Ah, yes; this is the reason I moved to Washington.

After reaching a fever pitch of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and generally ready to fling myself from the nearest bridge, my sister and I hit the road in her little black Honda.

Our plan was refined over many previous road trips, and went something like this: fill the car with gas, keep an atlas handy, steer in a general direction (this time, east) and follow our interior whims.

This time our whims led us across the dun-brown, empty rumpled hills of Washington wheat country. Dust eddies leapt from the roadsides and basalt buttes marked the landscape with their dignified, columnar shoulders. After less than hour of driving, we were out of cell range, passing through hollow-eyed towns like Starbuck and Washtucna (hell of a mocha to be had in Washtucna, though, at the espresso stand at the corner of 26 and 261).

We followed a paved wildlife road to its terminus in the quickening foothills of the Blue Mountains. Truth be told, we found we had driven five hours to be in a landscape almost indistinguishable from the canyons outside Ellensburg--but still, there was the lingering thrill of the new and untraveled.

We camped in a forest service campground at the base of a towering ridge. In the evening light the grasses at the top of the ridge were golden and gentle as a horse's mane, rippling in a broad wind. The trees creaked and sang.

This morning we were rudely awakened by overhead thunder and the first licks of a fresh rainstorm. We just got the tent packed before the rain came flinging down and we drank our morning coffee in the car, listening to raindrops the size of quarters pelting the roof.

Then we meandered back home, unwinding lovely roads past isolated farmsteads and rumbling combines in the distance.

At Saddle Mountain, we crested a ridge, and the road split the distant desert like a seam. It shimmered into the hazy western horizon, a mountain ridge only just visible. It was so uninterrupted it was nearly holy. This is what there is in the west. There is space. And with it, an irreplaceable freedom.


Christie said...

Stunning descriptions here - loved it. Makes me want to hit the road!

buddinggardener said...

Yes, stunning...

That's why I am not sure I could ever truly leave the west. Wild, untamed expanses are too much a part of my being. Without ridgelines to navigate by, I often have the nagging suspicion that I am somehow a little lost. Like I can't quite place myself in the world.

Kentucky's shiny newness still holds me with it's charms. it's just not the Northwest, by any means.