Alta Lake

While the kids and I were enjoying ourselves in the UK, poor Bill had his lonely summer sucked up by working long hours weekday and weekends. With a final stretch of school holiday to savour I suggested he take a couple hard earned days off and we give the summer a last hoorah. “Let’s go camping together!” I said.

Last year we really enjoyed our trip down to south Washington where we shook the old Kingdom 6 out at Cape Disappointment State Park and were able to time the visit to coincide with the nearby International Kite Festival. While we would be a week too late for the kite festival this year we had seen other families riding their bikes around the quiet park roads and along the coastal trail to Long Beach, and aspired to join in on that fun. I bought a fancy bike rack to put on Bluebell, snapped up a great little campsite, and then with a few days to go we checked the weather. The low temperatures and rain forecast quenched our enthusiasm for the trip and put a damper on things. A worried evening quickly relaxed when we opted for a last minute change of plans to chase warm sunshine east of the Cascades instead. Sorry Cape Disappointment, you just couldn’t compete with the lure of a quiet campground and lake swimming in the sun.

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After a predicted four hour journey that lengthened into a day on the road thanks to two trips to (the same) REI en route and a long lunch break we knew we’d made the right decision when we pitched the tent among the trees, slipped on our bathing costumes and took the short scenic path through unfamiliar vegetation to the lakeside beach where we could cool off from the still warm evening air.

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Aside from one other family enjoying an evening dip it felt like we had the entire picturesque alpine lake to ourselves.

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The next morning we were gathered around the picnic table feasting on pancakes and watching a hummingbird flit around the towels drying between the trees on our clothes line.

After breakfast Bill and the kids took advantage of the quiet roads and rode their bikes around the campsite. Babysteps for family cycling, but a loop was just enough of an adventure for Bea while Sam was able to race around her in safety. Another idyllic swim in the lake followed. This time there were some jet skis circling and spoiling the peace, but providing us with some fun choppy waves to splash around in.

We then decided to head out of the state park to find some supplies and get our bearings. This turned out to be perfect timing. As we piled into the car we were shocked by a flash of lightning and thunder crashing. The weather forecast was still saying 0% chance of rain, but as we drove out of the park dark clouds rolled in obscuring the landscape behind us. The pine covered mountains vanished in a wall of soft fuzzy ominous grey. The looming storm chased us into nearby Pateros and there we got caught in the torrential downpour. It was while we drove around waiting out the rain that Bill saw a sign that would alter the course of our day. It read “Coulee Dam 59 miles.” Bill was beside himself with excitement. “It’s that close?! We can do that! I want to see the Grand Coulee Dam! We have to do it!” Without waiting for objections he took the turn.

Grand Coulee

While we didn’t stay much longer than to say we had seen it, it was worth the trip. The drive to the Grand Coulee was pretty amazing in itself. The landscape was incredible and simply spectacular in its vastness, though it was disconcerting to realise that we were suddenly driving through wilderness on empty roads with no more than a child’s sippy cup of water in the car and temperatures reading in the high 80s outside our air conditioned capsule. It was not without relief that the numerous marching lines of giant pylons that began blighting the view and converging in a web of metal and cable clued us in to our imminent arrival at the dam. On arrival, Bill was immensely pleased with himself and checked the Grand Coulee Dam off his Epic American Landmarks mental bucket list. Bea couldn’t contain herself, got pumped up by the dam’s great scale and power and suddenly decided to throw down some pushups right there. Sam thought it was “good.”

Grand Coulee Pushups.

Back at the campground we were happy to find that the sun had ousted the rain, that our tent was still standing, albeit with the addition of a few interior puddles to be mopped up, and the lake was waiting for another refreshing swim.

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