Following (a bit of) the Oregon Trail

Regrettably, as with a roadtrip, we had to leave Boise yesterday.  Maybe we caught it in its best light, but we really enjoyed our brief visit to Idaho & its capital. We were aiming towards Hood River – which is on the Columbia River – in central north Oregon, but didn’t want to do all the drive in one day so just pottered along.  Along the freeway we saw much more cropping, an old tumbledown cement factory at Lime, a still-operating cement factory (only one kiln though) just down the road & the return of the big trains.  We popped into Baker City, a town that had taken great delight in proclaiming from most Main St windows that some publication had voted it the most beautiful small town of America in a Best of the Road competition.

It was pretty nice & we spent a little while wandering the main street, reading plaques, looking in buildings & just enjoying the sunshine. There was also a big leafy park just down the road where we had another relaxing lunch. Further down the freeway & a bit east was the National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center – with time up our sleeves, it was well worth a look. Being the national center, it was far & away the most comprehensive display that we have seen yet on that mass-migration – we easily spent a couple of hours there reading & listening & pondering the hardship of the months endured & the landscape encountered (bits of which we’ve seen from the comfort of the car).

We’re clearly getting on in the trip as we opted for the nice easy route down I-84 instead of backroads through the hills. But there were still the Blue Mountains to get over (glad I wasn’t walking beside a wagon) before descending to the Columbia River plateau. It was clear we were back near a big river as more & more irrigation & nice looking fields popped up. Hermiston was a little off the freeway & a bit of a nothing town from what we could see (although it did have a gigantic WalMart distribution center on the outskirts – that must count for something), but it was a convenient place to rest for the evening. With a quick trip down to & across the Columbia River (quite a while since I last crossed that in Revelstoke, BC) we were in Washington – our third state for the day. The river is of course really high & we were impressed by the volume (in both senses) of the water pouring through the spillways at McNary dam.

Back in Hermiston, we struggled to find anywhere to eat dinner. But we struck a jackpot when we came across the Pheasant Cafe. Apparently more of a dance/clubbing venue later in the evening (it was a large complex), the restaurant was empty when we went in & the only guy working it was rather spookily named Brandon! He was super friendly & really interested in where we’ve come from (particularly Australia) & he cooked a mean prime rib.

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