Saturday, April 30, 2011

A visit to Howard Amon park and a little history lesson

Another dreary, cool day found us at one of the many parks in Richland.  Howard Amon park is 45 acres that borders the Columbia river and many people come here to enjoy the park, boating, trails, community center, tennis courts, outdoor stage and of course a few geocaches.   There is a lot of fun playground equipment for the kids to enjoy and a wading pool for when the weather is warmer.
Entrance to the park
The geese don't mind the cool weather

Trees are a precious commodity in this desert area.  It is easy to see where the rivers run - trees line the banks.  Neighborhoods also have trees in the yards.  The park has made their tree 'stumps' into art.  If a tree dies - they make a kind of totem out of it!  There are several such trees in Howard Amon park. 
The carvings go all the way around - lots of different animals

The CREHST museum (Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science and Technology is along the park and worth a stop.  There is a small admission fee, but if you are a Science Center (St Louis) member, or other reciprocal museum member, you get in free.  Most of the museum is about the history of the area and the nuclear industry.  They have many movies you can watch about different aspects of the history - the docents are very helpful and suggest titles you may be interested in.  We had a docent, Bob, who accompanied us around and shared lots of information regarding the Hanford nuclear facilities as he worked there as a radiation specialist for many years. 
A few of the reactor displays

A little history lesson:  Before WW II the population of Richland was about 300.  The army purchased 640 square miles and displaced the residents of Richland to build the Hanford nuclear facilities in order to make plutonium.  People came for construction and every aspect of a new city - but were unaware of what they were building.  By 1943 Richland was a 'closed city' that could only be accessed by residents and those approved by the US Army.  Addresses were misleading and mail was postmarked as originating from Seattle.  Background checks were done, police had spare keys to all the homes, the phonebook was marked 'classified', mail was examined before delivery, and phones were tapped - all as security measures.  The government owned everything in the homes including the furniture and government officials even came to the homes to perform routine maintenance such as changing the light bulbs! 

At the end of the war the nuclear facility was shut down and the army moved out of Richland.  A short time later, 1947, the cold war began.  This once again raised the need for workers at Hanford, the nearby nuclear development facility.  Hanford continued to provide employment to many as a weapons developer.  The weapons development work ceased in 1987 and Hanford became an environmental cleanup site.  As an environmental site, Hanford still employs a significant portion of Richland residents.  is a good place to see what is going on at this time.

Back to the museum - there are lots of artifacts, pictures and displays that show how the area was during the operation of the Hanford sites.   There is a 'company trailer' that is open to see on the grounds that show how people lived in these small trailers as homes were being built.  Richland had the biggest trailer park in the world then (more than 3,600 spaces!).
Training bomb and artifacts

The museum has a room for kids (and adults) that has displays about scientific principles.  Downstairs has an exhibit about Lewis & Clark and their journey through this area.  There is also a small gift shop which has great books about the history of the area and the nuclear industry.
Part of the science displays

Much of the history is still evident today around town.  Because the town was developed by the Army Corp of Engineers the street names are taken from history.  George Washington Way, Steven's Way (after the engineer of the Panama Canal) and many streets named after army generals and words associated with nuclear development.  The Richland high school teams are called the 'Bombers' and their logo is a mushroom cloud!
Mosaic along the sidewalk of the art gallery that borders the park

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sacajawea State Park....or is it Sacagawea....or Sakakawea....

Sacajawea State Park is a 284-acre inland waters, day-use park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.  There are picnic areas, swimming, boat and fishing docks, hiking and more.   We visited the park to check out the interpretive center.
The confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers

It is a small center, but packed full of exhibits about the Corps of Discovery, Sacajawea and the Sahaptian-speaking Native Americans.   There are things to touch (great for keeping kids interested - us too!), songs and spoken Sahaptian language, artifacts and lots of information about the Corps of Discovery and most importantly - Sacajawea.  It's amazing to think about how she was so young and with an infant when the Corps headed out from St Louis.  She had to endure the same hardships as the men on the journey...and care for her child!
Interpretive center and marker dedicating the park
Stone tools and Indian dwelling replica
Examples of what items were traded with other tribes

There is a marker which was placed in 1927 to show where the Corps of Discovery camped for 2 days during their journey in 1805.  They explored the area and traded with the Native people before paddling down the Columbia River to the Pacific Coast. 
The wooden pole marks the Corps of Discovery campsite

The park is open from March-October and the interpretive center suggested donation is $2 per person.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What did you do for Earth Day?

Here in the Tri-Cities geocaching is very popular and what better way to celebrate Earth Day than a CITO event?!  For those of you who aren't familiar with the 'lingo' of geocaching - CITO stands for cash in, trash out.  Groups get together to do some caching and pick up litter while on the hunt for caches.

Everyone met at the parking area for W.E. Johnson Park, one of 62 city parks in Richland.  This park is 236 acres with multi-use trails and 1/2 mile of Yakima River frontage.  After some quick introductions and instructions we hit the trails with our trash bags and gps units. 
Getting ready to hit the trails

We took some time to find a few caches hidden in the park.  The kids really enjoy trying to locate the containers!  There were a few people who had never been geocaching before and I believe they are now going out to look for gps units of their own.
They were filming for a park video

The kids found the cache - a 'hide a key' rock container!
Hiking off the trail to a cache

After a few hours we headed back and piled up the trash for the park department to pick up on Monday. 
Car parts....'spare tire'?
Everything and a sink? it's a toilet

Back at the parking area a few of the cachers had set up for lunch and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone.  They had chips, water, brownies and even some Easter candy for the kids.

Attendance prizes were drawn for, I  received a trackable geo-necklace!  Everyone got a few things from REI which helped to sponsor this event.   The items included 20% off coupons, lip balm, key chains and Frisbees.  A big 'Thank You' to Jen (Richland park ranger) and Heather (from REI) for all their work in organizing and setting up this event and also to Tumbleweed Pirates for the lunch.
Drawing names for attendance prizes

We continue to enjoy caching everywhere we travel.  Let us know if you would like to come along!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wine is bottled poetry. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Our present location has us living in the middle of Washington's wine country!  There are over 160 wineries within a one-hour drive of the Tri-Cities and most are open to the public for tasting and tours.  We are trying to visit a few of the wineries while we are living here and have made it to 3 so far.  Some of the tasting rooms have a small charge which is refunded if you purchase a bottle (or more!).

A few facts:  We are in the Columbia Valley AVA and it is Washington's largest viticultural region.  There are 6,693 vineyard acres of wine grapes and Merlot is the most widely planted varietal.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah are also grown here.  If you are really interested in wine - check out which is a guide to events and tours published annually.
Tasting at J Bookwalter

Our first visit was to the J Bookwalter  winery and bistro.  We chose this one because it is close to our apartment and easy to find.  It's a small venue with tasting, food and live music in the evening.  They have a nice patio area in addition to comfortable seating in a bar and lounge space.  Their ads state 'Literally, the best of Washington wine'  They play on their name with the wine labels.  We tasted Subplot, Conflict, Protagonist, Foreshadow and more.  The staff wear shirts with the wine names on the front and the literary definitions on the back.  
A bottle of Subplot to enjoy later!

Terra Blanca is really impressive

We went to Terra Blanca winery on the recommendation of the sommelier at J Bookwalters.  He had told us that this was his favorite winery - figured we couldn't go wrong there!  Terra Blanca has tours of the wine making process on the weekends only.  We hoped to get in on the tour, but it was full.  Tours are $15 and include tastings.  When we arrived and asked about the tour, the guide offered to take us down to the barrel room and caves before his regular tour started.  The ladies at the tasting area asked us what our favorite kind of wines were and they gave us a generous pour to take with us on our 'quick look tour'!    We tasted several varieties and bought a bottle of Syrah to take home.  They have a huge terrace in addition to the indoor seating if you want to enjoy a glass or bottle while you are there.  Food is available on weekends only.  The grounds and views from here are wonderful.

Touring the barrel rooms

Tasting room at Terra Blanca
Part of the outdoor terraces
Terra Blanca

Badger Mountain winery was the last winery we have visited so far.  This location was chosen because it is up on Badger Mountain and the brochures stated we could 'savor breathtaking views of the valley below and our abundantly landscaped roses and indigenous, drought resistant plants'.  Badger Mountain is Washington's first certified organic winery and also has NSA (no sulfites added) wines.  This was a bare bones tasting room and shop.  No bistro or appetizers - they did have a cold case to buy some cheese and sausage to eat outside on the picnic tables with your wine though.   This vineyard even makes box wines! (keepin' it classy)  We enjoyed the wines and the prices were reasonable.  We bought a Syrah $13, Chardonnay $10 and Rose $5 per bottle!  The views were not really breathtaking - mostly of the neighborhood below the winery and the termination winds were blowing so we didn't take advantage of their picnic tables.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gem and Mineral Show

This past weekend we were able to attend the Lakeside Gem and Mineral Club's annual show in Kennewick, WA.  The event is a fundraiser and a way to show the public what the club is all about.  It took place at the county fairground and filled one of the show buildings.  There were vendors selling minerals, finished jewelry, rocks, lapidary supplies and more!  Admission was $5 each and the local newspaper had $1 off coupons.  Kids were admitted free and there were lots of Cub Scouts and families with children there. 
This vendor had many reasonably priced items
Popular table - cracking geodes

 Demonstrations went on continually during the show providing time to ask the members questions about their areas of interest and skill.  We learned about making polished spheres, wire wrapping, faceting, making cabochons and polishing cuts and slabs.
Sphere polishing - the motors are from old xerox copiers!

Wire wrapping polished cabochons
Faceting machine
Polishing wheel for cuts and large slabs

The kids Junior Rock Club had games, educational displays and also small items for sale.

We bought grab bags of polished stones from these kids

There were door prizes awarded every 1/2 hour and also a silent auction every 1/2 hour.  We bought a few items on the silent auction - a couple of pieces of petrified wood and some tumbled stones that we can use in geocaches. 

The club members had displays of their choosing to view.  Each visitor was given a ticket to vote on their favorite display.  They club had awards for the winners of this contest.  Some displays were educational and others were showing a persons interest or talent. 
Petrified Wood display
Different Jades and other stones

There are rock and mineral clubs in many areas - maybe in your area.  Rock hounding is a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and maybe find something fun!  We have dug geodes in Missouri and Illinois, agates in Missouri and quart crystals in Arkansas.

Sheriff's Posse - they do search & rescue, security and more.  I liked the outfits!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pendleton....sound familiar?

Our last night on the road before getting into Washington was spent in Pendleton, Oregon.  You may recognize the name from the famed Pendleton woolen mill.  Perhaps you have seen an wool blanket on the Antiques Road Show or owned a Pendleton shirt, skirt or jacket.  This family owned business has been here since the first Indian trade blanket came off the loom in 1909!  The factory is open for tours Mon-Fri (we visited on a Sat) and the retail store is open daily. 

The retail store has clothing, blankets, yard goods and a room with Indian artifacts from the Pendleton family.  If you want a blanket - bring the credit card.  These blankets are not inexpensive...but they will last for generations.  There is a room of 'irregular' items at substantial savings.  Sales people are happy to answer any questions about the codes used to identify flaws.

Shopping for blankets

Some if the artifacts at the Pendleton store
Pendleton is also well known for it's Round-Up which started in 1910 and has been growing every year.  The events include parades, rodeo, music, shows, Native American arts & crafts and more.  This is one of the world's largest and most anticipated western events.  If you will be in Oregon this September, add the Round-Up to your travel itinerary. 

There are a few other places work stopping at in Pendleton.  We visited the local history museum which is in the old train depot building.  Admission is $5 a person or $10 per family.  There was a local quilting exhibit while we were there and also the permanent exhibits of the history of the area.  Outside they have a log schoolhouse, cabin, barn and a caboose to examine.  Pictures aren't allowed inside the museum - sorry!

A Studebaker wagon

Monday, April 4, 2011

City of Rocks...part of the 1000 Places to See Before You Die??

In southern Idaho we took a side trip to see the City of  Rocks area which is part of the National Park system.  Coming from the south (out of Utah) the gps gave us directions that ultimately took us down gravel roads, in the middle of nowhere, for almost 30 miles!  Ever have one of those trips when you start to go over things in your mind like: hope we don't have car trouble, run out of gas, get stranded, etc?  We had camping gear, water, food and warm clothing with us....but not too much extra gas!  When we finally arrived (at the area and a paved road) our thoughts turned to 'do we need a new paint job'?  First lesson of this adventure is "don't always trust the gps".  It will usually get you to the destination, but not always by the most convenient path.

Valley in the distance we drove through to get to this area

Our 1000 Places to See book billed this area as a must see.  We thought the area would really have a 'wow' factor....meh, not so much.   Don't get us wrong, it is interesting, but nothing compared to Garden of the Gods in Colorado or even Elephant Rocks in Missouri.  The formations were noted by pioneers and used as a milestone for those on the California and Oregon Trails. 

The geology is a concentration of granite crags and promontories.  Quite a different landscape from the surrounding hills of sagebrush scrub land in southern Idaho.  There are hiking trails, camping and of course rock climbing.

Panoramic view of the City of Rocks area
 We will continue to look to our book for suggestions of places not to miss, but will definitely research the areas before heading off the main roads next time.

Local wildlife - road signs warned of 'migration area'