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09/30/2010: Day 7: Over the Cascades into Seattle
I woke before dawn, dressed, and slipped out to walk along the river and across town to see the Grand Coulee Dam at sunrise.
I was up before sunrise, and walked around the dam town. Looking up, I spied an eagles nest. I think.
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The bridge across the Columbia River in Grand Coulee is a nice 1930's steel truss structure. It is designed for walking as well as traffic. Can you see the sign boards angling out from the guard rails?
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Pedestrians can walk either side of the bridge. Upstream here, facing the dam, are pictures and stories from the days of construction. On the downstream side, the saga of volcanoes, tectonics, the glacial lake, and erosion that created this basalt crevasse that contains the second largest river on the continent.
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The rising sun paints the hills overlooking Grand Coulee Dam and I head back to the motel.
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You may or may not have noticed these little bronze markers on buildings, sidewalks, or in concrete monoliths in the countryside. These are the benchmarks that let surveyors know where they are. Their locations are accurate to around a part per billion in latitude, longitude, and altitude. This one, in particular, seems to be set through the sidewalk by the bridge (probably anchored to bedrock below) to let surveyors easily check the settling of the dam.
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As I returned from my walk around a quarter past seven (PDT), Karen happened to have just gotten up and stepped outside to see if she could see where I'd gone. See our sad car by the nice motel.
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Karen was waiting for me when I got back. We packed up, checked out, and headed across the bridge for breakfast.
We'd asked locals for suggestions on where to break fast. So the R&A Cafe it was.
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Again, I stepped out to catch the light after we'd ordered.
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Public art, depicting an evening's recreation of a worker's family during the dam construction. See the glow of the arches supporting the road over the dam.
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The Grand Coulee Dam was built with irrigation in mind. Those pipes at the top irrigate thousands of hectares in the Okanogen Valley that we'll be passed through. The original plan for the electricity was primarily to pump water. Now, of course, it helps light Los Angeles. Yes, all the way from Washington State.
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Then we drove uphill and downstream along State roads 174 and 17.
So we drive on out of the Columbia Valley from Grand Coulee, glancing back to see the insulators glowing in the morning sun.
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This modern sculpture was designed as a tourist overlook for the dam area. Unfortunately, the site is not as much a draw as it once was. This cool shelter is not well maintained.
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The Grand Coulee Dam seen from the scenic overlook
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The two towns and the nice bridge between
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We reconnected with the Columbia River at another dam site. Chief Joseph Dam is the second largest hydroelectric facility in the U.S. Then we crossed the Okanogan Valley, home of the Washington Apple.
No. This is not another picture of the Grand Coulee Dam. This is the Chief Joseph Dam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Joseph_Dam) a ways downstream. This smaller dam is actually the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S.
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The Chief Joseph Dam does not store water in a large lake as do Grand Coulee or Hoover. It passes the full flow of the Columbia River through its many turbines to produce electricity. If the flow exceeds what the turbines can handle, they just let the excess river flow through the floodgates.
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Ever wonder where all those Washington apples come from? Here's where they are picked and packed, the Okanogen Valley.
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So we stopped for fresh apples, and ended up with coffee and scones.
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Karen loves the smell of unwaxed, fresh-picked apples.
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Advised by one of my readers, we took the half-day-longer northern Cascades route through the town of Winthrop instead of the more direct Southern Cascades loop.
So we stopped in Winthrop. Basically a town built as a shopping nexus for the gold rush, and reinvented as a gold-rush-town-themed shopping nexus for the tourist trade. There are local art shops, and stores rivaling Wall Drug or Clines Corner in tourist knick knacks. The buildings are actually concrete and pressure treated wood, in Olde Timey styles.
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As I said, it always was a town designed to separate marks from dollars.
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The one thing I liked in Winthrop was the open art studios. Passers-by are protected from flying shards by a screen, but otherwise, the artist thrusts his rod in and out of the glory hole right in front of you.
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We'd seen many authentic old towns, so this plastic imitation did not impress us. I do have to admit that it is still true to its original charter: Separating travelers from cash.
But the Cascades drive was quite nice, if a bit exhausting. Especially since we expected to dance this evening.
Our first sight of snow on the mountain. This late in the season, that ice must be the remains of a glacier.
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Because of the Winthrop detour, we took the northern path over the Cascades.
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The view from the overlook at the pass in the Cascades. Deep green lake, and patches of glaciers in the mountains
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They had this helpful verdigris bronze map to show us where we are.
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Why do tunnels and bridges fascinate me so?
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We made it in to Seattle this Thursday evening through rush hour, in time to stop in with our hosts and run out for a light meal, and on to the contradance. Because of a very recent and high profile death in the community (Warren Argo), it had become a major reunion and memorial event. The large hall was packed with the best dancers, and dozens of musicians came to play.
The Thursday night contra dance in Seattle was partly a wake this week. See the trip text. A big crowd, and an odd program of dances. The tall redhead in the back is Marianne Tatom-Letts calling this one that I sat out to snap shots.
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I usually shoot dances without a flash or tripod; it better shows the motion. Tonight I was also sternly ordered not to use a flash because one of the locals is prone to siezures. Not bad for hand-held in a dark room.
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Because of the memorial nature of the dance, every musician in town wanted to play. It was as impressive as the St. Louis Folk School (http://www.folk-school.com/)'s "Wall of Sound" band.
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Seven days, seven stays, and we've passed our far north point and head south. But first, a couple of days in Seattle.
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We have now passed our far northern part of the trip, and Seattle is about as far west as we are going. We'll spend 2 days here, and then start heading south.
Next: Day 8: Friday in Seattle

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