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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eastern Washington (no, not DC)

From the ridge above Ft. Spokane
I went east into the wheat fields of Lincoln County, Washington for a few days to visit my sister. The flight across from Seattle to Spokane is fascinating; a rolling tapestry of mountain ranges, scablands, wheat fields, rivers, and lakes. The smaller planes fly low enough to see it all. 
The trip had two purposes :
  1. To spend some time with my sister, and perhaps help her prepare for her own impending move (to Alaska).  It was great to see her again and we didn't waste too much time commiserating about the expense and sheer hard work of relocating.
  2. To practice driving a car on American roads somewhere that doesn't have very steep hills and lots of traffic.  Before this trip I had not driven anywhere for eleven years, and had been cycling on the other side of the road for at least five.
I am a little rusty, and the cars have changed somewhat. You'll be pleased to hear I caused no injury or damage and I mainly stayed on my side of the road, though the roads were so empty it hardly mattered.  My sister deserves a sainthood. She calmly said things like "you might want to slow down on this bend a little" whereas other friends or relations might be stamping their foot in the carpet (in lieu of a brake) and gnashing their teeth.

Lake Roosevelt
I drove out to Lake Roosevelt and Fort Spokane, a beautiful peaceful spot by the water where the Spokane and Columbia rivers meet. On the long, winding downhill into the river valley, my sister said "We often see deer here, so watch out".  Not two minutes later  she called out "deer!" as a young buck came bounding down the hillside, leapt over the fence, galloped across the road right in front of us and continued on his merry way down the far side. Close enough to be thrilling, but thanks to my sister's eagle eyes we avoided impact.  Later we spotted a flock of wild turkeys who evaded my attempts to photograph them by keeping just out of range. Camera phones aren't meant for wildlife photography. 
Stables at Ft Spokane
It was a very hot and sunny afternoon with hardly any breeze. We took the tree-lined trail up the ridge starting from just behind an old stable, one of the buildings still standing from the original fort. Along the way she pointed out edible plants and identified owl, turkey and eagle feathers littering the ground, and the paw prints and droppings of various mammals. At the top we paused to watch some birds of prey soaring over the river.

Harrington Public Library
Harrington is a small farming community with surprisingly wide roads (my brother in law says the main street could be used as a runway). The large trucks driving to and from the grain silos certainly have no problems negotiating the broad turns. The town is bisected by a busy rail line. Long trains of flatbeds carrying double stacked containers come barreling through, blasting their air horns at all hours of the day and night.  Residents near the tracks have learned to pause their conversation until the juggernaut has passed. So much for the myth of a quiet country life.  

Speaking of quiet, my favourite place in town is the public library.  A big game hunter donated part of his collection of trophy heads to decorate the interior.  I can just imagine the librarian directing a reader: "the history section is right under the Cape buffalo". Not that I'm a fan of taxidermy myself, but it is certainly unique among the libraries I've visited.

My sister is due to depart the lower 48 on the first of October, we're supposed to officially move into our new place about then. I think the rest of the family is tired of changing our entries in their address books!

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