Get blown away at Wild Horse
November 5, 2013
By Joe Grove
Vantage visitors center educates about energy
On a cloudy but pleasant day, the weekend wanderer headed out to visit the Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center in Vantage. The wind mill farm, owned by Puget Sound Energy, has a visitors center featuring educational displays by PSE and Central Washington University to educate visitors about wind and solar technology and the area’s unique natural history.
The center, at 25905 Vantage Highway, is only a two hour drive from Issaquah.
Head east on I-90 and enjoy your trip over the pass, but take the opportunity to wander off I-90 at the Roslyn exit for a visit to this historic coal mining town that has changed little over a century. The only hint Roslyn is in the 21st century is the two roundabouts on the outskirts of town. The first controls traffic going into Suncadia, a planned development that skirts Roslyn, but doesn’t encroach on it. It features a golf course, condominiums and very expensive houses built with a bit of rustic motif.
The second roundabout will take you into Roslyn or east to Cle Elum. Roslyn had two encounters with fame. “Sometimes the Runner Stumbles,” staring Dick Van Dyke, was filmed there in 1979. The director, Stanly Kramer, wanted a turn of the 20th Century setting. To get it in Roslyn, all he had to do was take the new cars off the road and move in the Model T Fords. The same would be true today.
The second claim to fame? It was selected as the site for the television show “Northern Exposure” which ran from 1990 to 1995 and dubbed Sicily, Alaska. You can have your picture taken in front of the Roslyn Café, pictured at the beginning of each episode with a moose moseying by. Or you could go down the street a block for a picture in front of the Brick Tavern and go in for a drink.
As you leave town, don’t head back to I-90. Wander two or three miles east down highway 903 to Cle Elum. In Cle Elum, notice how wide are First (the main street, which you came in on) and Second avenues. This is remarkable for a city laid out more than 100 years ago. What were their engineers expecting?
Cle Elum, too, hasn’t changed much over the past decades. There are two stops you should make if your timing is right, The Carpenter House Museum & Art Gallery and the Telephone Museum.
The Carpenter house is a mansion built in 1914 for Frank Carpenter and his wife, Nora. Carpenter was the town’s first banker and a one-time Cle Elum mayor. The mansion is furnished as it would have been early in the 20th century, and much of the furnishings are those used by the Carpenters. Let your kids compare how they live against the rich early last century. The mansion, 302 W. Third St., is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
The Telephone Museum, 221 E. First St., is open daily from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend from 1-4 p.m. It is the oldest complete telephone museum west of the Mississippi, with displays covering the history of telephone technology.
Head out of town by going east on First, and resist the temptation to reconnect with I-90; there is a better way. Stay on the road you are on until you come to highway 970. When it intersects with 97 and highway 10, go south on 10 to Ellensburg. This will take you over the Taylor Bridge where the wildfires raged last summer and it follows the scenic Yakima River. Remember, you are wandering.
As you get into Kittitas County, you occasionally see old barns with a panel attached to the front that looks like a huge block from a patchwork quilt. These barns are part of the Barn Quilt Trail. Tell the kids to Google it on their smart phones under Barn Quilts of Kittitas County. That will keep them busy for a few minutes.
At Ellensburg, head on back to I-90 and continue east to Vantage. At the Rye Grass Summit, you will begin to see windmills along the ridge. From the summit, it is a long downhill drive to Vantage and the Columbia River or Lake Wanapum. The lake was created in 1964, when Wanapum dam was completed.
Take the Vantage exit and go back west on the Vantage Highway. Since you will be going past the Gingko Petrified Forest visitor center, turn off. It is only a quarter mile, so wander in and let your kids sit on some thousands of year old logs that are as hard as rock. You might even consider taking a little walk on one of the interpretive trails to discover facts about local geology.
Back on the Vantage Highway, you are just a few miles from your destination. The Wild Horse Visitors Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April through the end of November. From the 3,500 foot high ridge, you can see the entire Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, featuring 149 wind turbines, set against the backdrop of the Cascade mountain range. From this point, you can see Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Hood. Looking east, you can view the Columbia River Basin.
If the weather favors it, tours depart daily from the center at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you are lucky, you might even get to go into the base of one of the windmills. Most importantly you can get answers to many of those questions you have had about wind and solar energy but never took the time to look up.
Now, go back to Vantage and drive west on I-90 for a ways until you come to the Yakima exit near Ellensburg.
Take the Yakima exit, and from atop Manastash Ridge, you get a terrific panoramic view of the entire Kittitas Valley. Next take highway 12 toward Naches, where the ubiquitous fruit stands beckon, and then take highway 410 past the east side of Mt. Rainier and some spectacular views. Soon you will be in Enumclaw and then Auburn, where you can connect with 405 and find your way north back to Issaquah.