Roadtrippin’ the Palouse – A Wanderer’s Guide to the Rolling Hills of Eastern Washington

This was Days 16-20 of a fabulous Fall road trip a couple of years ago. This leg was Seattle to Ellensburg to Pullman, Washington — 289 miles. If you fly, Spokane is the closest airport.

Holiday Inn Express, Pullman, $121/night with a AAA discount + $20/night pet fee. Nice, recently-renovated hotel. Big room; lots of green space to walk the dog, and they don’t mind if you leave the dog in the room (they even give you a tag for the door that says Do Not Disturb/Dog Napping) (love that!). Located close to Washington State University, so be sure to book in advance on football game weekends. This is football country!

I’d wanted to visit The Palouse, famous for its photogenic landscapes, for years and finally made it part of my long roadtrip home (the move from California back to my home state, Missouri).  Most photographers visit in the spring when the rolling hills of eastern Washington are like green velvet, but I think Fall in The Palouse is absolutely gorgeous, in a whole other beautiful way. I was there towards the end of October, long after the wheat harvest, and I used Pullman as my headquarters and spent 4 days wandering aimlessly around The Palouse, which I highly recommend. If your time is more restricted there are lots of local photographers there who offer photo tours, but I really enjoy wandering.

Fair warning: I include a LOT of highway shots from behind the wheel. I do it to remember the journey, and hopefully share the thrill of discovery. You can discover the beautiful red barn when I do, resting peacefully just off the highway in a beautiful field, or perched precariously near the highway curve because it was there long before the highway interrupted.

Continue reading

Day 1- Carmel, California to Point Arena, California

260 miles
Gas $2.69/gallon (awesome!)

Wharf Master’s Inn, http://wharfmasters.com
$139 + $15 dog fee
http://pointarena.net

There’s only one way you should travel from Carmel…via Highway 1. South is Big Sur, but I’m headed North this time. There are so many adorable little coastal towns and stopovers…Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, Swanton Berry Farm, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco. My destination today was Point Arena, a quaint little town I’d passed through several times on my way to Mendocino. I always wanted to stop, but when you only have 2-day weekends you have to make tough choices. This trip is about making those other choices…stopping everywhere I want to, taking an exit that entices, following signs to antique stores, Mystery Holes, and ghost towns.

The first stop is Moss Landing, 22 miles north of Carmel and home to some of the best whale-watching cruises on the coast. I’ve always done the Blue Ocean trips — it’s a nice 60-foot boat with a top deck the other boats don’t have, and the onboard naturalist, Kate, is friendly, informative, and genuinely enthusiastic. These photos are from trips this past year…

Santa Cruz is a cool, funky,  counter-culture center filled with old hippies, young hippies, surfers, and homeless people. The Boardwalk is an old-fashioned Coney Island-style carnival, right on the beach. I recently spent a dreamy night at Dream Inn, on the beach just north of the Boardwalk and the wharf — it’s a great location, but is unfortunately not dog-friendly. 😦

The beach area gets lots of attention, but downtown Santa Cruz is funky fun, with cool vintage shops, sidewalk cafes, bookstores (with actual books), and antiques.

Swanton Berry Farm is my secret stopover. You might pass right by the cool vintage pick-up truck with the giant strawberry in the back and never know what you’re missing. This charming u-pick farm is a great stop on your way to San Francisco. The friendly farm store has an “honor till” — you throw your money in the drawer and make your own change, for delicious fresh strawberries, jam, scones, fair trade coffee. If you have time, sit a spell and play dominoes. This place reminds me of a great fruit stand on the old highway between Charleston and Beaufort, South Carolina. It’s got a very laidback, southern vibe.

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com

Half Moon Bay is a sweet coastal town. The main street is not on the beach, but a few blocks inland. A great dog-friendly hotel is the Half Moon Bay Inn, right in the middle of Main Street. Another 28 miles up Highway 1 and you’re in San Francisco. Highway 1 actually becomes 19th Avenue through San Fran, sending you right through the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. I took Highway 101 up to Petaluma, then cut over to Bodega Bay to re-join Highway 1 (you can cut over earlier, but I like stopping over in pretty Petaluma). This San Francisco suburb has it all. A funky history, funky stores, and a funky future. And you know that “funky” is one of my favorite adjectives, awarded only to the most-interesting places I run across.

From Petaluma it’s an easy hop over to Bodega Bay on the coast, most famous as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” Then straight up Highway 1 to Point Arena, population 473. I rolled in about 6:00, just in time for a pretty Pacific sunset. Stayed at the Wharf Master’s Inn, home to the home of the Wharf Master, originally. It’s now an inn, built around the original 1865 home, which you can also stay in. It’s on the hill above Point Arena Cove and the pier, and provides a spectacular view. But don’t think about staying here if you can’t do stairs — they’re everywhere! And funky wooden sculptures. The cove and wharf are small, with a very East Coast feel. The beaches are rocky, so not much fun for dog-walking or sunning, but I did see surfers and kayakers.

The town of Point Arena is just about 3 blocks long, with some cute stores.

But the undeniable star of Point Arena is the Point Arena Lighthouse.

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, ObsessiveHobbyist.com

The 115-foot lighthouse is the tallest on the West Coast. Originally built in 1869, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 seriously damaged the lighthouse. If not for the staircase, it would have fallen. But it proved easier to rebuild it than repair it, so the current lighthouse dates from 1908. It costs $7.50 to enter, and they give tours of the museum and the lighthouse every day of the year expect Thanksgiving and Christmas, 10:00-3:30. It was SO WINDY when I was there that I could barely stand up (I later found sand in my ears!), so it’s easy to see why there were so many shipwrecks (plus, those big rocks didn’t help much).

WHICH WAY NEXT???
IMG_2817

MY PHOTO GALLERIES

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture in Joshua Tree, California

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com

“Born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived and worked most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, where he died in 2004. He received an undergraduate degree from Alabama State Teachers College in 1943 and a graduate degree from Atlanta University in 1948. In 1956, just shy of his fortieth birthday, Purifoy received a BFA from Chouinard, now CalArts. His earliest body of sculpture, constructed out of charred debris from the 1965 Watts Rebellion, was the basis for 66 Signs of Neon (1966), a landmark group exhibition on the riots that traveled throughout the country. As a founding director of the Watts Towers Art Center, Purifoy knew the community intimately. His 66 Signs of Neon, in line with the postwar period’s fascination with the street and its objects, constituted a Duchampian approach to the fire-molded alleys of Watts. This strategy profoundly impacted artists then emerging in Los Angeles and beyond, such as David Hammons, John Outterbridge and Senga Nengudi, who all worked with him. For the twenty years that followed the rebellion, Purifoy dedicated himself to the found object, and to using art as a tool for social change. In the late 1980’s after eleven years of public policy work for the California Arts Council, where he initiated programs such as ‘Artists in Social Institutions,’ which brought art into the state prison system, Purifoy moved his practice out to the Mojave desert, where he lived for the last fifteen years of his life creating ten-acres full of large-scale sculpture on the desert floor. Constructed entirely from junked materials, this otherworldly environment is one of California’s great art historical wonders.”  — http://noahpurifoy.com

It’s in the middle of the desert and not easy to find…like any oasis or mirage.  But it’s well worth the effort and, if you’re lucky enough to have the place all to yourself, as I did for a brief time, it’s spiritual, awe-inspiring, whimsical, and an amazing testament to one man’s determination and genius.  I spent almost 4 hours there recently (including the 30 minutes my dog decided to go on a big adventure in the desert), and it passed in the blink of an eye.

MORE magical photos here