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Healing time

It’s a beautiful, blue-sky day in Eastern Washington.

Part of me wants to hit the road and go somewhere fun.

Today, however, my beautiful Bella is recovering from surgery. It was time to get her spayed and add on a prophylactic gastropaxy (a procedure in a which her stomach is attached the chest cavity to prevent bloat and torsion).

That means we’re grounded for a few days or a week. No matter, we still haven’t shared our story about the first great road trip since moving to Spokane.

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Two photowalks, one week

November?!?!? November was the last time I wrote about an adventure?

Shame.

What’s worse is how much time I have on my hands these days. In late January, Bella and I packed up a U-Haul and moved to Spokane, Wash., to join Our American in our Happily Ever After.

And I’m not allowed to work.

There must be time for adventure.

There is.

Last week, Bella and I set out for two photowalks.
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Do you see enough?

I try to take a 360-degree approach when I’m out exploring and taking pictures.

I take some shots of what I see, then turn and turn and turn, making sure I don’t miss anything.

Some places draw me back for more. Dorothy, the Atlas Mine and Rawley are my Alberta favourites. I’m keeping a mental list of Washington spots.

Sometimes I get home, look at my pictures and think, “I didn’t quite get that right.”

Or maybe, no matter how many times I turned around, I know there’s more to see.

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Autumn in the Okanogan

This is my favourite time of year for shooting.

I’m always excited by the bright reds, yellows and oranges against a brilliant blue sky.

Since I moved back to B.C. temporarily, I’ve passed by this lake countless times, en route to Spokane or Omak to visit My American. We spent last weekend in Omak with Bella, our seven-month-old Maremma sheepdog.

The lake again caught my eye on a day trip to Oroville. It was surrounded by trees losing their leafy green colour and the water was so calm, it could have been mistaken for a mirror.

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The other ghost town named Bodie

Bodie is a popular ghost town in California.

It’s a state historic park and it’s known as the most well-perserved ghost town in the state.

Bodie, Calif., is on my bucket list.

So when someone mentioned recently they’d been for a day drive to Bodie, I got confused. (If you’re a regular reader of our adventures, you know that happens a lot.)

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The best way is the wrong way

It was right there on the damn highway.

I only drove past it three times.

It must be Our American getting in my head. Usually, I keep my head on a swivel … looking left, right, left, right the entire time I’m out exploring.

He thinks it’s unsafe driving.

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For Mica: Gotta go back again

I don’t know how I could have missed it.

The beehive kilns of the historic American Brick Company sit on the corner of State Route 27 and Belmont Road, just south of Spokane Valley.

The Historic Spokane website says brickyards were established in several locations, following the devastating Spokane fire of 1889. The yard in Mica, the one that produced the brick used in many Spokane buildings, is the only one that remains.

It isn’t deserted or anything. The current plant, built in 1957 to replace the old one, is still firing away, but at least five of the original kilns built between 1903 and 1911 are still there.

I’m not sure if I’d even be able to get onto the yard, but I feel like I missed something by not seeing it.

Instead, I was intent on another set of bricks.

I spied the remains of a brick house while we drove past Mica, on the way home from our camping trip in Idaho.

It sits forlornly on SR 27, just north of the community of Mica.

There may have been, at one time, a fence protecting the yard, extending out of this gate that still stands.

Remains of a property gate

Mica was never a town or city. It was a station stop on the line of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, and the hills were rich with basalt, granite, gneiss and schist — rocks that decompose and create the clay vital to the American Brick Company. (S. Shedd, 1910. The Clays of the State of Washington. State College of Washington.)

Along the main drags, it looks like a rural subdivision of Spokane Valley … homes, dotted around great barns and rolling hills of farmland.

old barn

A couple of tough broads

Few western towns are without a piece of history that gives me a chuckle.

It’s even better when that history features a woman or two of great fortitude, like Lady Jane Fortune of Kamloops, B.C.

In my research of Mica, I stumbled upon the story of Helga and Clara Estby, a mother and daughter from Mica Creek who walked from Spokane to New York City in 1896 on the promise of a $10,000 bounty.

Helga was a 36-year-old suffragist (woohoo!) and mother of 10 (holy sweet Mary Murphy!) but she and her husband, Ole, were struggling to keep the farm going. The $10K would come in handy.

When Helga and Clara got to NYC, their sponsor stiffed them and they had to rely on the kindness of the railyards to get them home.

Read the whole story at HistoryLink.org. You won’t regret it.

And don’t forget it’s women like Helga who forged paths more than 100 years ago for women today.

Helga was an outspoken supporter of woman suffrage. She believed that women were capable of doing anything men could do, and thought of a way to raise a large sum of cash and, at the same time, draw nationwide attention to the suffrage cause. ~ HistoryLink.org

What building is this?

My research, however, left a hole burning in my brain.

I searched to no end for the identification of this building:

abandoned buildingI thought it might have been a jail, but maybe it was the bank where the Estbys stored their family savings.

If anyone knows, please tell me in the comments. Or, it may beg a trip to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, something I’ve been meaning to do anyway.

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The church: centre of a community

I’ve driven Route 2 from Wilbur through Airway Heights more than a handful of times since I moved back to the B.C. Interior.

Typically, I’m on a mission to get to Spokane Valley, our second home where Our American lives.

It was only recently that a building, almost hidden behind overgrown bushes, caught my attention. I don’t know how my eyes had missed it on previous trips.

abandoned church in Deep Creek, Lincoln County, Washington

The bell tower is familiar to this ghost-towner, who revels in finding the buildings once considered important, from schoolhouses to homes and churches.

The pretty little church has fallen into a state of disrepair.

The bell seems to be gone, windows are smashed out and boarded up, and its paint is peeling badly.

It’s on private property, so getting too close is out of the question.

Douglas County church, Washington

Little information exists on the web about the church.

One photographer took a picture of the former schoolhouse-cum-residence just up the road and a commenter mentioned the church.

I belive the Church is of 1929 vintage and sadly the owner has no interest in preserving it. Deep Creek Falls (now just Deep Creek) was a town from 1883 or so till 1939 (I believe).

Oh, if I had my way, I’d win the lottery, buy the little church and restore to its former beauty.

You see, I grew up in a small town on Canada’s east coast. Antigonish, N.S., is known as “The Little Vatican” and my family dutifully attended St. Ninian Cathedral every Saturday.

I’m not a religious person as an adult but I remember the value church gatherings bring to a community. In Canada, the community churches are complemented by a community hall and, without question, the hockey rink — a part of our culture well documented by hockey personality Chris Cuthbert in The Rink: Stories from Hockey’s Home Towns. I used to have a signed copy, interviewing Cuthbert in Kamloops during my career as a sports writer.

And I wonder if, as we start to let these wonderful little churches wither away, it only symbolizes the loss of our sense of community and togetherness.

Ah, but maybe that’s too profound a thought for our little exploring blog. We stumbled onto a few other churches along the way.

When I took a wrong turn on my way back to Spokane from Vancouver, I saw the little Anglican church of Douglas:

Douglas County 032

Saint Paul’s Lutheran hasn’t been used in many years, says the Douglas County PUD website, but the folks who live in the area are trying to restore it. The website, unfortunately, has dated information as it says the Douglas Community Historical Association wants to have the church fully restored by 2006 and rent it out for weddings and other celebrations.

The site says the church is on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the official U.S. federal listing of significant historic, architectural and archeological resources.

Drilling down takes me to the Washington Historic Register. Its database shows the application of historical landmark status, prepared by Kenneth Duane Britt of nearby Wenatchee. Dated 1980, the application shows the church is (or was) owned by the Westerman family.

The Church is what is left of a once thiving Community. It is a landmark of the courage, strengh, ingenuity, morals, ideas, beliefs, and culture of the early settlers of Douglas and our whole State. I would love to see the Church on the National Register, and I believe it is a Landmark well worth it.

They’re words that apply to any of these old buildings that Shep and I find along the way.

The churches and schoolhouses and grain elevators and farmhouses, all long abandoned and nearly forgotten, are testaments to who we are and where we’ve come from.

And without those touchpoints, we’ll never know where we’re going.

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Another abandoned schoolhouse

The Highland Road schoolhouse was on my list of things to find in Washington State.

While pursuing my ghost-towning passion, I found the Ghost Towns of Washington on Facebook. The main website is a treasure trove of places Shep and I can go to find history and great photos.

It helped me find the abandoned schoolhouse in Govan.

And it’s where I first saw the Highland Road schoolhouse that stands on the corner of Highway 2 and the aptly named Highland School Road.

After one wrong turn on Wednesday, I struggled to remember if there was much left to see on the route eastward to Spokane.

The sun was setting and I was losing my light. But I didn’t miss the little building as I ascended the ridge of the Moses Coulee.

Highland Road schoolhouse in Douglas County, Washington

A Google search doesn’t come up with much on the one-room schoolhouse that’s said to have been built in 1905.

“The last classes were held here in 1949,” the Ghost Towns of Washington says. “The school was not part of any one township, but rather served several surrounding communities.”

It was a community hall and used as a voting precinct up until the 1960s.

Now it stands in a state of disrepair.

It has been ravaged by time, weather and vandals.

Graffiti on abandoned schoolhouse in Douglas County, Washington

A thought crosses my mind: maybe the kids who went to school here and suffered days with grumpy headmistresses would appreciate graffiti’s defiance against authority.

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A look back on simpler times in Douglas

It had already been a long day.

I was without my co-pilot, heading to Vancouver for a conference and playing catchup with some friends.

Driver pouting

No co-pilot

I was late leaving Vancouver on Wednesday and thought it would be a nice drive through the Cascades, dodging the logjam of Seattle commuters on their way from work.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Rapids on the Columbia River

The day was drawing out, though, and I thought it would be best if I took the most direct route from Wenatchee to Spokane. That’s where life had a different plan.

My Google Nav told me to take a right at the dead-end intersection but all the signs said “Spokane, left.”

I thought “how could the signs be wrong?”

I was 20 minutes down the road before I realized I had three hours and change of driving left, instead of the two-and-a-half that Google Nav said I would if I had just hung a right.

Dammit.

Oh well, it was too late to turn back now.

That’s when I realized the route I was on. I knew I’d be passing through Douglas County, the farmland just past our last trip to Govan and the abandoned schoolhouse.

Trouble was, my atlas was on the living-room floor in Spokane and I had no mobile reception. I kept my fingers crossed that I might spy something — anything — from the road.

Sure enough, I passed through the village of Douglas. The township was platted in 1886 and named after the county in which it is located. It was a popular spot for miners on the Gold Rush trail but a fire ripped through the town in 1891, destroying the downtown core.

A new general store sprung up in 1904, right where it sits today:

Douglas, Washington general store

Many of the buildings are in pristine condition, kept up by the loving touch of the 31 residents of Douglas.

It’s an outdoor museum of sorts, with an old fire truck and Ford tractor sitting in front of the old blacksmith shop.

Old fire truck

Old Ford tractor

There was no one stirring in Douglas on this night, however … no one to ask about the town or how long they’ve lived there.

I jumped back into the Escape and resumed my trip back eastward.

Then, I spied my gold.

It was sitting on the side of a hill, seeming lonely in its state of dilapidation.

Forgotten. Abandoned.

Abandoned house in Douglas, Washington

The faded sign reads ‘No hunters’ and there’s another on the house reading ‘KEEP OUT’.

I spy a boot, sitting on a counter and switch to my long lens.

Old boot in an abandoned houseA barn lies in a pile of sticks behind the house.

Owls hoot nearby.

Just up the hill from the house on Old Creek Road lies a brand new home. New residents love the small-town atmosphere, writes Luke Ellington on the Douglas PUD (public utilities department?) website.

“Douglas never boomed the way its pioneering founders wanted it to,” he says. “Yet, for this reason, it has retained the same charming and relaxed way of life the continues to draw new residents, customers, and enthusiasts.”

A simpler life, out of the big city, borne from a simpler time.