With the van coming to completion in the middle of October it was time to head out on the road. I was due to a hiker trash wedding of friends from the PCT in early November and hoped to visit a couple others on the long trip.
My first stop was Seattle. I have family there I hadn’t seen in a year and a half because of living in Australia and wanted to say hello before heading out for the foreseeable future.
My first night in the van was there in front of my cousin’s house. It was here I realized it was no longer summer. Portland had held on to summer for far to long. Even in the last weeks of building the van outside we only had a couple small showers and warm weather. It wasn’t till arriving in Seattle I remembered it was the second half of October, and the seasons should have long turned and now had.
I had anticipated possibly needing chains through the Rockies, but knowing I was headed to the treacherous Washington SR 20 and Rainy Pass, I picked some up before leaving town. I also had a heavy drawer that liked slamming open on right turns; a sash latch fixed that issue.
I had a co-worker I’d worked with remotely who lived in the North Cascades outside Bellingham , WA. Since I was going to be in the area, we met up for a day hike up to Oyster Dome.
The hike was beautiful albeit a little late in the day. We arrived at the summit just as the sun was setting; while quite beautiful, it meant a slow trek down in the dark.
Tired and being dark I decided to spend the night there on the side of the remote highway for the night. I made my first dinner in the van (pizza), and tried to sleep between the passing cars and trains. Due to my proximity to the wind from every passing vehicle meant the van shook. I’ve since learned, any time you’re near a road, put in ear plugs.
The North Cascades Highway
My long time friend Stuart and his family live in Pullman, WA. Bellingham is in the upper left of Washington, Pullman the lower right. I had a long drive a head of me, even without snow. For those who don’t know Washington State Route 20(or North Cascades Hwy) is a notoriously treacherous, albeit stunningly scenic route. It’s the most northern highway through the rugged and remote North Cascades and comes within 20 miles of the Canadian border at points. Due to bad weather, snow, and avalanche dangers it’s closed every winter. I was in for a difficult treat.
I woke to rain and saw on the forecast that heavy snow fall was expected over the many passes SR 20 crossed. I was happy I had those chains. I had hitch hiked parts of SR 20 from the PCT just over 2 years before, I could only imagine those winding narrow roads in snow.
The slow journey up to Rainy pass was uneventful and manageable without chains. Knowing what lay ahead, I chained up before beginning the unnerving decent down to Winthrop from Rainy pass.
While Rainy pass was in my review mirror the day had just began. Every time I though I was out of snow I seemed to climb back up enough for another pass. I spent the next many hours criss crossing across rural eastern Washington and it’s beautiful snow covered landscapes. It was surreal as several of the areas I drove through had been burned to the ground just a month or so before as Wildfires had raged across Oregon and Washington (and much of the west).
After something like 10 hours of stressful driving I arrived in Pullman. It was good to catch up for the evening with my friend and his family.
While Pullman was beautiful the next morning I said goodbye and headed across the boarded to Idaho. But more on that in the next post.