Wagons East

When we got to my parents’ house Friday night it felt like just another family get-together. Not in an uneventful, “here we go again”, type of way, but it didn’t feel out of the ordinary. My parents have hosted lots of family get-togethers in the past for different reasons, and they’re always a blast like this one was, but they’ve never held one that felt exactly like this one did. A bittersweet celebration. But, the fact that this one was different from past get-togethers didn’t really set in for me until later on in the weekend.

This weekend’s family get-together was a going away party for my cousins Mary and David, and their hilarious and incredibly-intelligent-for-his-age son, Andrew. Mary, David and Andrew have lived around the Yakima, Washington area for years, and decided they want a change of scenery, that change of scenery being Dandridge, Tennessee (not far from Knoxville).

Friday night I got to see family I hadn’t seen in some time, including a couple cousins, Eric and Danielle, that were more like siblings than cousins to my sister and I for much of our childhood. Aunts, cousins, parents and more were at my parents place for the going-away party.

Amber, who was a little nervous, made a great impression with those she hadn’t met yet, just like I assured her she would. We had some drinks with family and caught up on old times, told new stories, and did a little relaxing around the campfire.

Saturday, Amber, Eric and I went to town to run a few errands, and more importantly, to hike Badger Mountain, located near Richland, WA. It was Amber’s and my third time hiking Badger since December (my fifth or sixth time in total), and Eric’s first time.


It was warm, but a gentle breeze kept it at a very comfortable temperature. Comfortable enough for me to take my shirt off to try and get some sun on my blinding paleness, without expecting to be burnt too terribly. Unfortunately, the sun taught me a lesson it’s taught me many times during my life, that my Irish heritage does not do my skin any favors when it comes to unobstructed UV rays.


Nonetheless, it was a beautiful hike, with soft white clouds painted across the sprawling blue skies of the Tri-Cities. Seasonal flowers and sagebrush were blooming along the trail, and patches of green grass lingered among the drier brown prairie grass that spans the majority of the hills in the Tri-Cities.

Badger Mountain is always a nice hike, and while it’s not an incredibly high elevation or anything, it’s very unique nonetheless, as a product of the great Missoula ice-age floods. The entire Columbia Basin, as well as my home, the Palouse, and much of the northwest, was shaped by these cataclysmic floods thousands of years ago.


We also got the chance to visit Palouse Falls, another product of the cataclysmic floods of the ice age, on our way back to Pullman on Sunday, which is always an incredible, jaw-dropping experience, and an unexpected gem to find hidden in the rolling hills of southeastern Washington. If you haven’t been there, it’s definitely something to add to your bucket list.

Anyways, after the Badger Mountain hike on Saturday, we headed back to Pasco for lunch at a local taco truck along Burden Boulevard, because when in the Tri-Cities, taco truck street tacos are a must.

We picked up ingredients for gin and tonics on the way home, David and Amber’s favorites, coincidentally, and headed back to Eltopia. Between the three of us and Anthony (one of my oldest and closest friends, another brother-from-another-mother), we killed the whole bottle before nine o’clock that evening.

As the night got closer to an end, or my night’s end at least since the bed was calling my name after a long day in the sun, reality started to set in a little bit: I don’t know when I will see Mary, David and Andrew again.

As it is, we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we’d like, but we typically have gotten to see each other two or three times a year most years. Now, with their move to Tennessee, it’s not a matter of a few hours of a drive to see them at some family event. It’s a 2,000+ mile road trip, or saving up for plane tickets and planning out a vacation. The logistics just aren’t the same anymore, and it could realistically be years before I see them again.

Before heading to bed, I talked with David for a bit around the camp fire. I told him we planned to come visit them as soon as we could afford it, and after they’d had a chance to settle down and find a more permanent place to live in Dandridge.

I also said to him, “I’m sure you guys will be back up here to visit at some point.”

He shook his head, “I won’t.”

I asked him why, and he replied (paraphrased), “Because I wouldn’t be able to go back to Tennessee…the great northwest!…this is home.”


That’s when things truly hit home for me, and I understood, as best I could without being the one in their position of moving away from home, what he meant when he said he wouldn’t be able to visit after leaving. The northwest is a special place, and while I haven’t been outside of the northwest much in my life, I don’t know if I’ll ever leave it for more than a vacation, because it truly is one-of-a-kind.

The difficulty of leaving the northwest, the memories, family and friends, and ultimately home, would be one of the most difficult and terrifying propositions I could imagine. It was scary enough when I moved from the Tri-Cities to Pullman, let-alone moving 2,000+ miles to the opposite corner of the country.

With that being said, I admire Mary and David immensely for having the courage to make the move in search of a better life and something new, and I’m sure it will be an incredible experience for them and little Andrew.

And for my own selfish reasons, David, I hope you go back on what you told me and I hope you do return to visit the northwest someday. Until then, the Cascades will be awaiting your return. (Mary, just make sure you keep him on a leash when you’re here so he doesn’t run away into the mountains and build himself a cabin)

I love the three of you, and wish you the best of luck in Tennessee, and you better be rooting on the Seahawks loud and proud this fall down there in Titan country.


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