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.