#22 On the dry side

We tried to take Washington Route 25 up the east side of Mt. St. Helens but once again found our way blocked by snow pack.  Therefore, we headed back to the Columbia River Gorge where we changed our plans and went east rather than north.  I-84 runs on the Oregon side, so we stayed in Washington.

Moisture from the Pacific stays on the western slopes of the Cascades.  As one heads east up the Columbia River through the mountains, the ground becomes very dry.  First the big trees are gone.  Then all trees are gone except where there is irrigation.

An advantage of being on the dry side was the clouds around the mountains also seemed to lift.  We saw what we believed to be Mount Hood.  Later we saw Mt. Adams, named by Lewis and Clark for the former President.

Mt. Adams

Hard as it may be to believe, I do not write about most of the details we observe.  There is just too much of interest every time we round a curve or go over a hill.  A deer by the motel or swans in a pond become too common an event – especially when it was only several days later that we learned they were probably Tundra Swans.

Even the government map makers become jaded with the scenery.  While much of the road along the Columbia in Washington was labeled “scenic,” that portion east of the McNary Dam was not.  We

Not “scenic”

thought it was spectacular.  But a photo does not really do it justice, and even a video wouldn’t convey the full perspective.  You had to be there.

In Wishram, a little town that still serves the railroad, we saw a huge locomotive that hauled freight from 1923 to 1955.  The drive wheels had to be well over five feet tall.

Near Maryville, we began to see towering windmills.  There are six hundred and two in Klickitat County alone.  And we could see more on the Oregon side of the river.  Further up the valley, we saw even more.

Our road east dipped into Oregon briefly before separating from the Columbia River and going back into Washington.  Prices were okay, so we stopped for gas at what was likely to be our last full-service station this trip.  Only two states, Oregon and New Jersey, still mandate full service gasoline stations.  Friend Joan in Long Valley has a t-shirt: “Jersey Girls Don’t Pump Gas.”

We stopped for lunch at Whitman Mission National Historical Site near Walla Walla (more to come in another post), and then crossed the Snake River from Clarkston, Washington into Lewiston, Idaho.

As we curved around the waterfront to get onto Idaho route 95 heading north, we noticed fountains coming from sculptures made from old metal canoes.  Then we spotted an absolutely huge sculpture on the bank.  We were unable to stop, and even going back and retracing our route was not sufficient to get a really good picture but we did grab one out the window.

Crossing the Clearwater River just above where it enters the Snake, we climbed a steep hill that gave us a good view of both Lewiston and Clarkston, twin cities across the river from each other named for the two explorers.

As we went north and climbed higher, we began to leave the dry side.  The new mountain ranges were catching the moisture, and while there was still irrigation, the grass by the road was made greener by the rain.

Lewiston and Clarkston

The mountains in this part of Idaho are rounded, and we were struck by the huge green expanses of new grain crops.  The various greens and an occasional dark unplanted field made compositions worth of any modern painter.  Unfortunately, once again, photos do not do it justice.

Stopping in Moscow for the night, we noticed a statue all wrapped in paper.  It was new and probably had not been unveiled, but Alie commented perhaps it was because the local University students were Vandals.  I thought she was joking.  They really are nicknamed the “Vandals.”  Our motel catered to both the University of Idaho and nearby Washington State University Grizzlies.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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