Monday, September 8, 2014

A Sunday Excursion in which We Pay It Forward...

I woke early on Sunday morning. Not ready to leave the comfort of my cocoon, I reached over for my Kindle, positioned my reading glasses to least painful position, and started in. After a while, I could tell that Randy was stirring, but I was still a little startled when he asked, “What do you think of this idea?”

Obviously, already a gorgeous day, he wondered if I would be willing to do a day trip up the North Cascades Highway, and over to the area of Washington’s Big Burn. We’ve been curious to see how some of the areas familiar to us looked after the devastation of this summer’s wildfires and subsequent mudslides.

Of course, I was in! Because: 1)No cooking all day, 2)Beautiful country to see, 3)Curiosity satisfied, 4)More reading in the car, 5) The Farmer was actually thinking about doing something other than work!

In a half-hour, we set off.

No freeways were involved in the pursuit of this day trip. On Highway 9, we stopped at the Blue Mountain Grill for our breakfast. Then on to Sedro Woolley, and there my reading stopped as the scenery is not so familiar to me, and lovely.

We enjoyed the sights all the way up to the Diablo Vista, where it is required that we stop and take a picture…to add to my collection of pictures at Diablo Vista over the years. It’s tradition!

Two young couples were standing at the fence just in front of where we parked, and as we exited the car Randy greeted them like old friends. “How are you folks today?” They giggled at his familiarity, and then came forward to ask if perhaps we might be able to help them. They were coming from the east and a few miles before the overlook, had realized that their fuel light was on. Did we have any gas that they could buy to make it to the next gas station? And did we know how far away it was?

They were slightly panicked, and sheepish, and, well, desperate. And very, very appreciative of any advice we might have.

Of course, we had no extra gas can along, and neither did anyone else around the parking lot. They were driving a Toyota, and having experience with Toyotas and fuel lights, we figured that they probably had enough gas to get back to Newhalem, 14 miles down the road. But they didn’t know how long the fuel light had been on before they noticed it.

Randy suggested that we follow them down the hill so if they ran out of gas, we could take one of them on to go get some. The road between Diablo Vista and Newhalem is not exactly a great place to have to walk to a gas station.

They were a bit incredulous that we would do this for them, but we assured them that we were willing, and happy to be of help.

What we didn’t tell them was that we knew how they felt, as we had our own experience with running out of gas in the wilderness…

Years ago, in Eastern Washington, we were on our way to camp at Sun Lakes. We were pulling a rented camping trailer, with a borrowed Blazer, and were driving through farm country. Out in the middle of fields as far as we could see, Randy says to me, “How soon to the next town?”

Say what?! This made my head swivel, and I replied, “There isn’t one…Why?”

“No reason…just curious…” Yeah, right…

He stuck to his story for a while, then admitted that we should have filled up at the last town, but he was sure we would make it…not far to go.

True, it was not far to go…However, the road we were traveling was built over what is the equivalent of monstrous molehills, so we were constantly going up…and down…Until suddenly, we only went halfway up…and then stopped…Three little kids in the car, and not a town to be seen, or even a wide spot in the road.

Fortunately, we were not traveling alone…but this was in the days before cell phones, so it took a while before my sister and brother-in-law noticed we weren’t following them anymore. A bunch of back-tracking, and then a 20 mile run to get gas, and we were back on the way to the campsite…though Randy had now committed a memory-making faux pas that will haunt him for the rest of his days. I make sure of that.

…All this to say, that we had sympathy for those worried young couples.

When we got to Newhalem, we found out there is no gas station there, and it was 14 more miles to the closest one. So, we headed down the road again. We had learned from the kids that the readout said 3 miles to empty, and knowing Toyotas as we do, we were pretty certain they would make it…But not sure enough to leave them.

Oh it was fun to see their happy faces when they pulled into the gas station in Marblemount! They were effusive in their thanks, and still a bit incredulous that we would take the time to do follow them. And they thought we were pretty smart, knowing they would make it there. They shook our hands and thanked us repeatedly.

It’s okay, kids…just paying it forward, as they said they will now do also.

We resumed our adventure through the Methow Valley where there are burned trees, and orange-brown bare land for miles and miles. There are houses standing just a short way down the road from where a pile of blackened rubble where a house once stood. It looks so random. There is evidence of burning right up to the edges of a lot of homes, ranches and orchards, singed fruit trees around the edges. Burned trees next to half-burned tress…The volume of land affected makes me think it must have looked like Hades as the fires moved through.

All the yellow trees on the hills have been burned. 

Washed out roadway...

Burned landscape, mud flow in front.
Our loop down 153 and back up 97 brought us through Pateros & Brewster, and the mighty Columbia that was an obvious boundary for the fires. We caught 20 at Okanogan to head back west. Near Loup Loup Pass we came through an area that had also suffered the flash flooding and mudslide. The road was being repaired from the wash-outs, and the houses beside the road had visible mud lines up their walls. Trouble upon trouble for those people…so sad! The rainy season is coming. One can only hope that the rains will not be so harsh as to cause another catastrophe there.
As we traveled west, and reached the Diablo Vista/Marblemount stretch, I told Randy that 4 times over those miles was enough for one day for me. We had to laugh…Our day had not quite gone as planned, and we were headed home much later than expected, but it was a great adventure day in our beautiful northwest. 


Ridgely said...

Where are the Canadians when you need an extra gas can? :) Good for you guys, you were a life safer to those kids! Love the top must have a "real" camera! :)

Les Hon said...

Haha, Ridgely! Didn't think about the Canadians!
And my "real" camera is in my iphone!

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Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life ( and one where I can vent. (