Friday, September, 10, 2010 Mostly sunny, 71 degrees
FORT SPOKANE: In anticipation of hostilities, Fort Spokane was built in 1880 to protect the settlers moving into the area and to protect the rights of the Colville and Spokane Indians who lived there. But peace "broke out," and soldiers never saw any action, resulting in a boring tour of duty. In 1898 the entire garrison was withdrawn, and most of the troops were sent to serve in the Spanish-American War. The fort then became a school for native children. Its purpose was to strip them of their native culture and to assimilate them into the culture of whites. That school, too, closed, and its final use was as a hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis. Forty-five buildings were constructed, four of which still remain. A trail guide explained the site and purpose of each building.
What made this stop interesting was not so much the fort itself, but the dedication ceremony the Spokane Indians were conducting when we arrived. The ceremony continued for four hours. As we were leaving, an elder was speaking to the assembly, stressing the importance of preserving their culture and language. Following his speech, he began to chant. Soon others began singing and ringing small bells. One man was wearing elaborate native dress: bright colors in his clothing, bead work, and feathers. It was an impressive ceremony, and one that will be repeated for the public next week.
GRAND COULEE DAM: Built during the Depression to harness the Columbia River, Grand Coulee Dam is the largest hydropower producer in the US with a total generating capacity of 6,809 megawatts. It is the fourth largest dam in the world. Hoover Dam, though higher, would easily fit at the foot of the spillway. The dam was built, obviously, to supply power, but also to irrigate 600,000 semi-arid acres with the capability of irrigating 1,000,000 acres. Once unproductive land now produces bushels of grain and many kinds of fruit.
On our tour of the third power plant, we saw penstocks large enough to drive three Greyhound buses side-by-side through with room to spare. These penstocks bring water from Lake Roosevelt into the turbines. Inside the plant are six generators, three producing 600 megawatts each, and three producing 805 megawatts each. Large bridge and gantry cranes are used to service the generators. Everything is massive in size. Power produced by the dam supplies the entire Pacific Coast. Next we were driven through town and onto the top of the dam. The dam is impressive just driving by it, but looking down from the top down the face of the dam is truly awesome.
Eastern Washington is mostly flat with untold acres of golden wheat, stretching from one horizon to the other. The wheat is being harvested and the straw baled, and the fields sprayed---with what, we don't know---in preparation for tilling and replanting. Considering the vast acreage, it must be ongoing year round.
TODAY'S ROUTE: From Couer d'Alene, ID, I 90W to US 2W to WA 25N, to WA 174 to WA 155 to Omak, WA