Unauthorized trip to Seattle

One of the pleasures of being a young adult is the ability to go off on a lark with friends without regard to difficulties, dangers, or prior planning. Once when I was in senior in high school, I had an unplanned winter tour of Washington State. Even though it was winter, in Yakima where I lived there was very little snow. Always interested in an adventure, the need for snow seemed a wonderful excuse for a trip. Patty Garcia, my former girlfriend and still great friend, Bob Maier, my best friend, and I had in mind a day of snow on the ski slopes at White Pass in the heart of Washington's Cascade mountains. This chain of mountains running parallel to the Pacific Coast from Canada to California divides the state into two halves. The separation is climatic as well as geographic with the west side dominated by cool damp maritime air and the east by dry continental air. The town of Yakima sits near the foothills in the arid steppe of the east side.

We decided that Patty would drive us in her VW bug. The route would take us up the Tieton River drainage winding to the 4500 Ft. high pass and a winter paradise. The drive was half the fun, but we found as we arrived at the top that the pass was crowded and cold. None of us skied and as we ran about in the snow it seemed increasingly obvious that the logical thing to do was to continue down the other side and spend the afternoon in Seattle, queen city of the northwest. We had told our parents that we would be at White Pass and this decision was not without some risk. Still we were halfway there and the day was ahead of us, so down we drove in Patty's VW into the deep green of the western lowlands. In Seattle we spent our time wandering along the waterfront, visiting the shops, feeding the gulls, breathing the salt air. By early afternoon it had started to rain lightly and we knew that it would get worse. In winter, rain in Seattle usually meant snow in the mountains. It was at that time when Patty told us her windshield wipers were not working!. Calling our parents from Seattle was out of the question and we didn't have time or money to have the wipers repaired.

Knowing that we were in for a difficult drive back we left quickly in hopes to get past the worst of the weather. White Pass was too high, winding, and treacherous for the conditions we faced so we chose instead to take the main freeway over the lower Snoqualmie Pass at about 3000 Ft. Even driving slowly, Patty was having difficulty seeing and as the rain increased we were forced to improvise a solution. Bob and I removed the laces from our boots and made two long cords. We stopped the VW and tied one cord to each wiper. Passing these cords through the side windows, we were able to operate the wipers manually, allowing us to continue. As we gained altitude the evening came and the rain turned to snow. It piled up on the window and car in thick slushy mounds and the wiper system quickly gave little more than a thin viewing slit requiring occasional stops to clear. It was into the night when we finally reached the pass. The road curved and leveled out and one of those magical events took place, so common in the passes of the Cascades, but always surprising and remarkable. In the space of a quarter mile the weather went from the heavy precipitation of the west to the crystal clear skies of the east side. We stopped and cleaned the window, retrieved our laces and quickly shut the windows against the cold, now dropping rapidly into the teens. The drive down the broad dry road was a welcome relief from the stress of the ascent. We stopped for gas in the town of Ellensburg and, looking at Patty's trusty VW, we saw that the slush and snow had frozen into a layer of solid ice up to two inches thick in places. It would be over a week before all that ice finally melted and fell.

The adventure, unplanned, poorly prepared, risky and dangerous, was a blazing success. We all felt exhilarated and satisfied the next day as we talked about it back at school. Other than the moments of anxiety along the route, I don't think we ever reflected back on the risks we had taken. Perhaps our guardian angels were with us on that trip. Still, I have no regrets for the decisions we made and the memory of that day of companionship and adventure will always remain special to me.

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