August 10, 2006 Newport, WA to Goldendale, WA
Traveling across eastern Washington, I am once again amazed at the vast sky I see in the west. We come from mountain country (in the redwoods of central California, actually) and while the mountains have their own special beauty, the lack of sky is just something I have taken for granted. Now that we're traveling more, I find myself gaping at the HUGE expanses of sky, and I know this is one of the things I like best about being out of the mountains.
As we were driving west, I watched this storm front moving off to the side of the rig. In this first photo, look closely in the lower right and you will see a farm house.
All of a sudden, it changed shape and I thought for a moment that perhaps there would be a tornado (keep in mind that I'm a California native and probably wouldn't know a real tornado if I saw one, but this certainly fit my idea of one).
As we drove further west, the whole landscape changed and I could actually see the rain falling off to the side. This spectacle kept me enthralled for over an hour. Fortunately, it stayed off to the side of the rig and we never did get rain or storms of any kind.
That night we had decided to head down to Coulee City, at the extreme southern edge of the Grand Coulee Dam . We found a delightful city park (not cheap at $15.00, but what a view). We backed Choulala right up to the waters edge and got these shots out our back windows. And yes, I realize I just mis-spelled Cholula, but I'm leaving it in just to annoy Andy. ;0)
And thanks to my new camera (a Panasonic Lumix FZ-30 with a twelve times optical zoom and a built in anti shake) I was able to get pictures of these geese. In this shot they were about twenty feet away out on the water. There is a whole flock of these critters that live at this park, and they pretty much have the run of the place.
Here's a shot of the rig and our Tracker at the campground. Right off the highway, but very quiet, we thought this was a very relaxing place to spend the night.
Sunset, another picture taken from our bedroom windows in the back of the rig. I have never regretted this floorplan for one second.
The next morning we were on our way west once again. Today we would be traveling along the Columbia Gorge, which was really exciting as we had heard so much about this wonder. We stopped frequently just to gape.
We had heard that there was a large array of wild mustangs, sculpted sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, as a monument to the horses that once raomed the plains. We kept our eyes peeled and finally saw them, but of course, they were on the wrong side of the road! We went on about five miles till we could turn around and inspect these more closely.
This photo really doesn't do these beauties justice, and we had thought maybe to hike up to the top, but the trail is literally almost straight up. Here's a photo of Terry after he decided it was just TOO steep.
Then we got the idea that if we unhooked the Tracker, maybe we could go on a small dirt road and get closer to them from the other side. Since we carry so much stuff in the Tracker, Terry said I could go and he would stay with the rig (thus making it unneccessary to unhook AND unload). I've driven off road several times and am comfortable with it, so off I went!
Well, I got about two miles on this dirt track, then things got really narrow and rough so I decided to turn around. After making about a 22 point turn (this was a NARROW trail) I got turned around and headed back.
The moral of this story is that on the way back, I got this photo, which is one of my very favorites so far. I just love the way Cholula looks, sitting off by herself with all this sky and river and mountains. It encapsulates how very free we feel so much of the time.
That night we reached Goldendale Washington and stayed in a small beautiful place called Brooks Memorial Park . On arrival, we heard from the camp hosts that the Goldendale Observatory was having a special show that evening as it was time for the Perseids Meteor Shower. We decided it was worth the trip and jumped into the Tracker to see the show.
When we got to the observatory, we were in for a special treat, since this is a most special observatory with a truly unique history. Years ago, four amateur astronomers (M.W. McConnell, John Marshall, Don Conner and O.W. VanderVelden) set out to build a huge home made telescope. The result was a 24.5 inch Cassegrain refelcting telescope, at the time, one of the largest avaiable . After completing the project, they needed a place to put it. They were willing to give it away, with the stipulation that it be housed in a proper building and be free for the public to use.
The people of Goldendale stepped up to the plate and voila! here it is! On our visit, we heard about this story and we even learned that in the 1970s, you could come and spend the night at the observatory! Would that be a trip or what?
Unfortunately, things have tightened up a bit, but it is still free.
In 1979, it was chosen as the official viewing headqaurters for a solar eclipse, and overnight, the small burg of Goldendale blossomed into a metropolis, only to return to its' former status after the eclipse.
And while we had a lovely evening, at the end of the talk, the Ranger informed us that we wouldn't be seeing the Perseids Meteor Shower because there was a full moon that night!
Oh well, we had a great time and found a wonderful place to visit on our next trip to Washington state.
For a much more complete history of the Goldendale Observatory, click here
While we had planned to spend only one night at Brooks Memorial, the next morning Terry wasn't feeling well, so we decided to stay over. This meant that we weren't going to have the time to visit with friends in Portland.
With our new time schedule, we were off for one quick day at Mount St. Helens.
Before we left, I took this photo of the pine trees at Brooks. I have to admit it felt pretty strange to be back in the trees, but it was a lovely spot.
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