Sunday, December 18, 2011

Montana Territorial Prison

Montana Territorial Prison guard tower
I went to Yellowstone National Park for the first time when I was eight years old. We made a loop journey from Portland, traveling through southern Idaho on our way to America's most loved park. We came back through western Montana. There was no Interstate 90 back then, and we drove right down the main street of Deer Lodge, Montana.

It was a frightening experience. The road took us right by the Montana State Prison, complete with convicts hanging out the barred cell block windows screaming obscenities at people driving or walking on the street below. I remember we stopped to eat lunch at a restaurant across the street from the prison. I was too frightened to eat anything because I was afraid the prisoners would get out and kill us.

It would be more than 50 years before I got up the courage to drive through Deer Lodge again. Thankfully, the construction of I-90 bypassing the town meant I didn't have to go through this ordeal again whenever I headed east.

When we went to Yellowstone last September, my husband and I detoured into Deer Lodge specifically to tour the old prison, now called the Montana Territorial Prison Museum. The prison is still as imposing as ever, a stone fortress sitting in the middle of a small Montana town. Only now instead of convicts, the prison is full of tourists wanting a glimpse of Montana's lawless past.

You can read more about the prison here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scenic drive over Lolo Pass

Scenic river drive through Lolo Pass
Highway 12 is one heckuva pretty highway where it crosses northcentral Idaho, linking Montana with Washington.

It follows the route that Lewis and Clark took on their journey to the Pacific Ocean in 1805. Seventy-five years, Chief Joseph would use this as an escape route as he led his band of Nez Perce to almost the Canadian border where he surrendering, uttering his "I will fight no more forever" speech.

The highway opened in 1960. I was still in high school when my family drove over it on a trip back from Yellowstone National Park. I remember getting very carsick because the road was so twisted and windy -- it has 67 curves in one stretch, a fact I learned when I was researching an article on the highway for

When I lived in Connell, north of where I live now, I liked to do getaway weekends to Missoula and sometimes drove Lolo Pass  one way, making a circle by going on Interstate 90 the other way..

My husband and I most recently drove the highway just before this last Labor Day as we took off for our trip to Yellowstone. We spent one night camped along the Clearwater River; well, I wouldn't call where we stayed a campground, as it was a sloping turnout with a porta-pottie. But it was late and we were tired. As it turned out, if we would have driven another mile or so, we could have stayed at a real campground.

Lolo Pass is a favorite ride for motorcyclists because of its curves. And I can sure see why!

The route goes through two national forests alongside the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers. The route is considered one of the most scenic in the United States. You'll get no argument from me about this.

What's your favorite scenic highway? Please leave a comment below.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why I like autumn

Juice doesn't get much fresher than this!
In autumn, the days start getting cooler, green leaves change to brilliant oranges, reds and yellows, and apples are harvested in the Yakima Valley.

Ah, yes, the apple harvest. What I like best about this is apple juice, fresh right out of the press. Wow! It doesn't get much better than this!

Washington apples are the best and are sold the world over. I've seen Washington apples from the Okanogan Valley sold in London, and red delicious from Wenatchee sold in Beijing, even though apples are grown extensively in China. But you can buy Chinese apples any place; finding Washington apples is a bit harder, not to mention more expensive. I found them at a fruit stand outside a major hospital where imported fruits, loose and in gift baskets, were sold.

Yesterday, we made our annual trip up to Tieton where we spent the day making apple juice. My husband's cousin has a couple of dozen apple trees -- Fujis, red and golden delicious, Granny Smith and so on, all of which go into the juice we make.

Yesterday about 30 people, ranging from toddlers to octogenarians, turned out to make juice, starting with picking the apples and ending with washing off the filled jugs. Everyone shows up with their jugs to hold the gallons of juice we make with the cousin's apple press. We made almost 200 gallons of juice in just a few hours. Each bottle tastes differently, depending on which type of apple dominated in that pressing. But it's all delicious. In return for helping the cousins make apple juice for their freezer, we get to have all the juice we want. Today our freezer is crammed with juice. Altogether, we made almost 200 gallons of juice yesterday, and also brought home a bushel box of Fuji apples.

With the days getting chillier, a cup of hot spiced cider will certainly come in handy.

What's your favorite thing about fall?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Historic Yellowstone

Hauling freight to Yellowstone in the early days.

The Yellowstone Historic Center museum was one of our stops on our recent trip to Yellowstone. I'd visited it on earlier trips to West Yellowstone, and was eager to do so again. The museum is housed in the old Union Pacific railroad depot, so many of its exhibits relate to that era. It also has a couple of old vehicles that were used to transport early visitors through the park. If you like to ride snowmobiles, you'll enjoy looking at early snowmobiles on the museum's front porch.

I took in a couple of the movies the museum shows regularly throughout the day. One was the one about the 1959 Hebgen earthquake which created a lake when a mountain came tumbling down. I remember driving by the site a year or two after the earthquake happened, when the devastation was still new. There's a visitor center there now, but it was closed for the season when we stopped there on this trip.

This movie talks about the volcanic and seismic activity taking place at Yellowstone today. Scientists said hundreds of earthquakes happen there every day, and that another one of the magnitude of Hebgen is going to happen, but nobody knows when. I never felt any earthquakes during the week we were in Yellowstone, but I know from my days in Alaska, where earthquakes are a common occurrence, a person two feet away from you will feel the earth shake while you may not feel anything.

We also enjoyed the movie on the train Montanans put together for the state's 1964 centennial celebration. It was a pretty cool event, with more than two dozen train cars crossing the country to the New York World's Fair. The movie also included interviews with many of the people involved in the project.

You can read more about the museum here.

The fine print
The Federal Trade Commission requires me to tell you that I received a complimentary ticket to the museum, in case the $4 (senior rate) ticket would influence what I wrote about it. It didn't. I've been to the museum before and I'll go again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where the buffalo roam

We saw lots of buffalo on our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park. We saw them all, from herds roaming the meadows to the huge hairy beasts walking on the roads. But my favorite buffalo were those roaming the streets of West Yellowstone, Montana.

These were colorful animals, ones you could walk right up to and touch, and they wouldn't charge you. Of course, they weren't real, but rather made from fiberglass which had been painted with scenes depicting Yellowstone (park and city) and Native Americans.

Once there were 37 painted buffalo on the streets, but they were auctioned off to raise money for community and economic development in West Yellowstone. Today, only 11 painted buffalo remain. They can be found mostly on Yellowstone Avenue, the street that ends at the entrance to the park.

I was really quite intrigued with the uniqueness of this project. I wish more towns like West Yellowstone, Joseph in northeastern Oregon with its magnificent bronze statues  and Toppenish in central Washington with its Old West murals, would do outdoor art displays like this. Or maybe they have, and I just don't know about them.

What's your favorite city outdoor art project?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In search of grizzlies

Grizzlies at the Discovery Center

We went to Yellowstone National Park at the wrong time of the year to see grizzlies. The park service tells me they're more easily seen in early spring or late fall when they're at lower elevations.

In all my trips to Yellowstone I've only seen bears twice. The first time was on my first trip back when I was eight years old. I came out of a restroom at Fishing Bridge to see a black bear running by; I immediately went back into the bathroom. The second time was on a trip in the mid 1980s when I had to use binoculars to watch a grizzly running up a distant hill.

But this time I figured out a way to see grizzly bears: Visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center at West Yellowstone. The center had six bears and eight wolves in residence the day we were there. The center has a marvelous exhibit on bears which tells everything you wanted to know about bears but were afraid to ask. You can read an article I wrote about the center here.

After touring the center, we headed off to the Yellowstone movie at the IMAX theatre nearby. There were a couple of scenes with a six-story high grizzly growling at you. Now that was frightening! I much preferred the real-life grizzlies which look fat and sassy and live behind high wire fences at the center.

The fine print
The Federal Trade Commission requires that I tell you that our visits to the center and IMAX were complimentary. Even if they hadn't been, I still would have visited them and wrote the same thing. These were two cool experiences.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Camping at Yellowstone

An elk  passes by our scooters.
We recently returned from a 10-day camping trip to Yellowstone National Park in which we spent six nights inside the park. We stayed three nights at Mammoth Hot Springs campground, where we had elk trooping through our campsite almost every night, then moved down to Madison campground for another three nights. No elk, but RVs were parked so close together, an elk couldn't possibly squeeze between them.

Although I've been to Yellowstone previously, this was by far the best visit. Probably because we hauled our motor scooters over there, and rode daily. While we were at Mammoth, we rode the north loop one day. It was uphill all the way to Canyon, and our scooters just gulped up the gas at $3.99 a gallon.

Plans for riding in the park were almost derailed the day we moved down to Madison. We checked into our campsite, and decided to take an afternoon ride down to Old Faithful, even though we would be stopping there the day we rode the park's south loop. About halfway there, I pulled over to let some cars go by -- I was doing the 45 mph speed limit, but it apparently wasn't fast enough for them.  Just as I was slowing down at the pull-out, the rear tire went flat. I thought for sure my scooter riding was done in the park.

My husband rode back to camp, and brought the van and motorcycle trailer back to rescue us. We went into West Yellowstone where we had the good fortune to be referred to Centennial Auto Repair. They located a tube for the tire in a town 40 miles away, and made a special trip there to get it for me. We went back to camp and my husband took the wheel off my scooter. We dropped it off at Centennial the next morning, then took off for the appointments I had for my writing assignments about Yellowstone. We picked up the tire on our way out of town, after being pleasantly surprised at the very reasonable bill Centennial presented for everything they did for us. So many times, businesses will try to gouge tourists in difficulty because they know they'll never see them again. If you have car problems while you're visiting Yellowstone, I would definitely recommend taking them to Centennial.

While we were in the park, we say many, many motorcycles on the roads. I found it very surprising no motorcycle shops were to be found in West Yellowstone.  I can't be the only rider who had problems. (I also had a couple of mechanical problems, but my husband, a retired motorcycle mechanic, was able to handle them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Planning your trip to Alaska

Alaska is our biggest state. If you don't believe that, just try getting around in it. I lived in Alaska for eight years and, fortunately, had a job which allowed me to see the state while working. I still never saw as much of it as I wanted. I do remember that within a few short months of my arrival in Anchorage in 1971, I'd managed to drive all the state's major highways, from Fairbanks to Homer via Anchorage, and from Anchorage to the border with Canada's Yukon Territory.  I also logged thousands of miles in the air. Flying was something you had to do if you wanted to get into the remote parts of the state, such as Nome, Kotzebue or Barrow.

Planning a trip to Alaska can be a daunting task, especially if you're a first-time visitor who wants to avoid the package tour route. It can be done, but takes a little more planning than say if you're going to Seattle or Miami. But . . . help is available in a new ebook: Alaska Travel Planning Guide: Help for the Independent Traveler. It's crammed with all sorts of tips and gives you an idea of the detailed planning you need to do to make your trip successful.

Alaska Travel Planning Guide is written by Judy Shuler, who I worked with when we were both reporters at the now defunct Anchorage Times back in the 1970s. While I moved back to the Lower 48, she moved from Anchorage to Juneau where she started a successful tour business, Alaska Up Close, which involved  planning detailed, personalized itineraries for Alaska visitors. The book is a summary of things she learned during her 18 years as an Alaska travel planner. I wished I had this guide when I lived there, as I learned quite a bit about my adopted state.

Judy's guide is available as an ebook at the Amazon Kindle Store. The guide contains a wealth of information and will pay for its $2.99 price many times over.

I've reviewed the book in more detail in this article.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Toilet paper thieves?

Toilet paper holder at our campground.
We just got back from a week of camping in the Little Naches of Wenatchee National Forest. It's a popular place with people who ride dirt bikes, quads and 4WD vehicles, called Jeepers in camp lingo.

While my husband's family has been camping in the same spot since the 1960s, I've only been going up there for 10 years.  We used to go on all the three-day weekends every summer, but since we're both retired, we go up for a week at a time now.

The place where we camp has no amenities except for fire pits and a vault toilet. Well, what can you expect for free! One thing about the toilet that has always puzzled me is why the Forest Service padlocks the toilet paper in the bathrooms. Are they that afraid people may steal two rolls of toilet paper? I wouldn't think so as the TP is hardly what you'd describe as Charmin soft.

If someone did want the toilet paper that much, they could always wind it on an empty cardboard roll or maybe unscrew the TP holder and take it. And if someone should be so desperate as to steal the toilet paper, would the Forest Service do a full-scale investigation on these criminals to bring them to justice? I doubt it.

I also considered the possibility they padlock the toilet paper to keep it from unwinding and flying all over the place. Loose sheets of toilet paper on the floor are such a nuisance.

If anyone knows why they padlock the toilet paper, I'd appreciate a comment below. Otherwise, I'll have to wait until the Forest Service comes by the next time we are camping.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Indian monuments

Memorial to Indian fishermen above Ice Harbor Dam.
Last week we took a drive out to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. It's a place Id never been, even though its only about 20 miles away.

We stopped at the visitor center where we saw steelhead swimming upstream. The visitor center has an interesting display of dam history. Dam personnel give tours a few times a week, so I want to go back sometime and take it. I suspect it will be a little bit like going inside the innards of Grand Coulee Dam, the dam north of us which at one time was the largest in the world.

From the dam, we drove a narrow twisty road to Charbonneau Park, a heavily used campground and day use park. The parking lot was crammed with pick-ups and boat trailers, as people took to the water to keep cool

On the way back, we stopped at a memorial to Indian fishermen which sits on a hill overlooking the dam. One plaque on the monument mentioned all the tribes which had fished for centuries on the Snake before the dam went in. Tribes which fished there included the Umatilla, Yakima, Nez Perce and Colville. I think the sin listed six tribes but, alas, I didn't write them down.

All in all, the trip was worthwhile, educational and fun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

World's shortest river

As you drive south on Highway 101 in north Lincoln City, Oregon, a bridge sign proclaims the creek you're driving over is the world's shortest river. It empties Devil's Lake to the east into the Pacific Ocean to the west. The water way is maybe a hundred feet or so long and only a few feet wide at its widest point.

As a kid, I remember wading in the D River on the ocean side of the bridge. Though it's not very deep at that point, the water seems to be rushing out. Even today, I usually cross the D River where it's much slower and only a couple of inches deep.

I wonder what possessed people to call this stream a river, When I think of rivers, I think of the Mississippi, the Nile or the Pacific Northwest's own Columbia, which starts in Canada and divides Oregon and Washington on its journey to the sea.

Maybe it's called a river as a publicity stunt by coastal fathers. Just like some Montanans who cleaned up an old ditch, some 70 feet long, and then proclaimed it as the world's shortest river. Whatever. But the D River has held the title longer than the Montana water way.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hood Park in Burbank, Washington

RV camping at Hood Park.
We're always looking for new places to ride our motor scooters to, and yesterday we found one: Hood Park. It's a place we've driven by many times on our way to Walla Walla or, if we turn left just after the Snake River Bridge, to Dayton for annual car shows.

Hood Park is a beautiful park on the shores of Lake Wallula (Snake River). It has giant shade trees and a wonderful sites for RV and tent camping. We were amazed to find a majority of the camp sites filled on a weekday. The park must be more well known than we thought.

While we just rode our scooters through the park yesterday, I want to go back and walk the nature trails. The park borders the McNary Wildlife Refuge.

You can read more about Hood Park here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

River of Fire

Fireworks along the Columbia River
Every Fourth of July the Columbia River in our area turns into the River of Fire. That's the name given to the annual fireworks show which has been taking place for 25 years now. The fireworks are generally set off from a barge in the river near Columbia Park in Kennewick.

When we're not on a camping trip to the Little Naches area in Wenatchee National Forest, we usually go to the fireworks display when starts when it's dark enough, usually about 10 p.m.  We usually like to watch from atop the hill at Canal Drive in Kennewick. Not only can you see these fireworks from this vantage point, but we also can see the fireworks at TRAC across the river in Pasco, as well as fireworks set off throughout the Pasco area by residents.

The main display usually lasts about 20 minutes, with the sky erupting into colorful streaks of fire, one right after the other.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Athena, Oregon: motorcycle city

Hodaka Days 2011
For most of the year, Athena, Oregon, is a quiet little hamlet in the eastern half of the state, just off Highway 11 which runs between Walla Walla, Washington, and Pendleton, Oregon. But one weekend a year, it turns into motorcycle city when it celebrates Hodaka Days the last weekend in June.

Hodaka was a motorcycle manufactured in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. Hodaka was developed for Pacific Basin Trading Company, an agricultural supplier in Athena that wanted a sturdy motorcycle for local farmers to use. Soon it was being used by dirt bikers and flat-track racers and being sold all over the United States from Athena. It was the little motorcycle that could -- and did, with quirky names like Super Rat, Dirt Squirt, Road Toad and Combat Wombat.

Hodakas weren't manufactured after 1977, but the motorcycle has been raised to a cult level by its fans who pay homage to it every year. Fans come from all over the United States, with at least one or two people riding their Hodakas cross country for the event. Riders ooh and aah over the bikes on display at the city park and swap stories about the glory days. Suppliers come from all over to sell parts and talk shop.

Other weekend events include the Bad Rock cross-country ride, a mini-trials competition, and a parade down the town's Main Street with riders wearing white shirts and ties.

It's just a cool way to spend a weekend.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rain: it's a fact of life

Dayton All Wheels Weekend 2010
Rain is a common occurrence in the Pacific Northwest. It's what keeps the region so green. Eastern Washington generally doesn't get as much rain as the west side of the state, but this year it seems like it's getting to be more than it's fair share.
Not only do we have more rain this year, but the temperatures are a lot cooler. So cool, in fact, that it took six weeks for my cucumber and zucchini seeds to germinate. I normally have blossoms by this time.

It rained this morning so we didn't make our annual trek over to Dayton's All Wheels Weekend, held every year on Father's Day weekend. It's a pretty big car show, with the city closing several blocks of Dayton's main street so hundreds of cars can be displayed. My husband is a caroholic, so we go to a lot of car shows. Dayton is one of my favorites. I like wandering through quaint shops while he looks at the cars again and again. (One time through is my limit.) What I especially like about Dayton is show sponsors have other activities. They usually have slow drags and bed races; another year, power lawn mower races were held. I couldn't believe riding lawn mowers could move that fast.

If you're into cars, this area is the place to be from April to October. It seems like there's a car show -- sometimes two -- every weekend from Soap Lake, Washington, to Joseph, Oregon. There's a big car show coming up the first weekend in July in Pasco, and Cool Desert Nights is next weekend in Richland. I think this year the car show will live up to its name.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Art in the Park

Mark your calendars now to attend Art in the Park July 29-30 at Howard Amon Park in Richland,

This will be the 61st outing for the Allied Arts Association which sponsors the art show. It's always held the last weekend in July which coincides with the hydroplane races which take place in the Columbia River at Columbia Park in Kennewick..

Howard Amon is a long narrow park along the Columbia River. Filled with huge shade trees, it' a most pleasant place to be in the summer, with all sorts of activities taking place there. My favorite is Art in the Park, an outdoor art show I first attended in the mid-1980s when I lived in Connell, about 35 miles north of the Tri-Cities.

The art show features work by traditional artists as well as photographers and crafts people. You can find handmade clothing and furniture, ceramics and pottery, wall hangings and greeting cards, as well as the traditional paintings and photographs. The offerings change from year to year, so it's a good way to keep up on trends in the crafts world. I few years ago, I fell in love with seashells glued to coastal scenes, but regrettably did not buy a painting. I was determined to buy one the next year, but none were on sale.

The art show draws artists and crafts people from throughout the Pacific Northwest. Allied Arts says artists come from 46 states and Canada. Some even demonstrate their crafts for visitors. The two-day event is just a cool experience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The "dolls" of Maryhill Museum

The "dolls" at Maryhill Museum of Art
I first visited Maryhill Museum, a wonderful eclectic museum in southcentral Washington, when I was five or six years old. It was the first museum I'd ever visited, and even today remains my favorite.
What I remember most about that visit was the "dolls." Well, I thought they were dolls, but they really weren't. They were fashion mannequins put together by French houses of fashion toward the end of World War II to let the world know that French fashion was very much alive, thank you.

The mannequins are 27 inches high, made of wire, and are dressed in the latest French fashions of that day. Even the accessories, such as shoes, jewelry and handbags, were made by the finest fashion designers Paris had to offer.

After being in storage for a number of years, they ended up at Maryhill where a third of them are on display every year. The mannequins have a special hall to themselves, and they deserve it. Maryhill also has a fascinating collection of chess sets from around the world and Native American artifacts, and memorabilia belonging to the royal family of Romania, but it is the dolls that have always held my interest.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Downtown Kennewick art

Pants statue
The Parkade in downtown Kennewick, Washington,  is a mini outdoor art gallery. There are statues on street corners that reflect interests of the downtown area. A statue of a paper boy stands on the corner that leads to the daily newspaper office. My favorite is a statue of a pair of paint-splattered paints standing next to a can of blue paint

On a nice day, it is pleasant to walk along Kennewick Avenue just to see the art. This area used to be the main shopping area in this southcentral Washington town, but then the malls came and drew the business several miles away with the big box and chain stores.

But the businesses in the Kennewick Parkade still breathe life. Boutiques, restaurants and taverns, art galleries and antique stores now fill the void. It's an eclectic mix of businesses that makes the area so interesting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Toppenish murals

If you're like us, you whizz by Toppenish, Washington, on Interstate 82 between Ellensburg and the Oregon border. But the next time you make this trip, get off the freeway and drive into Toppenish to see the murals. It's a detour well worth the effort to make.

The "artist" working on the mural is part of it.
The Old West lives in Toppenish, particularly the downtown area with its Western style buildings, many of which are adorned with murals. The murals pay homage to the city's pioneer and Native American heritage. Tens of murals decorate the sides and fronts of buildings, and a new mural or two is added each year.

Some of the murals are quite realistic. We made a special trip to Toppenish last year just to see the murals. I'd stopped to take a picture of one when my husband spied a man on a ladder painting a mural on a wall about a block away. He encouraged me to go interview the artist so I could write an article for an online magazine. I started off across the parking lot and had almost reached the mural when I realized the "artist" was part of the mural.

The easiest way to view the murals is to park your car downtown and then walk around. I think you'll agree with me downtown Toppenish is pretty special.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pasco Farmers Market

The farmers market in Pasco, Washington, opens this weekend, running on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until the end of October.

It's the oldest and biggest farmers market in the area. Besides fruits and veggies, you can find crafts, baked goods and plants on sale. The produce offerings depend on the time of year. There's usually not too many vendors in the opening weeks, but as the summer moves on, more farmers show up.

I visit the market several times a summer, but I usually don't buy anything. I think the prices for fresh produce are too high, sometimes higher than what you'd pay in a supermarket, but then supermarket produce is not as fresh as what you can find at the Pasco market. However, the contract farmers have with the market require them to charge prices that are comparable to what grocery stores charge.

I go mainly because the farmers market is a good place to catch up with friends I haven't seen in awhile. I also go to take photographs of all the fresh produce on display.

I used to really love shopping for produce at farmers markets, but that was until I moved to China for a couple of years. There, instead of shopping at farmers markets just occasionally, I shopped for produce on a daily basis at street stands. One might sell just tomatoes, another celery, and a third apples. Each stand usually only sold one vegetable or fruit. When you have to shop like this all the time, farmers markets lose their allure.

The Pasco farmers market is open from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., though many farmers leave as soon as they sell out, so the earlier you go the better. It's located at Fourth Avenue and Lewis Street in downtown Pasco.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stateline Wind Farm

Stateline Wind Farm at Wallula, Washington
You probably won't find this on any tourist maps, but the Stateline Wind Farm at Wallula Junction, Washington, is a fun place to visit.

You can see the wind turbines from Highway 12 as you travel between Pasco and Walla Walla, but they're even neater seen from close. To get there, you take a county road that begins in Wallula Junction (easy to find, as it's about the only road there). Perched on the Washington-Oregon border, the Stateline Wind Farm is the largest wind farm in the United States. There are hundreds of wind turbines that stretch for miles in the distance. It is an awesome sight!

I know some people think the wind turbines are ugly. I'm not one of them. I think the turbines are sleek and graceful. I especially like these turbines because they're silver. If you travel to Portland from the Tri-Cities, you'll see wind turbines on the hills near Biggs Junction on both sides of the Columbia River. They're white and, I think, not as pretty; they seem clunky to me.

While the road through the wind farm is public, don't get off the road. I did this one time as I wanted a photo shot from the base of the turbine looking up. Before I knew it, security guards swooped down from out of nowhere and reminded me to stay on the road.

Because the view is so stupendous, we like to take our out-of-town visitors there, and then continue on to Walla Walla to visit wineries and have dinner. It makes a pleasant outing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whitman Mission

When I was growing up, my favorite book was a fictionalized biography of Narcissa Whitman. Other girls my age were reading about the Bobsey Twins or Nancy Drew, but I stuck to Narcissa Whitman. Over the years, she has remained the woman I most admire, the woman I would most like to spend an hour or two talking with.

Concrete blocks outline the site of the
Whitman Mission.

Why Narcissa Whitman? Well, why not! There is much to admire about her: her courage, her spirit of adventure which led her to become the first white woman to cross the Oregon Trail in 1836. Some may say she jumped at the chance to marry Marcus Whitman to save herself from a life of lonely spinsterhood. I prefer to think differently. Had she known the tragedy which would befall her when she reached what is now Washington, I think a life of lonely spinsterhood would have seemed pretty darned good.

I feel close to Narcissa Whitman whenever I visit the site of the mission the couple established just west of Walla Walla. Nothing remains of the mission today which is now a National Historic Site, though concrete blocks in the grass outline the shape of the main mission building which was also the couple's home. There is an aura of serenity about the site; there is no hint of the tragic massacre which took place there on November 29, 1847, when the Whitmans and several of their adopted Sager children were killed by Indians upset because a white man's disease -- measles --  had decimated the tribe.

A couple of hundred yards away, up the hill beyond the visitor center, lies the Great Grave, where everyone killed that day is buried. Farther up the hill is a monument overlooking the mission grounds, including remnants of the Oregon Trail which passed by.  The visitor center is small, but has quality exhibits about life at the mission during that time. The mission is open almost every day at 328 Whitman Mission Road, which is a turn off Old Highway 12 onto Swegle Road.

Over the years, thinking about what Narcissa Whitman would have done has given me courage to face my own frontiers, such as up and moving to Alaska or China on a whim. Both times the thought of the unknown scared me out of my wits. I asked myself what would Narcissa have done. She would have gone without a backward glance. So I calmed myself down and went, too.

What woman do you most admire? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Washington's Stonehenge

You don't have to go to England to see Stonehenge, not when Washington State has one that's a lot closer.

Washington's Stonehenge sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, and offers stunning views for miles into the distance. That's Stonehenge in the large picture at the top of my  blog. The smaller picture was taken from inside the circle of stones looking west toward Mount Hood many miles away.

Washington's Stonehenge was patterned after the English monolith, and is sufficiently like it that British researchers visited the site a few years ago to do sound testing to get an idea of how things sounded when the original Stonehenge was built many centuries ago.

Washington's Stonehenge was built in the early 1900s by Sam Hill, a dreamer and entrepreneur. It eventually turned into the first memorial to World War I servicemen in the nation. Massive stones hold plaques with the name of a Klickitat County soldier who died in the war. Other monuments on the site honor local soldiers killed in other wars, starting with World War II. Sam Hill is buried on the hill below his Stonehenge.

This Stonehenge is part of the Maryhill Museum of Art complex; the museum is visible across the canyon. Hill also built Maryhill with plans for it to be a grandiose mansion for his wife, Mary, but she refused to move to the area. It sat empty for many years until it was turned into the wonderful little museum it is today.

Stonehenge is located off Highway 12 just east of the intersection with Highway 97 about nine miles south of Goldendale. Travelers on Interstate 5 in Oregon should exit at Biggs Junction, crossing the river over the Sam Hill Bridge.

If you're visiting in the summer, turn right as you exist the parking lot. The road takes you down to orchards where you can buy fresh-picked fruits.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Oregon Coast

I grew up in western Oregon about an hour's drive from the coast. Now I live in eastern Washington, which is about a six-hour drive away, so instead of going to the beach three times in one week (as happened when I was in college), I'm lucky to visit the coast once in three years. Last week was one of the rare trips we made to the Oregon coast.

It was late on a Monday afternoon and my husband and I were talking about what we should do for the rest of the week. He said, "I want to go to the coast." So we left Tuesday morning (you can do things like this when you're retired.)

It was rainy and overcast 99 percent of the time we were there. We drove down to Newport one day to have lunch, stopping at the seawall at Depoe Bay. As you can see from the photo, even the seagull had the shivers! Mostly we holed up in our oceanfront hotel room, looking out the window and watching the waves come in -- if the clouds cleared enough that we could see that far. I ventured down the stairs for a walk on the beach one evening and came back wet and shivering. The next day it cleared up enough in the afternoon that we took another beach walk near where the D River (which claims the title of being the world's shortest river) empties into the Pacific. As luck would have it, the weather never really started clearing up until we left for home on Friday morning.

The whales are migrating at this time of year, so I packed my binoculars. Probably a gazillion whales passed by but we'll never know as you just couldn't see that far out to sea. Our hotel told us the best place to see whales was the wall at Depoe Bay unless you take a whale-watching cruise. With the water so rough, no way was I going to get into a boat and venture out into the ocean.

The Oregon coast really has a lot to offer. We usually go just to Lincoln City, but a few times have gone down to Bandon, Brookings and Gold Beach when we have the time. We like Old Town Newport and usually have lunch at one of the quaint little cafes there.There's a sheltered dock where fat ol' sea lions hang out, but the salt water taffy store clerk said he hadn't heard them calling for a few days, so he assumed they'd gone elsewhere for a few weeks. He said the resident sea lions leave for about six weeks every year.