Day One: Sunday, October 14
We left Bellingham, WA in our new to us Ford F250 Super Duty to travel to Fort Lupton, CO to pick up our new camper at Hallmark Manufacturing. On the way to our first overnight at The Dalles, OR we stopped to visit with my sister in West Seattle and to drop off some fresh produce.
Returning to I5, we traveled south to exit at 205 which bypasses the confusion on I5 as it dissects Portland. There was light traffic on both highways and even lighter on state highway 14 which is an alternate to the I84 corridor on Oregon side’s of the Columbia. We glimpsed Beacon Rock through the evergreens. We drove through the small towns of Camas, Washougal, White Salmon and Bingen.
We crossed the Columbia at the bridge that leads us to The Dalles. We missed the turn off to the toll bridge that crosses from White Salmon to Hood River but probably squandered whatever we saved on tolls on the fuel it took us to backtrack to Motel 6. The Dalles has the usual mix of big box stores where we stayed. The Dalles is also the site of a dam that has the same name.
Day Two: Monday, October 15
The Dalles was left behind as we headed east on I84 at 8:30am. Traffic was sparse and we could enjoy the black volcanic rock outcroppings poking out of the golden tawny hills pocked with scrub on the dry side of Oregon. I caught sight of a pond with reflections that would have been a good photo op.
We passed over the Deschutes River as it merged with the Columbia close by to the north. Rows of towering white windmills blighted the view on both sides of the Columbia. We saw the Maryhill Museum on the Washington side. The John Day River and John Day Dam came and went as we sped along I84. Exits for Blalock Canyon (following Blalock Canyon Road) and Phillips Canyon (via John Day Road – Hwy 19) will be saved for another trip to this land that contrasts so sharply with our wet side of the Cascades.
Exiting onto U. S. highway 74 (Blue Mountain Scenic Byway), we headed south by southeast on our way to Ontario, OR which is in the very eastern part of Oregon separated from Idaho by the Snake River. We passed by small ranches, an abandoned pig farm, groups of horses, corn fields for silage, a row of windmills lining an entire hillside. We drove down a gravel road to see the old Cecil Store (1903-1974). A hunter we spoke with said that in the 6 or 7 years since the windmills, the animals have left; no deer, eagles, geese. The ranches earn $8-12,000 a year per machine rent so it is profitable.
The Oregon Trail is evident here: trail markers, old buckboards, covered wagons. We parallel year round Willow Creek which flows into the Columbia River. Granaries are wooden and tall and narrow with a smaller, narrow rectangular second story. There was a remnant of a train depot and bridge (1933). Passing through Ione, we see a sign proclaiming “Don’t Take My Scenic Views-No Windmills”. Past Ione, we stop to shoot a bright green carpet of grain and golden leaved trees against the hills.
We pass through Heppner, OR, elevation 2000′ , “Home of the Fillies”. The county seat of Morrow County had a beautiful wedding cake Victorian building for county business. We also saw a neat old square schoolhouse. The USFS has a building there where the friendly employees gave us directions to Willow Creek Road leading to Ukiah.