from the town itself. Bears are big business on Wrangle, and an even bigger presence on the mainland just a short blast away. Bear Fest comes in two weeks. It’s hard to imagine how it measures up to the Fourth, but it has quite a buzz and attracts bear experts from all over the world and hungry bears from as far as bears care to travel. It’s all tied to the salmon run, of course, but you can’t buy a bite of salmon in town. The salmon have started running late this year. I’ve spoken with many anxious trollers on my trip, hoping the salmon at least pay for the effort to catch them. But now, the kings have started to run and people are bragging about big hauls and going back out. The salmon that slip through the fishing fleet and make their way back up the rivers, those are the salmon that bring the bears that bring the fest that fuels the tourism edge of Wrangell after the Fourth is done. I will leave these kings and queens behind and spend my fourth where the sparks that fly are ice chips. I’m going to ride high tide over the broad Stikine River delta at mid-morning tomorrow and head toward the LeConte Glacier, which is known for such prodigious calving that I won’t try to see the face itself but be satisfied, I hope, if I can just glide among some icebergs and camp where the bears would rather not go.
Posted on June 7, 2012 - by Nadia
Thursday June 7
Shoal Bay, North of Desolation Sound
If part of the definition of adventure is the intensity of experience, then navigating Yuculta and Dent Rapids, and gliding into the fairyland of Denham Bay afterward, was all one big adventure.
If I was a bit laconic entering the rapids at the end of the extremely low ebb tide, exiting the whirlpools at the end of the next tide – an extremely high flood – put me on full alert.
Between the tides, I had watched the huge whirls build and circulate 66-foot boom logs like matchsticks in the toilet. I knew there was incredible power in this strange place of converging arms and eddies. The plan for navigating these waters is to wait for the quietest time between the tides and go for it. But with the huge difference between high and low these days, there is not quite enough time for the water of the massive flood to leave and substantial current continues into slack. So it was that I sat in the last quiet, kelp-filled eddy, watching Andy gun his engine and buck slowly up the current. I knew I was in for a fight. I worked up as much power as I could hugging the north shore, but I quickly came to a point that kicked a strong stream of water – think Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula – off the shore.
I bore down, crossed the stream where it converged with the main flow – think Clark Fork River in springtime — which was headed to join the diminished, but still visible, main whirl above Big Bay. As soon as I hit the stream it shot me sideways. I set an aggressive ferry angle and paddled as hard as I could. I had to reach the calm surrounding an island in the middle of the bay without losing so much ground that I got pulled into the whirl. Few things in life inspire such focus as that single imperative.
A chain of mini-whirlpools formed where the main current hit the eddy at the island. They were about a third to half as big as my boat is long and I had mixed feelings about them. They appeared and disappeared ahead of me and beneath me and there was nothing I could do but brace and let them push me around a little bit. It felt destabilizing, but they pushed me up the chain and toward the island so I felt a cautious affection for the little whirls.
Then I was in the eddy of the island. I gasped for air and grabbed for a drink of water. Now, I knew, I had to use the rest of the slack tide to get from the island to the mainland and a tiny channel that allows kayaks and skiffs to skip the bigger, separate whirlpools known as Dent Rapids. That crossing was a simple push against straight current. Once through the channel, the ebb tide picked me up and carried me along as though it was never anything but helpful. I had had no time to be scared crossing the current but realized as I coasted north that negotiating so many fast transitions had used everything I have learned about paddling all types of boat in these last 25 years.
When I eased around Horn Point, the cheery red cabins of Denham Bay called me in. Cobbled rocks and waving kelp glistened in crystal clear water. Snow filled steep chutes from towering peaks behind the cedar forest. I sat and took it in. The soothing tones of Ray LaFontaine spilled out of speakers on a dock. I almost cried, the contrast to those 15 minutes outside of Big Bay was so great.
Sarah, the woman who had offered a place to stay, came down to meet me. She and her husband Peter had carved and sculpted this place out of the forest but they are ambivalent about the next step: Taking care of guests who come to stay. Every curve in the paths, every detail of the buildings shows the love they have put into building a paradise on this bay. It is a simple place tucked into a landscape of resorts only the very wealth can afford to visit (Dennis Washington owns “half the land up that way,” someone else told me later. His name comes up a lot here, when people hear I’m from Montana.) Sarah and Peter hope to make their place a refuge for regular folk. They just aren’t sure when to open the doors. Except to people who straggle by, including the occasional kayaker.
Sarah fed me and Peter shared some of his great experiences both building the lodge from all reclaimed materials, and working as a fishing guide in the area for the last several decades. Then they headed to their floating house closer to Big Bay and told me to close the door behind me when I left in the morning.
I nestled into my sleeping bag on one of the beds in the single, cozy room of the main house. In the indoor/outdoor room below me, a bull frog croaked out his mating calls until even he figured she might not be out there that night. I took one last look at the placid bay that filled the cabin view, and I slept with the same intensity with which I had paddled. Even paradise is part of adventure.
Posted on May 20, 2012 - by Nadia
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Port Townsend was a port city of sin and splendor when Josephine “Josie” Keys White and her husband Elmer John White lived here in 1897 and 1898. Situated at the mouth of Puget Sound, it was a place for sailors to get drunk and captains to get new crews. EJ was a correspondent for Associated Press here when he reported on the arrival of gold from the Klondike in 1896. And it was over that winter that Elmer John and Josie decided that they, too, would follow the call of adventure. In April of 1898, EJ boarded a steamboat for Skagway, Alaska, and a job at the Skagway News. Josie followed, toddler in tow, in June.
So it is that tomorrow, I will load my kayak and follow in their weathered wake. The Inside Passage has spoken to me since I watched it slip by from the rail of an Alaskan Marine Highway Ferry when I was a sophomore in high school. I’ve paddled it a bit since and its layers of islands and curved passages has always called to me: Look around the next bend, and the next …
This trip continues my 2010 bicycle trip from Josie’s parents’ homestead in Kenton, Okla., to Sumner, Wash., where she went to visit her sister and ended up marrying EJ White.
While I did not party like a sailor in PT, I am as tired as one who had been crimped. I hope to come back and explain what rough and tumble towns Josied moved to with EJ. But for now, I have an adventure to start in the morning.
Thanks for tuning in.
Posted on July 16, 2010 - by Nadia
July 15, 2010
Sumner wrap up
Been here three days trying to verify Josie’s existence here, to get a sense of the place and its surround, the get a feel for EJ Whit. Vicki Connor at the Ryan House and the Heritage Quest Research Library on Main Street have been very helpful.
SUMNER — Almost at the end of the reel. Almost at my wit’s end. I found her: Josie. Josie! I almost yelled my relief out loud.
For two full days I’d wandered through the year that brought the summer of 1890 to the summer of ’91. On the big screen microfilm, The Local Matters section of the Sumner Herald – the only section that really mattered to me – read like a year-long 19th century Twitter feed:
Seed potatoes hard to come by.
Weather for walking alone with the moon.
By way of a mild suggestion we would respectfully call attention to the present condition of the walk in front of Ryan’s hall.
The Sumner baseball club will play a match game with the Puyallup club on the latter’s grounds tomorrow, (Saturday) morning Bet on the Sumners as success is sure unless energy fails.
A.M. Rousseau returned Tuesday night from a two weeks’ visit to friends at Tenino. During his absence he devoted his time to hunting, fishing and getting sunburnt.
Never mind that the man she would marry, who would become, among other things, my great grandfather, was present on almost every page. Elmer John White founded the Sumner Herald in 1889. He owned half of it, served as editor to his partner’s publisher, and wrote columns under the pen name Eli, and some people called him that, though he generally went about daily life by his initials, EJ.
He is a funny guy who urges temperance. Any topic that gets too heated deserves to be taken with “sugar and lemon.” He is well liked. Well enough to run far ahead of the rest of the Democratic ticket in his 1890 bid for the state house, but not well enough liked to to actually win, as Republicans swept Pierce County, as they were wont to do back then.
I enjoyed getting to know EJ in Sumner, but I’ve always known more about him. In the life that lies ahead of him, he keeps writing in his distinctive down-home, third-person style and is noticed and written about, so it’s fairly easy to feel like I know him. It’s her about whom I know so little. Every confirmation of a fact is a bit of grout that holds the fragile tower I’ve been building together. Every correction knocks a clinker to the ground and puts the enterprise on stronger footing. (more…)
Posted on July 11, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 37: July 10, 2010
Pine Creek Resort to Nachez, Washington
Another scorcher of a day, ride was mostly downhill or flat after a five-mile climb to the summit on Hwy. 97. Despite dire warnings to the contrary, Hwy. 97 was fine to bike with little traffic and wide shoulders, though I started early to beat both heat and traffic. Later I was told it is famous for drunk drivers. I wound my way from Union Gap to the far side of Yakima on an unsigned greenway that was a nice break from highway riding, but dumped me out at a confusing overlap of I-84 and Hwy. 12. It took lots of conversations and riding one exit stretch on the Interstate to find the workaround, South Nachez Road. The final dozen or so miles was tough with no shoulder, the sun blinding both me and drivers coming behind me and thrashing wind.
There is a road to Reno where the ancestors wait to bless the bettors. As far as I can tell, it’s a long way to Reno from the outskirts of Toppenish but the early wagers caught my eye as I pedaled along Hwy 97. There wasn’t a car in sight so it was easy to just stop and give the crazy scattering of change the once over. A half dozen quarters, lots of dimes and nickels, countless pennies. What in the world happened here? I glanced around. tThis was quickly adding up to enough change for a convenience store ice cream break. I stooped and started picking up coins. I didn’t have many in hand when something made me look up. Well above me, a rag tag collection of scarves and beads fluttered in the wind, tied to a stretch of field fencing.
The place had a funny feel and there was a steep little worn route leading up the hillside, so I went up. On top of the hill, a fenced in square held a commanding view of the valleys to both the north and south. Inside the fence, collections of junk – plastic bottles, old shoes – were piled on what seemed to be a handful of very old graves. Coins, lottery tickets and pull tabs were left as offerings. This was clearly a sacred site. I did what anyone who knows what happened to Greg Brady when he took the idol from the cave in Hawaii would do: I carefully put the money on one of the entry gates and recommitted it to whatever its original purpose was.
Upon later inquiry I learned that the site dates to the 1800s, and is a traditional burial site for the Yakama Nation. Tribal members headed to Reno toss money out of their car as they go by, with the understanding the ancestors will watch over their wagers in the future. A larger, better kept burial site is on the hill behind a fruit stand on the west side of town.
It was a week for cemeteries and legends that started with a walk through the Goldendale Cemetery on Friday. The front part of the large grounds is mowed and the stones are in good shape, in straight rows. But in the back, where the stones are generally much older, from the 1860s, 70s and 80s, many of the monuments were broken, pieced together on the ground or stacked in their parts. The grass isn’t mowed and wild grass blows fluff and long. I asked what happened to that part of the graveyard. The woman at the museum told me it had been vandalized. And that a guy who had tended the cemetery had chopped down a bunch of trees and they’d fallen into graves. That latter bit sounded just strange to me and I chalked the whole telling up to just one more example of how weird Goldendale is odd.
Riding the Northern Pacific
I spent two hours at a train museum dedicated to North Pacific memorabilia in Topponish. Among the cool things was the almost completed restoration of a locomotive, one sister of which is located in a park in Missoula, the other in Helena.
Headed to Sumner
My trip is winding down. I suspect I will arrive Sumner Monday evening. Anyone want to join me for dinner Tuesday? Come on down! I’ll have 2,200 miles on the odometer and legs and many too many memories to even catalog at this point. My battery is very low so I’ll save longer summary posts until I am there. Thanks for reading, everyone.
Posted on July 10, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 36: July 9, 2010
Goldendale to Pine Creek Bar and RV campground
The last noodle of common sense left in my noggin after yesterday’s heat advised me to stay off the road until today cooled down. I did that, pedaling just far enough to set myself up well for an early start to Yakima tomorrow. Highway 97 gains almost 2,000 feet between Goldendale and the summit, mostly in pleasant, staged rolling hills with a wide shoulder.
In 1870, Calvin and Jenny Keys and their four kids lived and farmed and kept house in Klickitat County, near Goldendale, Washington. When the census taker came knocking on their door, the oldest son was nine, the youngest, a girl, three months. Calvin was 40, Jenny was 34. They were starting over. Done were the days of drought in southern California. Done were the endless rains of the Olympic peninsula. Here, cattle ranged free with few acres plowed or fenced to keep them out. There were enough people to make it feel settled, but not enough to be unsettling.
This is where Alice Josephine would be born in the hot summer of 1872, after a winter that recalled, for the few who had been around then, the devastating freeze of 1961-62. That was the year the livestock died and settlers were left with no choice but to move on. That was the year people started talking about planting hay, about sewing flax, about putting up feed and barns that would allow them to weather such a winter. This year, 1872, was the year they really got serious about such things. Josie was born onto the high country north of the Columbia River in the year that it got settled. Where there had been a few hundred living, now there were a couple of thousand. Fences went up almost as fast as cabins, and the frustration of open range ranchers like her father Calvin grew.
The Keys clan stayed in Goldendale as long as they could stand it. Time was money, for now. The ranch wasn’t big, but it was worth almost $1,000. That was enough to pull out and start over again someplace less crowded. Before Josie was a year old they had done just that, heading south to Pueblo and Trinidad, the ranching towns of southern Colorado that offered more range, and less snow. It was the beginning of Josie’s life on the move.
In 1902, Winthrop Bartlett Presby figured he had what it took to show the world that Goldendale was no backwater. He sunk $8,000 into a fine house, with 22 rooms and fireplace tiles imported from Spain. Today, the Presby Mansion is a museum featuring the everyday doings of turn-of-the-century Goldendale. It is beautifully restored and maintained and includes a research library with indexed census, marriage and death records, among other things
Outside, the old carriage house features a frontier school room and newspaper press shop as well as a collection of threshing and farming equipment.
The Sentinel, Goldendale’s newspaper, is the fourth oldest in the state and its progression is represented in a pressroom display featuring an early printing press, linotype machine and printers lead.
Architecturally, the house is over the top, with its widow’s walk so far from the sea, it’s wrap around porch, and its stifling third floor. Its hard not to imagine that Mr. Presby had a pretty big ego. Apparently, it was at least a bit bigger than his income. Household gossip tells that he died in debt, and the house was seized by his lien holders. His wife held no claim to it, as she had divorced him earlier, on grounds that he was an insufferable grouch.
Roll on, Train fans
I won’t be here for the Train concert at Maryhill Winery tomorrow, but Jesen gave me a hint of what I’ll be missing in his family’s RV at the Pine Creek Inn, 13 miles south of Goldendale. Belting out a full-on rendition of Hey Soul Sister, the Spokane teen had a rapt audience singing along, watching his every move. The RV was humming, and that’s how it should be the night before going to see a big concert – a little show, with a lot of friends.
Selena and Scott saw me roll into Pine Creek and struck up a conversation while their three kids paced the gravel driveway, watching for their friends to drive up in their deluxe RV ride. When Jim and Gina and their five boys arrived, the stage was set and I was just lucky enough to be invited in for a bit. Selena and Scott are from Portland, Gina and Jim from Spokane, and a few times a year they find an excuse to get together. This year, the excuse is Train and the first concert ever for the three Portland kids. Oh, what a time tomorrow night will be!
Jesen brought the musical talent, but everyone threw something into the pot. Jared did a backflip standing right there in the RV. In his socks. Brett and Andrew lured the herd of lop eared rabbits that lolled around the parking lot into the lair they made of celery and bread. Sam and Brock held down the couch, Kate bravely yawned and claimed the sole girl spot in their big bunch of boys and everyone sang along with Jesen.
Camping. Regardless of tent size, it’s summertime in America if there’s a singalong, the burgers are a little burnt and old friends welcome a new one into the circle. Thanks gang. Have a great time at the show.
Posted on July 8, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 35: July 8, 2010
Crow Butte State Park to the water tower woods above Goldendale, Washington
In which I climb out of the gorge and see some lovely country but suffer from heat exhaustion.
I could see Roosevelt’s towering grain elevators almost from Crow Butte and expected your average shipping town. As I drew near, I was amazed to see a robot-like lifter device hover over a container on a flatbed train. At first I thought it was delicately loading something into the top of the flatbed, but it engaged some clasps on the top and simply lifted the whole container up and off the train. I couldn’t see the operator, I think he was below in a forklift like vehicle, only with a high overhead reach instead of a down low one. It seemed quite close to the mechanical shells that duked it out in Avatar.
I got over my amazement at seeing the containers so easily lifted off the train and realized the town smelled like garbage. As I slowed down, there appeared an excess of flies. Then I noticed the majority of the containers on the train below the grain elevator read BWI, the garbage company. I wasn’t sure about eating at this café, but after asking one of the pilot car drivers idling in the parking lot, it seemed my choice was there are nowhere. Roosevelt is a one-breakfast town.
Carrie filled me in on the garbage. For at least 20 years Roosevelt has based its prospects on selling landfill space to cities in need – cities in Washington, Idaho, even Canada, send containers of trash there. Hawaii is trying to, but invasive species concerns has its trash shrink wrapped on the dock in Seattle. Roosevelt is a river transport town, with an small to middling industrial port, an active rail line and a highway. At its back, the river bluffs rise in steep drainages that curl and unfold into the high Greenoe Hills. The garbage is hauled seven miles back into one of these folds, where it is dumped, old-school, into a lined pit. None of this new-fangled baling and stacking. Carrie says they give tours, though she allowed it would be a tough bike ride up there.
Her husband is working a new angle on the dump – a methane electrical generating plant. One is already in operation. He’s working on the second and there’s plans for a third. This river valley is one giant electrical surge.
It didn’t happen without its boosters, not even the garbage. Apparently back in the day, the town didn’t own the whole drainage behind it. Apparently, where ever the garbage goes now was once tribal lands owned by the Yakima tribe. A forward thinking Rooseveltian, deceased these last six years or so, negotiated the outright purchase of the land, paving the way for its future as an intermodal garbage handler. The port and train tracks are all abustle. The east end of town still stinks.
Pilots for the wind
The parking lot of the M&J bar and grill hosted more than its share of pilot cars – those little cars with signs reading Oversized Load. I counted eight there when I left, each with a professional driver. The radio crackles to life. The truck has left the landfill, go ahead and start up the grade. And the woman I’m talking to gives the Let’s go, and one quarter of a four-part wind turbine gathers careful steam for a steep road ahead. Wind. This is the gorge and it is lined with dozens, if not hundreds, of huge wind turbines with more towers and more electrical transmission lines going in every day. On Monday, a double-roter Chinook helicopter is scheduled to begin a week of lifting the tops of towers onto bottoms that a contractor is racing to get installed by then. I know this from the onion guys yesterday and saw proof of it today – bulldozers working high on the hillsides and towers staged in meadows below.
I left the bar and grill at 9 as a pilot car driver in her reflective vest was reaching over the bar to show Carrie how to finish a part of whatever it is she was knitting.
My very hot day
The usual route to Goldendale is a busy highway up a steep hill. The map showed some alternatives and Carrie said they were gorgeous. Either way, there was a steep river bluff to climb. I’d been eyeing the alternative for some time, so I took it. Twenty miles or so after leaving Roosevelt, I turned up a canyon road. It followed a lovely reservoir and stream, crossed the creek and started climbing. In short, this climb consisted of two steep two-plus mile climbs with no shade in sight. Temps climbed into 100s. I drank tons of water and ate everything salty I had, but I felt nauseaus and dizzy at the top with 18 miles of rolling hills to Goldendale. I ate my apple and focused on getting down. I stopped at the first ranch house I came to and rinsed off with cold water. I stopped at another and stood in the sprinkler. I felt lousy. I finally rolled into Goldendale at 3, two hours longer than I thought it would take. I was hardly of a mind to begin my search for Josie and my foray into the records at the county courthouse did not bode well. The museum is good and may be more fruitful. I’ll begin fresh in the morning.
No room at the inn
Having struggled to get here, it proved a tough town to find a place to sleep. The RV part set me up under some trees about 20 yards from a meth house. A girl-fight broke out. Blows were exchanged. Much a-grammatical shrieking went on. It seemed my stuff would likely get stolen if I left italone, and that I might get caught in the crossfire if I stayed. I repacked my tent and moved on. Other homeless woman stuff (me, in search of a place to sleep) ensued and I finally went to the nicest restaurant in town and ate a meal that contained vegetables before taking on the oak forest on the hill above town.
I am sorry I don’t have a photograph that really captures the, uh, spirit of Goldendale. I’ll try for that tomorrow. (In fact, no photos tonight as my camera is packed away. I’ll add some later.)
Posted on July 7, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 34: July 7, 2010
Walla Walla to Crow Butte State Park, Washington
Concerned about wind and traffic along the Columbia River, I got an early start and was happy that neither fear was realized. Traffic was very light along Hwy 12 from Walla Walla to Umatilla, and not much heavier along Hwy 14 in Washington. I spent my time on the Interstate bridge crossing at Umatilla wondering how I was supposed to have gotten on that nice bike path, but survived the crossing on the shoulder of the vehicle lanes. The wind, don’t say it out loud, it’ll jinx me for tomorrow, but the wind … was at my back. I covered the first 60 miles by lunch time, holding steady at 20 mph for long stretches. It almost felt like I was biking instead of hauling.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Fish. Nothing. Nothing. Fish. Nothing. Fish. Fish. I wish I knew what kind of fish I was seeing on the close circuit fish cam on the fish ladder at the dam at Umatilla. They turn a corner, look dazed and are gone, headed up stream. I like to think that among them are salmon intent on spawning in Redfish Lake outside of Stanley, Idaho. Based on early counts down here, they were already expecting a banner year up there. It is amazing to see the obstacles we’ve put in the way of salmon, amazing to know that any of them respond to the urge to get back home with such vigor that they find a way around.
So, these two salmon were swimming along, headed up stream and one ran into a cement wall. “Dam,” she said
Layers upon layers
Onion prices will hold steady until September, then they’re likely to drop. Onions shipping now have over wintered, they’re good, but they could turn any day. That’s just the kind of onions they are. Such is the wisdom – minus routine profanity — gleaned at a cinderblock bar, restaurant and convenience store at the end of a work day in Paterson, Washington. Biking along the Columbia, I dodged the occasional onion in the shoulder, escapees from the business of feeding the world.
Long, long trains of Powder River coal roll along the far shore of the river, headed west full, headed east empty. As I sit in my tent listening to them across the inlet that is the feature attraction of this park I am reminded of past experiences sleeping along this river: Trucks, trains and frogs all make for a loud night.
From a bike, the Columbia is an ocean threading between the dry cliffs of continents adrift. Swinging around the corner as Hwy 12 turned into Hwy 730, the river unfolded into yet another of the many, “Oh wow,” moments of this trip.
Some like it hot
Not matter how cool and refreshing the label on the bottle, grapes like their days hot and dry. They got their wish today as temperatures broke 100 on the highway. I thought it was a little cruel of Canoe Ridge wineries to flash their label at me. It wasn’t the first time on this trip I’ve had to tell myself, you can paddle in August, though as it’s going, I’ll be able to squeeze a float into
July as well.
Posted on July 6, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 33: July 6, 2010
Elgin, Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington
I wanted to leave the highway and cut across the mountains and wheat fields to Walla Walla, but my map just hints at the possibility, the hunting guide serving as convenience store clerk said No and I’m feeling a little risk-averse after the Hell’s Canyon adventure. I shared the highway with lots of nice but large timber trucks. A 20-mile climb was followed by a descent of about the same, the down steeper than the up but tangled with cross winds, a harbinger of my coming days. And yes, this marks my entry into the last state of my journey.
In the mid-70s a machinist planted some grapes in Walla Walla and started what has today become a center for American grape growing and wine making. The last five years have seen a bit of a boom of new vineyards being planted and new wines produced and I have staked out a spot for the night at one of them: Waters winery and vineyard. It’s a gorgeous spot with young vines staked out on a rolling south-facing hill.
Waters had its first crush in 2006 and its grand opening in 2007. Although the tasting room is closed today, Robbi and Christa welcomed my arrival and left me at the end of the day with a variety of wines to sample. After serious consideration, I decided the 2008 Syrah paired nicely with my fresh corn tortillas and peanut butter dinner, though I’d like to come back and try the whole selection again with some of my more discriminating friends. Thanks for setting me up, Bucky. Waters is terrific and everyone working here treated me better (even) than family.
My highway route to Walla Walla took me through the town of Milton-Freewater. I spent much of the morning forgetting its name and thinking of it as Milton Freeman. As I rolled into town I screeched to a halt at a genuine tortilla factory. I have pretty much lived on tortillas this trip and there was no way I could pass up the chance to buy them hot off the griddle. But I didn’t need five dozen.
The guys who were bundling them cheerfully packaged up two dozen small tortillas for me. When I asked how much, they waived off my money and kept up their clowning for my camera. I ate several then and there, had more for dinner, and am regretting not buying the standard five dozen pack – I’ll be done with my two dozen by the time breakfast is through.
Posted on July 5, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 31: July 4, 2010
Day off pedaling; hiked with Michael and Sarah into the Eagle Cap Wilderness
The town of Joseph is named for Tiwi teqis, Chief Joseph, the elder leader of the Wallawa Nez Perce and the man who declined the treaty modification that would have ceded all the Wallawa country to the United States. Pursued by U.S. soldiers, Tiwi Teqis, and then his son the younger Chief Joseph, led their people on a sad and terrible journey and retreat, north and east to Canada. Being in Joseph, seeing the stunning mountain lake country, and the high green pastures that he refused to cede, lends me a visceral sense of what drove him to take the stand he did against such overwhelming opposition. Here, he is celebrated during Chief Joseph Days (and rodeo) the third full week of July.
Downtown, the town of Joseph features flower boxes and bronze sculptures along a two-block stretch of shops, fly-fishing emporia and cafés. The town’s museum is as complete as any along my route save for that of Clayton, NM. A full room is devoted to telling the native perspective of the Nez Perce flight. Elsewhere, the early settlement of Joseph is detailed. Despite being surrounded by mining prospects, Joseph was an agricultural community founded initially, according to the woman at the museum, by ranchers who received permission from Chief Joseph to graze their horses on summer pasture.
Just west of town, the Hurricane Trail threads its way into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the first wilderness designated under the federal Wilderness Act. The area is also home to several wild and scenic rivers or recreation corridors. The mountains here are steep, rising from about 4,500 feet to 9,500 feet, with creeks booming down jagged drainages, shooting off cliffs into gushing waterfalls. Glacial moraines form scenic lake Wallawa, which attracts boaters and anglers and sets the stage for summer resorts at the south end of the lake. This area is about seven hours drive from Missoula, but just four or so from Boise and most of the license plates here are from Idaho or Oregon.
a hike with plenty of vertical, up a drainage filled with the scrap wood and rubble of a violent spring runoff, we ate. Michael brought enough burgers and franks to feed an army and I did my best to put a dent in it. Our cabin at Flying Arrow Resort overlooks a rushing creek so we barbecued in all-American splendor. Then napped. Then drove to a widespot in the lakeside road to view a fireworks display that reflected in the lake and thundered off the mountains and was all in all a great capper to a weekend with friends.