A NORTHWEST JOURNEY It’s not just about the wine

By Dave Purcell

A Northwest Journey, Three Thousand Miles    Time travel to the first half of the last century    

We had often read about the Pacific Northwest, it’s diversity, and dramatic landscape.  My wife Jean and I had rarely traveled there and then only to some of the cities, and that whetted our desire to see more.  The roads less traveled were where we wanted to go.  Taste some wines of the region, eat great food and meet new people.    

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Enjoying some Mendocino wine and food

 A Northwest Journey trip wouldn’t really commence until we got beyond San Francisco.  California is a grand state and 370 miles of it lay North of the San Francisco Bay.  Most of that land is heavily forested, and that which is not, is farm, vineyard and ranch land.  Our first destination; Mendocino.  No fancy, fast freeways for us.  We drove old route 101 and then cut across the coastal mountains on route 128, a secondary road to the sea, and an even older coast road, Route 1.  Traveling these old roads is a way to see California as it was many years ago.  Many of the

The historic village of Mendocino

The historic village of Mendocino

small towns, and villages are little changed in more than 60 years, same buildings.  Dusty dogs and dirt roads leading to ranches in mountain valleys.  Old coffee shops and patrons with dusty boots and cowboy hats.  The Northern California coast is remote from urban life and the only industries all the way to Canada along the coast are winemaking, fishing and logging with a little mining and some marijuana growers.  That’s it. 

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Small Coastal Fish Harbor

What is happening along the coastal communities is tied to the health of the fisheries and the lumber markets.    The salmon fishery collapsed from a lack of fish returning to spawn, and so permits for commercial fishermen were withdrawn.   All the way up the coast we saw huge inventory of logs as the housing downturn has affected new housing construction   Some of the towns that were built around 1900 have been beautifully restored like Mendocino (above), but it is rare and most are a bit worn and threadbare.  It felt as though we were back in the 1940s in many of the places along the road.  A difference is that mobile homes and manufactured houses didn’t exist then and are now in most of the small, remote towns and valleys as that is the only affordable housing.    

But wines . . . they have aplenty!  Plan your trip around Winesong Charity Auction in Mendocino and you won’t regret it.  Great fun and loads of winemakers from all around the area.  

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Foggy Mendocino Coast Bluffs

 

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Giant Redwood

After we spent a night in Mendocino at a hundred year old restored hotel, we traveled to Eureka near the border of Oregon.  Here the broad beaches of hard sand are many miles long with mountains rising directly up from the ocean where roads are cut into the sides of the bluffs.  The area is a major flyway for migrating sea birds, and wildlife abounds.  There is a small bay there where fishing boats can shelter.  They need shelter as the sea often comes up quickly with the high winds so common.     

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DomaineDrouhin Winery, Dundee Hills, Oregon (Mt. Hood in distance)

Beyond Eureka is Crescent City just about at the California border. The Redwood National Park is there and it is rain forest country with giant Redwoods.  Moss grows on just about everything.  Route 199 cuts inland crossing the border to Oregon.   Few cars travel here, and we often went many miles before seeing another car traveling this back country place. After staying in Grants Pass we went to McMinnville and Dundee Hills Wine country near Salem.  Wines produced here are amazing, especially Pinot Noir.      Domaine Drouhin is a favorite and the family has built a beautiful winery and planted their vineyard on a hill overlooking the valley.  Sokol-Blosser and Domaine Serene are on the same Dundee hill.  Wines from here are extraordinary and we took plenty of time to enjoy visiting those wineries.

Throughout our journey along the rugged northwest coast we have been following the San Andreas Fault.  The edge of the Pacific tectonic plate abutting the North American Plate that created the unique features found all the way along the coast.  Only 50 Miles off the mouth of the Columbia River is a cross fault on the Pacific plate that creates a major slip fault.  This location is likely to have an earthquake soon that is expected to be the largest ever in the continental United States.  It’s frequency period is 300 years and it has been that long since the last one.  The effect?  A  potential 300 foot high tsunami that will hit the Columbia head on and travel further east than Portland up the gorge.  Northern California, Oregon and Washington will all be hit hard.  There are tsunami sirens and signs for evacuation all over this area.     Next we traveled to Seattle and visited the famous Pike’s Place Market. 

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

     

From there east to the Northern Cascade Mountains where we left the major highway and traveled through the snowy Mountains to the Eastern slope then to the Okonagan Valley, Osoyoos.  We saw western Canada’s wine country vineyards and fruit trees at the northwest trip 11base of the mountains; Indian country.  We had gone from cold rainy weather in the West to a sunny 70 degrees and high desert immediately East of the mountains.  Amazing, and right at the U.S. border.      Traveling back into western Washington, south toward the Columbia River, we saw miles and miles of vineyards and fruit trees.  

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Columbia River Gorge

The high desert drive south took us to the Columbia River Gorge at Hell’s Canyon.  We were on the Oregon Trail, border between Washington and Oregon.  It is immense, breathtaking, and we had seen nothing like it before.  Miles wide and in some places the gorge appears a mile deep.  The wind there coming at us from the west was 50 Kts, with gusts higher.  Waves on the river 4 to 5 feet and cresting as far as we could see.   then down to Oregon’s western wine country. But that’s a wine story for another time.

  

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