It was slightly overcast as we took off from the town of Chelan. I had volunteered to sit in the co-pilot’s seat and had a marvelous view for the entire journey. Sweeping views of the lake unfolded in front of us. We admired the deep blue color of the glacier-carved lake and saw just how steep the mountains are that rise from the lakeshore.
|Into the Wild Blue Yonder|
|The Snow-Capped Cascade Range Rises in the Distance|
|A Bird's Eye View|
|The Northern End of Lake Chelan|
|Stepping Off the Seaplane|
We arrived at Stehekin Landing and ran into several National Park rangers who were readying the visitor center for the upcoming season opening. They were so informative and helpful in explaining where we could go, since most of the facilities were not yet open. We were able to tour the 1921 schoolhouse, Rainbow Falls and the Buckner Orchard before returning for our flight back to Chelan. Although we only got a taste of what the area has to offer, we thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit. I was feeling generous and let Tim have the co-pilot’s seat on the return flight.
|Ready for the Return Flight|
|Reflections in the Gorgeous Blue Waters|
|No Roads Extend to Stehekin|
After landing in Chelan, we traveled south through the Columbia River Valley and saw even more dams. We stopped in Wenatchee, the self-proclaimed Apple Capital of the World. I can’t believe how many orchards we’ve seen in the last few days. Apparently, the semi-arid flatlands and canyons combine with hot and rich water to make the perfect fruit growing conditions. I kept thinking how beautiful this area must be in the spring when all of the trees are blooming.
|Orchards Against a Colorful Hillside|
|Colorful Floral Displays Abound|
We crossed the Columbia River once again and made our way through the Columbia Basin. The Columbia Basin Irrigation Project provides the water for over seventy-five types of farm crops, and Grant County provides much of the food for the country. The town of Quincy regularly promotes its agricultural industry by sponsoring tours of farms, orchards and packing plants. My favorite, however, was the program to place small signs beside the highway identifying the crops or trees. How many times have I wondered what’s growing in the fields? I think this is a brilliant idea, and I’d love to see other agricultural regions copy this idea.
|Timothy Hay Is Planted in this Field|
(I Didn't Know Tim Had His Own Hay!)
As the highway returned to the Columbia River, we were treated to sweeping views of the majestic and wild Columbia River Gorge. Farther south we entered the Hanford Reach National Monument, the only free-flowing, non-tidal stretch of the Columbia River unaffected by the river’s vast dam system. Hanford Reach was designated in 2000 and is another wild section of the state. Sweeping vistas and towering bluffs characterize the area.
|Sweeping Vista of the Columbia River Gorge|
Adjacent to the Monument is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a stark reminder of our history. Plutonium reactors, now mothballed, were once instrumental in the government’s Manhattan Project. In fact, the plutonium produced here was used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. Hanford is now one of the country’s most notorious superfund sites, and it will take years to clean up the land and water.