Palouse Country and the Snake River

May 6-11, 2002

Thirty Obsidians and five guests headed up I-5 under threatening skies and cold temperatures, stopping for coffee at Santiam rest area then on up I-5 I-205 and I-84 turning onto the Old Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. It was cold but our scenic stops were breathtaking at Chanticleer Point and the Vista House on Crown Point. We made a short stop at Multnomah Falls and lunch at Bonneville Dam park; it was windy and cold, so lunch was fast. We crossed the Columbia River, taking Washington Hwy. 12 to Roosevelt where we turned north to, “the Bluebird Capital”. There were lots of little white birdhouses mounted on fence posts, but it was blustery so the birds were not flying. We stopped to visit the Whoop ’N Holler Museum … something one must experience to believe. Liz spotted two bluebirds and watched where they went. The museum owners were excited to hear of the sighting as it meant bluebirds they did not know were nesting. We then traveled on to Bickleton where many got ice-cream or coffee. Frances could be found across the street at the Post Office, so she could get her favorite cancellations of Bickleton, which are hand canceled and never go through the mail. By this time other travelers had reported it was snowing hard in Goldendale (thankfully Ray and Liz had changed the itinerary the week before). We traveled on to Kennewick with lodging at the Clearwater Inn and a group dinner at Granny’s Buffet.

Day 2. Palouse country: was to have been Ewart’s day as it’s his old home country, but in his absence his son Don carried on, sharing Ewart’s geological wisdom and sharing stories of Ewart’s youth. First stop of the day was east of Pasco at Sacajawea State Park, the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We then traveled east on back roads to Hwy. 261 and into Palouse Falls. Don and Liz were the only ones who knew there really were falls out in that forsaken country; they made believers of the rest of the group. On to Lyon’s Ferry and then northwest to Colfax for a very cold lunch break in their city park. We were traveling the gorgeous green (wheat and pea covered) rolling hills by now, and it was again snowing. Out of these rolling hills pops the volcanic Steptoe Butte. Believe me, on a clear day the view from the top is breathtaking. At its base it was clear with temperature above freezing. Our driver claimed he was comfortable with the road conditions, so up we went winding and winding up the butte. It began to snow in earnest and visibility became less all the time. We parked at the viewpoint and some crazy riders, like Ray, climbed the road to the very top. Of course it was windy and cold but no one complained. Back to Colfax then east to Pullman where Gary, our driver, gave us an extensive bus tour of the WSU campus. We continued east across the Idaho border to Moscow and had another bus campus tour. It’s great how these drivers get around and share with us! Our last stop was a view at the top of the Lewiston Grade; we could clearly see the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers and the Port. The weather was sunny, windy and cold and really improved from this point on. Everyone wore the layered look and many even had their gloves on so all stayed warm; at least no one dared admit they were cold. We stayed two nights at the Clarkston Quality Inn and Suites right on the banks of the Snake River.

Day 3. We awoke to sun, a cool temperature and a breeze, perfect weather for our jet boat ride (enclosed) up the Snake. We cruised along past Clarkston and Asotin (county seat) and on into Hell’s Canyon. We were on the two-day historic and current Mail Boat Run so picked up and delivered mail both days. Our trip was narrated by John Jones, who has been on the river for 28 years, who did a wonderful job telling the history and geology of the river. His two helpers helped make the trip memorable. Our first stop was at Heller’s Bar for coffee, then on to the historic Cache Creek where we had lunch. The swallows swarmed the boat, hawks soared and behold! One male and two female mountain sheep and lamb were spotted quite low on the bluffs. It was after 3:00 p.m. when we arrived at Copper Creek. There had been an inch of hail the afternoon before, but it was sunny and shirt-sleeve weather for most of us. This was our lodging for the night; some hikes around, viewed the deer and other wildlife while others found a wonderful deck for conversation. Hospitality flowed; we had snacks on arrival and later a wonderful prime rib dinner.

Day 4 commenced with as country buffet breakfast before boarding the boat and continuing mail deliveries. We stopped at the Kirkwood Ranch and turned round about 17 miles from the dam, at the end of navigation. The Kirkwood Ranch stop was most interesting as there was no dock — we had to step off the front end of the boat onto a very rocky shore hike on up to the ranch. Gene continued to amaze us all by getting off with little fuss, setting the example for all. We returned to Copper Creek for lunch and luggage with another stop at Heller’s Bar. Both days the magpies, hawks (and maybe an eagle), mountain sheep and 13 mule deer right at the river’s edge enriched our trip. The Balsamroot had to be our trip flower. There were also phlox in bloom and the hillsides were green, not brown. The canyon was breathtaking ’ awesome, spectacular, one of a kind. All found their own words to describe their own visions and feelings. We returned by 3:45 to the Inn, leaving time for me to get to the track meet and for the Baldwins to rent a car and drive over to Pomeroy. The rest relaxed and regrouped for the remaining days of the trip.

Day 5 found us heading south through Asotin on Hwy. 129 to Hwy. 3 in Oregon and heading for Enterprise. We went for a grocery stop and west of Enterprise to the Wallowa Mountain Visitor Center before turning back to Joseph. We dropped about a third of the riders off in Joseph for food and shopping while the rest went on to Wallowa Lake for lunch and a tour of the area, finding Bill Eaton’s electrical plant and deer on the lawn of the lodge before returning to Joseph for a quick look-see. After picking up our riders in Joseph we continued on the scenic highway. The Scenic Highway designation stops at Elgin, but we continued on into LaGrande to our overnight accommodations at the Howard Johnson Motel after a quick bus drive through the Eastern Oregon College campus.

Day. 6: Enthusiasm seemed lower until the first of three view points were sighted. It was a warm, sunny day, some wind and fairly clear so we saw Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams before leaving I-84 at Biggs, encountering classic cars in Grass Valley. Wasco was our next stop to see the 18 wind turbines on Larry Kaseberg’s ranch four miles east of Wasco. Then on to Moro and the Sherman County Museum — a beautifully designed and interesting place. The surprise was author Jane Kilpatrick was autographing her book, “Homestead”. At 1:30 we were seated at the Shaniko Hotel for lunch, but before we were through the classic cars arrived so some took those in while others checked out the hotel lobby. We stopped for a look at the Peter Skene Ogden Bridge. As we turned west at Redmond two ladies departed for rides to Bend. By Sisters the Cascade Range with their very snowy peeks were all visible — what a majestic sight! Then home on Clear Lake cut-off. It was 7:30 by the time we arrived in the parking lot (late for us).

Riders were Don, Neil & Rosemary Baldwin, Helen Barnard, John & Marian Borchardt, Nicole Chase, Mary Lee Cheadle, Kent Christoferson, Judy Dobell, Margaret Fea, Bea Fontana, Jeannette Forsman, Helen & Bill Gilbert, Bette Hack, Dora Harris, Evelyn Hile, Mary Ann & Tom Holser, Marjorie Jackson, Ben & Pat Jeffries, Ben Kirk, LeRoy Klemm, Verna Kocken, Gloria Layden, Bonnie Ledford, John & Lenore McManigal, Cleora Mersdorf, Frances Newsom, Maude Nilsen, Virginia Prouty, Janet & Richard Speelman, Carol Stroud, Gene Thaxton, Thomas Millard, Sheila Ward, Cristy White, Vera Woolley and trip leaders Liz Reanier and Ray Jensen.

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