Sunday, April 20, 2008

Driving to Yakima

This past week instead of flying to Yakima for work (I couldn't get good times for a flight), I had to drive over. In the winter this is a risky thing to do because the mountain passes that you have to drive through can be subject to very dangerous winter weather. However, if the winter weather doesn't pose a risk, the drive is actually very beautiful. So on the way to Yakima, I chose to drive through White Pass. This choice was made for a few reasons. First, because I was going to Yakima straight from my office, White Pass was closer than taking another pass, that is actually much further north. Second, I had heard that White Pass was the most beautiful. Third, I wanted to see an area of Washington I hadn't seen yet.

After a short burst on the interstate, I was on a two lane road for most of my drive (3 hours for the total drive). Almost as soon as my car started climbing the mountain, I saw a deer and then, just around the corner, I saw two elk! Elk! In the wild! That was kind of cool! (I mentioned how excited I was to see elk in the wild to someone, and that person indicated that it wasn't especially cool. I suppose it's kind of on the same level of seeing alligators or dolphins in the wild to Floridians, a fairly mundane experience if you live in the area.) But at any rate, I kept climbing the mountain and saw beautiful waterfalls and vistas during my drive. There were roadsigns occasionally that recommended not stopping for several miles because of the risk of falling rocks. So, I sped quickly through those areas, hoping a rock wouldn't pummel my car. I also saw some of the damage caused by avalanches this winter. It was apparent that one avalanche had come across the mountain road. There were tons of fallen trees on both sides of the road, with a guardrail demolished, as the trees continued down the mountain. As I started coming down the mountain, I came across a beautiful lake (I think it was created by Tieton Dam), and then drove along a river. It's incredible how one side of a mountain can look so different from another side. On the West side of the Cascades, the area is filled with trees and rain. On the East side of the Cascades, the area is very dry and warm in the summer, has very few trees, and almost looks like a desert.
On my drive home from Yakima, I chose to take Snoqualmie Pass. This pass is closer to my house, is part of I-90 (so it was a 2-3 lane road per side), and is a little less wild than White Pass. I was also slightly concerned that it might start snowing on my way home, so I wanted to take a more used road in case I was caught in inclement weather. (I did end up beating the snow, but this weekend, the mountains got another couple of feet of snow...yes, in April). Before I got to I-90 though, the people I worked with in Yakima recommended that I take the scenic way to get there. They told me how to go through Canyon Road out of Yakima. This road was really spectacular. I drove along a river with beautiful canyon walls towering over me. And at one point, in the middle of the river I spotted pelicans! Now, as a Florida girl, I had thought that pelicans could only be around the ocean. Not these pelicans. I looked them up, and I think that they're American White Pelicans, which love lakes and rivers. I remember mentioning in a previous post that Yakima was so boring, that I couldn't post any pictures of it. However, now I can appreciate Yakima a little more and especially the areas around the actual city. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the Yakima Valley is very well-known for their fruit harvests and wines. I tried an incredible local chardonnay at dinner. Perhaps a wine-tasting trip is in the future!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Has Spring Sprung?

Even though this is my first winter in the Northwest and I really have no frame of reference for the weather, I've been told that it's continued to stay cold for an unusual amount of time. Snow was falling on my birthday at the end of March. It was sleeting the other day and it's already mid-April. So yesterday this region of the country was giddy with excitement because in Federal Way it got up to 79 degrees!

Unfortunately I had to work in the morning (yes, I still work at Panera once a week on Saturday's. It's a little hobby where I can make some easy cash, so I mostly don't mind.) I have to admit that yesterday, though I wasn't especially happy to be at work. Customers were taking their food and coffee to consume outside, they were wearing tiny shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. The sun was shining and everyone was talking about their plans to spend time outdoors. Luckily, I was able to leave by 12:00; it was so slow that they sent me home. I was very excited to have the whole afternoon to spend outside. Robb had the day off, so I quickly showered, changed to a t-shirt, capris, and flip-flops, and we went out for lunch. We tried a little local El Salvadorean restaurant we've been wanting to try. They had very good pupusas, an El Salvadorean speciality (corn meal pouches, filled with yumminess such as pork, cheese, and beans.) We then headed to the a local Federal Way "tourist attraction," the Rhododendron Species Foundation and Botanical Garden.

We walked along the garden paths and saw a wide variety of rhododendrons in bloom. The park was quite a bit larger than I expected. So we were able to meander and take our time and enjoy the sun. Next to the rhododendron garden is the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection, with a beautiful collection of bonsai trees. The park closed at 4:00, so we didn't get to linger very long to look at the bonsai trees, but they were really interesting and we learned a little about the different types of trees and how they're grown.

It was a nice way to spend our afternoon enjoying the local sun and warmth. But I'm not sure if spring has actually sprung. I'm wearing a sweatshirt again today, the windows have all been closed, the heater is turned on, and snow showers are in the forecast for next weekend.