Surprise Mapping – The Suburban Times

Gorgeous views from another Abyssal backcountry road.

Has it ever occurred to you that the road atlas you may still have may be out of date or totally wrong in places? And nobody cares to update it, obviously, because so many people rely on GPS these days? My husband and I are still studying the maps – most of you know that by now. When we go on a road trip here in Washington State, we always have our road atlas with us. I’m usually the navigator.

Have you ever heard of the town of Seabrook? From time to time, you might come across advertisements in Washington State magazines. It is described as a posh resort town with plenty of restaurants, shops, and nice accommodations. I first discovered this a dozen years ago in a brochure I picked up at SeaTac airport. Now take a look at your road atlas. Surprise: There is no Seabrook on the map. Wasn’t in our first Washington State road atlas. Neither in the latest that is available in stores. Yet it exists. Do a Google search and you’ll find it on a hill between Pacific Beach and Ocean Groves on the Olympic Peninsula. Of course, we have encountered it on a few of our travels, although a very short drive was more than enough for us.

DuPont Museum

It could be worse, however. Have you ever been to Lake Wenoochee, the great reservoir in the Olympic Mountains? You better fuel up before you go there because the road atlas will show you a big diamond a little south of it, meaning a town of a certain size. Big enough to hold a gas station, you’d guess. Woe if you count on it. Because apart from a few old mailboxes and a commemorative sign, you won’t find anything left of the old lumber town of Grisdale. And your next chance to refuel is right on the coast or about 40 miles south of Montesano.

This road near Soap Lake on the Colville Preserve surprised us with cows and dunes.

The surprises are even better when you take to country roads. Believe me, as an ethnic German who drove around her motherland on smooth paved roads with rarely a pothole, the roads of Washington are sometimes even an adventure when within the confines of the town. But in the countryside, we end up where the sidewalk suddenly stops, even if the map still suggests a well-maintained and fairly wide thoroughfare. Of course, you have hardly any cell phone reception in these areas, and if you really want a thrill, you keep going. I found myself getting out of the car to move some smaller trees across the Aeneas Valley Road from eastern Washington, which would rather deserve the description of an off-road track in places. We found ourselves at some surprising intersections on the edge of the Capitol Forest that were in geographically different places on the map. We ended at roadblocks, seeing the continuation of our route across Lake Cushman – nothing on the map says the dam is not for public use. Indeed, a classic GPS would have indicated it to us. But where would be the adventure in that? !

Edward Jones - Bart Dalton

Shaken by the back roads, stirred by the landscape, my husband and I will continue to use maps just to see what’s around in addition to the direct route from A to B. Whether it’s dunes on the road as we traverse desert or scorched forests or steep single-lane mountain roads with chilling glimpses of what lies below. We’ve started mapping these surprises in our roadmap, as there don’t seem to be any official fixes so far. And we know how to take our time and keep our composure as we explore our beautiful wilderness.


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