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Thread: why you should leave I-90 (long)

  1. #1

    why you should leave I-90 (long)

    Last week I did something I've been wanting to do for a few years now. I headed out toward Dry Falls and spent a couple of days hiking around the canyons taking photos. What's Dry Falls you ask? During the last ice age it was the largest waterfall ever to grace Earth. The Missoula Floods (caused by melting glaciers and other water that was once dammed up by ice) flooded much of eastern Washington, the Puget Sound area, and made it down as far as the Willamette Valley. The floods & glaciers deposited huge bolders (called erratics) everywhere, deposited huge amounts of soil in the Columbia Plateau (what most of you think of when you think of eastern Washington), carved huge canyons (called coulees (or 'dry canyon')), and left beyond large swaths of land channeled by water & ice (ie. the scablands of eastern Washingon, the bad lands in South Dakota, etc.).

    Dry Falls is in eastern Washington, north of Moses Lake and south of Grand Coulee Dam. The Dam takes water (only about 5% of what flows through that area, I found out) and pumps it up into Banks Lake for irragation (where water is then shoved into over a thousand miles of canals for use by the farmland on the plateau). Banks Lake fills Grand Coulee.. the largest coulee of its kind. There are many other coulees in the area.. all of which are pretty spectacular, imo. From Banks Lake you can follow it south toward Dry Falls and the large string of lakes that lead you down toward Soap Lake and Ephrata. This whole section, from Grand Coulee down to Ephrata is one of my favorite places in the northwest, mostly because it's so unique.

    So I got off work on Monday morning and immediately start packing for the trip. I ended up heading out of town by around 9am, making a well-deserved stop in Leavenworth for my ceremonial fresh-baked cookies & bratwurst (mmm...).

    Lake Wenatchee from Lake Wenatchee State Park:


    Lincoln Rock, from Lincoln Rock State Park. See the resemblance?


    I continued on hwy 2 eastbound into no man's land. On the way, the highway drops you down into Moses Coulee (named after Chief Moses).. a great sign of what's to come.

    from hwy 2:


    an erratic:


    huge..


    from inside Moses Coulee..




    You drive through the dinky little town of Waterville.. the seat of Douglas County (giving you a good idea of how desolate the county is ).. and then lose cell reception. Before long you're dropping down in elevation a little.. just enough to get a sneak peak of amazing Dry Falls from above.



    You approach it from the top side "up river", catching just a glimpse before the terrain levels off. Turn south onto hwy 17 and you'll come across the visitor's center, which has a great view of the area from above. You can pretty easily see how this was once a waterfall.



    from the visitor's center


    But the fun starts when you can go down inside and see it all from below. Dry Falls is a state park, but it surrounds "Sun Lakes State Park" which is at the bottom of the falls area. I pulled in.. planning on car camping for a couple of nights.

    One thing that was both exciting... yet disappointing since I couldn't capture it.. was the surprise low level flyby from a C-17. I had just pulled into the park and heard a jet noise. I looked up just in time to see a C-17 flying just above the canyon area before disappearing on the other side

    After getting things settled with the state park I took off on my first hike. It was about 4pm at this time, so the sun was a bit high.. the light was still much better than it would have been earlier in the day though. It was 101F with clear skies... ugh. But check out these shots..









    Afterward I drove into town (Coulee City.. pretty freakin' small) assuming something would be open. I found one place.. had three kitchen/waiting staff, about 3 people in the bar, and no one in the restaurant. I ended up with some dry hamburgers and fries for ~$5.. oh well.

    Camping the car wasn't bad really... I can fit in the back well enough, and all of my crap fit in the front of the car so it was out of my way. That all said it was still about 90 degrees and the humidity had risen from about 15% up to 70'ish % once the sun had set. The bugs were out like crazy as well. FYI, this is not a good combination when you're trying to sleep in a car with no mesh screens. I ended up leaving the windows cracked slightly and left the car running with the AC on for a while which helped.. a little. I ended up closing the windows up and leaving the fans on in the car (with the AC off). This helped me fall asleep.. but I woke up a few hours later to a sound/chime I'd never heard from my car before. I immediately turned the fans off & pulled the key and then fell back asleep. Come morning I woke up feeling okay, considering the uncomfortable situation the night before... then tried to start the car. Yes.. the battery was dead.



    I managed to get a park ranger to show up with a truck so we could jump my car. In the mean time I noticed that a raccoon had been curious overnight. I wiped down the front of my car (cleaning off bugs & bird crap) with a combination of expensive Griot's products and then headed out to find more trails.











    view of Deep Lake from the end of the road..






    The weather wasn't nearly as nice on the second day. There was a good amount of cloud cover until about 4pm. This made it cooler (eh.. 90F instead ), but also much more humid. Ugh. I checked out a couple possible hikes within Dry Falls and then decided to head north to check out Grand Coulee Dam.. hoping the clouds would break later in the day).

    along the highway near Grand Coulee


    Grand Coulee dam is pretty amazing in its own right. Until China built its latest large dam this one was the largest concrete structure in the world. It still has some of the most powerful generators in the world and its output is pretty freakin' insane. They give hourly ('ish) tours still, but the access is hugely restricted after 9/11.. sadly. I had great tours twice when I was in highschool.. getting down into the main dam structure in dark old tunnels.. and got to climb down inside one of the turbine areas that was being worked on at the time. Now they just take you down to the new powerhouse, show you a quick glimpse from above, then show you the shafts above the hydro powered turbines below. The best part is the view they allow you to have from atop the dam though... really gives you a better sense for how big this thing is.

    the 3rd powerhouse (built in the 70s) is on the far-left side of the dam. The main dam was finished in the '40s.


    this is behind the 3rd power house. Each of those concrete 'lines' going down the hillside are wide enough for three large busses to fit side-by-side.


    inside the 3rd powerhouse


    one of the Westinghouse generators


    from on top of the dam.. up-river is on the left side. The lines on the hillside are pumps that pump water from the Roosevelt reservoir (which goes from the dam all the way up to the Canadian border.. the reservoir is the Columbia River, just backed up and flooded thanks to the dam) into Banks Lake (which fills Grand Coulee and goes all the way south to Dry Falls) and the main irrigation canals.


    over the edge..




    Electric City is a small town on one side of the dam that was built as the government/administrative town during dam construction. President Roosevelt wanted to show things off a bit, so the town was lined with trees and there's grass everywhere. Most of the buildings are white. It's a pretty unique town when you spend the time to check it out.



    The sun was starting to break, so I headed back south into Grand Coulee. On the way is a rather cool spot called Steamboat Rock. It's a state park.. but I've never had the time to stop. I know there are trails taking you up to the top... some day.

    steamboat rock.. with Banks Lake surrounding it


    just a rock inside Grand Coulee near Steamboat Rock


    Back at dry falls I headed deep into the canyon area to hike along Deep Lake. It was a fun hike.. and the air was a lot cooler (still around 90F, but less humid) since the sun had been hidden most of the day.

















    So it's the end of day two.. still humid after the sun set.. still lots of bugs.. and still no mesh screen to keep bugs out. This time I tried opening my sunroof and sticking the reflective sunroof cover thing I have inside to try & let some air through while keeping bugs out. I can't say that it worked, but I was still able to sleep well enough that night.

    Third day.. same overcast morning. I was rather tired so I ended up just hanging around the camp site trying to relax a bit. By mid-day most of the clouds had broken so I left the state park and headed south on hwy 17 toward Lake Lenore & Ephrata. The road is pretty good, meandering through the coulee, with lakes and cool rock formations all around. I ended up driving all the way into Ephrata in order to refuel. Turns out this town (and the neighboring Soap Lake) have no diesel fuel. I found one station in Ephrata after stopping to ask a couple of guys standing by their trucks where I should go). I thought diesel was supposed to be more common out there since more people drive diesel trucks. *sigh*

    wtf is this? It's three bumble bees together.. all dead.




    overlooking Sun Lakes State Park


    south of Dry Falls.. headed toward Ephrata






    Alkali Lake.. north of Lake Lenore


    Because I was in the right mood, I drove all the way back north to Dry Falls and then back south on a different road called Pinto Ridge Rd. It goes south from Coulee City along the eastern edge of Dry Falls, following some of the main Columbia Plateau canals. The weather sucked down here.. 90F and completely cloudy, threatening rain, etc. Let me just say.. this is WRONG! Fix your shit eastern Washington! Due to the crappy weather I didn't stop and take photos much.. I was spending too much time enjoying the road and the car

    Moses Lake was the next stop.. I have family there that I haven't seen in way too long. I also stopped by to say hi to machetephil before heading back home on boring ol' I-90. I-90 sucks.. stay away from it. The end.
    tell all of your local car enthusiast friends where the best place is to meet other local enthusiasts!
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  2. #2
    Awesome write up Joel! Looks like a great trip.

  3. #3
    Normal Member machetephil will become famous soon enough
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    What did you think of Pinto Ridge rd? Thats the only way we go to get to anywhere north of here (Coulee City, Omak etc...)

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    Normal Member Steve is on a distinguished road Steve's Avatar
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    Great job Joel! I spent a lot of time in Wenatchee/Quincy growing up, still have a lot of family over there. Really only been to Dry Falls once though.

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    make car go faster guy Rabbit 16v is a jewel in the rough Rabbit 16v is a jewel in the rough Rabbit 16v is a jewel in the rough Rabbit 16v's Avatar
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    But seriously, very nice writeup and comments. Eastern WA kicks ass. We did this similar drive in the Vanagon a few years ago. We went to most of the same places that you went and continued our trip to the theme park in Idaho. It was loads of fun. We stopped at Hanford to see if we could get a tour, but they were closed (we failed to plan, they do two tours a year). We did stop on the roadside and checked out the old city on Hanford with a nice telescope. Unfortunately due to rampant Murrican paranoia we opted to view Hanford through the telescope inside the van. It was quite an epic trip! Thanks for the pics and story, I wish we would have taken more pics on our trip.

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    everyone probably knows me by now Jazzydub has a spectacular aura about Jazzydub has a spectacular aura about Jazzydub's Avatar
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    been around the block a few times EK20 is a jewel in the rough EK20 is a jewel in the rough EK20's Avatar
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    Wow, what a trip! I've been to Sun Lakes State Park (and of course the Indian Caves) more then a few times in my youth and never knew all that.
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    been around the block a few times unimogken has a spectacular aura about unimogken has a spectacular aura about unimogken's Avatar
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    Wow nice write up!

    Its cool to see all of the places i've been and had pictures taken with an awesome camera! All of the pics that I have of those areas are on film....yeah film!

    Back in the day when we did some family station wagon camping my dad had some screen material that he'd use at night. He'd roll the windows down all the way then open the door and put the 4' x 4' screen up and close the door. Looked like crap but worked....hehe

  10. #10
    Quote: Originally Posted by machetephil View Post
    What did you think of Pinto Ridge rd? Thats the only way we go to get to anywhere north of here (Coulee City, Omak etc...)
    it was pretty good... definitely nice to see some different scenery. I'll need to drive it again later on when the skies are prettier and take more photos..
    tell all of your local car enthusiast friends where the best place is to meet other local enthusiasts!
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  11. #11
    Quote: Originally Posted by unimogken View Post
    Back in the day when we did some family station wagon camping my dad had some screen material that he'd use at night. He'd roll the windows down all the way then open the door and put the 4' x 4' screen up and close the door. Looked like crap but worked....hehe
    I've searched.. there are a couple of products in about the $15 - $20 range that are basically screens with magnets that can attach to the outside of the car. The nice thing is that this allows you to roll down/roll up the window, open the door, etc. I may have to buy at least one so I can survive if I do this again. My body is still mad at me for having mosquitos in the car both of those nights
    tell all of your local car enthusiast friends where the best place is to meet other local enthusiasts!
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  12. #12
    Junior Member Jor758 is on a distinguished road Jor758's Avatar
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    Love the write up Joel! As well as the photographs.

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    Normal Member ExplosiveToaster will become famous soon enough ExplosiveToaster's Avatar
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    Great pictures! This part of the country has a lot of neat areas.
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  14. #14
    Quote: Originally Posted by ExplosiveToaster View Post
    Great pictures! This part of the country has a lot of neat areas.
    indeed it does... between the olympic peninsula with its rain forests, mountains, and coastline, and the near-desert climate with its canyons, scorpions, and rattlesnakes, you have one of the most diverse areas in the world.
    tell all of your local car enthusiast friends where the best place is to meet other local enthusiasts!
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