Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crossing Eastern Washington

Palouse Out 24 I've commented before about the contrast in distance, density, and landscapes between the Netherlands and the US.  Driving border-to-border yesterday really brought it home for me, so I wanted to share a few pictures (starting with a Washington Windmill, so the Dutch feel at home...)

Washington State is in the extreme NW corner of the United States, nestled against the Pacific and Canada.  The western portion of the state gets a constant flow of moisture off the ocean, and the coastal mountains (the volcanic Olympic and Cascade ranges) cause clouds to pile up all along slopes.  While it's temperate all year long, there is a mist of rain almost all the time in some areas, while Seattle gets lots of drizzly days.  The mountains run north/south through the west-central portion of the state, then there are two hundred miles of dry desert extending east from their rain shadow.  Major irrigation projects were created in the '30s to convert huge chunks of land to marginal farms: they grow wine grapes and fruits, some plants for grains and oils.  But there are still large stretches away from the rivers that are absolutely desolate: basalt rocks, sand, and rolling sagebrush.  The eastern rim of the state becomes hilly and wetter again: Pullman is on the edge of the Palouse hills and the Idaho portion of the western Rocky Mountains begin beyond.

I moved to the Eastern Washington town of Kennewick when I graduated college, where I had my first job with Cadwell Labs.  It's a small, family-owned medical device company, along the Columbia River in the driest part of Central Washington (12 inches of rain per year).  We lived along the river for five years, then moved over to Seattle with the arrival of our first child.  I'm pretty familiar with the entire area and the variation in climate and topography, but it's still a striking change from the West side, or from the Netherlands.  From east to west...

Palouse Farmland

Pullman Sunrise 2

Palouse In 18 Palouse In 15

Palouse Out 05 Palouse Out 14

Into the Desert

Palouse Out 12 Palouse Out 18

Straus 12 Washtucna 05

The Columbia River at Kennewick

 Tri Cities 02

Tri Cities 15 Tri Cities 12

Hanford to cross the Columbia at Vantage

Hanford 07

Hanford 06 Hanford 02

Vantage 06 Vantage 02

Approaching the Cascades from Ellensburg

East across the Cascades 19 Ellensburg 1 


A Touch of Dutch said...

Beautiful! I've been to Washington several times and to each corner of the state. Simply beautiful and much contrast throughout! While visiting with friends, I've been also to a few concerts in the Columbia River Gorge [?] Amphitheatre in George, Washington.

It's nice to make a trip back home & glad you got to do this! My trip home is coming soon :)

Dave Hampton said...

The Gorge is a wonderful concert venue: the sunsets are spectacular. Overall, I think they've had a cool and rainy summer like we have, but the weather was really great when I visited. I'll look forward to hearing your stories from your trip back (to a different bit of the country?)