Friday, June 26, 2015

Chapter 17 - Boise to Pendleton, Oregon

Thursday, June 25th:
I know that we keep saying this, but today really was one of the best and most scenic drives that Kathy and I have ever experienced. As we left Boise behind, the land was soon just rugged and empty rolling hills.  This changed rather quickly into steep treeless hills where for awhile on the inclines in order not to overheat our car engine in the 90 plus degree temperatures, we were forced to reduce our speed down to only 40 mph.  As our elevation continued to increase we were surprised to see that the mountain sides were covered with evergreen trees. The only other green that we saw other than the evergreen trees was in the two or three locations where we crossed or drove along side the Snake River or the few other smaller creeks and rivers that flowed through the lower valleys.

The drive today was around 210 miles and including stops at two rest areas like the one shown in the photo to the right, we were on the road a little over four hours.  Perhaps it is my advancing age, but the stress of driving four hours pulling a trailer that is continuously swaying and tugging on the car, is very stressful and tiring.  Despite the beauty of the drive, both Kathy and I were happy to pull into the Pendleton/Mountain View KOA in Pendleton, Oregon.

This photo to the left is just one of many that Kathy took while we were driving up I-84 towards Pendleton. It clearly shows the size of the mountains that rose on both sides of the highway. What we found really remarkable is that the Oregon Trail passed through these same mountains and while the settlers would have known that they were nearing their final destination in Oregon, they must have been really tested to the point of exhaustion and sometimes even to the point of death.  Our trip out west has loosely followed the original Oregon Trail other than a few divergences such as out trip to the Grand Tetons.

Most of the trail while hardly easy for the wagon trains, it did not climb up into the steep Rocky Mountains.  For us to discover as we neared the end of the Oregon Trail, that these early settlers were now forced to cross through mountains came as quite a surprise. We assumed that things could only get easier as they crossed into the future state of Oregon. The elevation in Boise was only 2,704 feet above sea level.  While the early Oregon Trail wagon trains may not have all crossed through the same pass that we did on I-84, if they had they would have been as we were at an elevation of 4,193. This elevation change meant that as the settlers covered a distance of around 150 miles they also had to climb around 1,500 feet. It was hard enough in our car pulling a trailer; how about horses or steers pulling a loaded wagon with the settlers young and old walking next to their wagons.  Truly amazing.

As we have previously mentioned, the primary reason for choosing Pendleton as a stopover point was because of the world famous Pendleton Woolen Mills, maker among other things of woolen Indian blankets. Kathy already has a small collection of Pendleton made items so it was perfectly natural that she would want to visit the Pendleton factory, or more accurately, their gift shop.  After checking in at the Pendleton/Meridian KOA which we did at 11:00 am (we had gained an hour as we passed into the Pacific Coast time zone) and getting all hooked up, we headed for the Pendleton factory store. The photograph to the left shows Kathy coming out of the store with her bag of self-gifts or shall we say souvenirs of our trip to Oregon.

One of the "self-gifts," a hooded poncho in a beautiful Indian design pattern.

After visiting the Pendleton Woolen Mills, which incidentally has been in operation in Pendleton since 1909, we decided to drive around the city to see if we could find anything interesting in addition to also finding a local food market.  The City of Pendleton is kind of old fashion with a few quaint shops but other than this view of the city that we took from above the city, we did not explore the city in any depth. Our plan in any case was to spend only one night in Pendleton before moving on.

One of the interesting observations about Pendleton as well as all of the other cities we have visited as we traveled through the northwest, is that the cities are very similar to eastern cities except for one major thing: just 100 yards out of the cities we return again to dry and barren countryside. This photo to the right was taken from the edge of our RV park.  One would think that we were almost visiting the Sahara Desert. It is beautiful in its starkness.

Our original plan tomorrow was to spend the next few days at a campsite on the Columbia River, but, and for the first time, when we called them they were completely booked.  So we selected another campground that proved to be quite interesting.  The name of the campground was the Yakama Nation RV Park.  That's right, our residence for the next two nights is on the Yakama Indian Reservation in south central Washington.  More to follow.       

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