Photo Friday: North Cascades and Omak history

A couple of weeks ago I did a little road trip with my 94-year-old mom and my adult daughter, over the North Cascades Highway and down to visit the history museum in Okanogan, near where my grandmother grew up. Along the way we enjoyed some great scenery, and Barry George at the Okanogan County Historical Society museum went way out of his way to find information for us about the family and their property.

We picked up Mom Monday morning and headed north on I5. I was too busy talking and missed our exit, so we took an extra "scenic route" before finding our way onto Highway 20 (the North Cascades Highway). The highway opened in 1972, so it was brand-new when I was a kid, and I remember the excitement of it when we drove it on a family trip.

The entrance sign for the North Cascades National Park. I love the "glacier" atop the rocks.

We made a couple of stops along the way for scenery, including one where my daughter and I blasted through a half-mile scenic trail, hurrying to get back to Mom, for whom that's a bit much. We paused for a view or two of the Gorge Dam, and Gorge Lake, which is the characteristic turquoise of glacial-melt water.

After unbearable sun and heat, there was finally a break--which meant cool, overcast and even drizzly at times on the west side of the mountains.

At the Washington Pass overlook, we persuaded Mom we were infinitely patient and she could therefore do the short walk to the overlook, to Liberty Bell mountain in one direction, and down the valley to Silver Star and others.

Happily, the overcast was high and didn't obscure the peaks.

We spent the night in Twisp, which isn't much of a place, but even so low light and a short walk took me to something worth looking at. Once we were over the crest of the mountains, the east side was all sun.

The Methow River winds its way into town.

The next morning we drove on down to Okanogan, arriving just as the museum opened. Barry George gave us a great bunch of info from the census and property records, and we enjoyed a surprisingly extensive museum, which traced the history of the area from the beginning--including a bit of the geology of how it got there, as well as the Native Americans who lived there long before the first European miners and settlers drifted in.

It may say something about the area to realize that when my grandmother's family moved there in 1908 (from the Spokane area), though they were able to send household goods by train and barge, the family crossed the state... in a covered wagon. "Civilization" came late to that part of the world.

Approaching from the riverside park next door, the first part of the museum is the historic firehouse.

Many of the displays, including this gorgeous (though indubitably uncomfortable) dress, were from an earlier era than my grandmother's tenure in the region. A dress like that, with a corset like that, was also for women who didn't work as hard as my forebears.

There is even a mocked-up town main street on the museum grounds. The dudes getting shave and bath at the barber shop were a bit scary-looking!

This was the heart of what we came to see. The photo on the right is my grandmother's family (on the left is their neighborhood, more or less), harvesting and drying apricots. Grandma is the lovely 15-year-old in the center.

Checking out the museum took us until lunchtime, and we felt like we ought to be pushing on to get home, though in fact we could have taken a little more time. But we enjoyed our picnic in aforementioned park by the river, and headed south. The highway follows the Okanogan River until it runs into the Columbia, then follows that until we turned off to re-enter the mountains. Eventually we came out in Cle Elum, off I90, and had an early dinner at a classic drive-in before heading back into Seattle and the end of the commute (hitting that traffic was the reminder that we could have taken more time in the museum).

The diner had lots of old signs up, ones with enough rust and spots to make me think they might have been genuine. I particularly liked this advice:

Might be helpful for people all over these days: if you can't read it, the middle line says "Beat the heat with a frozen treat." Mom and daughter ordered milkshakes; I contented myself with "helping" to consume them.

That was our fun outing, bringing me home with a little more knowledge in my head about the family history--both from the museum and from time spent in the car talking to Mom about it!

It was fun to do a little road trip, but driving through the mountains has me itching to get out on the trails--and my foot is finally healed enough to do so. With luck, I'll be sharing some longer hikes with you all soon!


Coming soon!  A Coastal Corpse

A corpse among the dahlias is no way to start your day.

Retired science teacher Seffi Wardwell has moved to coastal Maine looking for peace, fresh air, and an accepting community. So far, she’s enjoying the sea air.

When a corpse turns up in Seffi’s flower garden, she can’t help asking questions about the victim and his death. Police officer Miah Cox doesn’t want her assistance, but Seffi’s curiosity is what made her a scientist.

The more she learns about the dead man’s background, the more she wants to know. Estranged from his wealthy family, and a village pariah for something that happened years before, the dead man had plenty of enemies. At least one wanted to make him disappear forever, and they’re all eager to see this case wrapped up and forget about him.

The way Seffi sees it, somebody has to care about him, and as a fellow outsider, she’s it. But all of her poking around is stirring up trouble in the village. It’s up to Seffi and Miah to figure out whodunit before they strike again, and before the locals decide the handiest scapegoat is Seffi herself.


Please consider supporting my habit of writing novels by pre-ordering my new mystery.


  1. Eventually, I'll ask to see a better version of that photo of your grandmother at 15. Can't zoom in to see the family resemblance from this copy. And, other than you talking so much that you missed your initial exit, it sounds like a great journey. Never knew you could get so distracted. :)


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