We left the scenic Missoula behind and headed to Ellensburg, Washington early in the morning. The last section of I-90W in Montana displayed a peaceful country view. Lush lodge pole pines covered hills and mountains. Mountain ranges were on both sides and merged in the horizon. Lovely alto cumulous clouds floated in the blue sky above the mountains. Angus cows were either grazing or resting on the ranches. Fishermen were fishing on the rafts on the beautiful Clark Fork River. There might be abundant trout in the river.
A huge cliff with exposed rocks and loose gravels suddenly showed up ahead by the road, contrasting with the green mountains. The highway winded its way through the mountains and the Clark Fork River was always there with us. Can you believe that we crossed the river ten times this morning! A tunnel for the train cut through the mountain on the left. When we crossed the river again, a train loaded with coal drove under the highway. There were quite a few houses by the Clark Fork River. You can catch trout right from your backyard. How fun is that! We passed two National Forest campgrounds near Clark Fork River.
We stopped at Saint Regis, a small town cradled in the valley. Clark Fork River and Saint Regis River run through the little town. It had a big gift shop with a beautiful trout aquarium. It is worth noting that there was a fishing access ¼ mile right after Saint Regis. Maybe we will come back and fish.
After two-hours drive, Idaho welcomed us with a steep winding downhill road along the cliffs. It was a breathtaking view of the gorge but I didn’t dare to look down much because of fear of the height and the high speed. Speed limit was 55 miles per hour. But I felt it was lot faster than that. We were on Pacific Time immediately. And we gained another hour. Woohoo!
A nice little town Wallace was down in the valley. We crossed the Coeur d’Alene River. After 4th of July creek, we were climbing up in the mountains again. We climbed to 4th of July Pass, elevation 3,069, then drove downhill. Two cars were caught by the cops on the downhill road. We had no idea where the cops hid.
The city of Coeur d’Alene got its name from the beautiful lake. After driving through the city in much heavier traffic, we entered Washington. 200 miles to Ellensburg!
We drove in the rivers of vehicles through Veradale and Spokane and had a quick look of downtown Spokane. Gonzaga University which is famous for its basketball is in Spokane. The country view was pleasant with big lakes by the road. Our truck cruised on the smooth newly paved highway through the pine forest. But after 16 miles, the landscape changed to an open rolling prairie. Pines gave way to sagebrush and few small ponds. There were arid lands with barren soil and low grow brown and green grass. It resembled the landscape in Wyoming. This area might be in the rain shadow. We were cheered by the sight of a lake in the distance. We took a break to view this place. A long train parked on the railway and another train came on another track like a giant snake. It passed the lake and kept going.
There were few houses in this area. A place by the highway had a sign “Cannabis.” Stephen told me that cannabis is another name for marijuana, and marijuana is legal in Washington. After a while, we drove into this grand vista. A sea of golden winter wheat stretched for miles and miles. A grainer, a train that carries grains, was parking by a big silo by the field of golden wheat. The bright golden color was so cheerful. The wide open sea of golden wheat extended for miles. Small dust devils appeared on the harvested farm land.
A county near Warden at Exit 188 boasted nation’s leading potato producing county. The farm land was covered with lush green crops. Those must be potato plants. Moses Lake was a small town with a big lake. Bales of hay were stacked neatly and stored under tarps. The farming operation was in large scales with center pivot irrigation systems. Low mountain ranges appeared in the distance. The landscape made a dramatic change into arid lands again. We were in the Columbia basin. From the scenic view point, we had a great vantage of the grand vista. The view was breath taking. The magnificent Columbia River was wide and deep, cutting through the gorges, running towards the Pacific Ocean. This arid area was covered with lava rocks. But it was a forest millions of years ago. Basaltic lava flew through the fissures in the earth’s crust and flooded this land. Some of the trees were petrified. The Cascade Range blocked the moisture from the Pacific leaving Eastern Washington an arid land.
It was hot at 99 degrees! We crossed the Columbia River on the Vantage Bridge, a through arch bridge. Our truck had a very long continuous climb up the barren hills. Lots of windmills stood high up on the hills. Part of the hills were burned by fire. Finally, we climbed to the top, a mountain range with snow peaks appeared in the horizon like a mirage. One of the peak was huge and covered with snow. Stephen said it might be Mt. Rainier from the shape of the peak. After a short drive, another group of snow capped mountains came in sight in the distant northern sky. Stephen guessed it was Mt. Adams. We arrived at Ellensburg at 2:20 p.m. Pacific Time. We asked the front desk about the names of the peaks. And we were right!
The afternoon wind cooled it down. We took a walk in the lovely downtown after dinner. What a wonderful day!