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Smoke from a not-so-distant fire

View Eastern Washington on countycollector's travel map.

Flying through Seattle has become a ‘thing’ for me recently. For the third time out of four county collecting trips this year, I hopped aboard Alaska flight 1193 for the roughly 2000 mile journey out west. This time my ultimate destination was Spokane in order to visit the remaining counties in Washington, all in the eastern half of the state.

As many know, much of the western USA is experiencing extreme drought and a severe wildfire season. During my trip to Oregon at the beginning of August, it was impossible to miss the smoke blanketing the landscape. Knowing I’d be visiting the area again in late August, I took a keen interest in the location of several wildfires close to places I hoped to see. It was important to monitor the fire activity as road closures are sometimes necessary. In the more remote parts of the US, it’s not uncommon to find only one or two routes in or out of an area. A closed highway could mean an hours-long detour. One such area is north central Washington where the Walker Creek fire has consumed about 20,000 acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The main route crossing the area is Washington highway 20, and earlier in the summer, one section of the highway farther west of where I was going was closed for several weeks. While I didn’t get close enough to see flames, there were road signs warning of fire activity north of the town of Wauconda and advising a speed of 35mph for the next 14 miles. The normal speed limit is 60mph. Smoke mingled with low clouds to create an eerie pall over the hills.
While fires were a concern, I was able to enjoy the drive as the smoke wasn’t uniformly heavy across the region. Some places it was more like a light overcast day. Other times, especially after a passing shower, the smoke all but vanished. I also noticed quite a difference in the agriculture depending on where I was. In the far eastern part of the state, wheat fields dominated. Near Yakima and Wenatchee there were apples, hops, and grapes aplenty. I saw some occasional cornfields as well. Unlike the Midwest, where the land is mostly flat, the farms in this part of Washington covered hills and valleys alike. While familiar, it was different enough to make it interesting.

Speaking of interesting, one of the fun things about traveling far and wide in this country is finding some strange and curious sights. On this trip, I discovered two that are worth noting. In the town of Colfax is what first appears to be a large totem pole. The Codger Pole is a tribute to a bunch of old guys who replayed and epic football game between two arch rival high schools, 50 years after the original game. I don’t want to go into the full details here, but a quick internet search will yield all sorts of information about the 1988 rematch of the 1938 football game between the Colfax Bulldogs and the St. John Eagles.
codger.JPG george.JPG
The other odd sight is the oversized bust of George Washington in front of a gas station in the city of George, Washington. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

I achieved my goal of collecting remaining 12 counties in Washington. I was also able visit Moscow and St. Maries in Idaho, adding two more counties to my tally, bring the total up to 2,681. Washington becomes the 25th state complete. Here are the before and after maps for this trip.
WAID.png WAID2.png
My next trip will be to a weeklong vacation to New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. While not planned as a county collecting trip, I will have the opportunity to visit the last couple county seats in New Mexico as well as a few in southwest Colorado. I completed Arizona way back in 2013. It will be nice to be back in that part of the country with a less aggressive agenda than on most of my solo travels.

Until then…
Happy Travels

Posted by countycollector 14:40 Archived in USA Tagged washington idaho county_collecting

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Looks like you covered quite a bit of ground on this trip! This year even! And now Idaho is practically begging to be finished.
The bust at the gas station in the city of George seems a curiously literal find. Guess they must have figured, "Heck, why not?" Did you pick up a postcard of George when you were there? :)
In all seriousness, though. How DO you go about obtaining all those postcards? I found myself wondering... Does you just have a bunch of 'em on hand, ready-to-go? Or do you simply purchase one at each of these locations?
Thanks again for sharing your adventures!

by TuscarawasJones

Can't wait to finish Idaho. Given the terrain it will certainly take 2 days, maybe 3. Hope to get out there next summer.

As for the postcards, that's been getting more difficult. It used to be every corner drug store carried them. Nowadays unless you in a touristy area, finding them can be tricky. I usually stock up on state postcards when I see them so I have a few on hand. When I can find one for the specific city I'm in, all the better. Easy in NYC, not so much in Okanogan, WA. Airport gift shops can be a good place, though they tend to be more expensive. Love's truck stops almost always have a rack with a few generic ones for the state in which they are located. Beyond that, it pretty much comes down to luck. BTW, I didn't look for one in George since it's not a county seat, but I'm guessing that might have been easier than in Ritzville just up the Interstate.

More adventures coming. Hope to have 2 or 3 more trips before the end of 2021.

by countycollector

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