Eleven years ago today

“I was going to wait and leave tomorrow, make it official and all that about leaving on the first of September, but after the movers came yesterday, I found myself wishing I’d figured out a way to have left as soon as they did.  There’s nothing more depressing than an empty apartment.”

It was raining when I left Tacoma worrying about the cats and forgetting to check my odometer.  So maybe the rain today isn’t so odd after all, even if nobody expects cold and damp on the last day of August.  It seemed appropriate at the time, though.  I’d been looking forward to and planning what I still refer to as my Long Trip for what had seemed like years at the time.  Part of it was simple wanderlust.  Part of it was fulfilling a dream.  But part of it was trying to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be.  And part of me was wondering what the heck I’d done to myself in putting all this in motion.

I left the rain behind when I crossed Snoqualmie Pass on my way east.  There have been times when I’ve crossed that invisible line from east to west feeling like I was driving into a veritable brick wall of clouds, overcast, and drizzle.  It’s much nicer when you’re going in the other direction, and this time it felt almost symbolic.  I was looking forward now, and I pretty much quit worrying about what I’d left behind.

I stopped in Cicely, er, Roslyn (the small ex-mining town of Roslyn is where the exterior shots of the old tv show Northern Exposure were filmed) to mail a package of stuff I’d found in the dryer at the last minute back to a friend who was keeping some things for me and again to photograph the iron wild horse sculpture above the Columbia River bridge.

Not long after that I left the Interstate for the first time, and headed north to coulee country.  I am sort of ashamed to say that until this trip my strongest memory of the coulee country was camping in 100F temperatures and neighbors in the campground who seemed to feel the need to play music all night at earsplitting levels.  Which may explain why this was the first time I had been back here even though it’s close enough to where I live now to be a nice weekend trip.

The temperatures were considerably cooler, and the campground considerably emptier on a weeknight at the end of summer:

Coulees, like canyons, are formed from the erosion of water, but instead of relatively small amounts day after day, year after year, the water in this case was formed by ancient Lake Missoula, held back by an ice dam and covering large chunks of Idaho and Montana.  When the ice dam finally gave way, a flood of, to use the cliché, Biblical proportions washed across a basalt plain and carved a maze of deep channels in it.  Dry Falls, where I camped that night, was once a waterfall bigger than anywhere else on earth.
True to form, not long after I arrived at the campground, someone set up camp next to me and promptly turned the music on.  Moving across the large campground solved that problem, though, and I settled in on my first night on the road well pleased.