Before moving here, I’d heard PNW residents mention “micro-climates”, and how the weather here can be sooooo different in areas that are mere miles or minutes apart. I thought they were just being braggarts like how they would talk about their fancy legal weed, and their artisanal fried chicken, and their naked bike rides (ok that one is not a selling point), but micro-climates are real (anecdotally anyway, and who needs more proof than that?) and they are spectacular (yes, YES, I still reference Seinfeld every day, okay).
Initially, the plan was to drive to Swift Reservoir and I dunno, look at it? We usually don’t have a strict schedule since we’re in it for the journey and that has panned out pretty well for a few months now, so we’ve stuck with it. If there’s a bit of a hike, great, and if not, well even better! I am perfectly happy to just look at nature from the confines of the climate-controlled vehicle with some dogs in the backseat and an iced Mayan mocha in my hand. At home there was a slow, light drizzle but the weather was otherwise manageable and the roads were clear so we struck out around 10:30, hoping to hit the ‘voir around noon.
PacifiCorps runs a series of parks along the Lewis River (I assume because they have to but hey! Parks!) so we’ve been sort of doing a tour of them as they appear on our route. We passed some familiar destinations. and kept on driving, as the fog got thicker and the temperature dropped. Lewis River Rd is gorgeous but intense–driving it is almost a physical workout compared to the speed and straight lines of highway driving. When a wild Yale Park appeared, we figured we’d avail ourselves of their facilities and add this to our PacifiCorps Parks checklist.
When Google Maps declared we had reached our destination, we were basically nowhere–no placard, no sign, no parking, no nothin’–so we kept going until we saw anything that looked official. About 20 minutes and 10 degrees later, we found one sign and a small staircase leading to an underwhelming boulder and a path downhill. We grabbed the dogs and trekked down towards the sound of rushing water and were not disappointed.
Undeterred and reinvigorated, we decided to keep on keeping on, just in case the Swift Reservoir did indeed have somewhere to actually visit, and because once you get going it’s so hard to turn around. I wonder if Lewis & Clark just meant to take a quick hike but got carried away once they got started. Next up was a sign for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and we are huge suckers for national forests these days (I can’t decide if that’s depressing or awesome but it’s much better than only being interested in cheese which used to be the case), and by this time the rain had dissipated, so when we saw a “road closed due to snow” sign, we thought it was lying…even though OKAY FINE, we did see a little bit of snow.
Thinking that if the road were truly closed we would have had to stop by now, we just. Kept. Going. The downed trees blocking lanes, the chained up snow plow, the two snowmobiles just past that, and the increasing snow didn’t really convince us because we are smart city people. We were way beyond any area with cell reception, so we were relieved to find a scenic overlook and fresh tire tracks. I flew to the heights of ecstasy when this overlook had a bathroom (and shortly thereafter flung to the pits of despair when that bathroom had a “closed for the season” sign on it), and the dogs were clearly suffering from mental whiplash with this rapid change in our environment.
At this point it was 2 pm, we were hungry, I had lost track of where the last actual bathroom was, and we decided it was time to turn around. We still got a little off-course since we had no maps (though one is being ordered, promise), but once we were back to snowless ground we heaved sighs of relief. We made it! We did not have to eat each other or pee our pants (though I did have to use a very unfortunate Honey Bucket).
Today I probably won’t even leave the house. Just in case.