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Washington: Find your mountain

Mile 1910 to 2280

For Monday’s waypoint I headed past Northern Oregon and along the Columbia River Gorge, setting out to tackle 240 miles in the ride. I looped through a small Washington town called Toppenish, famous for its murals. It was worth a spare minute to park my Suzuki-pony next to a mural of the other ponies. Then on to Yakima, WA for the night.

I am not sure (good or bad) if an omen of days to come now that I am sans job, but as I strolled down the street on my way back from dinner in Yakima, I came across a cap tossed on the side, likely by someone homeless and feeling a nice knit hat was less than useful on a 100+ degree day in eastern Washington. I looked it over and my first thought was "hey, this is a nice hat, I could wash it up and use it in Alaska". So, I did. Again, not sure if that foretells days of cheap scrounging ahead, but once clean it did wind up being a nice warm cap.

On Tuesday I headed straight west from Yakima into the Cascades and Mount Rainer National Park. I reached the majestic Mount Rainier and its towering glacier-lined summit by early afternoon. The route from East to West through the National Park twists and turns and teases you at every bend with crisper images of Rainier, each view better than the last.

I have meandered this trip towards as many mountains as possible. There is something about these peaks that has enchanted people all through the ages. It may be that humans prefer to look up. Your day-to-day can get mired in looking down. Down to your job, down to your surroundings, down to what holds you back. Up represents the possible in each of us. It is always good to find your mountain. Enjoy the perspective, it helps one find balance in life.

After making it to the park, it was an easy call to bunk down for the night in one of the $20 campsites. Cougar Rock campground is on the main park road past the summit. The weather was just about as perfect as you can get, and it was mid-week so the campground was empty and peaceful. Besides having the glory of sleeping beneath primeval forest trees, I could not wait to light up a large fire, and they had a park concessionaire selling bundles of wood right at the corner for $7 / ea.

Fires tug at our inner id. They attract people and conversations. A fellow camper from a neighboring site joined me. Pete, a trucker from California. Pete is a wanderer who loves parks and travel. We talked until the fire turned to embers - about women and wandering, nature and motorcycles. And then he faded back to the darkness just like the flames from the fire.

The next day the V-Strom turned North towards Seattle. I made the next way-point in Fife for the cheapest lodging I could find, and then rode into downtown Seattle for the day. Again, looking past my rule to avoid the urban cores for the sake of some photography. I have been to Seattle a few times in the past. But I never seem to get a great shot of downtown. This time I tried to do my homework, and it seemed Kerry Park was the place to set up the tripod. After playing with a few shots, this dog came prancing by, and literally sat down in front of my camera on the ledge like he owned the place. My first impulse was to say "hey dog, you're in my shot". But I let it go and after a minute he looked back at my camera and graciously shuffled over a few feet to find another perch. Slowly scanning the park grass below (obviously on the lookout for other strange dogs). His name was Charlie, a four-year old Hungarian Vizsla. He takes his owner on daily walks to Kerry Park intent on scouring the area each trip (irrespective of tripods and iPhones). Vizslas are pointers - as well as talented watchdogs. And Charlie seems to enjoy his career atop Seattle, keeping track of the daily comings-and-goings of tourists, intruding dogs, and the occasional random bird.

I got back on the road before the worst of the afternoon traffic started to hit Seattle. Another rule I am trying to follow is to avoid riding the motorcycle on the mega-freeways like I-5, but to get quickly to Bellingham on this Thursday, it was the only option. I made it to Bellingham without event and took care of the last of the tasks to prep for the ferry in the morning.

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