August 06, 2004
Long Day I
I am Kalispell, Montana now. Recondo and I left Tacoma this morning and took US Highway 2 all the way across the state. I wanted to drive through the Cascade Mountains and they certainly were as spectacular as I imagined them to be. Beautiful, towering mountains, covered in tall trees except on the rugged rock outcrops and a few jagged peaks, some still frosted with snow. Crystal clear streams ran along the rocky bottoms, creating waterfalls and rapids as they twisted their way downhill. Some of the views were downright breathtaking.
We drove down a final long grade and found ourself in the town of Levenworth. I told Rick, "Buddy, we took a wrong turn somewhere. We're in goddam Helen, Georgia." Sure enough, Levenworth is a "Bavarian" town, just like Helen, with all the fake-German names for the shops and the Heidi architecture everywhere. I never suspected that TWO places like that existed in the US, more than 2,000 miles apart.
Something else changed drastically, too. We still were surrounded by tall mountains, but gone were the trees and the lush, green vegetation. When I first saw those mountains, I thought they had been clear-cut to nakedness by loggers, but that wasn't the case. We we into a part of the High Desert, where nothing grows except a brown, mangy grass and a few hardy species of scrub-brush due to lack of water. I was amazed as how quickly the scenery changed, as if an artist painting a green landscape suddenly ran out of paint right in the middle of his work.
Down in the bottomland outside Levenworth, orchards of apples, pears and other fruits grow in abundance, where irrigation is provided. I thought the sight was incredible. Right at the base of a mountain that appeared as barren as the surface of the moon, fruit trees thrived.
The land began to flatten out into rolling hills that reminded me of some parts of Middle Georgia. We passed a place called Waterton and that same almost-gray soil on the mountains was transformed in to fields of wheat, grain and hay that ran for miles and stretched out on both sides of the highway as far as the eye could see. The land was empty except for rows upon rows of grain, with only an occasional lonely farmhouse or a combine harvesting a crop to punctuate the monotony.
After that, we passed a series of very impressive coulees, huge canyons of eroded, decaying rock walls. I never knew that Washington state had such a varied landscape.
We passed through Spokane right at rush hour and decided to spend the night somewhere in the panhandle of Idaho.
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