We ended the month of May in Boise, Idaho which is a very cool little city. It's home to the Boise State University, which boasts a blue turf in its football stadium. That was kind of hard to look at, to be completely honest, as the blue hurts your eyes in bright sunlight. I guess you get used to it...eventually.
Boise, being a college town, has just a ton to do. Lots of hustle and bustle in the downtown area, but what we found most appealing were the little neighborhoods that surround the college campus. We had lunch in a very eclectic neighborhood that reminded me of Ann Arbor, Michigan. People in this city are outdoors a lot and make use of the incredible number of parks and trails for biking and hiking.
In addition to visiting Boise, Steve and I took in a couple of interesting museums. First was the Four Rivers Cultural Center, which was just over the Oregon border in Ontario. What an impressive museum for such a small town! The focal point of the displays are how five very different cultures blended together to live in harmony here. First, of course, are the Paiute Indians who are indigenous to this part of the country. Next, there are the Hispanics who migrated up from Mexico. During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were sent here from California as part of the internment camp project. There are people here from the Basque region of Spain who came to this country in the latter part of the 1800's to farm. Now that seems like a simple thing, but let me tell you this land is rugged. The sage that covers the land had to be uprooted and irrigation was a bit of an issue as well. Getting the water from the four rivers that converge in this area of the country (Malheur, Snake, Owyhee, and Payette) to these new farmlands was a bit of an issue due to the undulation and elevation of the land. Lastly, there were EuroAmericans (Germans and Scotts) who came over the work cattle and drive them north from Texas and other areas south. All of these cultures converged in this area and learned to not only live together but thrive as a community. This museum is very impressive and worth a visit. Finish off your time there with some meditation in the beautiful Japanese garden that surrounds the back of the building.
Another museum that we visited was the War Hawk Museum. Steve and I both love old planes, especially WWII planes, but what made this museum special were the personal stories of the soldiers and airmen who flew the planes that were displayed. We have never visited a facility like this that focused as much on the people as the planes, and it was delightful. I got the chills as I read the correspondence one woman received from the US Government about her husband who was a POW. I was saddened to see a picture of a platoon of men as they left for Vietnam, almost all of which were killed within two or three days of each other only mere months after the picture was taken. To see those smiling faces in the picture and then to know the fate that awaited them really gave me pause. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are in the Boise area. Well worth the time.
One day, Steve and I traveled south to the Snake River and the Swan Falls Dam. This hydroelectric facility was built in 1901 and still provides electric power today. In its prime and at its peak performance, there was a whole city of people who lived down in the canyon where this dam resides which included a school and movie theater. Now, it's a beautiful park and is part of the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. We saw a ton of ravens, but also so a good number of osprey and golden eagle while we were there. The area is somewhat desolate but the canyon will take your breath away.
We said goodbye to Idaho and headed to Oregon where we would spend the next three weeks. The drive to Bend was gorgeous as the landscape changes dramatically and becomes more mountainous. Bend, itself, is a very cosmopolitan town that was very appealing to Steve and me. The downtown area has really no tall buildings at all and the Deschutes River runs right down the middle of it. As a matter of fact, there were kayakers and paddle boarders cruising the river and, at one point where there are rapids, people were "surfing". The streets don’t really follow the Roman grid system - - meaning, trying to get around without a GPS would be crazy! They also love them some roundabouts!!!!! Anyway, while in that region of Oregon, we visited a lavender farm which was fun. We also climbed to the top of a 500-foot lava butte at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument where we could see views of Mt. Washington (which was nearby) and Mt. Hood (which was 170 miles away).
Because we love to visit the bodies of water nearby, we stopped at Tumalo Falls and hiked up to the top. Such a beautiful view from there and the sound of the roar of the water going over the edge was incredible. We also stopped at a place called The Cove Palisades State Park. WOW! This place was beautiful. It's actually a reservoir from the Round Butte Dam where the Deschutes, Crooked and Metolius Rivers come together. It has several marinas and campgrounds and would have been a lovely place to stay but there would be no way our 40' fifth wheel would make the turns into the park. Oh well. Nice place to visit though! On the way back from the reservoir, we stopped at the Peter Skene Ogden State Park which houses the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge. Peter Ogden was part of the Hudson Bay Company's trapping team that ventured into the area in 1825. Interestingly, Ogden Utah is also named after him (hmmm). Rex Barber was a WWII military pilot in the Pacific theater and is famous for being the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in 1943.
The last thing we did in this part of Oregon was a hike through Smith Rock State Park. Words cannot describe how beautiful this park was and how majestic the rock formations were. It wasn't just the size of the rocks, but the colors they held as well. The hike we took had a rather steep climb to it, but was well worth the journey. There were a ton of climbers there and families who were hiking to the top of the rocks themselves. I wish we could have spent more time there and attempted the hike to the top as well.
After our time in Bend, we headed south to Grants Pass, Oregon. We had two missions while in this area: Crater Lake National Park and Redwood National Park. Both were amazing. Crater Lake was spectacular. The cobalt blue color of the lake cannot really be captured with a camera but it was very close to this color. Anyway, it was rather chilly up on top of that mountain, or what used to be Mt. Mazama before it collapsed to form this body of water. The lake itself is now a 2,100+ feet deep caldera that is 6-miles wide and 6,200 feet above sea level (hence the ton of snow). Most of the park was still closed because of the snow so we couldn't do the drive around the entire lake. What we were able to view, however, was breathtaking. Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed being there.
On the way home from there, we stopped at the Rogue Gorge, which was fantastic. It's a small canyon that the Rogue River travels through with such a force – well, you have to see it to believe it. There are places along the trail where water goes underground through old lava tubes then re-joins the main flow further downstream. Stopping at this gorge was a very pleasant surprise and we enjoyed that very much.
Our last touristy thing to do while we stayed in Grants Pass was to visit the Giant Redwoods in California. I have seen these magnificent trees before but Steve has never experienced them, so we had to make the trip. The road we took through the forest was not the best for the BAT, but so well worth it. First of all, these trees grow only along the Pacific Coast and mostly in Northern California, although some do pop up in southern Oregon. Redwoods can grow to heights of 380 feet and up to 22 feet in diameter. Some of these trees are 2,000 years old. What's really amazing is the seed that produces this tree is about the size of a tomato seed!!! I hope that the pictures Steve took give you a feel for just how huge these trees are. Enjoy!!
From Grants Pass, we took Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast to our first stop - Humbug Mountain State Park. Steve and I live near the Gulf of Mexico, so being on the shore of a very large body of water is something we are familiar with and appreciate. We have also traveled to the Atlantic Coast many times and love that shoreline as well. But let me just say, the Oregon Coast blows both the Gulf and the Atlantic shoreline away. Check out these pictures that Steve took of our drive along Highway 101.
Now before I go much further, let me just point out a few of the idiosyncrasies about this part of the country. First, the sun comes up very early in the morning - - I’m talking it’s very bright at 4:30 a.m. Secondly, while we in Florida are used to seeing “hurricane” evacuation routes, this part of the country enjoys two different kinds of emergency routing - - one for tsunamis and one for volcanoes! Next, they have companies who specialize in cleaning or removing from your roof from the mold and moss that grow on them. Yuk! One of the particularly delightful things that we found was the abundance of wild roses. Apparently, the moist air from the coastline provide the perfect environment for growing roses as they were everywhere - - in fields, along the highways, and even along the sides of the interstates in downtown Portland. This same moist air is the reason why trees that grow in this region (which are abundant in a way that I cannot describe) are HUGE. I mean, enormous. Some of the bases of these trees were 30 to 40 feet in diameter. And the density of the forest of these trees would blow your mind. Lumber is still very much the industry to be in along the coast as a result. With all the beauty, we did come across some negatives, however. The unfortunate thing we discovered, at least in the Portland area, is that roadside trash is not as much of a priority here as it is in other places. The amount of garbage on the side of the road really detracts from the area’s natural beauty. Sad!!!
Ok, on to the fun stuff. Humbug Mountain is a great park and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. It has its own private beach which Steve and I enjoyed more than once both for a sunset and during the day. This park is near a very charming little town called Port Orford which used to be a strategic Coast Guard station. It also has a lovely lighthouse in Cape Blanco State Park which is on the land that used to be owned by the Hughes family (no relation to Howard). The family donated the entire estate to the State of Oregon and both the lighthouse and the mansion are museums, which we enjoyed touring. We also visited a cute town called Coos Bay which was about an hour up the coast from Humbug Mountain. While there, we visited a couple of their major shoreline hotspots and got to see sea lions and some seals perched on a large rock formation off the coast. Another stop was in Cape Meares that has an adorable little lighthouse and wonderful views.
From Humbug Mountain we ventured north along the coast to Nehalem Bay and the town of Manzanita. Another lovely spot to camp and we were able to do some geocaching as well. From Nehalem, we drove north to Astoria and absolutely fell in love with that town. Our first stop while there was to visit the Maritime Museum, which was absolutely awesome. It was here that we got an education in the role of the Coast Guard along our nation’s shorelines and major waterways. The museum has many displays about the various duties of the Coast Guard and we got to see some footage of rescues and hear stories about the perils of being in that profession. We also toured the Lightship Columbia which is a floating lighthouse. Interesting! Our second stop was to the Astoria Column. We climbed the 164 steps to the top to get amazing view of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean inlet. What a beautiful part of the country the people of Astoria get to enjoy.
Next, we traveled over to the Lewis and Clark Trail Museum. I have been fascinated by the journey Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, along with their crew - - the Corps of Discovery - - took to journey from the heartland of the United States to the Pacific Coast. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up the book “Undaunted Courage” to learn more about this adventure taken on behalf of President Thomas Jefferson. You will thoroughly enjoy it. Our last stop was to see the wreck of the Peter Iredale, which has been lying on shore for more than 100 years.
To close out our time in Oregon, we spent the weekend in Portland. I had read about the skyride that you can take that will give you great views of the city and of Mt. Hood, which I might add literally hovers over the city. Sadly, this skyride is not along the riverfront or anything cool like that. It merely takes you from one part of a large hospital to another part that resides at the top of the hill, about 1000 feet up. The ride lasted all of 90 seconds, but it did provide a nice view of Mt. Hood. While in the Portland area, there were two things we wanted to accomplish while in town. First, we visited with Steve’s cousin Butch (Walter) and his wife. Steve had not seen his cousin in 50 years and it was a delight to have breakfast with them and hear stories of when Steve was a little boy. We also got a great tip from Butch about going to see the Howard Hughes' wooden cargo plane he named the H-4 Hercules, (you may have heard it called the Spruce Goose), which is housed in a museum about 75 minutes south of Portland.
So the next day, we drove down there to see it first-hand. We entered the museum and were excited to see the Hercules but couldn’t spot the thing. You would think a plane of that size and grandeur would be somewhat noticeable, but no. The reason for that is because it was everywhere. I mean to tell you it encompassed the entire interior space of that museum - - so much so that you didn’t even know it was right above you. The thing is just huge, I cannot really even explain. I have flown in many different planes all over the world and have never seen anything quite like this plane. Steve was in heaven! We took a tour of the inside of this magnificent beast and Steve got to sit in the cockpit. You should have seen the look on his face – like a kid in a candy store. Anyway, this was the largest plane ever built, and is made almost entirely of real wood. This is because it was designed and manufactured during WWII, when aluminum was scarce and not available for anything other than military use. It was designed to be a vehicle transport and could hold 4 or 5 tanks. Designed and built by Howard Hughes and the same Henry Kaiser that owned the Jeep factory in Toledo, it was never put into service by the military and actually only flew once, which was a completely unplanned flight. Howard Hughes (the pilot as well as designer) took the plane out into the bay in Long Beach, California (the plane was designed to land on water) to test the engines only. Howard, on the other hand, had a different idea. He took off and flew the plane about 80 feet above water for more than a mile. No one thought the plane would fly because of its sheer size, but Howard proved them wrong. After that history-making day, the plane never saw any more action and was merely put into storage by Howard Hughes. The Disney Company bought it from the Hughes estate and later sold it to the Evergreen Museum, where it now stands. The Evergreen Museum also houses other WWII planes and has an entire building dedicated to the history of space exploration, which I absolutely loved although most of the hands-on displays were not working. L Here’s a link to some information about this amazing plane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_H-4_Hercules
Our last stop in Portland was spending the day along the Columbia River Gorge. The first place we visited along the river was a town called Cascade Locks so that we could see the lock that was used to get water traffic up and down the Columbia River. This part of the river is extremely rocky and even gave Lewis & Clark so much trouble that they decided to take their boats out of the water and portage on foot downstream. While there, we were given an opportunity to tour through a Mountain Man Jamboree. Every year these people get together and recreate life as it was during the fur trading times of the area back in the early 1800’s. They live in tents and cook the same kind of food that would have been eaten by the fur traders back in those days. NOT FOR ME, but interesting nonetheless. From there, we stopped at the Bonneville Lock and Dam. The Army Corps of Engineers built this facility back in 1937 to provide electric power to the surrounding area as well as provide safe transit for water traffic up and down river. It also provided the required electric power to many of the shipbuilding and aircraft facilities for WWII needs. Once the war was finished, this dam supplied power to some 500,000 homes and still does. We toured this dam, watched fish climb the fish ladder and visited the 11-foot sturgeon that they house in the fish hatchery. Yowza, that thing was a beast!!!! We went from there along the scenic route to see some beautiful waterfalls, but alas, were unable to do so. As you know, we travel in the BAT and this part of the country is not BAT friendly, to say the least. Plus it was the weekend and all the Portlanders had the same waterfall idea in mind as we did. So, the combination of tight roads and lack of parking prevented us from seeing Multnomah Falls and some of the other smaller falls along our journey back to Portland. We did, however, stop at the Vista House for a seriously spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge area.
So, that’s it for our time in Oregon. Next stop is Hoquiam, Washington and a trip through Olympic National Park. From there, we head to the Seattle area and then on to Spokane. Until then,
Lauren and Steve