November 17, 2018

Week 16: Into Washington State

A waxing gibbous moon rises over the fields at Cherrywood Vineyards.

Think Washington is exclusively rainy skies, overpriced coffee and grunge rock? Think again…

Well, this past week we’ve wrapped up our Idaho adventures after a brief journey eastward to Wallace and the Center of the Universe and crossed the Evergreen State.  And while Seattle gets all of the press, we can vouch for the fact that approaching the state from the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains can give you a whole new perspective.

We started off in Spokane Washington, just across the Idaho border from our former base of operations in Post Falls. One of the highlights of our stay was a behind the scenes look at No-Li Brewery. That’s “No-Li” as in Northern Lights:

Hey, you had us at aurora borealis…

As an interesting aside, we made a brief stop to fuel up in Moses Lake, Washington. Significance? We were deployed here briefly in the early 1990’s while attached to Special Ops in the USAF. Ya just never know where you’ll find yourself, twenty years down the road.

LIGO and the quest for gravity waves…

And speaking of down the road, our next stop was Yakima, Washington. The interior of the state actually resembles Tucson, Arizona without the saguaro. Once we knew we’d be in the heart of the state for a few days, we knew that we would have to pay a visit to the LIGO-Hanford facility. Located a hour northeast of Yakima, LIGO-Hanford does indeed look like its located on the surface of Mars. We’d explored the sister detector in Livingston, Louisiana back in 2010, and find the search for gravitational waves to be an engaging endeavor on the forefront of modern physics. And we were lucky this time ‘round, as LIGO isn’t currently doing science and is instead, ramping up to go back online with Advanced LIGO featuring ten times the sensitivity next year. Will 2015 be the year of the first direct detection of gravity waves? We even got a look inside the heart of the detector. Nerd heaven!

Looking down one of the two fabry perot arms at LIGO.

Back outside the city of Yakima in Zillah, we had a chance to stay in a tipi under the stars at Cherrywood Vineyards. The wine scene is really taking off in the state of Washington, along with beer and hops. Have you ever seen hops during cultivation? It’s a weird scene in and of itself, as the plants grow along long trellises up to ten feet high.

Tipis in the moonlight at Cherrywood Vineyards.

Finally, we made a brief daytrip excursion towards the Oregon border to visit the Goldendale Observatory.

The domes at Goldendale observatory.

Built in 1973, the main dome houses a fine 24.5 inch classical Cassegrain reflector used for nighttime observation and a smaller dome with an old 14” orange-tube Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain complete with a piggy-backed Lunt system used for solar viewing. Views of the universe can be had for the price of the 10$ parking fee, you can’t beat that. And sundials abound on the grounds.

The stately 24.5 inch reflector at Goldendale.

As I write this, we’ve crossed over the cascades into Tacoma Washington. Hark, is that Eddie Vedder I hear across Puget Sound? Do I smell Seattle’s Best coffee? More to come!

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  1. [...] past week of our travels saw us slow down a bit, as we crossed from the central part of Washington to its Pacific coast. You could almost smell the flannel in the air as we journeyed to the Mecca [...]

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