Road report: Lava Hot Springs to Olympia

We’re settled in at my brother’s house atop Tumwater Hill near the south end of Puget Sound in western Washington, embraced by family.

Traveling with Richard’s brain impairments involves some challenges neither of us anticipated, like the fact that his current difficulties with balance make getting in and out of the car and handling stairs… interesting. Still, we’re loving the chance to see familiar landscapes anew.

Like the shot of dawn above, as seen through the window of our motel on the Port Neuf River at Lava Hot Springs. That was the last clear air we saw: as we traveled west across southern Idaho’s Snake River Plains, a “lake” of long-ago hardened basalt flows, the haze of forest fire smoke gradually thickened in tandem with air temperatures rising from the seventies to the mid-nineties.


It was an interstate-highway day–mostly. We bailed off onto slower roads for lunch at Glenn’s Ferry State Park, the site of one of the most difficult river crossings on the Oregon Trail, where the Snake River (photo above), looks deceptively placid although it is in fact a Big River, wide, deep, and moving fast. Several hours later, just over the border in the high-desert country of eastern Oregon, we took another break at Farewell Bend, where the Snake enters Hells Canyon (photo below).


By the time we climbed with Interstate 84 into the Blue Mountains, the sun was low and I was tired. My navigator was sleeping, so I picked an exit at random and headed down a two-lane into the forest to find a quiet spot for our picnic dinner. Turned out to be a good choice: We watched the almost-full moon rise and then saw half a dozen cow elk trailing one calf.


A few minutes later, on the descent from the Blue Mountains into Pendleton, Oregon we watched the last of the technicolor sunset in the photo above (the color a gift of that haze of wildfire smoke).



The next morning, before we left Pendleton for another make-tracks-on-the-interstate day, we took time to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mill, which has been weaving jacquard trade blankets in beautiful Native American patterns since 1909. (We bought a lovely blanket in the seconds store, along with a shirt for Richard.)


Then we zipped west, still on I-84, headed for the Columbia River Gorge, where we slowed several times to follow windy, narrow, and outrageously scenic US 30, the original route through the Gorge, where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains on its way to the Pacific. (That’s the view from an overlook on US 30 in the photo above.)

We ate a late lunch at the Full Sail Brewing Pub at Hood River–local food, great beer, plus a fabulous view over the river–ogled the spectacular waterfalls near the west end of the gorge, and then turned north for Olympia. (The photo below is me at Horsetail Falls. I had just said to Richard, “Don’t make the waterfall come out of my head in the photo.” “It mostly doesn’t,” he replied, as he snapped the photo.)


Today has been full of sweetness. This morning we attended Olympia Friends Meeting, reuniting with Quakers we were involved with almost three decades ago.

This afternoon we–along with my brother, his older girls, Heather and Sienna, and their spouses–watched my sister-in-law Lucy play cello in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem by the Olympia Choral Society in remembrance of the events of 9/11/01. Ninety minutes of soaring music, crisp and passionate singing, and pure emotion. Wow!

After the concert, the whole cohort gathered at Bill and Lucy’s house for dinner. There were 15 of us, including Heather, Duane, and their three boys, 11-year-old Connor, 2-year-old Colin, and 1-year-old Liam; Sienna and Matt and their two, almost-4-year-old Fiona and 2-year-old Porter (aka Bubba), plus Bill and Lucy’s youngest, Alice, who took charge of the four great-nieces and -nephews during the concert.

Much good food, fun, and silliness ensued, along with a whole lot of love for Uncle Richard. My family is The Best. Thank you for enfolding us fearlessly and with such love!

(Alice, Lucy, Richard, and Bill above. The “greats” below, including Fiona, Porter–in Richard’s lap, Collin and Liam, held by their older brother, Connor.)Rwithgreats
(Me, and nieces Sienna and Heather on either side of Richard in the photo below)