On Sunday, February 15, and Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3, 2009, we drove Washington State Route 20, the longest state highway in Washington (436 miles!). It's also the first one in my travels with a ferry ride as part of it.
State route No. 20:
A state highway to be known as state route number 20 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 101 in the vicinity of Discovery Bay, thence northeasterly via the most feasible route to Port Townsend; also
From the state ferry terminal at Port Townsend via the state ferry system northeasterly to the state ferry terminal at Keystone; also
From the Keystone ferry dock on Whidbey Island, thence northeasterly by the most feasible route by way of Deception Pass, Burlington, Sedro Woolley, Concrete, Newhalem, Winthrop, Twisp, Okanogan, Tonasket, Republic, Kettle Falls, Colville, and Tiger; thence southerly and southeasterly to a junction with state route number 2 at Newport.
At the south end of Discovery Bay, just about where US 101 gives up on its northward journey and turns around and starts heading south for a change, Highway 20 begins. Follow that red truck.
The road cruises up the Quimper Peninusla. Suddenly, just after passing the Jefferson County International Airport, the highway makes a quick right turn to a stoplight. Turn left to stay on 20. Turn right for SR 19.
Soon thereafter, Highway 20 arrives in Port Townsend, a lovely old town. We probably should've visited and seen the sights. Instead, since I was worried about catching the small ferry and perhaps being forced to wait an hour and a half or longer till the next one or the one after that, I headed for the dock. Even though we arrived at 11:05 and the next ferry was at 11:15, and the boat only carries 50 automobiles, we had no trouble getting on the boat. About ten cars got on behind us. I think some had to wait behind.
'Twas a lovely day for a sailing. This was about at the halfway point across Admiralty Inlet. Or at least it was about halfway from when we entered the Port Townsend Ferry Terminal to when we were scheduled to leave the Keystone Ferry Terminal. Do you see Mt Baker?
And there's the Keystone Ferry Terminal. Impressive, eh? It's just beside Fort Casey State Park. Hence, the wilderness.
Highway 20 takes off east from Fort Casey, but soon runs into the main Whidbey Island highway, which for its northern half is SR 20, but for its southern half is SR 525. We turn northwest, also known as "east."
The highway weaves its way north on Whidbey, going off-course from "east" by up to 200° by my measurement, just west ("east") of Coupeville. We didn't stop in Coupeville, but we did head out to Fort Ebey State Park for a walk on the beach, and then we stopped in Oak Harbor for lunch. Wendy's was incredibly more crowded than Dairy Queen. Cheaper, too. Correlation? On we drove, past the Naval Air Station and Deception Pass, until we came with the poorly signed (unsigned?) junction with SR 20 North, pictured above. They're doing construction in the area, so maybe that's why the signs were missing. Either that, or I just wasn't paying attention.
Over the Swinomish Channel, we're back on the mainland. Farmlands and a speedy highway. Just past Fredonia, we find the junction with SR 536, the cutoff to Mt Vernon. And then the highway collapses back to a two-lane road. They say they'll have it expanded to I-5 by the end of this year.
Speaking of I-5, here we are! At this point, we turned south on the old US 99 just for kicks and headed home, hoping it wouldn't be too long before the mountain pass opened and we could continue our drive of Highway 20.
Several months later, we're on the road again. Hooray! After zigging through Burlington and a brief rural stretch, Highway 20 arrives at SR 9, southward points only, at the western edge of Sedro-Woolley.
At the other end of Sedro-Woolley, we find the junction with northward-heading SR 9. Oddly enough, I posted a terribly similar photo from the Highway 9 trip. . .
Up the Skagit River valley we head, as the mountains grow taller and the valley shrinks narrower, until we wind our way to the junction with SR 530. Last chance back to civilization!
Since the distance between the SR 530 junction and the SR 153 junction was so great, I divided the segment into thirds. Here we are at the one-third point, having just crossed Thunder Arm of Lake Diablo and heading up to that wonderful viewpoint that you must stop at, every time you go there. Instead of its normal glacial green, Diablo Lake was ordinary blue. I guess the glaciers were still frozen under all the winter's snow and the lake was filled with typical snowmelt.
Over the passes which till recently had been closed for the winter (and which still had avalanche chutes piled high with snow and debris), we pass the two-thirds point between junctions, a ways west of Mazama.
Through the scenic Methow valley we head, with a stop at the quaint village of Winthrop, to the junction with SR 153 outside of Twisp. You have to take a hard left past that red hill to stay on Highway 20. The more-travelled route down the river valley is taken by SR 153, but that turns south soon.
Over Loup Loup Pass to Okanogan we head, on a seemingly seldom-used stretch of roadway. At the south end of Okanogan, you have to turn right to stay on Hwy 20 (even though it's not mentioned on the sign). Going straight will put you on SR 215.
After crossing the Okanogan River, SR 20 junctions with US 97. Thus begins their coincidence, if you turn left. US 97 takes over the mileposts because it's more important.
A few minutes later, we arrive at Omak, where there's a junction with SR 155. We're heading north on US 97 and east on SR 20, so it's quite obvious that to head south on SR 155, one should turn left. Or wait a minute. . . Wouldn't that be west or north? Oh, 155 loops through town and heads south. That makes sense, then.
Up a hill and without warning, we arrive at the north end of SR 215. It's a good thing the light was red, or we would have missed this photo. As it was, Chunlin gave me five or six to choose from. This one had a good combination of the street signs and the surrounding scenery. Not too narrow, not too wide. Um. . . yeah.
Up the Okanogan River to the glorious city of Tonasket, where one must take a right turn to stay on SR 20. The main route, heading straight, is US 97. Canada is less than a half hour up thataway.
Into the mountains once more we venture, up over Wauconda Pass and through narrow valleys that don't provide much scenic viewing. Shortly after the city of Republic, "Junction! Quick!" I say and Chunlin scrambles with the camera. Veer right to head south on SR 21. Veer left to stay on SR 20.
A few miles later, the northward junction with SR 21. Highway 21 gets to stay in the north-south Sanpoil River valley, while we get to head up into the mountains once more.
Through some more mountains that were quite entertaining for me to drive, but were rather boring for Chunlin to passenger, we cross Sherman Pass (5575' -- more than 100' higher than Washington Pass) and drop down down down to the Columbia River (1300'), whereupon we reach a junction with US 395. Canada's a half-hour thataway, once again.
After merging with US 395 southward, we cross the Columbia River and back up the other side to come to SR 25. Canada's an hour to the left.
Shortly thereafter, we arrived in Colville, whereupon we drove around in circles looking for a hotel because it was rather late. Whilst circling, I snapped this photo of the junction where SR 20 departs US 395. Chunlin took a photo Sunday morning, too, but there were cars blocking the beautiful pavement. Hmmm. . . Sunday morning has more traffic than Saturday night. I guess you can tell what kind of town Colville is!
We left Colville upon a much different road than we arrived on. Unlike our previous windy roads that hugged the hillsides, this segment of SR 20 over the Selkirk Mountains rarely forced us to dip below 60 mph -- I believe this was the last segment of SR 20 constructed. A very nice road with not many cars. Well, it was early Sunday morning, so perhaps it gets more traffic than we saw. . . Zig-zag down some switchbacks that force us to slow to 25 mph (I'm sorry. What did I say earlier?) and we arrive in the Pend Oreille River valley at a junction with SR 31.
Lots of people make a big deal about the Pend Oreille River flowing northward, like it's unheard of that a river can flow north. Rivers flow down, and down is not always "down" on the map! In any case, the Pend Oreille is a mighty and scenic river. I believe Chunlin liked this part better than most of the tree-lined trip. Getting near the end of our highway, we arrive at the junction with SR 211. Oddly, the quarter-mile warning sign said "Newport" and "Spokane" even though you must stay on SR 20 to go to Newport. . . . Which we did.
Back into the forest, I'm counting down the miles till Highway 20 is finished. With less than a mile to go, I'm starting to get concerned because I don't see any signs of the city of Newport. Surely there are some outlying neighborhoods? Then, wham. We exit the trees less than a block before the junction with US 2. Take a right to go "west" to Spokane. Keep straight to go east into Idaho. We went straight, but stopped at the McDonald's a hundred yards shy of the border. Second breakfast, yay!
With that ginormous road under my belt, I'm itching to get going again. I probably shouldn't be looking two years into the future, but I just can't help myself! So many highways, so little time.