Of Dams, Cowboys, and Ghost Towns

This past weekend, we took our last daytrip before leaving for Pennsylvania and Route 66. It was one of those jaunts that really shows us just why we love Washington so much.

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Typically, we drive into the desert, but for this loop, we stayed a bit farther north than we usually do, starting out on Route 20 – the Cascade Highway, moving through the interesting little town of Concrete. It was named after their main business

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With all the understandable fervor concerning bridges in the state, it makes me a bit nervous that we’ll lose the old spans sooner than later. This one carried traffic until the main road was moved outside of town. It cut off Concrete from the casual traveler, but the town was probably close to dead before that anyway.

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Now, Concrete is more of a tourist attraction. It’s not quite a ghost town, but there’s something about it that makes me happy.

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In our travels, we’ve come across quite a few small roadside chapels, and this is one of the nicest. It’s fairly cramped inside, probably only seating ten or so, though I can’t imagine that it’s ever used for anything apart from novelty.

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Our trips aren’t destination based. We rarely set out upon the road to get to a specific location. The road is the destination, and so we travel from town to town seeing what we can see. In the company town of Diablo, most of the houses still stand, and many are still inhabited by employees of the Seattle City Light power company. It’s also got geese.

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The power comes from a series of dams, including Diablo dam, once the tallest in the world (1930ish). After following a nearly hidden turnoff, we were able to cross the dam like a bridge. I am not any sort of fan of dams, but at least we can drive on it. Most dams originally played the roll of bridges, though now many of those are cut off to traffic. This one is more of a park road than anything, so it’ll remain open until the dam is finally torn down by entropy.

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We followed Route 20 until Winthrop, a little cowboy town that soaks in the tourists as only these themed towns can. We like it well enough, but, like Leavenworth and even east coast shore towns, it’s only nice in small doses.

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They do have some crazy chickens there, though.

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Sarah takes most of the digital photos. This is fine while I’m driving, which is most of the time. But when she takes over, I utterly fail at picking up her camera to snap shots of things we see along the way. This is why the next photo we took was of Molson.

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We decided to go to Molson on a whim. I was leafing through a book on Washington ghost towns and saw a picture of a few incredibly old, wild west looking buildings. I did a quick check and Molson was only two-ish hours out of our way.

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It turns out I was a bit wrong. It was closer to four hours, but it was very worth it. Molson was founded in 1900 by James Molson (of Molson Beer fame). It was a boom town that lasted for exactly one year when it nearly collapsed. A few years after, the railroad came through and it picked up again. That is, until the depression killed it for good.

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It’s located a mile or so from Canada, and on our way out (following the old railroad bed), we come to within a fence row of our northern neighbors, who were receiving quite a rain, while we were relatively dry.

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Again, with Sarah driving, I took no photos until our last “stop” for the day. While looking for things to do, I discovered a plain to the north of where we usually end up. It is utterly strewn with house-size boulders dragged to their resting places by glaciers from the last ice age.

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Also, lupines.

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Unlike the boulders (called glacial erratics) that we usually see, these were untouched by the Missoula floods at the end of the last ice age, and thus remain where they were planted. I get really excited about big rocks. That’s just how it works, I suppose.

And that’s our trip. I know it might not seem like much, but it was one of our favorites – all 588 miles of it. I’ll return in a day or so to show you the Polaroid photos that I took. Maybe the film photos, too. Stay tuned!

To see more pics, go to our Facebook page!

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4 responses to “Of Dams, Cowboys, and Ghost Towns

  1. Last photo…taken that shot myself. Cool landscape up there. If I would have known you were over this way, I would have waved when you drove by.

  2. Sounds like you had a very interesting journey. Thanks for sharing. At first I thought the glacial erratics were hay bales scattered in a farmers field, I guess I was wrong!

  3. I love Concrete. Actually north cascades area is a fave- in many ways I prefer north cascades area to rainier. Except the food is terrible. But the mountains are perfect. Not as intense as rainier- but more accessible and fun.

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