Thursday, April 10, 2008

It’s not what you think….

Oregon that is. Most people immediately think of beautiful old growth Douglas Fir forests when they think of Oregon. But in reality – 2/3rds of the state is high desert. East of the Cascade Mountain range is high plateau sagebrush flats dotted with ancient Junipers. (Click on the pictures so you can see them better if you'd like!) Driving north from Central Oregon to the Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful route through this area. It is 120 miles from Redmond to the Columbia River (I went this way to avoid the snow over the pass on Mt.Hood) and in my estimate it is one of the prettiest drives in the state. I think because I love the ‘big sky’ and the vistas. On a clear day the Cascades frame the route on the west; and the east is a never ending horizon of sage brush.

The highway roams through a few very small farming communities – including historic Shaniko – home of the Imperial Ranch. (They have great yarn!!) The fields are just now being plowed for spring planting – although as you get closer to the Columbia some are lawn like in their lush spring sprouts. I tried to imagine what life in an earlier time would be like on this windswept landscape. What bounties did the Northern Paiute find here, why did the settlers pick the places they did.

Even The journals of Lewis and Clark briefly note the Columbia Plateau. On Sept. 18, 1805, Clark wrote: “...from the top of a high part of the mountains…I had a view of an emence Plain and leavel country to the SW. & West.” After their difficult crossing of the Bitterroot Mountains, the sight of the plain “greatly relieved the spirits of the party,”

Now there is a different kind of ‘farming’ activity – totally cool!

The mighty Columbia Gorge – carved by the Montana floods, celebrated by Lewis and Clark, the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest. Interstate 84 is right at river level so all kinds of activities are observed. Incredible waterfalls, barges full of Northwest bounty travel up and down the river – as well as busy train tracks (Eskimo Pie!) on both sides. What was the river like before the dams at The Dalles and Bonneville. What a shame for the Native American’s to lose their cultural fishing sites and how did Lewis and Clark feel when they exclaimed " Ocian in view! !! The joy." (This is another 40 miles beyond Portland, where I was headed)

The trip is a little longer this way, but the extra time is well spent enjoying the scenery and imagining a different time. Each time I go this way – I say “who am I kidding…move to Portland and be hemmed in and not see this every day? No way!”

On the way home a few days later – same route – I made a little stop here. I did not buy anything!! I am proud of myself – but will definitely stop again! I really wanted this - it had my name written all over it. Maybe next time.


Roxie said...

Yup, you really do get the wide-open spaces that way. And I love the tucked-in feel of dropping down into Maupin, though that road must be hellacious in the ice. Thanks so much for sharing those wonderful photos!

Sarah said...

What a scenic route...only if I can convince hubby to detour. Hmmm...not likely, he is the kind of kind that takes the shortest, easiest, most direct route to destination. Oh well.

Thanks for sharing these gorgous picture, and what a peaceful yarn shop it is. I can imagine sitting comfy there all day and PLAY

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

I love that last picture with the desert flowers. Really nice. I do have a problem with driving too long on open roads with no trees. Guess that comes from growing up in New England. We have lots of trees.

Gramma Phyllis said...

Your pictures make me a little homesick! My grandparents used to live about an hour north of Portland.(My Mom then moved into their home for another 20 years.)Every summer we would travel from the Midwest to visit. I always loved the high desert and the Columbia gorge. I am old enough to vaguely the waterfalls before the interstate was built. It's a toss up which area I like more the coastal forest or the high plains.