As we continued toward home from Chelan, we traveled further west on Highway 20 past the town of Newhalem. Newhalem is a company town that was founded in the 1920s, to house employees of Seattle City Lights’ Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. The Gorge Powerhouse began generating electricity in 1924, and is still operating today. The building has a beauty that industrial construction just doesn’t seem to have anymore. Even now, the power plant is operating and Newhalem is still a company town. We were there after things closed for the day, but I have heard there is a historic general store and some information about the town and the electric project. It would be be neat to come back and visit when things are open.
For more information about what it was like to grow up in a remote company town, you can check out Tobias Wolff’s book This Boy’s Life, which is about the author’s experience growing up in Newhalem in the 1950s. This Boy’s Life was made into a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993. I’ll have to check it out.
The last stop on our scenic drive home from our weekend in Chelan was at one of the elk viewing sites near Rockport, Washington. There are two big fields along the highway where elk spend a lot of time in the fall and winter months. There are signs posted there with information about the herd, but I’m not sure if they posted the signs because the elk spent time there, or if they starting feeding the elk there so they would come. If anyone knows how these elk sites work, please let me know.
So anyway, back to the story… Jon and I were driving down the North Cascades Highway towards home and I made him promise that he would stop if we saw elk. He promised. I think he was hoping they wouldn’t be there. So when we saw them, I made him turn around and go back to the parking lot. He was kind of cranky for some reason, and when I asked him if he wanted to get out to go see them with me, he said gruffly, “I’ve seen elk before.” Whatever. Suit yourself. I took my camera and got out of the car and lined up with all the other tourists and wildlife enthusiasts and watched the elk.
So here are some pictures of the elk, including them getting up to some hanky panky…
And the last part of this story is the funniest part. When Jon and I got home that evening, after a long and beautiful drive, after moving from drought and earth charred from wildfires, to beautiful rivers, wild west towns, majestic dams, and mating elk, I gave him a hard time about being so grumpy when we saw the elk. I razzed him, in my snootiest voice.
Me (imitating him in my snootiest voice): “I’ve seen elk before.”
Jon: “Well, I have. They are just male deer.”
Me: “Male deer?”
Jon: “Well, aren’t they?”
This is where I burst out laughing, first, because they aren’t male deer. Well, to give him credit – some are male. And second, because clearly he hadn’t noticed the elk were getting busy. Yes, perhaps I’m juvenile, and easily amused… It was a perfect end to a great trip, and one I can tease him about for years to come…