Washington Road Trip Journal

"A Long Day through Hells Canyon"


Day 13 - Dayton, WA, Hells Canyon, OR, American Fork, UT

by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz

September 9, 2007: Today would prove to be one of our most grueling days on the trip, yet also one of the most scenic.  Typically, on my long road trips like this, I try to find something scenic, and I must admit that this was definitely scenic, but a long tough drive.

Solomon and I started out early as we needed to drive the one hour back to Kennewick to deliver the amps and drums back to their owners.  By 8:30 AM we were back on the road heading south on I-82 to I-84 and into Oregon.  As we got into Oregon, the scenery began to change from the high desert scenery to beautiful pine carpeted mountains.


L-Interstate 82 south towards Oregon  R-Interstate 84 south in Oregon



Deadman's Pass, Oregon; then near Emigrant Springs State Park


Shortly after getting through this beautiful forested area, we got to LaGrande, Oregon where we would take the long windy path to Wallowa Lake and then onto Hell's Canyon.  This drive would most certainly rank as one of my top ten in scenic drives that I have been on (including Glacier National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, for example).


We were soon on Oregon 82 heading north towards Elgin, OR on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway


Hells Canyon Scenic Byway


The Hells Canyon Scenic byway covers about 218 miles, but we didn't cover the entire route.  We did, however, hit most of the scenic areas along the way.


The scenes above are typical of Or-82.  The last photo on the bottom is the Eagle Cap Wilderness near Joseph, OR


Naturally, if there is an interesting or odd thing to find along the way, we will discover it.  Following are a couple of shots of the Blue Banana Espresso Stand in Lostine, OR.  I should have taken the time to stick my face in the blue banana!!:



The Blue Banana Espresso Stand in Lostine, OR


Soon after Lostine, we made our way into Joseph, OR.  This is a picturesque, touristy town near the shores of Wallowa Lake and at the base of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  This town was named after Chief Joseph of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Tribe.


A view of Sacajawea Peak down the road in Joseph, OR



A large Eagle sculpture in downtown Joseph. 

I tried to get Eagle Scout Solomon to stand by this one, but he snidely declined.


Heading south out of Joseph we entered into a virtual paradise -- Wallowa Lake.  It was so beautiful to have this crystal blue lake laying at the base of tall mountains.  In fact, the websites for this area refer to it as the "Switzerland of America"



This place has some amazing views.  There are drives around the lake, but we didn't have time to do them.


We doubled back to Joseph from Wallowa Lake and headed northeast on the Imnaha Highway (OR-350) and then turned south on the Wallowa Mountain Rd which would take us to the rim of Hells Canyon and the Scenic Overlook.  We followed this drive through the eerie Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  The road is a narrow two lane road surrounded by pine trees and an amazing number of very tall dead pines.



There were thousands of these tall dead trees that poked out over all of the others...almost like skeletons


Solomon noted that this tree looked like it was straight out of a "Nightmare Before Christmas"


After a windy, nearly one hour drive, we finally arrived at the rim of Hells Canyon.  Despite the grandeur and wide expanses of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Hells Canyon has been carved much deeper by the Snake River.  The canyon is about 100 miles in length and there is one 40 mile section that is nearly 5500 feet deep.  But the steepest point from river to rim is at Granite Creek.  This is an amazing 7900 foot deep section of the canyon!!  The widest expanse across the canyon is 10 miles.


From National Park Service


Though the drive was time consuming, it was absolutely worth the time and effort.



Solomon looks over Hells Canyon.  Another great view on the right



More shots of Hells Canyon


There are roads into Hells Canyon from the Idaho side and I think a trip to the area in the future would warrant a visit into the canyon.  But, for our part, we were already behind schedule to Salt Lake by nearly 4 hours by the time we got to Hells Canyon and we still had the long and winding drive out as we would head south to Oregon 86 and then up into Oxbow.  From there we would catch ID-71 and drive along the Snake River and the Oxbow and Brownlee Reservoirs.  Yet more scenic ventures along lakes.



L-Oxbow Dam on the Snake River   R-Brownlee Dam on the Snake



The fence keeps you from taking a swim into the expansive Brownlee Reservoir in SE Idaho



More shots of Brownlee Reservoir from the road


The weather was beautiful, the skies were clear and we could see miles of shoreline.  What these photos do not show, however, was that the shoreline had a definite stripe.  It appeared to me that the lake had dropped almost 20 feet in depth and the shoreline showed this.  It was indeed a great indication of the severe drought conditions that the western US is struggling with.  To be sure, at the time of this writing, there are numerous fires throughout Idaho, Oregon, Utah and other western states due to the severe dryness.  Fortunately for us, we never saw any fire or smoke.


After getting through all of this, we made our way to Cambridge, ID where we stopped for gas and a break and then headed south on US 95.  We finally got to Fruitland, ID where we got onto Interstate 84 heading east towards Boise.  It would prove to be a long evening for us as we eventually got into American Fork, UT at my in-laws' condo, at 2 AM.  It was a long and tiring drive, but the beautiful scenes will always be etched in my mind.


Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Days 5-8  Day 9  Days 10-12  Days 14/15  Day 16

Roadside guidance provided by......


See more of Sumoflam's Trip Journals