Across the tracks lies an aching, untapped beauty. The low peaks of Washington State mark the end of an all-too-brief chapter, cruising the highways and byways of these vast American landscapes.
This had been a classic trip, beginning with a run up the coast from San Francisco into the back of beyond. Only two hours out of the city, you are a lifetime removed ... thrust into a world of rural bliss, coastal inlets, oyster farms and vast sweeping coastal vistas. Super-charged trucks jam hard on twisting corners, whilst cormorants plunge headlong into the Pacific chill.
Here, sunset digs her stilettos in deep, and lingers long after the day is done. As you sit, alone with your thoughts with the dying of the light, she continues to give, and give, with shimmering cascades of gold, orange, russet, deep & vibrant reds. Finally in a curtsey of claret, she fades into the clouds, exiting with an elegant flourish.
Meanwhile, back on the road ...
.... the light trails cut sabre-swathes across the thickening night as swirling mists gather on the mountain passes. It's getting colder, and freezing fog now lingers in the valleys, as eyes adjust to the gathering gloom. On the roadsides, recent snows lie about in dirtied chunks, as a thousand freight-liners plough through the autumnal air, wild-eyed drivers, high on speed & deadlines chunder down the passes at breakneck speed.
To the left lies a quick detour, to Agency Lake. The sun plays ball and peeks out, dancing across the underbelly of the sky, and bathes the lake with exuberance.
The days and nights are blurring now, as the 1000th mile marker slips by ... Shasta Lake calls for a stop-off, with its tidemarks telling tales of 100-year droughts, whilst railway lines slip into infinity beneath the rumbling highway.
Eyes burn and re-focus.
The boombox plays.
Beige hotels & hot showers.
Seattle marks the return of civilisation. It's a honour to see this North Westerly outpost bathed in Californian sunshine, on an evening of staggering beauty. From the 73rd floor of the epic Skydeck, you can see Rainier, Baker and vast peninsulas in pin-prick detail, as the sun slides off into the ocean, and a sea of beauty unfolds ...
Time unravels. Spun back, I'm hiking in Smith State Park. The weather's atrocious, the forecast awful. This American version of 'awful' is to be cherished as the sunlight cascades down onto a myriad shades of ochre. These sharp, bone-dry scrambles fill the lungs to burst with the joy of life, of nature, of being grounded in the dust.
There's no time to linger. Never any time to linger. It's Washington State, then Idaho, Montana, Colorado. The endless highways, byways, dusty desert roads. No one lives out here, just the occasional ranch with monster truck chemtrails scything through the outback.
It's a relief to know there is so much empty out there. Still.