A Scenic Summer in Washington State

Posted by Bob Hoelscher in The West on June 09, 2014

 
 

This spring, I drove my motor home north through Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Oregon to my destination for the summer in Southeastern Washington, where I arrived on May 2. At the Ice Harbor Lock and Dam on the Snake River, I’ll be volunteering in the Visitor Center until mid-September.

ice-dam1Ice Harbor Dam

Ice Harbor (photo #1), which was built during the late 1950s and went “online” in 1961, is one of eight massive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake and Columbia Rivers between Lewiston, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. By itself, Ice Harbor produces enough electricity to power a city the size of Portland without polluting the environment in the process.

I found this volunteer assignment to be particularly attractive, not only because my work schedule would allow time for me to go exploring with camera in hand throughout the Pacific Northwest, but also because the dam is situated in an area of the Evergreen State where I’ve spent little time in the past. Furthermore, my motor home would be accommodated in one of the best campgrounds in the region, beautiful Charbonneau Park, where my shaded spot offers views of Lake Sacajawea in three directions.

Happily, I experienced enough perfect weather that I’ve already taken three trips since the beginning of May. First, over the Mother’s Day weekend, I drove to Portland for a wonderful concert by the Oregon Symphony, and had a memorable day in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area on the return trip.

Most of the time I followed the Historic Columbia River Highway, old U.S. 30, which meanders along the gorge’s 2,000-foot cliffs, offering excellent panoramic views from such spots as Women’s Forum State Park (photo #2), Crown Point, the Memaloose Overlook and Rowena Crest (photo #3).  Here also are the famed Bonneville Lock and Dam, as well as a series of towering waterfalls, including Latourell, Bridal Veil (photo #4), Wahkeena, Horsetail and splendid, 620-foot-high Multnomah.

columbia-river-gorge2Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area from Women’s Forum State Park

bridal-veil-falls3Bridal Veil Falls, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

columbia-river-gorge4View of wildflowers and Columbia River Gorge from Rowena Crest

Later in the month, I had four days in a row “off duty” from work at the dam, so this presented an ideal opportunity to travel two of Washington’s most storied scenic highways, bookended by fine concerts by the Yakima and Walla Walla Symphonies. First was U.S. 2 westbound, the Cascades Highway from the colorful and highly popular, Bavarian-themed community of Leavenworth (photo #5) to Everett.

leavenworth-5Leavenworth, Washington

Along the way are vistas of rushing rivers and towering peaks (photo #6), Stevens Pass, Deception Falls (photo #7), and Wallace Falls State Park. Here the good weather failed me temporarily, as I was photographing the falls about two miles up the trail from the parking lot when a steady rain began that dampened (actually soaked) my clothes, but not my spirits.

cascades-highway6River and mountain scenery along U.S. 2 Cascades Highway 

deception-falls7Deception Falls

On the following day, however, bright sunshine returned for my eastbound trip on the magnificent North Cascades Highway, WA 20, which takes the motorist on an incredible journey through North Cascades National Park and adjacent Ross Lake National Recreation Area (photo #8), as well as both Rainy and Washington Passes in Okanogon National Forest (photo #9). For my money, this is the only generally accessible highway in the U.S. that actually rivals the world-famous Icefields Parkway in Canada’s Banff and Jasper National Parks for awe-inspiring mountain scenery. Furthermore, WA 20 continues on to the picturesque, re-created “Old West” town of Winthrop (photo #10), complete with board sidewalks, saloons and a variety of shopping emporiums.

diablo-lake8Diablo Lake, North Cades National Park

okanoogan-forest9Along WA 20 North Cascades Highway in Okanogan National Forest

winthrop-10Winthrop, Washington

On my southbound return, I also toured massive Grand Coulee Dam (photo #11), the largest dam in the country, almost a mile long, and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, before continuing on to spectacular, 3½-mile-wide Dry Falls (photo #12), where massive flooding from ancient Lake Missoula during the last ice age created what was once the world’s largest waterfall.

grand-coulee-dam11Grand Coulee Dam, with Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in background

dry-falls-12Dry Falls

Finally, on the Sunday preceding Memorial Day and also in Washington, I first visited the historic town of Dayton, where this charming community is anchored by the 1887 Columbia County Courthouse and the 1881 Historic Dayton Depot (photo #13), each the oldest of their type in the state. Then it was on to Palouse Falls State Park for views of the impressive, 200-foot waterfall here (photo #14) and the Palouse River Canyon.

Later this summer, I’ll surely take more adventures, so stay tuned for an update and additional photos!

1881-historic-dayton131881 Historic Dayton Depot

palouse-falls14Palouse Falls State Park, Washington