Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Update July 10 - Vancouver, WA to Hell's Canyon Idaho

Trip Update - Sunday, July 10

I left my sister's place in Vancouver, WA (Camas) about 8 am after a delicious breakfast my brother-in-law fixed (Thank you Steve!). I really appreciated them getting up early on a Sunday morning to see me off. 

I rode Rt 14 eastward which is the highway on the north side of the Columbia River, not the interstate on the south side. I would get enough of that later in the day.

Very nice highway and I had light traffic since it was early on Sunday morning. Saw one deer standing in the middle of the road and as I slowed he just stood there watching me. I blew my air horn as I almost came to a stop about 50 feet from him and he just walked away to the side completely unperturbed.

After about an hour I made it to White Salmon (north side of Hood River) which is where my brother Tom and family used to live (and whom I am going to visit in Wyoming now). Just had to call him and let him know I was there.
The view from near the bridge looking south over Hood River to Mt Hood

Another half hour or more and I was at The Dalles recalling another excellent motorcycle trip with friend Bill from Nashville 10 years ago. That's a whole 'nuther story but that trip is still vivid in my mind.

Another 30 miles I think and I arrived at Maryhill and crossed the river south to get on I-84.

View of the bridge looking south

I rode for several hours until I stopped about noon in Pendleton, OR. Got gas and munched on some peanut butter as a lunch and butt break. Then I found the Pendleton Woolen Mill and store. Very popular and famous and their store shows it. They are beautiful shirts, classic plaid patterns that I enjoyed growing up, but the price of a shirt was $105, so no shirt today! I don't think I could carry it now anyway...

Funny thing, as I pulled into a gas station a guy pulled up next to me in a pickup and rolled his window down, "Hey, what's your user name on adventure rider??" What??? He explained that he was standing outside of church (it WAS Sunday morning) and he saw my Vstrom ride by with an "ADV" sticker on the back and he told his wife we gotta go see that guy. He also has a Vstrom and rides all over eastern Oregon and Idaho. He was very friendly and we chatted for a while (he was amazed at my story) and he gave me some good tips about how to get to Hell's Canyon. 

Quick aside: Adventure Rider is a web site (www.advrider.com) where all the long distance motorcycle riders and global travelers go to post ride reports and research local information. Having an ADV sticker on your bike means you participate to whatever degree in that forum and implies you have traveled on your bike enough to have some credibility there. I feel like I am just beginning to earn that distinction...

So I motored down the interstate another several hours. It was very interesting to see that country as I had never been through there before. I had always heard of the eastern Oregon high desert. What I didn't realize is that it is not all desert. There are the Blue Mountains to get across. The pass gets up to about 4100 feet and is heavily forested. After about 10 miles you get down the other side and get back into the arid scrubby rolling land. 

I rode the interstate down to Baker City and then took hwy 86 for about 90 miles thru Richland, Halfway, and up to Oxbow. Very winding twisty road with CONSTANT 40 mph turns along the river. Twisty roads are fun but this really got monotonous. Low rolling barren hills with sparse ranches and light farming. A whole lot of not very much...

I had heard about Hell's Canyon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hells_Canyon) several times and someone told me recently that it was worth seeing. So I took the Hell's Canyon Road up the east side of the river and reservoir. Another very winding road for about 22 miles up to the dam. The canyon is interesting but pretty barren. Lots of recreational boats (skiing, jet skis, party boats) but not much else. The dam itself is not that big as dams go but it is pretty high.

Got a few pics and chatted with a guy from Toronto on a BMW GS for a bit. He had been on the road thru Alaska for about 7 weeks. He said that a local up at the Grand Coulee dam on the Columbia River told him that the river was so high all the spillways were open and he had never seen that before. That was a constant observation and discussion topic - lots of rain and record snowfall made all the rivers in Canada and now in northwest US at near record levels.

I didn't want to continue up that road since it would eventually have taken almost up to Missoula which was too far north. So I made my way back south to Oxbow and then continued on hwy 71 (the Brownee Oxbox Highway).

It was getting about 7 pm and still pretty warm and I thought about where to stay. I really didn't want to stay at some of the crowded RV camps that I saw along the river and reservoirs. As I made my way the road left the reservoir and started climbing up. I saw I was getting into the Payette Natl Forest so I thought about a campground. Then I saw a small sign that pointed to a campground 1 mile up a dirt road. I thought "let's go for it!"

So I slowly made my way up this steep dirt road thru the forest to this little campground. it had nicely prepared RV parking spots with picnic table and fire ring in each. And there was no one else there! I picked a spot beside the rushing creek and unloaded the bike. 

There was no firewood so I had to scavenge remnants from the other fire rings in the other campsites. I found a dead branch I broke up for starter and soon had a nice fire going. Then I heated up some water and had a Mountain House Chile Mac meal - not bad but probably won't make a habit out of it. Set up the tent and by that time I could feel the cool mountain air flowing slowing down the valley. I looked at the GPS and I was at 4500 feet so I thought it might be another cool night. I was in bed by 9:15 pm - a new record for me.
Dinner with bear spray

A couple of Tylenol PMs and I didn't remember a thing for the rest of the night!

No comments:

Post a Comment