Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Washington State: Northern Exposure to Ginkgo Petrified Forest

Cicely's Gift Shop, Roslyn, WA

Our first official stop on our year long trip throughout the US and Canada was the town of Roslyn, WA. For fans of the hugely popular 90's TV show, Northern Exposure, the locale is a television mecca. Set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, the show was actually filmed in Roslyn, a much more climatically hospitable place for its stars and film crew. The town transformed itself into a tiny, rustic Alaskan village for the show and wisely decided to keep the look to attract tourists. We stopped there to stretch our legs, get a coffee and chat with the locals. 

Simone & Luis in front of the Roslyn Cafe (aka Roslyn's Cafe)

Bob, who works in the gift shop, told us that, even years after the show wrapped, they still receive thousands of visitors each year from countries all over the world, where it continues to enjoy rerun popularity. It's known variously around the world as Wild North, Welcome to Alaska, Life in the North, Why Alaska?, A Doctor Among Bears, Stop Alaska, At the End of the World and The Sweet Life in Alaska and remains one of the most watched TV shows ever produced.    

    Luis at Ginkgo Petrified Forest, State Park, Vantage, WA

Next stop, Ginkgo Petrified Forest, State Park in Vantage, WA, a 7,470 acre park on the Wanapum Reservoir on the Columbia River. More than 50 species of petrified trees dating from 15.5 million years ago as well as more than 300 ancient well-preserved petroglyphs carved into the petrified wood and river rocks created by members of the Wanapum tribe are housed and protected within the park's borders. The petrified wood is so important that it was named as Washington State's official gem in 1975.  The Wanapum (meaning "river people") tribe refused ti fight European settlers and consequently never signed a peace treaty with them, meaning that today, they have no official right to their ancestors' land, although they have been rolled into the collective Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. 

   Wanapum petroglyphs, Ginkgo Petrified Forest, State Park, Vantage, WA

Next stop: Soap Lake, WA. 


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Denali or Bust! Hmmm, looks like Bust...

Car trouble, Summer 2013, Teslin, Yukon (photo by Simone Cannon) 

Our original plan was to start our 2014 year-long trip to visit the US National Parks and Canadian National Parks by taking another pass at Denali National Park in Alaska, home to the tallest mountain in North America, 20,320-ft Denali (aka Mt. McKinley). Last summer, we decided on the spur of the moment, in retrospect in a seriously deluded and misguided way, that it would be a great idea to drive our Volvo station wagon there and car camp along the way. Okay, it was actually my idea and Luis just went along with it to keep the peace as any good husband would (happy wife = happy life). All went swimmingly until we blew a head gasket in the remote town of Teslin, population 122, in the Yukon Territory, and had to be towed at 4 am to Whitehorse, two hours away. We spent a month in a soggy tent with no means of transportation and very little money waiting for repairs to be made since both Volvo mechanics and parts were hard to come by in that neck of the woods. We never did make it to Denali since the weather started to turn cold and rainy, but we did get as far as Skagway, Alaska before limping back to Seattle in our barely repaired car, $2700 lighter.

Our home in the Yukon while waiting a month for our Volvo to be repaired (photo by Simone Cannon) 

This year, not wanting to experience the same repair issues and 1/2 star travel package that we had inadvertently signed up for, we ditched the tent and decided to buy a small motorhome with a sturdy Ford engine. We set our departure date for June, but life, as it often does, reset our clock several times. Family issues for both of use pushed our escape plans out to September, too late to go north. Denali would have to wait for another year.

After several revisions to our originally planned route, we finally decided to head east to Toronto as quickly as we could, both to help my ill dad and to arrive in time for his 80th birthday, bypassing Yellowstone, Glacier Nat'l Park and the Badlands. As I stared wistfully out the RV window at the signs indicating the turnoffs to parks that I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember, Luis reminded me that they would all be there next year. Right now, our family needed us. He was right and at least we were finally on the road. When we lived in South America, we spent five years exploring as much of the continent  as we could via backpacking on cross-country buses. Now we had our own wheels and a five-star upgrade to our usual tent. It was time to explore North America...we were on our way!  

Finally on our way! (photo by Simone Cannon)