Friday, April 7, 2017

Washington State Route 506

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, we drove curvy little Washington State Route 506 from end to end.

RCW 47.17.665
State route No. 506

A state highway to be known as state route number 506 is established as follows:

Beginning at Ryderwood, thence by way of Vader northeasterly to a junction with state route number 5 west of Toledo.

SR 506 in Ryderwood
Once upon a time, the town of Ryderwood was a company logging town. Now it's a 55+ retirement community. "Golfcart zone"!

SR 506 @ I-5 southward
After the straight start, Highway 506 quickly becomes a narrow, twisty road as we head down the valley known as Cougar Flat. Young trees hug the fog line, farms and forest all around. We cross the railroad tracks and arrive at the old town of Vader. We continue east through the farmland and along the Cowlitz River. Cows ignore us. We follow a semi-truck of chickens as we reach an interchange with I-5.

SR 506 @ I-5 northward
Our highway then turns north and runs parallel with the freeway for a couple miles, before curving away, then crossing above I-5 to reach the end of Highway 506. It makes sense when you realize that our highway is older than I-5. SR 506 used to be Secondary State Highway 1-P, the Toldeo-Vader Road, but the section from here east to Toledo is no longer a state highway.

Thus we are done. Another quick but slow drive in rural western Washington.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Washington State Route 505

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, we drove the length of Washington State Route 505.

RCW 47.17.660
State route No. 505

A state highway to be known as state route number 505 is established as follows:

Beginning in Winlock, thence via Toledo, easterly and southerly to a junction with state route number 504 in the vicinity north of Toutle.

SR 505 in Winlock
Just down the street from the "World's Largest Egg", Highway 505 begins here in Winlock. This used to be a junction with SR 603, but SR 603 doesn't exist anymore. It's just Old Hwy 603.

SR 505 @ I-5
We head up the hill, 35 mph in a 50 thanks to the local guy in front of us. Then a hilly road in a straight line across the Grand Prairie to I-5.

SR 505 @ SR 504
We then curve south across the Cowlitz Prairie to Toledo. The high school is letting out as we pass by, a line of diesel pickups waiting to get out of the student lot. We head west out of town on the Layton Prairie, farms farms forest farms. The trees are blooming in lichen, bright grayish green. We roll south through the forested hills. Lots of blowdown trees line the shoulders of the highway, cleared out of the lanes but not much farther. And then down by the North Fork Toutle River, we reach the end of Highway 505 at this junction with SR 504.

It's surprising how quick you can get to rural Washington just off the busiest highway in the state.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Washington State Route 504

On Friday, October 7, 2016, we drove up Washington State Route 504 with a bunch of school kids.

RCW 47.17.655
State route No. 504—Spirit Lake Memorial Highway

A state highway to be known as state route number 504, hereby designated the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity north of Castle Rock, thence easterly along the north shore of Silver Lake by way of Silverlake and Toutle, past a junction with state route number 505, thence by way of Kid Valley and St. Helens to the former Spirit Lake.

SR 504 @ I-5 & SR 411
In Castle Rock, here we are at the junction with I-5 below us and SR 411 behind us, ready to head east to Mount St. Helens. Do you think we'll see it?

SR 504 @ SR 505
We quickly climb away from all that, up into the forest. Back down to Silver Lake, its resorty sections and swampy sections. Welcome to Toutle Valley. Cow pasture espresso. Back into the woods. SR 505 junction with no warning.

SR 504 @ Johnston Ridge
We cross the North Fork Toutle River, roll through Kid Valley ("last gas!"), then cross the river again. The tree leaves have turned caution yellow to match the center stripe and the road signs. We are now on the new highway, built after the eruption, climbing up up up on the north side of the river. Without fanfare, we pass the section of wild forest that once was the community of St. Helens mentioned in the code above. Helicopter tours next right! We cross the highest bridge in the state, far above Hoffstadt Creek. Someone stopped their car on the long bridge to admire the mud flats of the Toutle River, sediments captured behind a dam built for that purpose. Up the mountainside into the cloud, back down briefly to serene Coldwater Lake, then back up the hill into the cloud again. Rain rain rain, viewpoints wasted. "What a pity," says Isabelle. SR 504 ends at this u-turn to the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory. Spirit Lake still exists (despite the "former" in the code), a couple miles to the east, but we couldn't see it.

At Coldwater Lake and Johnston Ridge, we came across school buses full of kids from nearby middle schools. What a Friday for a field trip! Nothing but rain and gray clouds as far as the eye can see. I need to go back there one of these days, after the clouds lift.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Washington State Route 503

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, we drove Washington State Route 503 -- all the bits of it.

RCW 47.17.650
State route No. 503

A state highway to be known as state route number 503 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 500 at Orchards, thence northerly to a junction with state route number 502 at Battle Ground, thence northerly to Amboy, thence northeasterly by way of Cougar to the Cowlitz-Skamania county line; also

Beginning at a junction with state route number 503 in the vicinity of Yale, thence westerly to a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity of Woodland.

SR 503 @ SR 500
In the suburban sprawl known as Orchards, SR 503 begins at this junction with SR 500. It's a mile north of where the signs for SR 503 start, but SR 500 was rerouted north along this same route, so the junction is here at Padden Parkway.

SR 503 @ SR 502
We leave the sprawl and enter pastures. Forest by Salmon Creek, then back to the fields and sprawl -- Battle Ground. The junction with SR 502.

SR 503 @ SR 503 spur
We leave the sprawl again, into the fields, then forest. We cross the East Fork Lewis River. Zig zag slow road through deep woods and small farms. Slow through the town of Amboy, then more farms and forested hills. We cross Lake Merwin (Lewis River) on a one-lane steel suspension bridge that was a bit of a surprise. We climb over Speelyai Ridge and switchback down to the junction pictured above, where SR 503 meets itself in the community of Yale.

SR 503 @ Skamania County
SR 503 is signed as a route from Orchards "north" to Woodland, with a spur east toward Mount St. Helens, but that's not how it's described in the code above. I thus drove the spur first, heading east on the Lewis River Road. We drive past misty Yale Lake, the little town of Cougar, and into a rain shower. At the county line, SR 503 ends even if the road doesn't.

SR 503 @ SR 503 southward
We resume heading "north" on SR 503 in Yale, while actually heading west-southwest.

SR 503 @ I-5
We zoom down the Lewis River valley. Farms and fir forests. Cliff curves and logging trucks. Maples turning colors while the cedars and firs stay green. Clouds mist through the tree-covered hillsides. The Lewis River gets big and slow as we enter Woodland. We make our way through the perennially slow set of lights at the junction with I-5, thus completing our drive of Highway 503.

Rural Clark and Cowlitz Counties are quite nice. Pity it was raining.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Washington State Route 502

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, we drove the entire length of Washington State Route 502, for what it's worth.

RCW 47.17.645
State route No. 502

A state highway to be known as state route number 502 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity north of Vancouver, thence easterly to a junction with state route number 503 at Battle Ground.

SR 502 @ I-5
SR 502 begins at this interchange with I-5, which was opened in 2008, shortening the route by two miles, since it used to use the next exit south. Far below the overpass, in between the two directions of I-5, is Gee Creek, quietly flowing north.

SR 502 west of Battle Ground
Just this June, SR 502 was opened anew, wider and safer than before. Now it's a straight divided highway with houses and businesses on either side. Churches, barbecue, tractor stores, stop lights. Three miles from I-5, here's the halfway point of the Battle Ground Highway.

SR 502 @ SR 503
Still a divided highway with stop lights, we continue east. Here's an oddity: a truck-only u-turn signal light -- from the right lane. We enter Battle Ground, parking lot strip malls and suburban housing tracts, built on old farmland. We quickly reach the junction with SR 503, our highway at an end.

Well, that was quick and safe.

Washington State Route 501

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, we drove the length of Washington State Route 501 -- except the part in the middle that hasn't been built yet.

RCW 47.17.640
State route No. 501—Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway

A state highway to be known as state route number 501 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 at Vancouver, thence northerly by way of Lower River Road and an extension thereof to Ridgefield, thence easterly to a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity south of La Center. That portion of state route number 501 from the northerly junction of N.W. Lower River Road to the Ridgefield city limits is designated "the Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway." The department may enter into an agreement with the Port of Vancouver, Clark county, or the United States Army Engineers, or any combination thereof, to obtain material dredged from the Columbia river and have it stockpiled at no expense to the state.

SR 501 @ I-5 southward
For many decades, SR 501 began at the interchange of Fourth Plain Boulevard and I-5. In 2000, Vancouver built a lovely bridge for Mill Plain Boulevard over the railroad tracks, so SR 500 was relocated south by a plain, to this interchange pictured above.

SR 501 @ Knapp Landing
We drive through Vancouver's clean and glistening small downtown before heading over the railroad tracks to the Port of Vancouver USA industrial area. Then it's an abrupt transition to deciduous forest, followed by farmland. SR 501 takes a left turn beside Vancouver Lake, not continuing straight on the three-mile dead-end of the Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway. We have a longer dead-end to drive. We curve northward along the Columbia River, a huge flock of migrating birds squawking overhead. Ocean liners across the cornfields. Houseboats on the slough. Cranes trilling over the water. A well-used boat launch; a man carrying two large salmon across the road. A gate, open. A mile later, concrete barriers, the road very closed, even though the pavement continues into the distance.

SR 501 @ Ridgefield
In Ridgefield, our backs to Lake River (which flows from Vancouver Lake to the Columbia River), SR 501 resumes at this intersection with Main Avenue.

SR 501 @ I-5 northward
We leave quiet old Ridgefield, cross Gee Creek, and head up the hill to the new suburbia and roundabouts on our way to this junction with I-5, the northern end of SR 501.

The majority of Highway 501 was surprisingly rural, for how close to Portland it is. Blurock Landing was a nice place for a quiet walk on a sandy beach, believe it or not. Given the current state of wildlife protection, I doubt this highway will ever be completed, but I guess I'm okay with that.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Washington State Route 500

On Monday, October 3, 2016, we drove the length of Washington State Route 500 as rush hour approached.

RCW 47.17.635
State route No. 500

A state highway to be known as state route number 500 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 at Vancouver, thence northeasterly to Orchards, thence southeasterly to a junction with state route number 14 at Camas.

SR 500 @ I-5
In the 1960s, SR 500 started as Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, but in the 1970s and 1980s, a freeway was built a half mile north, so the route shifted its first section. It now begins at this interchange with I-5, its parent route by the state numbering system.

SR 500 @ I-205
We zoom along the freeway for a mile, then stop. There's a mile-long backup for a stoplight. Finally we roll again, then stop for another light, then zoom again to this interchange with I-205.

SR 500 @ SR 503
Shortly thereafter, we reach another long backup for the light with Fourth Plain Boulevard. I'm glad we made it through here before rush hour! SR 500 used to turn east onto Fourth Plain Boulevard, but since fancy Padden Parkway was built a mile north, the route was shifted to use that road. There's still the old sign over the highway, pointing east toward Camas on Fourth Plain Boulevard, but the SR 500 symbol has been covered by a green square. So we sit through another mile of stop-and-go traffic northward to get to this junction with SR 503, pictured above, where we need to take a right turn to stay on our route.

SR 500 @ SR 14 westward
We zoom along the parkway for a couple miles to the edge of suburbia, but then must turn south to get back to the old route. Back at Fourth Plain Boulevard, we turn east and cross the urban growth boundary into horse pastures. SR 500 is suddenly a curvy, narrow farm road. At the chickens, a stop sign. We turn left onto a main east-west road through the area. Another narrow country road, but not as curvy. We leave the farms and enter the dark forest of Lackamas Lake Park and into Camas. Down the hill to the heart of town. Right turn! Minimal signage for following SR 500. Left turn! As if no one really tries to follow it anywhere. Over the Washougal River with its fishermen. Slow through a residential area, curve south, and we're at the interchange of roundabouts with SR 14.

SR 500 @ SR 14 eastward
But that's not the end, not quite. We circle the roundabouts and head east on the Frontage Road, parallel to the SR 14 freeway for another half mile, until we reach another interchange of roundabouts. SR 500 doesn't reach its terminus until here, passing under SR 14 again.

SR 500 is a very busy road in segments, but it's so disjointed and zig-zags so much all over the road grid, that I doubt many people try to follow it to get anywhere. For any journey over a few miles, the route isn't even the quickest path between two points on it. Odd. Very odd.