We have become Route 97 fans, following it from Canada through Eastern Washington to Bend, Oregon. Its landscapes change abruptly. Turn a corner, go over a hill, and you are in a different world. And it runs through country we haven’t explored before.
After leaving Oroville, Washington on Monday, we continued on through the Okanagan Valley orchards and vineyards and then emerged into the really arid hills around Lake Chelan and the upper Columbia River area.
We spent Monday night near Wenatchee at Lincoln Rock State Park, which I will forever remember for the marmot infestation. The park has three different grassy and treed loops for camping, which wind around a very dry hillside covered with sagebrush and rocks. As we drove around looking for a campsite, clusters of marmots were scavenging at recently vacated campsites (it was the end of the long weekend) and would waddle off to the safety of the hillside only to reemerge after our car passed. They were hardly recognizable as the wild marmots we see on our Alaskan hikes. They were fat, slow, and kind of like big old rats, only they flattened out when you approached. I bit nightmarish, really.
Fortunately, we found a nice spot by the water that seemed marmot-free (who knows what they did when the lights were out). It was still busy in the park into late Monday evening, with lots of families swimming, soccer games, and teenagers cruising around. We were definitely back in civilization. What a lovely view, though.
On Tuesday we headed down through the apple growing region around Wenatchee and into the pine hills near Cashmere–a really pretty area as you begin to leave the valley. The road passes into woodsy mountain terrain and then descends into the Yakima area. We did not spend much time in Yakima (bank and grocery store time), but I kind of liked it. It’s a huge, wide valley of farmland with Mediterranean-like hillsides planted with fruit trees and some grapes.
The road changes again as it climbs into another set of hills on the Yakama Reservation, where the smell of pine resin was intoxicating. The trees thinned out again as we descended to the big Columbia River on the Washington/Oregon border.
The hills before the final descent to the river gorge were covered with windmills. They may be an eyesore to some, but I loved them. They looked like moving sculptures on the hill tops and sides, moving in unison—or not. Either way, it was like a dance. We met our first real wind that afternoon, with lots of swirling gusts coming through the gullies and over the hillsides. Windmill watching for me and concentrated driving for George, as we were hit from every direction by gusts.
We camped at Maryhill State Park that night, right on the banks of the Columbia. It was absolutely beautiful, with the cut banks of the river, a field of grass behind our campsite, and mature sweet gums, maples, birches, and other ornamentals planted throughout the park. There must not be any concern about drought in Eastern Washington, because sprinklers were going in every park we visiting as if there was water to spare—and then some.
We woke to increased winds in the morning and huge whitecaps on the river. The bridge to Oregon is a fairly high one and I was picturing a gust blowing the trailer right off the bridge (one of my only irrational fears). The winds were forecast to get worse, so off we went. The bridge was fine—a stupid fear overcome–and we followed Route 97 into Oregon.