Early Dawn to the Desert and the Abandoned Town

Though our first choice of a daytrip is almost always central Washington, we never get tired of it. This past Saturday, we were up a couple of hours before the dawn and driving east on US Route 2.

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We’re pretty used to rising that early, being up at 4am every day for work.

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The drive to central Washington from the Seattle area is a long one, but even in the dark, the scenery is pretty lovely. Also, trains. There’s always trains.

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From Route 2, we took old Route 97 north toward Chelan, the site of our first stop. Along the road, we saw a mama and baby big horn sheep! I’ve seen mountain goats before, but never big horn sheep.

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Let me quickly explain the purpose of the trip. Apart from just going out to see stuff, our goal was to take Polaroid shots for a project that we’re planning on doing this summer via Kickstarter.com. Of course, we’ll have tons more to say about that soon, but for now, we needed photos that had a Route 66 feel to them (since the project will focus upon Route 66). There’s nothing like that in western Washington, so we had to head east.

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In Chelan, there’s a fun sculpture called Jackalope Picnic. Can hardly complain about that.

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But near the town there’s an old bridge! This is a 1922 open-spandrel arch bridge that used to carry traffic over the Chelan River. It’s now very abandoned, though very easy to access.

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It’s falling down in a lot of places, so take some care if you are lucky enough to see it.

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While Sarah took photos with the digital (for the blog), I was tramping around with four cameras – two Polaroids and two 120 film cameras. The film photos are for my own fun, but the Polaroids were what was important. And that’s where the problem came in.

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After the bridge, we stopped near a field of glacial erratics to look at the photos. These are the Polaroids that you pull out of the side of the camera, wait a few minutes and then peel. We peeled them only to discover that one of the Polaroids (the 250) was dead. When I got home that evening, I did more investigating and it’s fully dead. I was really really bummed, as it was by far my favorite camera. The other Polaroid (the 100) was only taking very dark photos.

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See? This is a scan of one of the Polaroids from the bridge. So at this point, I was one camera down, with another one giving me problems. As we were stopped by that field of erratics, I tried to take a photo with another 120 camera, but the film jammed. This was not a very good camera day. Not at all. And it got worse.

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After the bridge, our next stop was the ghost town of Alstown, but not before a jog through Douglas.

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It’s on the way, and though we’ve never stopped, they have an old general store all gussied up real pretty.

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Alstown is down a fairly well maintained dirt road, but much of what we see is.

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There was never much to Alstown, and all that remains are two old farms with a bunch of outbuildings and a grain elevator that might still be in use.

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A railroad used to run by the elevator, and if you’re perceptive, you can see an old cut.

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This is all that’s left of the town.

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I’m not usually one of entering buildings, but it was hard to resist. Here I’m taking a Polaroid of the inside of the house, just to see if I could.

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This makes me wonder who owns places like these. It must still have some owner, right? It’s abandoned, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually public property. If I owned Alstown, I’m not sure what I’d do with it. Most of the buildings are beyond repair, and though the land it beautiful, it’s desert and really shouldn’t be stretched to support human life like this.

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But people do try farming the desert. It’s not an easy life, of course. Being a farmer never is, but being a farmer on land where it doesn’t rain is… well, it’s pretty crazy (and did give us the dust bowl).

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Our next stops (to be taken up in the next post) were Potholes and Frenchman’s Coulees. First, however, we had to drive out of Alstown, and past this strange little marker.

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After a few wrong turns and a stream we couldn’t ford, we eventually made it out of the greater Alstown vicinity and into the area of Ephrata and Quincy. There, the land turns to canyons, which used to carry the waters from glacial floods into the ever-changing course of the Columbia River. Tune in next time!

Here’s a rough map of the trip thus far.

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