Friday, July 23, 2010

Travel Day: Missoula to Seattle July 20

Tuesday morning I got up and headed out of Missoula. I'm somewhat disappointed I didn't get to see more of the resting and catch-up work didn't leave me time to go very far from the hotel. But my slight disappointment soon faded to awe and wonder once again as I got back on I-90 West. My plan was to cross the rest of Montana, a slice of the Idaho Panhandle, and most of Washington to make it to Seattle before bedtime.

I feel like I'm definitely running out of words to describe the incredible beauty in the continuous, unfolding landscape I've been fortunate enough to see as I drive through the northwest. The mountains of western Montana took my breath away at every turn. Again I struggled a bit mentally with when and how many times to pull over and take a slew of photos. Sometimes my decision was made for me: often I would be taking in the most gorgeous view, as my trusty red Civic climbed a mountain or careened down the side of one, but there was little to no shoulder for me to pull off on to. This was compounded by the fact that the speed limit on most of the highway was 75 mph, and most drivers were doing that or faster. Getting sideswiped by a GMC pickup at 80mph on the side of a mountain was not my idea of a good time! So at those times, it was up to me to simply stay present and be grateful for the beauty I was privileged to see with my own eyes, but would be unable to capture digitally.

I crossed the border into Idaho and the Pacific Time Zone, and a new myriad of natural wonders awaited me. More mountains, but these were mostly closer to the highway and more densely covered with tall, evergreen trees than those in Montana. Signs for skiing opportunities were in abundance and it was easy to see why. About 30 minutes before I hit the Washington state border, I rounded yet another bend and could not believe my eyes. I was driving around a collection of mountains that surrounded a huge, gorgeous, blue body of water. Okay, time to stop for photos! And yet, these didn't make the cut for today's post. It was a hot day and I felt compelled to stick my hand in the lucious water below me, although I had no clue how to get to it from where I was. I took the next exit and followed the signs to "Lake Road," or some such title, and in about 5 minutes I was parked near the shores of Coeur d'Alene Lake. How I had never heard about this lake before, that it is not known nationally as a must-see destination I do not know. The crystal-clear blue water stretched into the distance in three directions. Eventually I found my way to a sandy area and got my wish - running my hands through the cool, refreshing water of the lake.

It was tough to leave, but Seattle still sat an entire state away. I hopped back in the Civic and got on I-90 once more. It was about lunchtime when I hit Spokane, so I pulled off and grabbed a bite. Afterwards I stopped in a huge and very cool comic book and gaming store and had a nice, leisurely stroll through the aisles. I was geeking out a bit and thought of purchasing a book or two, but I now knew this trip was affording time for little else but music, exploration, food and sleep. So I walked out without buying anything and hit the road for a long afternoon drive through Washington state.

The eastern-most third of Washington along I-90 after Spokane was still beautiful, but finally I had a stretch of a few hours with nothing to blow me away in my view. How odd to feel relief at not having to look at beautiful things for a little while! Calm, grassy hills and plains surrounded me on both sides for miles and miles. I wondered if all Washington along this highway would look this way when...

Half-way between Moses Lake and Ellensburg there seemed to be some cliffs in the distance off to my right, and there were signs for a Scenic View stop ahead. I hadn't snapped pictures in quite a while, so I pulled off, hopped out with my good ol' Canon Powershot G9, noted (again) the signs warning of rattlesnakes in the area, and...

You have the photo above, but though I took many at this site none could capture what lay before my eyes. A huge rocky land mass covered with petrified forest, looming high across the massive Wenatchee River, flowing as far as my eyes could see from one direction to another. (You see, I know I keep using phrases like "as far as my eyes could see" - but I can't help it!) After shooting the photos, I had to stop and just continue looking upon this amazing site for a few minutes before leaving. I had never seen anything like it.

So much for ho-hum grassy plains! Now as I got closer and closer to Seattle I was locked in a winding maze through mountains, forests and huge lakes. The highway rose up, then slithered down, a huge mountain with misty fog hugging its peak before me, then around a curve and up I was going again. I shot a few more photos of these misty giants as well, that also didn't make the one-photo-a-day cut.

I was surprised that I was getting so close to Seattle (60 minutes away, then 45, then 30), and yet there were no signs of the metropolis, or even any nearby towns! Where was this city?

Finally the mountain passes gave way to a long bridge over the beautiful Lake Washington, and signs began to tell me I was near my destination. As I crossed the bridge and entered the city, weary from the road but gratified to finally reach it....uh, oh - I think this is love at first sight!

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