I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, because I was on vacation and out of computer reach. I actually had my cell phone along for emergencies, but since at least half the trip was spent in locations with zero reception, I'm still not sure why I lugged the thing along.
It was an interesting vacation. Our normal process is that my husband finds a place he thinks he'd like to go, and makes all the arrangements, and I go along for the ride. He's aware of my preferences and shares most of them, so it usually works pretty well, and on major shifts we consult more closely. On this one, though, we both were bitten by our assumptions, and by the weather.
First, the weather. Remember the heat wave that flattened the country in late July? OK, we left on about day 3 of that (having spent day 2 doing laundry, packing, and attending a wedding in full regalia including pantyhose for me and a tie for him), to drive up the California Central Valley on I-5, a trip that normally sees temperatures in the 90-100 degree range. On that trip it never got below 100 degrees, although my bet that it would be over 110 in Redding failed. By 1 degree. We spent the first 3 days of our trip driving to our ultimate destination, Lake Chelan in eastern Washington, and it was at least 100 degrees all three days. Thank God for Volkswagen air conditioning.
After overnight stays in Wolf Creek, OR, and beautiful Yakima, WA, we went up a back road to Wenatchee, WA. My gardener husband wanted to stop in Wenatchee to look at the Ohme Gardens; but my enthusiasm for touring gardens, no matter how lovely, flags rapidly in that kind of heat, so I retreated to the shade and waited for him. The Ohme Gardens are on top of a bluff and really are quite lovely; you can see the confluence of the Wenatchee River and the Columbia River from there. If you can stand the heat.
From Wenatchee we went on to the town of Lake Chelan, WA, on Lake Chelan. Now, Yakima isn't exactly nowhere, although you can see nowhere from Yakima; but Lake Chelan - Lake Chelan is Nowhere. It's a 3 day drive from the San Francisco Bay Area and at least 2 days from Portland. In Lake Chelan we boarded a boat, and rode another 50 miles up Lake Chelan (it took 4 hours) to our ultimate destination, Stehekin, which can be reached only by boat or air. Our room in the Stehekin Lodge had no air conditioning. (It did have good cross drafting.)
And all this area is high desert. This is where the assumptions came in. We both assumed, without exactly stating it, that a remote lake surrounded by mountains would be cool. Lush, green, and relaxing. We learned on this trip that everything in Oregon and Washington east of roughly The Dalles is high desert. Can you spell "rain shadow"?? Brown as toast, no trees, sagebrush, etc. And, given the heat wave, hot enough to fry eggs on the rocks. Furthermore, this entire area has a more or less constant wind coming down off the Cascades. Stehekin does actually have trees, but it's pretty dry, and the downslope wind from the head of the valley stops only briefly around 4 AM. When we stayed in Seattle some years ago, we bought a book called "The Wet Side of the Mountains", and I think we just visited the other side.
We hadn't been in Stehekin 3 hours the day we arrived, when we ran into one of the side effects of a dry, windy, hot climate. It's called the Flick Creek Fire, and it started while we were in the visitor center talking to the rangers; and the only good thing about it is that it was 2.5 miles downwind from us. I have never been so grateful for a steady north wind; if that wind had changed, we might not have been able to get out. I think I got some photos of the first hour or so of a forest fire (film not developed yet); very scary. Everyone was nervous the 2 days we were there, going out on the dock to watch the fire; and the firefighting teams used the Stehekin docks as a staging point.
We left Stehekin on Friday the 28th, as planned; the fire was still burning but had settled down to a widespread smoulder. We were frankly happy to see it recede down the lake. The rest of our vacation was much less interesting, spent poking around Vancouver, B.C. in cool comfort (the heat wave having broken). Someday I'll figure out why pleasant, uneventful vacations make such dull stories...