Coming Home

Tantalus Range from viewpoint along BC99

About a week before our trip, Sandy hurt her ankle. One day she woke up and it was painful and swollen. She thinks she probably hurt it while doing a hard exercise session the day before but she isn't sure. I was teasing her that it might be a case of the old adage "you know you are getting old when you hurt yourself sleeping".

She was very careful the week before we left. She said that it was feeling better but we didn't know how it would hold up to heavy duty hiking. After our first hike on the High Notes Trail, it was definitely sore and swollen again. Sandy thought that she was ok to keep hiking but wanted to avoid any really difficult hikes. Using that as a criteria, I looked through the hiking guide and checked the web carefully to try to come up with the best choice for our next hike.

The problem is, there really wasn't a best choice. There is an old hikers saying that "there are no trails in British Columbia". That's not quite true, but there are not a lot of the wide, nicely graded and well maintained trails that are found in the US or the Canadian Rockies. What trails there are tend to be quite rough. There were lots of great hikes we could do, but they were either very long, had lots of elevation gain (and therefore lots of elevation loss), were very steep, or were over rough terrain like rocks and boulders. Or all of the above.

Mt Tantalus - highest peak in the Tantaus Range

When I got up the next morning I told Sandy that I hadn't really found any good candidates for a hike. I proposed that we start back and do more traditional car touring. She volunteered to wait in town so I could do a hike on my own, but I preferred that pick things that we could do together. There was a lot we could do if we took a leisurely trip home, so we packed up, checked out, and started back early.

The drive from Whistler to Vancouver along BC99 is beautiful. The first half, from Whistler to Squamish, is through a valley with terrific views of the Tanatalus Range to the west. Dense, dark green forests. Sheer black rock mountains. Bright white snow and glaciers. With a deep blue sky it looked fantastic. After Squamish the road follows the coast. Here the mountains aren't snow covered but are still very steep, rising right out of the Pacific Ocean. The coastline here is very rugged and it's important to keep your attention on the winding road. It's too easy to let your eyes wander to admire the magnificent scenery.

Port Mann Bridge over the Fraser River

We got a pleasant surprise when we reached Vancouver. Although traffic was heavy and did slow down going through the city, we never hit any bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic like we had before. We actually made pretty good time. That changed when we got to the US border. Even though we went through the truck crossing, which is supposed to be faster than the peace park, we had to wait in line for an hour before we got through. Contrary to what Donald Trump has said in many of his campaign speeches, the US does not have an open border.

Since we weren't in a rush to get home we decided to take the scenic route. Instead of Interstate 5 through Seattle we took Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway. It goes right through the middle of North Cascades National Park so it's a route that I have always wanted to drive. I've hiked in the very far northwest corner of the north cascades, around Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, and the scenery is wonderful. With good weather we thought this would be a good chance to see a lot more of the park.

Washington Pass - North Cascades National Park

Well all I can say is that it was disappointing. Yes, it was mountainous, but most of the route the highway was in a deep valley. There were no grand vistas or views of spectacular peaks, at least not until near the end. We were already out of the park and in the national forest when we stopped at the Washington Pass Overlook. There we could see famous rock peaks like Early Winter Spire and Silver Star Mountain. I remember reading about those mountains many years ago in Challenge of the North Cascades by the famous mountaineer Fred Beckey. He was the most prolific American mountaineer of all time, with hundreds of first ascents, many of them in the North Cascades.

At least we got some good pictures at Washington Pass. Since it was late in the afternoon we even had good light. From distant views on other hikes and from lots of photos that I have seen, I know that there are spectacular mountains in the North Cascades. It looks like it is going to take more research and a lot of work to get to see them though. No easy scenic drives like in the Canadian Rockies. We also found that there weren't any towns that offered much in the way of places to stay anywhere close to the park. Since Sandy and I are day hikers and hotel campers that makes it even more challenging.

PGV - our favorite wine from Prosser

At the end of the North Cascades Highway we did passed through Twisp, an Old West style town with old-fashioned storefronts and even wooden sidewalks. It was getting late and we wanted to get to Wenatchee for the night, but it might be fun to check it out sometime if we are ever back in the area. We reached Wenatchee about 9 pm, got a room at the Super 8, and played it safe by eating dinner at the Denny's across the street from the motel.

Since Wenatchee claims to be the apple capital of the world, we stopped at a fruit stand not long after leaving town and got a very large bag of delicious looking apples, and a bag of peaches as well. From there we took an assortment of country back roads to reach the Yakima Valley. I'm not sure we ever could have found our way without Google Maps.

In the middle of nowhere there was a sideroad that led to a guard station, complete with armed guards. That was puzzling till I checked the map and saw that we were close to Hanford. Ah. That explained it.

We eventually reached the freeway and then it was only a short drive to Prosser, our favorite stop in the Yakima Valley. We went straight to Chukar Cherries. Cherries are my absolute favorite and Chukar Cherries has just about anything and everything that you can make with cherries. I always make a point of stopping there anytime that I drive through the area. Sandy and I each got a bag of chocolate covered candies and we stocked with multiple jars of cherry pie filling and preserves. I just love them on toast or english muffins. Sandy is planning to make cherry cobler when we have some friends over this weekend. Even though we got multiple jars, I don't think that our supply will last long.

Fabric everywhere

One of the reasons that we like to stop in Prosser is that some of our favorite wineries are there, right next to the interstate. Next we went to Thurston Wolfe Winery, which we usually refer to as "Thirsty Wolf". They make a Pinot Gris/Viognier blend that we both really like. You can only get it at the winery so anytime I drive through the Yakima Valley I try to time it so I pass through Prosser when I can stop at the winery (and Chukar Cherries while I'm at it). We didn't stay long but we did get a case of PGV and some $6 tshirts with the winery logo on them.

By now it was time for lunch. We stopped at Jeremy's 1896 Public House. Since it was a nice day we ate on the porch. While we were eating Sandy found that there was a quilt shop in Prosser, The Sewing Basket, and when we checked it was only three doors down the street. We stopped there as soon as we finished lunch. Although it was in an old house converted to a shop that didn't look like much, it was quite a surprise inside. There was fabric everywhere. In every room, the walls were lined with shelves that reached to the ceiling, all filled with bolts of fabric. In the middle of the room there were more shelves, filled with fabric. Anywhere that there was an open space, there were baskets filled with fabric or just bolts of fabric piled as high as they would stack. According to their website, they have eleven thousand bolts of fabric. After seeing their store, I believe it.

Digging deep for that perfect bolt of fabric

The house was a maze and it took Sandy quite a while to go through all of the rooms. After we had been there for a while the lady who ran the store asked if we had seen all the fabric in the back. We assured her that we had indeed checked out all the rooms. No, she meant the other building. Huh? We followed her directions outside and behind the house was a large outbuilding they had built to store more fabric. The ceiling in there had to be twelve feet high and the shelves went all the way up. It wasn't obvious how you could even see the fabric on the top shelves, much less reach it.

Sandy said it was quite overwhelming. But she is a tough shopper and managed to find a kit and a lot of fabric to buy. Now we have another place to add to our list of where we stop when we come through the Yakima Valley and Prosser.

After fabric shopping, we had time and energy to hit one more winery on our way out of town. We like Hogue wines, especially their Sauvignon Blanc, but had never stopped at their winery since we can easily find their wines at stores in Boise. Turns out that they have several special wines that they only sell at the winery. Fortunately we had room left in the car because after tasting them we bought a half case of those wines too.

After that it was a pretty straightforward trip home. We got home in the early evening and of course Abby gave us a warm reception.

It was a fun trip. Even though our hiking was cut short, we had a fun and relaxing trip home.