The Hells Canyon Trip

I-5 / I-84 / Pendleton / Yansa's Ill-Advised Summit Road Adventure™ / La Grande

- 23 May 2002 -

I had actually planned this road trip for some time -- going to northeastern Oregon, seeing La Grande yet again (and maybe even getting a better picture of Mt. Emily, Mt. Harris, and other local peaks), going back to the Wallowa Valley, and then taking mysterious Highway 3 into Washington, with a goal of taking a jetboat trip into Hells Canyon.

The Wallowa Valley, Clarkston, and Hells Canyon parts of this trip made my parents nervous, when I told them that's where I was going to go. But I went, and I'm glad I went. It was cool. :)

This page (May 23) is dedicated to The Famous Cal, of Chifley Basement fame! :)

Scotchbroom,  scotchbroom, everywhere.
(Picture taken on I-5, south of Salem.) 

Troutdale, Oregon -- basically it's a big truck stop along I-84.

I stopped at the TA Truck Stop, shown to the left of the McDonald's, to get gas for the car. I nearly got lost in there. It's basically a general store for truckers, and it was laid out confusingly, like a large jumbled convenience store. Stuff everywhere, and people everywhere. And, in the middle of all of that, there's a Subway restaurant, and another restaurant, too (I forget what that one was).

 I went in to try to find a restroom; I never did find one. :b I did purchase a rather substandard fountain Coke, though.

 The cashier pronounced many blessings upon me because I had change for a $5. ;)

A pretty standard view in the western Columbia Gorge -- big ol' mountain, lots of trees. Here we can see Yansa zipping along in the passing lane. 

(It seems like every time I took a picture of something scenic, the reflection from the car's defroster duct ended up in the picture. Snarl.) 

Some scenery near the Hood River exit.

Those slanting plains on the left side of the picture are in Washington, on the opposite side of the Columbia River from The Dalles.

This is a fairly abysmal quality picture of this phenomenon, but it's the best I have. It looks more interesting in person.

More scenery near The Dalles. 

You can actually kinda sorta see some of the Columbia River in this picture, but don't judge the Columbia by that little strip of water that you can see. It's much larger.

A somewhat messy picture of the east side of The Dalles (population 15,000), viewed from I-84 eastbound.

Columbia River Gorge scenery, between The Dalles and Biggs on I-84.  

Now entering Sherman County (population -6 ;) )

A small part of the Columbia River is to your left. The Deschutes River is under the bridge (yes, there's a bridge... look for the concrete pavement under the red truck). 

Approaching Biggs (technically, "Biggs Junction", but Biggs Junction is bigger than Biggs).

This place is full of memories for me, because, a few years back, en route to La Grande, the family RV broke down a few miles outside of Biggs (at the far left side of the last picture, in fact). It was towed to Biggs for repair, and my family spent the night inside of our RV, inside an RV repair place. I remember looking out the door of the RV repair place -- moon shining down on a clear July night, its light glinting off the Columbia, I was listening to my new Dwight Yoakam CD on the CD player... yeah.

(No matter how interesting that might have been, I still wanted to be home, though. :b)

The RV repair folks were working on a hot rod in the same garage. The hot rod had large metal "testicles" hanging off of its chassis. I am not kidding. Sherman County, ladies and gentlemen. ;)

A surprisingly clear picture of the vicinity of the Arlington exit. Arlington is a little town in a canyon.

Back in the day, each time my family passed through Arlington on our way to or from La Grande, my mom could not help but mention that this was the hometown of someone named "Doc Severinsen", who was apparently from the Tonight Show back when it was hosted by Johnny Carson. Huh.

Condon (mentioned on the sign) is the county seat of Gilliam County, about 40 miles away. In about 1991, Condon advertised itself in the New York Times as a retreat for burnt-out executives. It has a golf course of sorts (or it did in 1991, anyway). It has about 100 residents or something like that. People don't think "executives" when they think "Condon". They think "wheat". (Or, if they're not from Oregon, they probably think "misspelled birth control".)

Approaching Pendleton (population 16,000) from the west.

The Blue Mountains are in the background.

The Blue Mountains, as seen from near the Mission exit, southeast of Pendleton on I-84. 

(Note: The scenery out in Umatilla County is not usually this green. None of eastern Oregon is usually this green, except for about 12 seconds in May. ;) )

The view behind me is the Columbia Basin in central Umatilla County. The part of I-84 where I took the last picture would be in the distance, off to my right somewhere.

(My shirt matched the scenery for about 10 more seconds. ;) )

The southeastern Columbia Basin, facing roughly west, as seen from the viewpoint along the I-84 ascent into the Blue Mountains.

... it's not usually this green, y'know.

Another view from the same viewpoint; facing north-northwestish.

This totally looks like something you might see from a hill near Corvallis or something, not a view of the Columbia Basin from the foothills of the Blue Mountains. This picture was taken about 6 seconds into the 12-second eastern Oregon spring greenery phase. ;)

The viewpoint in question. 

It is subtle, yet understated. It goes quite nicely with wheat... lots of wheat. Mass quantities of wheat. Hollering gobs of wheat. More wheat than you can shake a stalk of wheat at... well, something like that, anyway.

Some typical Blue Mountain scenery. I believe this picture was taken just past the comfortingly-named Deadman Pass exit.

The summit of the Blue Mountains, elevation 4,193', not too far outside of Meacham.

This is Summit Road, of "Summit Road / Mt. Emily" I-84 exit fame. 

I drove this road on a whim; I'd seen that road sign on I-84 all through my teenage years, and I had always wondered where that exit went. I was hoping it led to a nice view from the top of Mt. Emily (elevation 6,110'). The sign promised a "Whitman Trail Overlook", too.

So I took that fateful exit, and drove that fateful road.

This part of the road was nice. I was hoping that it'd be nice all the way to the aforementioned summit. [fx: eerie foreshadowing music]

More of that Summit Road scenery. Nice, flat, very scenic... meadows and trees and all that good stuff... a wonderful road for a little jaunt into the mountains, right?

Snow. Huh. Not a whole lot, though.

Whew. That was good -- no more snow. And also no large objects in the road, such as noteworthy chunks of fallen trees. [fx: eerie foreshadowing music gets louder]

And it's still a pretty nice road; there are roads near Eugene that are much scarier.

Oh, expletive.

I should have turned around then, but I didn't.

I went a bit further -- I believe I went around the corner that was shown in the last picture, and then maybe around one more corner. And I got stuck in the snow, while "Independence Day" by Martina McBride played on KCMB.

Let me emphasize this: It was a 10'x50' patch of snow, maybe 6" deep, on a lovely 75 degree day in late May, but I was quite trapped. "Spinning one's wheels" had just been a saying to me before May 24, 2002, but it suddenly had some major meaning to it.

That was scary, and "scary" is an understatement.

(And, plus, I really don't like that song. ;) )

After a few minutes of effort, I was able to extricate myself, thank heavens -- being stuck overnight on a gravel road 40 miles from La Grande (which itself is the middle of nowhere) did not appeal to me at all, really.

Sorry, folks, there are no pictures of Yansa frustratedly digging snow out from under the tires of the Yansamobile. ;)

Safe and sound back on I-84! *sigh of relief*

The Wallowa Mountains are visible in the distance, just to the right of the large trees, if you look very closely.

"La Grande, next 3 exits."

Sad thing, really, but when you're in the middle of nowhere, you take whatever forms of civilization you can get. ;)

Text written 12 June 2002.
Last updated 19 January 2006.

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