Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chapter 30 - Walla Walla to Clarkston, WA / Lewiston, ID

Monday, July 20th:
Our drive this morning over to Clarkston, Washington is only 100 miles and maybe will take as long as 2-1/2 hours. Considering this rather short drive we tried our very best not to leave too early, but despite our best efforts, we arrive at our next campsite by 10:30 am. Our planned stay for the next two nights is at the Hells Canyon Resort which is located directly on the Snake River in Clarkston, Washington. Clarkston is located directly on the Idaho Washington state line and directly across the river from Lewiston, Idaho. 

Our drive was very lovely and interesting. While the road was only two lanes the traffic was light and when a few cars did pile up behind us there were plenty of pull over stops to let cars pass us by. At first the hills near Walla Walla were covered with wheat as far as the eyes could see but as we traveled further west the wheat was replaced with dried grass and rocks and the rolling hills changed to rugged mountains. As we have said so many times in the past, the scenery in our country is really diverse and it can change rapidly in only a matter of miles.   

Our RV Park came as a pleasant surprise amidst all of these rugged mountains. The park sat directly on the Snake River and the space that we were assigned had an unobstructed view of the river and the surrounding heights.

The RV park offered only full service hookups (even the internet worked), it was clean, our parking space was concrete and wide, and the grass between the spaces was green.  Our only surprise was that the park was only around 25% occupied. It is no wonder that our early arrival was not a problem. The low occupancy however, worked to our advantage such that we were given an excellent parking space such that our front porch (under the awning) directly faced the river and the mountains beyond. I was standing right next to our trailer when this photo was taken.

Since we had arrived earlier than usual today we decided to get out and do a little serious touring before the temperatures climbed much higher.  There are a lot of choices here in the Lewiston/Clarkston area.  These two adjacent cities sit right at the confluence of the Snake River and the Clearwater River.  The combined rivers runs westward and connect to the Columbia River. The Snake River connects into the Clearwater River from the south passing through a deep canyon known as Hells Canyon after which our RV park was obviously named.  The smaller Clearwater River gained its fame when the Lewis and Clark Expedition descended the Clearwater River in dugout canoes in 1805. It was near the present day city of Lewiston where William Clark first encountered members of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe. The western boundary of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation is located just east of Lewiston. Two places that we had to visit were clearly the Hells Canyon and the Nez Perce Reservation. Since both of these sights required a longer drive time than we wished to do today, we selected instead to visit The Hells Gate State Park which was located on the Idaho side of the Snake River just before the entrance into Hells Canyon.  Hence the name "Hells Gate."

Hells Gate State Park is a large 960 acre park that runs for a mile or more along the Snake River.  At the far end of the park is a large campground that sits among numerous large shade trees (unlike our own park) and while the campground was scarcely occupied during our drive thru, when we checked later at the registration office they told us that their campground was almost 100% occupied on the summer weekends.  This state park was also covered with numerous wide and paved trails that are undoubtedly popular for walking, jogging, and biking.  Most of the trails offered wonderful views of the Snake River and the cliff walls on its far side.  After our short drive through the park, we visited the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center near the entrance to the park where quite to our pleasant surprise Cabo was allowed to enter. The exhibits inside the center focused entirely on the Lewis and Clark Expedition with a special emphasis on their passage through the Lewiston area. Plus it should come as no surprise that inside the Center they had a very well stocked gift store.  The Center itself sat directly on the Snake River. This photo of Kathy and Cabo was taken immediately on the river side of the building.

We also wanted to include this photo of Kathy and Cabo standing in the canoe as it too was taken on the river side of the Discovery Center but with the Snake River in the background.

Once our touring of the Hells Gate State Park and the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center was completed we returned to our campground to enjoy the remainder of the day in the comfort of our air conditioning.  The temperature was once again into the high 90s.

This final photograph of the day was taken right at sunset about 9:00 PM Pacific Coast Time.  The silhouettes in the foreground of the picture are William Clark and Sacagawea who had recently joined us for cocktails and were on their way home.

Tuesday, July 21st:
We mentioned earlier our plans for today: The Nez Perce Indian Reservation, specifically the Nez Perce National Historical Park located about 15 miles east of our campsite, and Hells Canyon located south of Clarkston, distance unknown.  Before we left on our tourist excursions Kathy ran over to the local Walmart for a few needed supplies and I took this sunrise photograph. Wow, hard to believe.  William Lewis and Sacagawea are still out front; they never went home?

Unfortunately when we arrived at the Nez Perce National Historical Park we quickly learned that Cabo was not allowed inside their building, so while Kathy checked out their gift store, Cabo and I walked around outside their building and read some of their historical markers including one marker that immediately caught my attention. Just down below the visitors center was an historical park named after an early missionary who used to live there.  His name was Henry Harmon Spalding and he and his wife Eliza Hart Spalding moved there to work with the Indians back in 1836.  Kathy asked me, when she heard the name Spalding, whether he was one of my ancestors since she knew that my grandmother's surname was Spaulding.  When we returned to our campground later in the afternoon, I looked up Henry Spalding on Ancestry.com (I am an avid fan of such a thing) and discovered that Henry was my 5th cousin, 6 times removed and that he was born in Steuben County in New York State.  My grandmother Helen Spaulding and several generations of her ancestors were all born in Steuben County.  Go figure.

We drove down into the old settlement of Spalding and viewed an old cemetery where we learned later there is a memorial to Henry and Eliza Spalding.  There were also some old homes in the settlement although none of them were around at the time the Spalding family lived in the area.  The area was very pretty and loaded with large shade trees and a lovely creek that flowed through the old settlement and into the Clearwater River. Based on what one of the park rangers told us about the history of the area, the Nez Perse Indians used to burn their land because it helped reseed their plantings, so we have to wonder if Henry and Eliza Spalding lived on land that was mostly void of large trees. Whatever their conditions, you have to admire anyone who would give up their relatively comfortable life in the East to go live with the Indians back in the early 1800s.

One problem along most of the major rivers out here in the west is that the wind down the river gorges can blow pretty strong by the mid-afternoons.  We experienced this at our campground on the Columbia River as well as our campground here on the Snake River. Apparently the Park Rangers here at the Historical Park also have the same problem since we had fun watching and talking with them as they erected a tent in front of the visitor center.  From what they told us the tent has to be put up and taken down almost daily. Kathy and I were asked if we wanted to help and when we said yes, we were given small sticks that were used to hold the two sections of canvas (not Buffalo hides) together. At that instance I guess we became honorary Nez Perse Indians.

Our second tourist adventure for the day was to drive down Hells Canyon if that was even possible.  We had been told and we read in some of the tourist magazines that you could take boat excursions down the river, but we were not sure whether or not a road followed the Snake River into the deep canyon.  Much to our pleasure a narrow and winding road did follow the river which we followed for almost twenty miles before finally turning around.  The scenery was unbelievable and perhaps if we had more time and Cabo was not with us we might have taken one of the many excursion boats that we watched navigating the river. Whether in a boat or on the road, the trip into the Hells Canyon was a life time experience.

We took many photographs of our drive down the Hells Canyon every one of them however, can only give a suggestion as to the beauty of this area. This was our final tourist activity for the day.  We returned to our home on wheels, relaxed as always, and prepared for another long drive tomorrow, all the way to Missoula, Montana.

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