I like more specific directions when I'm going into unknown territory even though I'm the sort who, when giving directions, is much more detail oriented - like saying 'turn right' and pointing left.
I was road weary from my travels the past few weeks and really just thought I wanted to stay home and wallow in self pity. My life at home has been a challenge to say the least. My theory on Murphy's Law has re-established itself in my existence and I'm once again relying on my own abilities to fix and repair things like WiFi, fountain pumps, shredders and sprinklers. Now if I could just get my new wipers on... I've also had to resolve issues like my medical insurance coverage (thank you Obama-care), the new roof and windows.
Instead I loaded up the car and headed to eastern Oregon. It was going to be a long, hot day. I'll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say it included a barfing schnauzer, 100 degree temperatures, dirt roads, and a 16% grade.
The drive was easy enough. North off I-84 at LaGrande - through several small towns (Imbler, Elgin, Wallowa, and Longstine. Enterprise and Joseph were a bit larger and definitely places I wouldn't mind exploring another time.
The last stop for civilization is Imnaha. And I use the term civilization freely here... It's the true meaning of a cross road with a post office and a general store. From Imnaha the route continues up a dirt road. If it hadn't been marked I would have thought I was going into someone's ranch road.
The road is one gravel lane for six miles. There is an occasional (or maybe that's being generous) turnout (or wide spot in the road). Honestly it was a nail biter at times. I prayed I wouldn't meet anyone along the way. Toss in the 16% steep grade for good measure.
After the first six miles, the road becomes a main interstate highway by comparison - but it really is just now a lane and a half of hard gravel 'paved' road with more frequent wide spots. Once at my destination I was in awe - on top of the world. The scenery was beautiful and the temperatures at least 20 degrees cooler than below. I found it ironic I drove over 7 hours to be in a place directly across from Riggins, Idaho - where I could have driven in three hours. Maybe I should rent a helicopter next time.
Proof I went to the tower platform.
Mike's 'neighbor' at Heavens Gate across the River
Ironically I could see Slate Creek across the river. We've been passing this point for years on our many trips north to Moscow. Erin and I were just through that area two weeks ago.
Slate Creek on the Snake River
I learned about the Seven Devils. The folklore for the different mountains around us are interesting and from a lower elevation I never even knew they existed. Mike showed me the herd of big horn sheep just over on the next ridge and talked about a much older big horn ram which came to the cliff just under the tower to eat the yellow wild flowers. He is missing one horn and seems to struggle a big. Mike calls him "One Horn Billy". I think they relate to one another's arthritic moments.
Big Horn Sheep on the hillside under the lone fir.
We enjoyed a visit with three hikers from Portland. Mike met them last week when they asked to park their car in his lot and a six pack of beer in his frig. He then drove them to the Enterprise airstrip where they caught a plane to fly to Riggins. From there they spent the night in Sheep Camp and convinced a river rafter to give them a lift across the river, where they proceeded to hike back UP the hill to Hat Point. It took them a week.
Until then I hadn't thought much about bugs. The flies were a bit intense late afternoon but seemed to dwindle with dusk. The hikers were pulling ticks off themselves. Suddenly Ruger's romps through the field of wild flowers wasn't quite so fun to watch. It was a leash for him from then on.
We shared the moment with two large 12 passenger vans of Japanese tourist who were looking for a place to camp and saw us standing by the cabin.
This morning we were greeted by three elk in the yard at the cabin. A bull, a spike and one more, either a calf or a cow. Not a bad way to start your day.
Good Morning "Usie"
The only Sunday morning commuters were cattle enjoying their ‘Open Range’ freedom.
One of the little towns had this cute little shop on the corner – The Blue Banana . As I passed it the first time I recalled someone telling me about the smoothies, etc. Despite my aging brain I even remembered it was Erin and naturally had to send her a picture.
The Blue Banana, Longstine, OR
The car is once again free of mountain road commuter-droppings, interstate bugs and about 11” of dust. Ironically one of those interstate bugs must have had loved one s clinging on to mourn the loss of family. When I was cleaning the front, a bee stung me. What a little bugger... (pun intended).
It's been awhile since I've solo'd a road trip and I enjoyed getting to spend time with Mike. Sorry for the picture-palooza but there was just soooo much to share.
Now it's back to my routine and weather watching to the northwest - keeping an eye on our summer storms.