Winter Roadtrip 2012 – day five

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.

The Cascades in Winter

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 🙂

Leavenworth WA - Bavarian Village

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.

Peace out,


6 thoughts on “Winter Roadtrip 2012 – day five

  1. Route 20 – the North Cascades Highway – might be the most beautiful/scenic road in the state. Of course, partisans for Rainier or Baker, or even the ocean, will tell you otherwise. Route 2 isn’t a bad alternative, though; 20 closes every winter because of avy danger. It should open for the season any day now!

    Leavenworth is a nice little kitsch town, and it gets a lot more sun than the Seattle side does. But it isn’t quite desert, and it occasionally gets the weather you saw there. On the bright side, this is why it has trees… 😀

    You should come back for another visit. The snow is melting quickly.

    • Thanks for your input and comments for RTP….I’m planning to visit again this June for my daughters High School Graduation roadtrip… Seattle to San Fran and back over 8 days. ANY suggestions for MUST SEE sites is welcome 🙂

      • Well, eight days isn’t all that much time, and it could make for a slightly hectic trip. But … if you only get out here every six months, see as much as you can.

        The obvious ideas would be to take I-5 or US 101, which would hug the coast. You might consider taking SR 20, the North Cascades Highway, instead. It will be open in June, letting you see what you missed last time … Early Winters Spires, for example, but also the wonderful glacial lakes. (Colonial Creek Campground is absolutely wonderful.) If you followed this route, you would take US 97 south, as far as you like before crossing back toward the coast.

        If you haven’t seen any of these, I’d recommend all of them very highly:

        * Icicle Creek (I just published a lot of photos from here)
        * Cascade Pass (best easy hike on the planet?)
        * Lake Wenatchee (I have two series of photos online from here)
        * Teanaway (again, I have some great photos to show this place off).
        * The Columbia River Gorge (Multnomah Falls is a great introduction)
        * Creator Lake National Park in Oregon.

        There’s a lot more to recommend, but this is already getting ambitious for an eight day trip. You could leave Seattle on I-5 North, cross the Cascade Range on SR 20 (and stop by Cascade Pass on the way), then take US 97 which will bring you very close to Lake Wenatchee, Icicle Creek, and Teanaway; if you follow it to the state line, it will dump you on the Columbia River, and in a good place to start exploring.

        It might seem like I’m recommending a number of obscure places because I’ve recently posted photos of them, but the reverse is true; I’ve been going to these places lately because they’re among the best our state has to offer. They’re mostly pretty obscure, though – a guidebook from Amazon might send you somewhere closer and less spectacular, like Snoqualmie Falls, whereas I lived here and explored for eight years before I found Teanaway.

  2. “Life is not meant to be lived alone… ” Amen, amen, and amen. I’ve learned that lesson too, Brad. Engaging those others – even in storms and long journeys – is simple the way that life MUST be lived-out.

    Loved this posting. 🙂

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