I love Washington State – it’s varied climates – alpine wilderness, sage brush desert, evergreen forests, majestic ocean vistas, volcanoes – and it’s vastly different pockets of American culture – from the conservative ranching communities in the east to the progressive yurt dwellers on the Northern Puget Sound. But one thing that is true of this whole state, across all these different worlds within it – is that it has super weird town names. Many of them are Native American terms, and even after living in this state for almost 13 years I am still learning to pronounce some of them. If it seems like a foreign language it’s because it actually is. Puyallup. Enumclaw. Malaga. Entiat. Chelan. Kittitas. Tonasket. Conconully. But the town name of Sedro-Wooley has to be one of my favorites.
At a small RV park owned by the city, we set up camp under the watchful eye of camp host, Willis. He made his rounds throughout the campground on a riding lawn mower to which he had attached a small canopy with dark-tinted plastic walls, so that it resembled a small, loud golf cart. At first I thought it was to keep him dry on frequent rainy days, but after a long conversation about his concern about solar flares I realized I had been mistaken. He pulled his homemade Willis-mobile up to our site and turned off the engine so we could “chew the fat”, as he called it twice. As he took puffs of his cigarette, he warned us about the big solar flare expected later in the weekend. He told us about all of the damage caused by a large flare in the 1800’s, and speculated about what a catastrophe it would be for our current infrastructure if such a large one were to happen again. He seemed to think it was odd that we weren’t keeping up with all of the latest solar flare news.
“I just get too depressed thinking about stuff like that,” I said, trying to find a way to bring the conversation to an end, or at least change topics. “I can’t spend too much time worrying about what life will be like when the electricity shuts off.”
“Oh, you just gotta be ready,” he warned. “But really there is no way to get ready…if you don’t starve to death, you’ll get shot for your last can of beans.” He laughed in a resigned way.
We were so happy to be out of the smoke, and we met up with some of our dear friends from Wenatchee who also needed a breath of fresh air. We had hoped to camp together near Diablo Lake, but getting out of the Eastern WA smoke became top priority for us all. We had a fantastic few days together, catching up on the last year and watching our kids delight in spending time with some of their very best friends.