Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2300 Mile PNW Tour | OR & WA Central High Desert

Hi Neighbors,

In 2007 we enjoyed a 2300 mile (3700.7 km) road trip through Washington and Oregon Central High Desert, the Oregon coast, and Yakama Nation and the Columbia Gorge.  We enjoyed the trip so much I'm re-posting our pixel-roll with travel narrative here.  We enjoyed the OR & WA Central High Desert:

WA Beginnings

We recommend traveling road trips in loops.  That way you see more places in the same amount of mileage as you would if you just went to one location, and then drove back the way you came.  Desist from that drudgery.  Drive in loops and hit up the interpretive centers, scenic byways, monuments, and towns along the way.

We set out east on I-90 towards Grand Coulee Dam with our first stop being Soap Lake, where you can soak in glacial mud to cure what ails you for hours on end.  After the dam, we stayed with friends in Moses Lake, Washington's Great Escape, for one night.

I remember standing atop the dam as a child and feeling the rumbling of the churning water and turbines on the soles of my feet.  Moses Lake sports cotton clouds and a convergence zone that keeps precipitation to a minimum year-round.  In the second leg of the trip we toured the Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center, which I recommend to give a balanced understanding of how dams impacted the region.

Eastern OR & Central High Desert

But it's a dry heat... (above series)
From Moses Lake we headed south and east to the Blue Mountain range, which we'd cross a few times in the trip, to La Grande, a nice artsy mountain town. Then we drove northeast to Joseph in Wallowa County, with a thriving agricultural market and a few small towns with high schools, grocery stores, and a small tourist district.

We stayed one night at the Strawberry Wilderness Bed & Breakfast (now closed).  We wanted to avoid the town monopoly of one business owning a bunch of restaurants/hotels.  We had stopped at another hotel prior, but disliked the rudeness and inattentiveness of the staff.  Pretense, actually.  So we decided to go local.

The owner lived most of her years in John Day, where her husband was a rancher and art enthusiast.  Then they moved to Joseph to start their B&B and Art business.  She showed us how to seek intel from the locales:  conversational storytelling. She was an excellent hostess who made us breakfast the following morning.  Nothing continental there!

The next day we drove an exciting road to Hells Canyon in Baker County.  On the OR side you see Hells Canyon from above and can see clear into Idaho, another place on the bucket list as we want to see Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve.  Later we'd see Couer d'Alene during a campus visit and again for our trip preceding graduation, but for this visit we saw Idaho from our view atop Hells Canyon.  We're told that from the Idaho side you see Hells Canyon from below at river level.  They even have Hells Canyon Tours:

We then set out west to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center on the only day of the year a guest speaker enthralled his audience for three hours.  He spoke on Native American history and his work in the movies.  We saw the actual wagon wheel tracks in the ground from when they made their way to Willamette valley, where they settled and grew their farms and families.

We saw Sumpter Valley Dredge just outside of Baker City, or the Eastern OR Miners and Prospectors Interp Center, an old gold mining dredge, the taa-daa pose that started them all (thank you, James!):

Then continued east to my favorite section of the trip:  John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Painted Hills, and Kam Wah Chung Museum:

We liked the John Day fossil beds, which continue north into Mt. Hood Territory.

After that we headed north slightly to visit the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, which displayed a variety of fossils and conjectured narrative, an interpretive center that was a mining house, and then headed west to Prineville, which I contended will be a thriving city given its grid and that it's next to a river and that someday perhaps I'll retire then and become mayor or media maven or some such, ambitions that I will of course balance with some sort of international relations meets teaching writing for intermedia and influence.

We continued southwest to Redmond and Bend. There we enjoyed the High Desert Museum, and watched a raptor show:

From Bend we drove south to Newberry National Volcanic Monument, where we hiked through a lava tube (my idea) and  along obsidian flows above Lake Paulina, located within the caldera of Newberry Volcano.  Again the drive was relaxing, scenic, and always engaging, and the hikes exciting:

Bright sun! (above)

Be forewarned to dress for cold temperatures if you hike a lava tube.  Even in the heat of late summer, the lava tube can be about 40'F, brrrrr cold if you wear capris and cotton as I had.  Bring a hat, hiking socks, and gloves.  You can rent lanterns or bring your own as it's dark down there.  Funny story: a boy followed us pert through the lava tube hedging us at our peripheral and nipping our heels figuratively speaking.  I laughed out loud as his behavior closely resembled that of Gollum/Smeagol. How fitting:

Thank you, James, for being an amazing husband and friend. I cherish our time together! Thank you for taking us on this fun trip because I have good and happy memories. Thank you for the pictures. I love you with all my heart always in all ways.

Ever Together;
Together Ever Enjoying;
Together Ever Exploring;
Together Ever Growing;
Together Ever Pristine;
Together Ever In Love!