I know a thing or two about farmland. For example, the Mountainside house had a vegetable garden. In ’91 I took a bus from Richmond, VA to Colorado Springs and saw a whole lot of farmland. I’ve spent time in Illinois, Wisconsin, even the Central Valley of California. The point here is that I’ve seen farmland before. It’s usually uniform in color, depending on the crop of choice, devoid of trees, with curious mechanized monsters plodding around grinding, processing, fertilizing, or spraying things. Sometimes it’s flat, and sometimes it’s wavy. Remember Katharine Lee Bates’ immortal phrase, “Amber waves of grain?” A hike up Pike’s Peak inspired those words. Well, if Bates were in the Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington rather than central Colorado, her verse might have been something like, “Amber waves of HOLY HELL, THESE WAVES ARE HUUUUGE!”
This is not your Uncle Clem’s farmland. The “amber waves” of eastern Washington are actually tsunamis—somewhat literally (I’ll explain in a minute). South of Spokane the farmland is impressively wavy. So much so, I asked Barbara to take a picture (I was driving). This marks the first time I’ve ever requested a photograph of grain. The landscape is enchanting to say the least. Young wheat is an iridescent green. Adult wheat is a robust green. Mature wheat has a golden hue so bright that it out-shines the cloudless sky above it. However, the farther we headed south, hilly terrain transformed into cavernous swells (much to the frustration of the Monroetorhome’s cruise control. The Rocky Mountains had little effect on our V8 engine. Driving through this terrain, I was questioning if I was close to overheating the engine.) Once we pulled into Dayton, WA, I was sad to see the roller coaster ride end. However, the high winds, twisty turns, and ever-changing grade was exhausting from the perspective of the driver.
You will have to verify this since we don’t have a geology text on board. My knowledge is limited to a foggy recollection of a book (“Cataclysms on the Columbia”) that Barbara (I can call her Mom when referring to a birthday present she once gave me) found while on one of her Mostly Monroe trips to this area. Barbara suggested that these massive “waves of grain” are actually deposits from an ancient flood caused when the Missoula Dam broke. The Missoula Dam no longer exists, and the Army Corps of Engineers had nothing to do with it. Toward the end of the last ice age, as glaciers scoured this region, one of them came to an end near the present-day town of Missoula. Surface water melted to form a lake, while the glacier’s terminus remained, forming an ice dam. The ice dam broke periodically, releasing an unimaginable (not even Michael Bay’s best disaster film could capture this kind of deluge) amount of water, thousands of feet high. The resulting ebb and flow (imagine sand in the bottom of a sloshing bathtub) created these criss-crossing ripples in Washington’s landscape, forming the now coined “amber tsunamis of grain.”
The bouncy terrain did finally subside as we approached Walla Walla, the town where Earl spent some of his formative years, and to which he returned with the Army Air Corps. Earl found that little remains of the Walla Walla of his youth, however, we did manage to locate his school, and the park in which he used to play. (Even one of the canons placed there to commemorate WWI was still there.)
The drive from Walla Walla to Mt Rainier NP was a breeze, relative to the “farmland” of eastern WA. We crossed the Snake River, and bid adieu to the Columbia for a week or so, then came upon two massive snow-capped peaks on the horizon: to the left (south), Mt. Adams at over 12,000 ft. Straight ahead, Mt. Rainier at 14+. And that was the best glimpse we would get of her. As we approached, clouds and drizzle came in from the coast, and as we climbed to the Paradise Visitor Center, visibility diminished (to about 100ft). Alas, our photo album of this trip will not include picturesque vistas of Rainier, but I did get one of Barbara looking out into the clouds! We stayed the night at Mountain Haven Campground, one of the most idyllic spots I think I might have ever seen. It’s like Narnia, only without the struggle between good and evil. We hated to leave it, but that goes to show how fond we are of you all. We cannot wait to get to Port Townsend.
By the time you’ve read this you’ve probably returned home from the reunion, so it was nice to see you all, and I hope we can all forget the embarrassing episode regarding “you know who.” Wouldn’t it be great if this cryptic, prognosticative reference might actually apply to someone??? Can’t wait to find out!! Well, we’re about thirty minutes from Port Townsend, so I’m going to sign off until Monday.
Don’t forget to check back in on the Monroetorhome 2008 blog after the reunion!! Coming up:
· A day in the life on the Monroetorhome (with a chance to win prizes!)
· Find out at what point we all blow up at each other.
· Figure out how many days Ted can tolerate eating Fig Newtons as a snack (going on 10).