Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I LOVE Oregon!

Hell's Canyon

This has been a fantastic week. I started out on the most Northwesterly corner of Oregon on the coastline. Wow! I’ve never seen such a dramatic coastline. The first hundred or so miles were all about waves crashing violently against mountains and boulders. Blue, blue water, the ever-present scent of pines and sunshine greeted me every single day. I haven’t seen a cloud in over a week! I stopped in several places…they were all great.
Oregon Coastline
Someone told me Manzanita was wonderful, so I stopped there and had lunch…charming beach town with great organic restaurants. Stopped by on my way back from the town beach and chatted with a women who runs a real estate outfit…hmmm, ever so tempting, she pointed out a charming cottage on the hillside over looking the beach. I am keeping the brochure! The lower part of the Oregon coast then moves on to giant sand dunes….they are everywhere…an ATV’ers paradise!

I then moved inland to the lower central part of Oregon. My goal was to see Crater Lake. Again, more drama than you can possibly imagine. The drama further escalated when I found my way blocked by a large forest fire. It had been burning for several days…natural causes, lightening. Anyway, roads were closed, and I ended up having to wind my way there through a series of secondary roads. The silver lining in all this was that I was able to see more of Oregon…off the beaten path…um, way off the beaten path. Crater Lake National Park is gorgeous. I spent a couple of days hiking and taking in the various vistas around the lake. The pictures just do not do it justice..its a huge lake surrounded on all sides by rugged and unusual rock formations. The water is sapphire blue. Because of the fire, many of the photos are hazy..but you should get the idea.

After Crater Lake, I pointed myself…and my 40-foot caravan, due Northeast. My last stop in Oregon is the Hells Canyon area. The terrain from Crater Lake to the Northeastern part of the state changes quite a bit. I first moved through the high plains area…miles and miles of golden grasses…small glimpses of Mt. Hood and large cattle ranches dot the landscape. My goal was to see Hells Canyon, which is the deepest canyon in the US (I always thought the Grand Canyon was..but I’ve learned otherwise). My base camp was in the Wallowa Lake National Park. To get to the park, you go through this unbelievably charming town called Joseph. The facades of many of the buildings are all in Old West style. What’s really cool about it is that it is sort of an artist’s community. The specialty here is large bronze statues. These magnificent works of art are on every street corner in town, and other places, like the roofs of buildings.
Ride em' cowboy - town square Joseph OR
Bronze sculpture, bronze art foundries and galleries were all a part of my life growing up, its what my father did for a living, and what he lived to do! Consequently, there are several photos of Joseph and the art that graces the town. It’s a great town, with wonderful people, restaurants and bars (saloons). On my second day, made the trek to Hells Canyon. I am not sure if its called Hells Canyon because of the terrain…which is hellish, or the road to get there, which is even more hellish.. The road I chose to take, which is really more of a dirt path scratched out of the cliffs, winds 24 miles from the point where I made my ascent. It is so steep, twisted and narrow that I could only go about 10-15 mph…it’s a real white-knuckle experience. There is something exhilarating about scaring the hell out of yourself. When I finally reached my destination, I jumped out of the car and praised the Hell’s Canyon Gods for delivering me! The vista was unbelievable….I stood near the edge and looked down, and then looked around…and told myself the power of nature is truly divine. I carefully backed away from the edge. I also did the same thing I did when I was kid visiting the Grand Canyon; I threw a rock down into the abyss.

I should mention that trip up was nothing compared to the terror of taking the road back down. Even in the lowest gear, it was a challenge to keep the truck slow enough so that it would not slide around the hairpin turns. At one point as I was winding my way down, I could see a truck making its way up….horrors…this is less than a single lane dirt road! Not sure of what scary as hell road protocol is..but since I was on the mountainside, as opposed to the cliff to oblivion side, I slowed to a crawl and edged my left-hand side wheels into the cliff to try to make room for the truck to pass. As the truck inched up to me, the driver rolled down his window and shouted through the dust cloud…”Hey Connecticut..yer a long way from home ain’t ya” I solemnly stated, Yessiree!!

I want to tell you that I did something today that I haven’t done so far on this trip and that is…I did nothing. No driving, no planning, no hiking, no paddling. I took the day off. I know it’s a bit of a joke, when I’m on this extended road trip, but seriously, I haven’t had a day of just hanging out. It’s been great. Right now, I am sitting by the campfire with my laptop..really on my lap, writing this blog entry. The stars are out, and all I can hear is the wind in the trees and the crackling of the fire. The night is so special, I am going to dig out the sleeping bag and sleep outside, with nothing between me and the heavens but fresh air. Goodnight.

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