Over the years I have been able to travel the majority of US Route 2 from Michigan all the way to the other side of Glacier National Park. But I have never had the opportunity travel Route 2 in Washington, which would effectively let me finish the western segment of the highway, which, ultimately stretches 2,112 miles from St. Ignace, MI to Everett, WA. Within Washington, the highway traverses a 326.36-mile-long route that connects the western and eastern regions of the state as a part of the state highway system and the National Highway System. US 2 also forms parts of two National Scenic Byways, the Stevens Pass Greenway, which goes over a portion of the Cascades, and the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway near Coulee City, which offers some wonderful views of the Grand Coulee Dam. The drive also goes through one of Washington’s fruit tree country and provides views of the massive orchards that cover the landscape.
I started my early April morning traveling from Wallace, ID and enjoying a nice breakfast in Coeur D’Alene with a an old friend. I was then off on my last leg of a year’s long quest to complete a drive across US Route 2. The drive from Spokane enters the northern reaches of the Columbia Plateau, which is a high desert shrub-steppe environment and is pretty much this way all the way past Coulee City to the small community of Waterville.
My first stop along the way was in Davenport, WA. As I drove through I noticed a quirky old place called the Black Bear Motel so I just had to stop. I also decided it was a good place for a restroom break, so I headed over to a gas station/convenience store. I was overly amused by the signage, so, in the nature of Sumoflam fun, I took full advantage of it!!
And then there is that Restroom at the Gas Station!!
After that fun adventure, I was back on US Route 2 heading west towards Wilbur.
The next leg of the trip continued through the high desert steppes until near Coulee City. Coulee City sits at the southern end of the 27 mile long Banks Lake, which was been created as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam, which sits at the northern end of the lake.
From Coulee City, US Route 2 meanders into a massive basin near Sulphur Canyon as it runs along one of the walls of the canyon. It was actually quite a site.
Route 2 eventually gets into the small community of Waterville, which is about the halfway point on Route 2 between Spokane and Everett. I took a quick drive through town and found a couple of goodies in this historic little community. Perhaps the most interesting thing was the whimsical “Lumpy Dowser” Statue that sits outside the Douglas County Museum , and was sculpted by local artist, the late Rich Beyer (1925-2012). (Note: I also got a shot of his work “The Kiss” while in Olympia, WA on this same trip. It will be in my Olympia Post). Dowsing is using a stick to find water…a unique piece of art for a town named after water. During the sculpture’s dedication in July 1996, local resident Joanne Whitehall compiled a history of water dowsing. The last paragraph of her composition follows:
“Not everyone has the ability to dowse. Many of those who have, attribute it to a gift, as it has not been a learned art. Judged by scientific standards, the practice has little basis in fact. However, the countless good sources of water found by this method is hard to dispute.”
Living in the eastern US, I am used to seeing advertising on the sides of barns, typically Mail Pouch chewing tobacco. While stopped for gas in Waterville, I noticed a barn with an ad for Dr. Pierce’s General Tonic on it. I had to look it up and see what it was (or is). Turns out it supposedly resolved a number of health issues such as bronchitis, laryngitis, sore throats, constipation, indigestion and other problems. Its main ingredients included water, borate of soda, golden seal root, queen’s root, stone root, black cherry bark, mandrake and glycerine. It was available from around 1890 to 1900. As for the barn ad shown below, some research indicates that these ads were on the sides of barns in Washington, Oregon and Utah. Fun discovery!
From Waterville, US Route 2 continues west to Orondo and then heads dues south along the beautiful Columbia River into the fruit orchards of the Wenatchee Valley. Wenatchee sits at the edge of the Cascades on one side and borders the high desert on the other. Honestly, Wenatchee deserves an extended visit. They also claim to be the Apple Capital of the World.
US Route 2 crosses over the Frances Farmer Memorial Bridge just north of the confluence of where the Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia River. Absolutely lovely scenery here! And then there are the apple orchards. I really am kicking myself that I didn’t go into town to get pictures, but I was running behind on schedule. Next trip to Washington, Wenatchee is a destination!
Once across the Columbia, Route 2 continues west and follows the Wenatchee River as it the road begins its ascent into the Cascades with fruit orchards on both sides of the highway continuing into the small community of. Dryden. I then made my way into Leavenworth, WA, the next sweet surprise for me on this route.
Located in the midst of the Cascades, members of the community decided to give the town a unique Bavarian flair since it sits in the lovely alpine environment. Everything about the town screams tourism, but it is also a lovely place. I had to take a few minutes to drive around and grab some pictures. As with the Wenatchee Valley, I plan on an extended visit to Leavenworth on my next trip to Washington.
From Leavenworth, US Route 2 heads due north into the Cascades and proceeds to the highest point on the road at 4,061 feet, where it crosses over Stevens Pass. Even though it was April when I took this trip, as I got up higher, both sides of the highway had “snow walls,” some taller than six feet. It was truly a winter wonderland.
It is hard to image so much snow at an altitude of only 4,000 feet. I saw similar snow walls along the route up over Beartooth Pass in Montana on Memorial Day weekend in 2015, but it was up at the 11,000 foot range.
With the descent, US Route winds westward into the mountain towns of Skykomish, Gold Bar, Startup and others. The scenes from the road were marvelous and, at times, even breathtaking.
The Historic Great Northern Depot in Skykomish is a vestige from the early days of the former Great Northern Railway. Originally built in 1894, the depot is a one-story rectangular wood-frame building that consisted of a passenger waiting room, the station agent’s office and a freight room. Passenger service on the railway ended in the 1950s and this depot has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last Great Northern depots still remaining in the State of Washington.
For miles US Route 2 wandered its way along the Skykomish River and through some awe-inspiring mountain scenery. I felt like I was in heaven as I passed through towns with names like Gold Rush, Startup and Sultan.
Finally, US Route 2 had made its descent into the Everett area. Unfortunately, due to having to catch the Edmonds Ferry and meet up with my family at the ferry, I had to cutoff at Interstate 5 and go south to Edmonds. I had hoped to get to the end of Route 2 in Everett, which was about a mile away in downtown. But, effectively, I can really say that I pretty much have now driven across the 2,112 mile stretch of US Route 2!
ENJOY THE RIDE! CHOOSE HAPPY!
If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon. My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.