It started out a tranquil still morning...just light enough to see if there was a rattlesnake coiled beneath my foot as I stepped out of SPIA to begin my day.
Quiet, so not to wake up the household of Larry and Donna at 5:00 am, I walked out of their driveway, turning right (East) on US 2 back toward the town of Wilbur, Washington.
A mile down the road was the intersection of Highway 174 leading to Grand Coulee Dam...my objective for today.
A committee of local Angus were ever watchful as I passed by...an apparition in yellow walking their fence line.
Hundreds of empty Desert miles, broken by a advertising sign offering Boating supplies...go figure !
Brown and grey sagebrush and sand in all directions...yet another sign inviting a round of golf.
Interesting place, the community of Wilbur.
...and yet, another sign promising Grand Coulee Dam will be found if only I follow the arrow.
Climbing the long hill rising into the distant clouds, I look back...finding Wilbur peeking over distant treetops.
VERIZON signal is close at hand...we'll be blogging tonight.
19 miles to Grand Coulee Dam...at the bottom of those distant hills.
Five miles out I reach the top of the first hill...only to discover a series of deep valleys waiting to be crossed.
...spanned by bridges ... awe, go ahead and walk over me...I got a few more good crossings left.
That distant hilltop is actually three hilltops away...the valley waiting is wide - lots wider than it looks - and, the forecast afternoon thunderstorm clouds are already, at 7:00am, gathering overhead...
and me, without a single item of rain gear along !
The first drops fall, raising dust on the macadam next to my Brooks Walkers.
I turn instantly back to SPIA, now 7 or so miles away...mostly, I am fearful for my camera, as there is no way to protect it from the coming rain.
An interesting event occurs: as I walk, rain drops continue to fall...a few over there...a few more over there, too. Then, I breathe in a mouthful of sagebrush. Now, where did that come from?
There is no wind blowing, but I feel a sudden chill. I pull my gloves from my back pocket...and take in another full breath of sagebrush.
Then, the dime falls...those rain drops are falling on the dry dusty foliage of the sage, kicking up sage spores which float on the unseen/unfelt breeze.
I am not smelling the sage, I am actually ingesting it.
For the first time ever, I sense that I am actually as one with Mother Nature...has She finally, after all these months and years accepted me as one of Her own?
Must pay closer attention...who knows what I may have already missed.
The rain never comes...just teasing sprinkles from black overhead clouds. Committed to return to SPIA, I arrive, only to be invited into the home of Larry and Donna, who ask me to accompany them to lunch at the Senior Center.
Pleased for the opportunity to spend more time together, we chat 'til nearly 11:00am. I retreat into SPIA to wash off the sweat and sage spores, don clean clothes, and drive into Wilbur...still with 30 minutes before lunch time.
Walking around town, I come across a few interesting photo subjects.
...including the Senior Center.
Main Street, Wilbur, Washington.
A delicious lunch with new friends accompanied by good conversation and many requests for my return to visit once again...the street side clock reminds me of my destination for today.
Reluctantly, we say goodbye to Wilbur and our new friends, driving across the undulating hills before arriving at the precipitous canyon walls Highway 174 plunges down to Grand Coulee Dam.
I park. Walk into the Senior Center of Grand Coulee (the town)...then to the Chamber of Commerce, receiving advice as to where to go first to gain best advantage of our short stay visiting Grand Coulee Dam. Roger, the local newspaper reported arrives. We find a garden wall to sit in the afternoon sun as Roger interviews me about walking...ending chatting about a world of other things, too.
It is DRY in this deep canyon, where stands Grand Coulee Dam...big baskets of live blooming flowers brighten up the sidewalks.
Following Chamber of Commerce routing, we come upon the Dam. Wall to wall across the narrow canyon, Lake Roosevelt lies brimming full to the top of the Dam.
One can see the floating "booms" designed to keep floating debris and errant boaters from being sucked into or over this one time largest concrete structure in the world.
Lake Roosevelt, created behind Grand Coulee Dam, stretches into Canada far behind the distant hills.
Looking in the other direction (Southwest), lies the developed downstream area below Grand Coulee Dam.
Grand Coulee Dam is so large, it is necessary to use very wide angle lens to get the entire structure into one picture frame. Tomorrow morning, we will climb the hills high above the Dam, which we are promised will give us spectacular views.
For orientation: The dark center section are the "spillways", which release water over the top of the dam during high water periods.
On either side of the spillway section, are the "powerhouse" sections. Water is taken from Lake Roosevelt, piped through massive turbines, which create electricity sent wide and far over transmission lines rising out of the canyon to march on towers crossing the vast desert above.
There are actually three powerhouse sections...the third powerhouse set at nearly right-angle to the original Dam face.
The original Dam was completed in 1939. The third powerhouse was added in the 1970s.
SPIA found an overnight spot after crossing the bridge spanning the Columbia River a mile or so below Grand Coulee Dam. The city of Grand Coulee has provided many "free" overnight parking areas for tourists.
View of Grand Coulee Dam from SPIA's overnight parking spot.
I must admit that I have not been feeling well the past few hours. I simply could not pull this blog update together last evening, so have done so this morning - it is now 7:00 am, Wednesday, June 13.
We are still parked overlooking Grand Coulee Dam. Last night the thunder storm finally arrived, dumping a bit of water into the canyon. Hoped to get an early start this morning, climbing the steep hills Highway 174 must negotiate to reach to plateau above. Alas, it is now raining with a vengeance. There will be no walking until this rain passes...would be dangerous and slippery on the difficult hills around us.
In truth, I could use a few more hours rest...perhaps I am nearing the limits this old body has been looking for...
We shall see
Our next town is nearly 60 miles distant...at the location of the Chief Joseph Dam, further down stream on the Columbia River. After crossing the river, we enter the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, climbing over the North Cascade Pass - closed much of the year due to snow - and finally down into the plains of Puget Sound...
All in all, we still have a couple hundred miles to traverse...by far, the most difficult terrain of our entire walk.