Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Few October Notes While Traversing Washington State

I recently traversed across Washington State. A few observations. I spotted some fall colors worthy of New England on the upper slopes above Snoqualmie Pass off of Interstate 90. I suspect by the coloration that the color is primarily vine maple with possible mountain ash.

Further on my way along the road - large boulders just south of Sentinel Gap on Highway 243. The boulders were deposited by one of the Missoula floods. Flood flow velocities were very high as the water tore through Sentinel Gap plucking off basalt boulders and rolling them across the landscape towards the south. The boulders at this location were pushed towards the road into a row when the field was cleared of boulders in the 1980s for growing grapes.

A bit past the boulders the road is lined with wooden bins in preparation for apple harvest near Desert Aire. This is a desert area, but water is provided via irrigation canals from the Columbia Basin Project. One problem - there is a big labor shortage this year. By some estimates %40 of the pickers and packers are as our governor stated "document challenged". With crack downs on employers, some farms are having a hard time finding workers.

Crossing the Hanford Site is a conical hill called Goose Egg Hill. An unusual feature given the location that I'll have to write up on some future post along with another unique but more subtle feature that surrounds the hill. The hill is within the Department of Energy Hanford site. This is a place where weapons grade nuclear material was manufactured. Lots of waste sites and contaminated areas. The Department of Energy spent $1.96 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) money here over the past two years. They got a lot done, but the area faces lay-offs as the money has been spent. With the local congress person Doc Hastings the chair of Natural Resources Committee there may be some leverage for more federal money even though Doc Hastings voted against the Recovery Act funding.  

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