Week Eight: July 4 -10 ( Okinagen, Penticton, WA, OR, Redwoods, Truckee)
Jul 10, 2012
|Day 1, July 4th, we awakened to gorgeous sunshine & a rapidly warming morning. Nearly 60. I donned my American flag t-shirt in honor of the holiday.
We departed Vernon & mid-morning, we were in huge Kelowna (pop. 107,000.) Begun in 1859 as a mission, today its burgeoning economy is based on fruit growing, manufacturing, tourism & retirees. There are also several lush vinyards & wineries in the area.
We crossed beautiful Okinagan Lake on a high bridge from which we viewed its busy shoreline peppered with boats of all sizes. We also saw billboards advertising 10 or more picturesque golf courses. After our experience with mostly small Canadian & Alaskan outposts, the big metropolis of Kelowna was quite a jolt!
Next up was Penticton, another retirement haven & center for fruit packing & canning. In addition to the lakeside scenery, this city is famous as the venue of the Ironman Canada Triathlon held in late August.
Before long we were in Oliver, Wine Capital of Canada...not a bad city identity! The community is set in rolling hills in a valley of multiple orchards & vinyards, like Little Italy mixed with Florida's fruit farms.
By noon, we arrived in the border town of Osoyoos where we used the last of our Canadian currency to buy lunch.
Customs went very smoothly, even though they DID take a quick peek inside Therapy for illegal fruits, vegetables or firewood. ( Yes, if these were purchased in Canada, they would be confiscated...though one wonders how they would know.)
As we crossed into the United States & into our first small town, my eyes teared up at the waving flags lining the streets
Heading down 97, we drove through a lush valley with Lake Chilan on one side and the Cascade Mountains on the other. This large lake is Washington's most popular. Today it was filled with fishing & power boats out celebrating the 4th.
Late afternoon, we arrived in Ellensburg. We stayed at the Day's Inn Motel, our first time to stay in a motel in 7 weeks. We will use this time for doing much-needed projects before the West Coast part of our trip.
Day 2 we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast & then set about doing various chores, like laundry, buying groceries & cleaning Therapy.
Then we explored Ellensburg, a city of 17,500 which began life as a small trading post. Named after a cattleman's wife, the town began to grow after the arrival of the railroad.
Then on the 4th of July in 1889, the fledgling community burned to the ground. Ten city blocks and over 200 wood homes were lost. Within 10 days, however, the citizens began work on 43 new downtown buildings, all constructed almost completely of fireproof brick.
A tour of the downtown showed us that nearly every downtown building was indeed built in 1889.
Most notable was the Davidson Building with its phoenix finial at the parapet symbolizing the rise of the town from the ashes.
Today the city is home to Central Washington University, an institution housed in beautiful old brick buildings, serving more than 7400 students in right next to the downtown.
We strolled the pretty downtown streets, characterized by shade trees and nice pavers on pedestrian walkways. We ate dinner, appropriately enough, in the Pearson Building. It housed the Palace Restaurant, in continuing operation since 1892. Our meal was a relaxing end to a catch-up day.
Day 3 was sunny and 65. Just a little ways south of town, Todd remarked that the arid climate made the hills look like West Texas. He said they could shoot a Western here.
But within a mere few miles as we neared Yakima, we saw two memorable mountain peaks off in the distance...Mt. Ranier at 14,000 ft and Glacier Peak at 10, 541. They looked like apparitions rising up behind all that dry land.
Yakima, known as the "Palm Springs" of Washington, is one of the best apple-producing areas in the world and a major wine region. Apple trees are typically planted in March. Depending on the variety of tree, they will produce fruit within 2-5 years.
We could see thousands of huge wooden shipping crates stacked sky high along the highway.
By lunch, we arrived in Goldendale right at the Washington/Oregon border. This agricultural town of 3700 enjoys sweeping views of the Cascades, featuring Mt Adams.
With the town's loss of the alumina plant a few years ago, their economy has suffered terribly. Now they have invested in wind farms stretched far across the landscape.
A few miles south we crossed into Oregon over a huge bridge from which we could view the magnificent Columbia River Gorge far below.
We stopped for lunch in tiny Moro OR. The town is surrounded by land devoted to one wheat crop or another. They will harvest this summer's crop in early fall.
We visited their nice museum complex where we learned they rotate 50% of their crops annually, plowing under stalks to renourish future crops.
Of all we saw growing along the road, 91% was of some variety of wheat. In one season, Sherman County produces over 5 million bushels of wheat!
Just south of Sherman we stopped at a roadside identifier telling us which mountains were visible to us at that precise spot. We could see Mt Adams, Mt Rainer, Mt St Helens ( reduced from 9677 down to 8500 after eruption) Mt Hood & Mt Jefferson. Quite a sight.
Soon we passed through Redmond OR, "The Heart of Central Oregon north of Bend. Because of its low cost of living, the city is the fastest growing in the state, topping out at 23,500.
By dinner, we came to Cold Springs RV Park in the city of Camp Stewart, right on the Metolius River. On this river there was a Habitat Restoration Project whereby they placed felled trees across the river to create pools to assist salmon spawning.
Idyllic amid the tall spruce trees, our park had a footbridge nearby which took campers to the tiny store & post office on the other side.
After a dinner of steaks & corn, we slept soundly on our first night in beautiful Oregon.
Day 4 was calm, sunny and cool at the start. This would prove to be a very special day for us by afternoon.
After driving along a road flanked by a corridor of tall pines, we passed through the Mount Washington Wilderness. When traveling through Santiam Pass at 4800 feet, we could see Mt Washington clearly visible to the west.
(Sadly, for the next several miles, we saw evidence of the ravages of the pine bark beetle. The infestation destroyed acres of trees.)
We soon crossed the McKenzie River and came to the town of Blue River. In this little community, they founded a library in 1928. It has no running water, does not set due dates on loaned books, and was originally left unlocked 24 hours a day. Simpler times...
After lunch we made it to Marcola near Eugene OR. Here began the highlight of our day.
We had a wonderful stay with Claudine & Marta on their 10 acres of farmland. Back in 1964, Claudine served in the Peace Corps with Todd for 2 years in Chile. They had not seen one another or even spoken in 46 years! So this was a very special reunion.
Claudine took us on a tour of the property.
They were very proud to show us their lovely new home and let us get to spoil their smart, cute dogs.
After a delicious spaghetti dinner, Todd & Claudine had fun reliving some of the amazing experiences they shared in the small town of Sante Fe, Chile.
Day 5 we were treated to a big breakfast & a tour of the barn where 6 Pygmy goats were waiting to be fed. After Claudine gave them their main dish, we fed them from our hands. Great fun.
Just before we had to head out, we met Claudine's Mother who also lives on the property. Dora was 95 & just a delight.
Back on the road we headed across the big city of Eugene, home of Nike. Soon we made it out to Hwy 101 along the Oregon Coastline.
Not long after crossing the bridge over the Umqua River, we passed several miles of huge log piles beside the road near the towns of North Bend & Coos Bay. This wood is eventually taken to the mill for making wood pulp or lumber.
As we moved southward towards the state line with California, we noticed many gorgeous spots on Hwy 101 where the rugged Oregon coastline below met the crashing waves of the Pacific.
By dinner, we decided to spend the night at Driftwood RV Park in Brookings, (pop. 6336) a city nestled on the Chetco River at the foot of the Klamath Mountains. This area is the "Banana Belt" of the Pacific Northwest. Fog rolled in as we finished dinner & another lovely day.
Day 6 found us entering California early morning. We passed through Smith River, the "Easter Lilly Capital" of the world. In spring & early summer, the drive from Brookings through Smith River will include miles of breathtaking views of blooming lillies.
We continued along the Pacific and were amazed how calm the water was today.
We enjoyed lunch in Eureka, then headed south on Hwy 101 for the "Avenue of the Giants." This amazing 31-mile drive through the redwood forest allowed us to drive through stately aisles of these wonders.
The mild temperatures, generous rainfall, and year-round moisture provided by fog contribute to their growth & nurturing. Redwoods are remarkably resistant to fire. They have thick moist bark and lack resin to fuel the flames. That's good because man has decimated the forest in the past. It's only in recent times that strict conservation methods have been implemented.
We found a pull-out which allowed us to park & walk freely in the darkened forest. It was almost unsettling.
They were so enormous that we felt like Lillipitians in the Land of the Giants.
It was quiet, like a sanctuary...almost holy.
Once we drove out of the Redwood National Forest, we headed south to Willits and chose a lovely bucolic park located several miles down in a beautiful valley.
How appropriate that Todd had to stop for cattle on our way in. We might just as well have been in Texas Hill Country!
(Right beside our park was Ridgewood Ranch, home of famous thoroughbred champion, Seabiscuit. He was a small horse, an underdog for people to root for right after the Depression. His wins so inspired our country that in the 7 years before his death, over 50,000 visitors made the trek to see this retired champion right there in the ranch beside us.)
Day 7 we saw deer in the morning just a few feet from our site & cows again on our drive out. Wonder why it made us think of moose & bears?
As we drove south through Mendocino Woodland State Park, we saw picturesque vinyards just like the photos on the wine bottles. Alongside the vinyards were pistachio groves.
When we traveled west on 20, we paralleled Clear Lake, a vast body of water that made me think of Michigan's Great Lakes.
We enjoyed lunch in the city of Williams at an institution there...Granzella's. This place occupied two downtown blocks & included a restaurant, bar, party room, deli, bakery & gift shop.
We managed to skirt Sacramento & head west on Highway 80 through the Donner Pass to Truckee, CA, just a stone's throw from Tahoe. Looking forward to visiting Nevada & Utah next.