Friday, August 17, 2007

Kamiah, ID -> Walla Walla, WA -> Troutdale, OR

The day started out well, but Idaho got hot and dry as we traveled East.

Passed into Washington State at Lewiston/Clarkston, and continued on 12W through the hot dry upland plain of western Washington. Just after Pomeroy, I spotted another wind farm up in the hills, and as we got closer, I realized it was on a scale that I’d never even imagined. There were hundreds of wind turbines, spread over miles. We pulled off the main road to get a better look, and it was just stunning. I can’t believe that people complain about the aesthetics of wind power. They are so beautiful and majestic.

This time I was able to hear them a little bit, but I soon realized that the noise was drowned out by a pickup truck traveling on a dirt road about a mile away. I also experienced a choppy feeling to the wind after it passed through a bank of turbines, almost like a shuddering effect.

I then went to post yesterday’s account at the local library, and got chatting with the librarian. Apparently, this wind farm isn’t even a year old.

We continued on through Walla Walla (if you ever get the chance to visit, don’t), and then followed the Columbia River into Oregon.

Near the Oregon border, there was another form of energy production I’d forgotten about, massive hydro. I struggled to get some good pictures, but nothing conveyed the intensity of the froth of water coming through. At the McNair dam in Umatilla, there was an incredibly elaborate system for getting fish past the dam, and also for feeding them in from hatcheries. I didn’t take the time to take the tour, which I now regret.

As we continued along the Columbia, there were more massive wind turbine farms, and several large dams, I’d say at least 4-5 huge dams along the river. Not tall, but very wide, and there is lots of activity, between the power plants, the fish moving operations, and the locks, the dams seem to require a lot of employees.

The main road, 84, was getting pretty busy, and I pulled off onto a side road, 30 “the old Columbia Parkway as it was advertised. Took a very steep and winding road up, and I was thinking, no wonder they built the new road! I was rarely going more than 15 mph, and usually a lot less than that. But whoa! When we got to the top, there was an amazing lookout point, with the Columbia running below, enveloped by massive walls of earth and stone, and off in the distance, Mount Hood rising way above the horizon, with it’s own little halo cloud.

Met a very nice couple who had come there to camp out and watch the Perseid meteor shower, and I was tempted to stay, but we pressed on to an unremarkable Motel 6 in the unremarkable town of Troutsdale, just west of Portland.

I figure I’ll be in the Bay Area on Monday night, maybe Tuesday morning. We’ll see.

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