We’re on the road after our summer at Farragut State Park. Our original plan was to head over to Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley to visit friends, then head south over Lost Trail Pass back into Idaho. But winter arrived early, and faced with snow and temperatures in the low 20s, we decided instead to head south and spend a week in the Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick). This is Washington’s wine country, and the landscape is covered with vineyards. Signs for wineries, all with exotic names, are at every interstate exit.
We decided to visit Toppinish, a small town that actually sits in the Yakima Indian Reservation (and of course has a casino). The town is a bit haggard, but the buildings are covered with beautiful murals depicting the history of the area. Driving through town is like touring an art museum – some of the murals are quite impressive:
What makes this area unique are the “hopfields”, endless rows of poles, now bare, that support the wire structure that the hop vines (“Bines”) climb on before spilling down. This area produces more hops than any other area in the world; the 300 days of sun, moderate climate, and rich soil make it perfect for hops. And with over 5300 breweries in the U.S. alone, the fields are expanding each year. An interesting article can be found here.
Throughout the valley Mount Adams, far away in the Cascades, dominates the skyline with a ghostly snow-covered look:
From the Tri-Cities, we headed south along the interstate to Pendleton where we stayed at an RV Resort at a…..casino. Starting to see a pattern here? Pendleton looked interesting from a distance, but was a bit disappointing when we drove the main streets. Sometimes “historic” means old, although some streets downtown were filled with restaurants and shops. It’s also the home of Pendleton Mills, but we didn’t take the tour since the cost of a Pendleton Blanket approaches our annual income. We did drive past the rodeo grounds, home of the famous Pendleton Rodeo, quiet this time of year.
A place we’ve always wanted to visit but never had the opportunity is the area around Wallowa (“wal-OW-ah”) lake. Described as the “Swiss Alps of Oregon”, it’s location in the far Northeastern corner of the state, with only a couple of secondary roads leading to it, keeps it from being overrun by tourists. Mostly. It was a 110 mile trip from Pendleton over the Blue Mountains into Joseph at the head of the lake, but oh my, was it worth it.
As we drove the valley toward Joseph, the snow-covered Wallowa Mountains provided a beautiful background to the farms along the road. The clouds were obscuring much of the mountain, but even still, it was a beautiful view.
Joseph turned out to be a picture-perfect little town. Lots of shops and restaurants, tree lined streets, and mountains in the distance.
Driving through town brought us to the lake and this beautiful view:
Following the road around the east side of the lake brought us to the edge of the state park and this overlook:
The state park is large and has full hookup sites, so we’re planning on a stay sometime in the future. While exploring the park, we crossed a rushing stream filled with bright red Kokanee Salmon, getting ready to spawn:
We’ve crossed the Trail of the Nez Perce since our first stay in Montana 13 years ago. From the Clearwater Basin, the White Bird battlefield, Fort “Fizzle”, The Battle of the Big Hole”, and the Bear Paw battlefield. So we were interested and surprised to find the grave site of Chief Joseph here overlooking the lake. Chief Joseph was an inspiring and eloquent leader; his speech of “I will fight no more forever” was a sad ending to a proud people’s last attempt at freedom.
We’re currently spending a week in Boise at one of our favorite stops, Gowen Field National Guard Base campground. From here we’ll head back into Oregon for our slow trip back to the Bandon on the Oregon coast. Until then, we’ll be exploring along the way do check back and see what we’ve been up to!