This is Part Two of our trip to Winthrop and the boulder fields near Mansfield, Washington. Part One is here.
When we last left you, Smartz was telling you all about the parade and whatnot in Winthrop. I’ll take it from here. From Winthrop, we took the Methow Valley Highway towards US 97. Along the way, there are a few old buildings. Sometimes you pass them by, but sometimes you turn around and snap a few pictures.
Sometimes you accidentally stumble onto oddities, like these in Bridgeport, a small town near the Chief Joseph Dam. These were carved with a chainsaw by Bonney Lake chainsaw artist Jacob Lucas. There are maybe fifteen or so on the main street.
I’m fairly against dams. They’re big, ugly and destructive. That said, there’s something picturesque about them. It doesn’t come close to making up for it.
In Grand Coulee (which is, itself, flooded with a dam) is Steamboat Rock.
Outside of the town of Coulee City is a motel along US Route 2. It’s got this sign. I’m not sure they ever light it up, but someday, we hope to find out.
But the real reason we were coming out here was the rocks. After cruising down the coulee, we headed up Route 17 towards Sims Corner. Along the way, more and more glacial erratics cropped up here and there.
Glacial erratics are boulders that were formed some 17 million years ago by volcanic activity. But they were not always here.
Just like dust devils pick up tumbleweeds, about two million years ago, a glacier scratched its way south, picking up these basalt boulders.
When the glacier receded, it dropped them here. This one, a two-story tall erratic called the Yeager Rock, is a favorite. It’s location along Route 172 helps, I’m sure.
Yeager Rock really is this big. It’s not some trickery or forced-perspective. Yes, I’m short, but look… it’s a huge rock, okay?
This is Boulder Park. It’s not actually a park. In fact, most of it (maybe all of it) is privately owned and posted against trespassers. It’s fairly dispiriting to the adventurer. They can be best seen from 20 RD NW (sometimes marked as Dyer Hill Road).
Thankfully, there are many public dirt roads that are easy enough to tackle, even in our little Toyota Yaris. Pretty much every road trip we take involved a few dirt roads.
While these basalt boulders and piles of debris (called kames) were left here by the glaciers, in other places across Washington, a series of huge floods happening about 15,000 years ago carried them far beyond where the glacier ended (a place called the “terminal moraine”).
We came across a few of these, and in this area, it’s sometimes hard to tell where the glacier stopped and the flood-carried erratics begin. But this map really helped me.
If you ever get the chance to visit this area, definitely take some of the side roads. Most are in pretty good shape, though I’d avoid them if it’s raining.
We left the boulder fields via McNeil Canyon. It was quite pretty. It emptied out at the Columbia River (which actually played a huge roll in this whole trip – I wish I had time to talk more about it).
Trying to follow all the laws we can is sometimes difficult. We rarely speed, we always stop at stop signs, and we never take rocks from Park property. We do, however, trespass when the need arises. When we do, we understand the risks (both physical and legal), weigh them against whatever it is we need to see and then usually go see it.
In this case, it was an abandoned 1922 open-spandrel arch bridge, called the Chelan Canyon Bridge. You can’t drive up to the bridge and you wouldn’t want to drive over it even if you could. But walking up to it is easy (100 or so yards). Worth it? Always.
And what trip would be complete without a stop at Leavenworth, the old logging town that, instead of drying up, decided to become a quaint little Bavarian village, even though nobody there was from Bavaria. It worked for them. Looks like we just missed their maypole dancing. Maybe next time.
Thanks a bunch for reading!