Roadtrip Week 4: Mt. Baker, Chest-Colds, and the Yakima

It’s like I did the PCT backwards. In a car. In five days. Okay, I really just crossed the PCT a few times as I snaked back and forth across the Cascades, always heading southward during my time in Washington.


After an unfortunate encounter with a border patrolman who took my avocado and threw it away in front of my eyes and then gave me crap about not working (thanks, man) I drove off to the base of Mt. Baker, catching glimpses of the impressive peak through the trees as it glowed peach in the sunset. By this time I definitely had a cold. The post-nasal drip was real, my friends. The congestion, the sneezing, all of it was in full force. Maybe it’s just a head cold and it will go away soon, I thought to myself.

Nope, nope, nope.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of rain splashing on my roof, the damp, cold air filling the car and a deep, nasty cough. I have this lovely thing called “reactive airways,” and whenever I get any kind of sick or allergic, my larynx likes to close up like a barnacle at low tide, causing wheezing, coughing and general discomfort. We all have our challenges.

I roused myself enough to drive back into the town of Glacier to perform for a phone interview for winter work. My thoughts were definitely foggy as I pulled up next to the post office (the only spot in town with reception) and had a conversation about my experience working with kids, etc. At least once I said the words, “Aaaand….yeah…that’s what I think about that, I guess…” Super convincing.


After my interview I attempted the idea of going for a walk around the majestic Mt. Baker. The volcano, however, was completely socked in with rain, clouds, and ice, and I found that the cold was simply too painful to endure in my weakened state. I probably had a fever, or something, who knows. I found brief respite at the Wake n’ Bakery in Glacier where I was permitted to just be for a moment by the lovely woman working the counter, and I had a cup of tea that helped me feel better. I quickly came to the conclusion that I was just simply too sick to keep sleeping in the car. I didn’t really fancy the idea of going into the city, but I had already made plans with my good old friend, Lilly, to meet up in the Cascades the next day. That simply was not going to happen. Instead, I texted Lilly, begging her to give me shelter at her place in Seattle, and she agreed.

Seattle was freaking warm and sunny when I got there, and Lilly was a sight for sore eyes, let me tell you. She and her roommates welcomed me in despite my sickened and most likely contagious state so I could take a warm shower and fix myself a hot meal on a…wait for it…stove. The miracle of modern comforts, my friends. Sometimes I think it’s easy to take shelter for granted. When I am a healthy person, I can rely on…you know, living in my car. But as soon as my health was gone, man, did I want a house.


I spent the weekend resting with Lilly in Seattle, watching movies, eating too much food, taking naps in hammocks at Golden Gardens park. It was all so lovely and so helpful. I hope that I can be as a good a friend as Lilly (and her roommates) had been to me that weekend.

The end of Sunday was approaching, and I had made plans with my friend, Grey, whom I met in Squamish to meet up again for some climbing outside of Leavenworth, WA. So after some organizing time, and many thank you’s, I hit the road the cross the Cascades, through Skykomish, dropping into the Bavarian-styled town of Leavenworth. (Side note: WA route 20 is a veritable corridor of “Trump-Pence” signage.)


I turned off the highway onto Icicle road, heading toward the 8-mile campground. After much twisting and turning of the road, I took a left into the campsite and immediately encountered Grey and his s.o. Taylor in their suited-up Forrester. What and awesome thing to be able to find again a friend who you only had the briefest chance to meet. I spent the next day and a half climbing with Grey, Taylor, and Annie in Icicle Creek canyon. Those three had all spent the summer guiding in AK together. The remnants of my cold were still very much present, but it felt good to get out into the sunshine and exercise at least a little. I also got to meet more of the Alaska Guide crew who were heading toward Smith Rock in OR, just like me.

The time came to move on, however, and I put on a dress and hit the road for the Yakima valley where I planned to put on my Gastronomer’s hat and taste some fine wines. As the road curved over the dry hills that drop into Yakima, I could make out the peaks of Rainier and Mt. Adams in the distance, formidable, white caps looming in the distance. I’ve now seen Rainier from all sides, and I must say…it’s impressive.

My first stop was in Prosser, a lovely little town that holds the Walter Clore Center for Wine Education.   There I did a tasting and made conversation with the woman working the counter, enjoying the mild, dry evening air. I’ll tell you, I love dry air. The next day, I drove a bit out of town to meed up with the “Old Interior Empire Highway” or (O.I.E. for short). I parked by a row of trees on a side street and unloaded my bike while the cows lowed in the distant pastures. It was still early, but the sun had exploded yellow onto the already yellowed hills in the distance as I rode my bike from Prosser to Benton City where lies the Terra Blanca vineyard and winery.


I did my tasting, got a little day drunk, and then laid down on the grass below the patio to enjoy the sunlight and the feeling of wine light-headness (read: I took a nap). The sunlight, the smells of fertilizer and desert in the air, the sounds of the cattle, the shape of the hills lined with grape vines all brought me back to Piedmont, Italy where I studied abroad. It is a place with a remarkable similar climate and is a major producer of wine and beef, just like the Yakima.


As I rode my bike back, though, the rough, black volcanic rock that stuck out from the land reminded me that I was very much in the American West. I got back into my car, and turned my wheels towards Oregon, south, back through the mountains until I reached the Colombia river. I was feeling almost myself again, the effects of gentle exercise, warm weather, and the remembrance of a part of myself that has been quiet for a while all restoring my hopes for the future.

To Oregon!




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