UA-31290512-1

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Cross Country Road Trip: Pacific NW > Melbourne FL -- Day 1

Mt. Hood from the summit of Tom, Dick and Harry on a very clear day in July this year.
This is what we're leaving behind -- for now.
Roughly 3200 miles from the Northwest to the Southeast,* 

  • 2 people
  • through 11 states
  • in 1 stuffed Prius 
  • in 1 week
  • observing maximum quirkiness in minimal time

*Vancouver Washington (USA) to Melbourne, Florida, "the Space Coast"

Our Goal:
Leave the Pacific Northwest well before we got SAD.  We wanted to put off getting to Florida until October.  Alas Wayne's new employer had a more assertive timeline. 
My Prius, ready to hit the road, filled with what we'd need for 3 weeks. 
All our remaining possessions are going freight FedEx in 1 small crate, 1 2' x 2' box and one small file box.
Gone were our visions of cruising the mighty Columbia River, through the locks (which are basically a water elevator), backtracking a chunk of Lewis and Clark's journey to Lewiston Idaho.  Likewise we abandoned our wish a leisurely tour sampling sights across the country.  
Maupin, a popular rafting spot on the Deschutes river was our first stop for a leg stretch and use of the facilities.
We chatted with a New York bound couple from Melbourne Australia, who had the luxury of not needing to arrive there until December.  They were driving a Porche SUV, definitely a more posh ride than my egalitarian little Prius.
Instead we opted for long day drives, a stopover with family, grocery grabs, road food and cheap hotels (~$70/night).  While we didn't leave at the crack of dawn and mostly finished driving before it got dark, our stops rarely exceeded 15 minutes. 
Lookout view of Les Schwab country, Prineville, where we did a grocery grab for the road. 
The area is arid and dry. The lush green on the lower right is thanks to ample watering of the golf course.
We mostly avoided major interstates, preferring smaller towns and more open spaces.... 
Much as we could at 55 mph, we wanted to snatch a taste of America, revelling in our country's vast expanse and savoring the characteristics that defined each place.
In Burns, Oregon, we figured we'd stop for gas as it would be long ways before there was another chance. 
This was one of many places there was clear evidence it was hunting country.  
"Take lots of pictures!" urged my Australian friend, Heather, who wanted to see the country.  Tough to do when you're whizzing through, though here's a few highlights, starting with our first day...

Day 1:  Vancouver Washington (USA) to Steens Mountain Wilderness, SE Oregon
For those of you who've never visited the Pacific Northwest, be aware it's almost a crime to zip by so many gorgeous vistas and not stop, so check out this Wiki on the Cascade range.... 
Wayne on a backpacking trip through Indian Heaven.
Mt. Adams in the background.
As we drove through, Wayne and I shared many fond memories of hiking, backpacking, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, windsurfing and driving through this amazing area.  It was particularly hard to not stop at Tom, Dick and Harry, one of my favorite Mt. Hood area hikes. We will return, and there were as Robert Frost penned, "Miles to go before I sleep."

Our goal was a teaser stop at the base of spectacular Steens Mountain, sometimes referred to as the Alps of Oregon, overnighting in the now infamous Malheur Wildlife Refuge.  Smoke from a variety of wildfires obliterated the view.  
This oasis and birder's paradise was just across the street from the Frenchglen hotel.
A brief wander sent us slipping into the Frenchglen Mercantile one minute before closing to grab a much needed can of insect repellant with deet.
The woman behind the register at the mercantile wasn't too pleased to see us so closing, but I was out the door within 2 minutes, paying $9+ in cash for some Deep Woods Off.
Undeterred, despite a daylong drive and many more to come, we took a quick spin up the gravel roads to catch a couple Steens Mountain lookouts before darkness set in.  
On a clear day, this is what the Kiger Gorge view could have looked like.  This image "borrowed" from Travel Oregon.
We didn't expect a lot of clarity, but sunset views of otherworldly smoke-cloaked peaks still made for breathtaking panoramas of ridgelines and vertigo-inspiring valley drops. 
The view from Kiger amazing though there's a limit to just how close we wanted to get to a free-fall view.
Dramatic white twisted-trunk golden-leaved quaking aspen groves reminded us that despite the warm dusk temperature, fall was definitely on its way.  I ached to capture the images of these beautiful groves, but sunset was approaching and Wayne reminded me we'd see plenty more aspen in Colorado, two days hence.  
The aspen were more golden than the orange in this image from the Steens, liberated from Travel Oregon
As we made our way to the East Gorge lookout, this high elevation sign underscored the commensurate drop in temperature.
9500 feet... and it was a little higher still at the East Rim lookout.
Notice the desolation of this wind-whipped, high desert territory.  We viewed the few other vehicles we saw as some comfort that perhaps if something happened to us, we could get help before the night's full chill set in.
My camera and the conditions do not do the Steen Mountain East Rim viewpoint justice.
This is what the Steens viewpoint could have looked like.  Pilfered from Summitpost Steens Mountains.
While we lamented the lack of visibility though were grateful we saw what we did, and that we made it back before darkness set in.  Maybe someday we can return and explore and hike or backpack the Steens Mountain Wilderness.
Frenchglen Hotel was built in 1923 and is managed through Oregon State Parks.
Our room, with shared bath was $79.
We were by far the youngsters at the historic Frenchglen Hotel.  Quiet descended the hotel by 9:30 pm, with no telltale trace of light slipping out from under closed doors.  

More to come.... 

We arrived in Melbourne Florida Sunday, September 17, and are busily finding a place to live.