Seattle Stories and Tips

Day 4 - Washington

Sunshine Mine Memorial Photo, Seattle, Washington

This was one of the best days on my trip. I started out of Missoula and drove across the narrowest part of Idaho to Coeur D'Alene and then on to Spokane, Washington. Along the way I stopped near Kellog, Idaho to visit the Sunshine Mine Memorial.

There is a special exit at mile marker 322 on I-90 just for the memorial, which commemorates the tragedy which occurred in 1972 when fire broke out in the mine. 178 men were working in the mine, and 91 were lost. There is a statue of a miner surrounded by headstone markers as a remembrance of the men and the event.

When I got to Spokane I took a planned detour on Route 2 that took me over to Coulee City. Just after crossing the dam there (not the Grand Coulee Dam, that is farther up the river) I made a turn onto Route 17 that led me to the Visitors Center for Dry Falls.

Dry Falls is really not a waterfall at all now, but it once was a fall ten times the size of Niagara in width and a Little higher as well. It was formed toward the end of the Ice Age, when an ice dam that held back Lake Missoula broke and a huge flood ensued across what would someday be the state of Washington. Scientists and geologists estimate that the flooding only lasted a short time, but it gouged out what is now called The Scablands. Dry falls was a part of that, and the rock formations in the vicinity do resemble scabs.

In order to show the full size of Dry Falls--it is about 200 feet high and 5 miles long--I took five photos of the cliff and later stitched them together into a panoramic view. In the process, the resultant photo is long and narrow. I included one of the photos in the review, too.

After leaving Dry Falls, I drove down through the valley and through some of those scablands for about 60 miles to the town of George--yes, there is a town called George, Washington. There is a huge amphitheater outside of the town, but I passed that up for another natural wonder.

At exit 143 on I-90 there are no services and no buildings at all. Instead, it is just a road called Silica Road. Just about a quarter mile off the interstate on Silica you come to another named Vantage Road. A left turn onto Vantage Road takes you into Frenchman Coulee. The road winds for seven miles down through the coulee all the way to the Columbia River, which is about a mile wide at that point. (A coulee is defined as a deep gulch with sloping sides, often dry in summer)

Frenchman Coulee has cliff sides and is deep with lots of rock formations in it and the road down to the river is very scenic. Toward the bottom of the road, there is a great view of the Columbia River and the I-90 Bridge which spans it a few miles below Frenchman Coulee.

It really is sad that thousands, if not millions of people pass this landmark every year without knowing that it is there. This is the formation I described in the introduction, which I too would have passed by except that I found it in my pre-travel search of Google Earth.

Frenchman Coulee is a playground for hikers, rock climbers and rock hounds. I wish I had spent more time there, but I was severely short on gas, and my gauge showed that the tank was nearly empty. Rather than risk being stranded at the bottom of that seven-mile road, I turned around and hightailed it back onto I-90 to find a gas station.

Having seen Dry Falls and Frenchman Coulee, you would think I would be ready to quit for the day, but I had one other destination in mind. If you ever watched the 1990s cult TV show "Twin Peaks" you'll recall that the opening of each show featured a waterfall with a hotel alongside it.

Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Hotel are situated just east of Seattle and a short distance from I-90, so I was determined to see them. It was a neat detour and I got a great picture there, though I did forego the hike down into the gorge below the falls.

I arrived at my hotel in Renton in time for dinner. The hotel room afforded a nice view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle, but that is as close as I got to those sights on this trip.

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