Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 1, Olympia, Wa to Clyde Holliday State Park, Or

I'm a bit nervous about this trip. It has been quite sometime since I did such a trip on my own.  I believe the last was on my way to Yellowstone National Park in June, 1976. That was 38 years ago. That trip was to start a summer job, this one is to see some of my son's collegiate hockey games. The trip is planned around traveling several roads that I have never been on and visit areas I have never been to. Areas like Malheur, Steens Mtn., Bonneville Salt Flats, and Bear Lake. I will be traveling to and through places like John Day, Frenchglen, Winnemucca, Elko, Rexburg, and Salmon. My traveling buddy will be Rocky my blue heeler. I've got to finish packing versus blogging.
Delphi Road near Olympia heading south
Just before I left, Rocky went out in to the street and challenged a guy walking his dog. He was mad. Then I was mad. This had me bugged for most of the day.

We got underway at 10:22 AM. I drove south through back roads to Littlerock to get to I-5. I didn't drive long since I had to get gas at the ARCO in Rochester. $3.29/gal - that's cheap. It's still quite foggy but it's supposed to clear up. No sooner did I think that, when just after Chehalis - about 10 minutes later - fog lifted and I had clear, sunny skies for the rest of the day.

I continued down Interstate 5 until I got near to Vancouver where I left I-5 to go south on I-205 and exited on to Washington State Route (SR) 14 East.  Wa SR 14 is a beautiful way to drive up the Columbia River. WA SR 14 goes along north side of Columbia River and is two lanes, and I-84 is an interstate freeway that follows the south shore of the river. WA SR 14 is just not as fast as if I were to travel I 84 on the south side of the Columbia. But, I wasn't in a hurry.
Outside of Bonneville Dam on WA SR 14
Traffic on WA SR 14 was very light and I was making good speed and time; of course I have to remind myself that it is a Tuesday in middle of October. As I wound along and drove higher along the hills and buttes the maples really turned color - lots of yellows and reds. Driving lower along the river the trees were more green and only had touches of yellow.  As I headed east, oak trees started to become mixed in with the maples until you got to a point where there were no more maples but only oaks. This subtle transition signals the change from west side to east side. In time as I drove farther east the trees got less and less until there were no trees. Then I started to notice the transition from grasses to the definitely drier vegetation of sagebrush. I love driving along the Columbia because of this gradual spectrum of going from wet-west side to the dry east side.

An east wind coming right down the gorge was blowing hard, must've been 20 knots or more. I stopped
View of Columbia River from Cape Horn on SR 14
for a moment to get a picture at Cape Horn scenic view.  The road here must be over 1, 000 feet above the river. You can look up river at least 20 miles or more. The river definitely showed the wind blowing by creating long ribbon patterns of spray and waves on the water. Somewhere after the town of Stevenson the wind lessened and by the time I got to Bingen there was no more wind. In fact, there were beautiful reflections of the mountains in the sloughs that border the river.

I I turned off of WA SR 14 onto southbound US 97. crossed the Columbia River and left Washington state and in to Oregon. US highway 97 is a major north-south route serving central Washington and Oregon communities. Immediately across the bridge is the Interstate community of Biggs Junction. Biggs is a popular stop with travelers both pleasure and commercial and makes its name by intersecting I-84 and US highway 97. Because I was starting to travel in eastern Oregon where the towns and the availability of gas is less I decided to fill up with gas. Not so cheap here - $3.45/gal.
US 97 winds south up a twisty canyon that takes you away from the Columbia River. Nearing the crest of the canyon, I turned off of US 97 and left onto OR SR 206. Almost immediately you are in the old farming community of Wasco. Wasco is a small town but still "alive" with homes, a church, and a farmers supply store. After Wasco, OR 206 continues to gently climb up through the wheat fields and into a forest of windmills. Some windmills were turning others not. Again the wind was very light.

At about milepost 10 on OR 206 winds its way steeply down a canyon for four miles until it comes to Cottonwood State Recreation Area; then twisting and turning five miles back up out of Cottonwood canyon. There were plenty of 25 mph corners in and out of the canyon. Finally at milepost 24 you were fully at the summit and the state route bisecting various wheat fields. OR 206 ends in the small but vibrant farming community of Condon. In Condon I turned right onto OR SR 19.

I loved the little town of Condon. Condon was fully decked out in Halloween figures at various points in town, along with flags and banners welcoming you to Condon. Wow, there's life and pride in this little farm town out in the middle of nowhere. Sure it was a Tuesday sunny afternoon, but there were people walking its sidewalks and out chatting with others.  It looked as if I was witnessing various Norman Rockwell paintings as I drove through town. Again, I really fell for this little town.
Beautiful Oregon State Route 19
Once out of Condon, OR SR 19 descends gently down into another canyon, the road twisting this way and that way with plenty of 30 mph corners. Almost imperceptibly the expansive wheat fields changed into sagebrush and juniper trees. There were more hills and the hills weren't round like they were along the Columbia River, but rocky steppes and buttes. If you didn't pay attention, ever so subtly the scrub-juniper landscape morphed into Ponderosa Pine forest and the hills much more pronounced even becoming small mountains. The mountains continued to get bigger and more dramatic in color - the mountain rocks and soils were green-gray, pink to red, and dark browns and blacks of basalt. Conversly, on the "down-low," OR SR 19 drove along the John Day River with its alternating riffles and pools. Bordering the river trees in fall colors of reds and yellows added even more color. Driving was almost dangerous because I was so caught up observing the terrain and colors. The only distraction is the town of Spray - another little community out in the middle of nowhere with a lot of pride. After the little town of Spray, OR SR 19 continues to follow along the John Day River and enters John Day Fossil Bed country. Again vividly colored mountains and soils rise up each side of the river canyon until you think
John Day fossil bed country
you cannot go any further but you do. OR SR 19 ends abruptly and you have no choice except to turn left or right onto US highway 26.  I thought where did this highway come from? I turned left into aptly named "Picture Canyon" on Highway 26. The highway winds through almost vertical rock walls and suddenly, and I mean very suddenly, emerges out of the canyon into a gentle valley. To the north mountains have shrunk into hills. To the south there are still mountains, but they are more distant and not rising so dramatically right from the river.  The broad valley is filled with small farms and homes. One of the small communities I passed through was Dayville whose claim to fame is the fossil beds. Next up was the small town of Mt. Vernon. General Store, cafe, farm supply, and Post Office describes each town.

The sun was setting behind the mountains making evening seem to come too soon. I was anxious to get to the Clyde Holliday State Park campground and get settled. Finally there was the turn into the campground.  What a beautiful campground. I easily found a site. The only others camping were retired folks and hunters. My camping arrangement was simple - sleeping in the back of my truck. I've got a short pickup bed, and I'm still pretty tall so I had to configure my bed (a sleeping bag on top of a big chaise lounge mattress) to lie cross-wise on the truck bed. Rocky would lie in the space to my right.  I positioned the heater to my lower left and opened the canopy window right above it so I wouldn't suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. The other camping gear would be temporarily stored in the backseat of the truck.
Camping at Clyde Holliday State Park
Now that I had my sleeping arrangements made, next chore was a quick supper.  It was now almost dark and I could feel the temperature dropping. Skies were still clear and the nearly full moon was bright. The small Coleman gas lantern provided not only light, but welcome heat too. I wanted something hot to warm me up from the inside. Again I was grateful that I had the foresight to pack a big bowl of instant noodles. All I had to do was heat water for supper. Oh my those hot brothy noodles hit the spot.  Next, I hit the sack.

Rocky and I settled down in our little road home. The Origo heater was turned down to low and effectively keeping the cold at bay. I snuggled into my sleeping bag and Rocky tightly curled up next to me. I layed there looking at the brilliant moon through the rear canopy window and digested this moment in time. As if on cue, coyotes in the distance howled, giving Rocky a bit of a start. I reviewed in my mind the 370 plus miles I had traveled today, the sights I saw, and all of the new places I had never been to. A moment later I was asleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment