We drove north out of Spokane, fearing bad weather. We had chosen Washington Route 20 west from Newport; the problem was 5500-foot Sherman Pass. The AAA book said the road was closed until the end of April; but it turns out they were thinking of the portion of Route 20 through the Cascades further west. The Washington DOT online kept saying there was hard packed snow and ice but it was open. So we said, what the heck. We had a couple of bail-out routes ready. Really big log crane in Colville
For almost the entire morning we drove through heavily wooded areas with increasing amounts of snow on the hillsides near the road. Outside of Spokane large banks of fog covered the mountains. Colville has an immense lumber mill, and we marvelled at the gigantic crane which picked up dozens of trees all at once and placed them on a conveyor belt where they were sized.
We crossed the Columbia River again near Colville, as it flows south from British Columbia. The river looks about 30 feet below its high water mark here, perhaps because it is before the spring thaws. Then we ascended to Sherman Pass. There was some soft snow on the road, but the trucks had kept it well sanded, and it was easy to cross the pass. The snowy mountains were beautiful, especially at the higher elevations where all the trees were dusted white. Lightning had caused a 12,000 acre fire here in 1988, but young pines were growing vigorously amid the spindly dead trunks.
As we crossed the pass we were delighted to see patches of blue sky; then the whole sky was blue and the sun sparkled on the snow. We were elated with Snow in Sherman Pass the beautiful views, and stopped for lunch in Republic, where we found a restaurant jammed with old junk on the porch and hanging from the ceilings, etc., and with great food. Moreover, the clientele were interesting; two ladies were discussing a younger woman who had taken a job in Boston, while two men spoke about the recent New Yorker article about Ariel Sharon.
When we descended to Tonasket, the scenery changed abruptly; suddenly there were no trees; the hills were bare, and it reminded us of the desert. But there was plenty of water in the valley, which appeared to be one solid mass of orchards all the way north to Canada. Thousands of giant apple boxes were stacked here, there, and everywhere, and one of the locals had erected a sign protesting against all the government agencies which affected him ("...swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.") We wondered about the taco stands until it occurred to us that Hispanic farm workers were working in the apple orchards; the several Mexican restaurants in this little town reinforced this concept. Republic, Washington
At the little border crossing outside Tonasket we were again questioned at length by the Canadian border agent. We can't help but see the ridiculousness of the tight controls at the U.S. - Canadian border; the Europeans get along with virtually no border controls, and the U.S. and Canada have quite similar cultures. And NAFTA. We think both countries could save money by taking down the border stations.
Osoyoos, British Columbia, turned out to be a resort town on a large lake which is supposed to be the home of the Lake Monster, Ogopogo. Although the summer season is still far off, weekend visitors walk the path at lakeside, perhaps hoping for a glance at the beast. The treeless hills signify that we are in the "desert" part of the Pacific northwest, so there are yuccas and mesquites and Spanish architecture.
We were startled but not surprised to see that the homes in Osoyoos were decidedly better kept, with well-trimmed gardens and fresh coats of paint, than the homes in northeast Washington.