Pushing into the Seattle area late in the evening we were greeted by it’s stereotypical wet and grey …fading quickly to black. We had identified a way across the Cascade mountain range that looked very promising… Hwy 20 eastbound looked to be a winding, two lane with lots of mountains and views. PERFECT.
By dawn it was clear that road was now closed due to avalanche risks and an alternate route would be needed to go east. We still had three days to explore and we had not given up on finding some blue sky and sunshine. Brian felt Idaho might be the place to go, given we both were unfamiliar with the area and the state seemed filled with backroads. So we rose early and made our escape… simply looking to get away from the wet and grey coastline of the pacific ocean, we drove up into the wet and grey woods of western Washington. We were hopeful to find snow in the higher elevations at the very least and leave this wet misery behind.
We found it. Lots of it. Crossing the Cascades from the southern pass along Hwy 2, we found six or seven feet of powdery snow piled up along the road as we rose up to over five thousand feet, a rapid climb given we had started literally at sea level only forty miles earlier. The skies were grey still, but the air was full of the thick flakes of very wet and very heavy snow like only the coastal mountains can provide. We drove the winding road with relief and refreshment. It seemed that we might be leaving the wet and dreary climate behind and advancing quickly on the alpine wonderland we so appreciated. We crossed into a Bavarian ski village that must have been transplanted brick by brick from Europe into Washington state! (a town called Leavenworth) We both commented on how much our wives would LOVE to visit… I noted the piped in music wafting out of the town gazeebo, sprinkled with several inches of fresh snow and felt like I had driven straight into a real life set of SHREK. This had to be Duloc 🙂
We left the colorful lights and sugary fantasy of Leavenworth, WA behind and drove a winding road back into black and white reality…snaking our way across central and eastern Washington state, in and out of snow, fog and rain. The skies were never quite clear enough to see blue, but the rain seemed to be fading and the air getting colder as we went. Promise of more snow and less rain…we hoped.
By the time we had traversed the site of the Grand Coulee Dam and driven deep into the northern woods of northeastern Washington (via Hwy 302) we were in a full fledged blizzard. Snow we had found, slow and beautiful at first, it quickly had grown in intensity until miles from anywhere, we were caught by an un-expected (not forecasted) blast of winter that left us limping along on unplowed two lane roads winding in- out of the mountains as the sun was setting quickly in our rearview mirror.
Our car had AWD and at first the snow was only a few inches deep, but the steep terrain and 15-20mph curves kept us from making much progress. By 6pm we were into five or six inches of snow and random blowing whiteout conditions. It was impossible to get a cell signal or find a town or sign of life anywhere. I had driven for almost three hours into the center of the storm and the relentless swarm of thick snow flakes had started to really affect my vision and perspective… I couldn’t see the edges of the road in the dark and swirling snow and not a single snowplow had revealed itself. I was dizzy, and experiencing mild vertigo by the time I pulled off the road and let Brian take the wheel.
He quickly drove us out of the never-ending storm and into a beautiful little town (Sandpoint ID) where we found a welcome oasis of light and warmth and food. Sweet! We crashed at a lakefront Best Western and had the best meal of our trip… fresh rainbow trout and warm bread paired with steamed veggies. Delicious and very welcome. We had indeed found our snow, and we had found our mountains…but we had not seen much of any of it. It seemed the sky remained stubbornly closed to us, blocking the vista’s of it’s beauty that we knew had to be there. So frustrating…
Before drifting off to sleep…I remembered thinking about how good it was to not be in a blizzard and how fortunate I was to have a comrade… a dear and trustworthy friend who could take the wheel when I get too tired, or too confused to find my way. So glad to know that Brian was a true and dear companion… a veteran of the roadtrip world and I knew he would always be there to help. Kind of like our parenting and life challenges, I reflected on how critical it is to have someone else in our lives to encourage and help us along the way of life. I know when I need to find my way out of the next blizzard life brings my way…. I won’t have to do it without help. It’s really important for us all realize we don’t have to try this parenting stuff all alone. We desperately need each other, we need the help of those who have been there before us and so often we need their perspective…
Day five reminded me of a very important truth…Life is not meant to be lived alone… RoadTrips are not meant to be experienced alone and raising our kids is not a solo ride either. Lesson learned.