Saturday, September 7, 2013

Home Through The Trees

I loved every inch of my summer road trip, as well as my stay in Tucson, Arizona. But when it was time to head home, I was excited. The drive across Arizona, into the Los Angeles basin, and then straight up the full length of the West Coast is one of my all-time favorites. 

There's a lot to love about that northerly route: big, broad lanes of traffic; winding mountain passes; and a whole lot of In-N-Out. 

But what I enjoy most about driving those 1,100 miles up Interstate 5, from LA to Seattle, are the trees.

In the southern extremes, there are cactus. And palms. Tall, spikey and green, I always feel a bit sad to be leaving their friendly if foreign faces behind.

Sweet little saguaros on the hillsides west of Tucson.
Near Palm Springs, California, a mighty desert palm blows in the wind of an upcoming storm.
Pretty row of palms glow in the low evening sun.
Sunset near Twentynine Palms, California. To die for.

About a hundred miles north of Los Angeles, in the flat central valley of California, the entire landscape is devoted to food crops. If you see any trees at all, they are likely to be irrigated orchards of oranges, almonds, or avocados.  

These might be grape vines. At 80 mph, it's hard to tell.
I saw six or seven trucks like this traveling through the mostly-treeless central valley. I wonder what the tomatoes on the bottom of the pile look like.

About 550 miles north of LA, deep blue mountains suddenly spring up, forested with tall stands of evergreens.

Wait - am I already back in the glorious Pacific Northwest?

Nope, this is just a teaser. These are the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California, home to tall, beautiful pines and firs, some of which remind me of home. But alas, just fifty miles north of here, the lush green trees will peter out, and we will be back to scrubby grasslands as usual.

A storm is brewing over the mountains, and it's the rain from those clouds that allow these conifers to thrive at this southern range.

See? Here on the eastern slopes of the Siskiyous, near Weed, California, the landscape is once again barren. No trees in sight, but that storm is unleashing its fury.

Eight hundred and fifty miles north of Los Angeles lie the golden rolling hills of central Oregon. Dense stands of deciduous trees, with a slight but gradually increasing mix of evergreens, spring up here and there among the grazing lands.

Ahh, we're getting so close to home!

I love the yellow hills against the blue sky, with the rich islands of green.
Oregon cows grazing under a stormy sky.
Almost one thousand miles north of Los Angeles, just beyond downtown Portland, Oregon, Interstate 5 crosses a bridge over the wide Columbia River.

In the middle of the span is a sign that reads, "Welcome to Washington."

Although my little house lies another 200 miles to the north, I already feel right at home. Because lining both sides of the expressway, bathed in the brilliant glow of sunset, are the tall, triangular Douglas fir tree tops so characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. They guard my passage and welcome me back from my travels.

And while I'm glad to be home, among my familiar firs, I think back on all the trees I saw along the way, and a part of me can't wait for my next trip home through the trees.

Hello, Washington're so cute!

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