Night 11: Oregon Trail
Trip Start Jun 20, 2012
31Trip End Jul 18, 2012
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Andrew, at age 4, still doesn't believe that we visited the moon. He would've last year. "No, Daddy! Dis is earf!" he would then crinkle his nose. If he is in a really bad mood, he might even proceed to grunt and clench his fists.
I have found his reset buttons. Whenever I see a fake wooden or stuffed bear, I tell him, "Boy, I am glad there's no bears around here." He delights in pointing out the bear and laughs. Today I
invented a new trick to destroy his bad moods
Andrew hates peeing on the road. He despises urinals. He is always "dirsty, Mommy" and his favorite question, "What are we gonna do terday?" has gone right up my spine. He has been having more temper tantrums than usual lately.
So it was not good that today was mostly a driving day. We took our time getting up and intended to get to Oregon, which was no small task. After a breakfast if eggs, we packed up camp, careful to leave as many of the sharp, glassy rocks at the campground as we could.
The sun was shining brightly. We remembered our promise to go"mountain climbing" with Andrew and took him in a hike through a nature trail with signs explaining plant preservation
We went to the Inferno Cone, a 200 foot high spot in the old eruption ridge. We climbed the black rock and climbed and climbed, eventually making it to the top. At the top we surveyed the whole park and walked among the rocks and plants. Getting down was a bit tricky. Jessica was smart to sit this trail out because Andrew and I had jelly legs after the ascent and subsequent descent.
We visited the crowded VC and then drove west along the old Oregon Trail at the foot of the Rockies. The toad turned south into Shoshone, a town with businesses catering to Mexican migrant laborers. One store claimed to sell "Mexican stuff" in it's signage.
We picked up I-84 and traveled along the Snake River through irrigated farmland
When we passed into Oregon by crossing the Snake River, the scenery shifted quickly. Northeast Oregon is a land of golden, dry fields. Sage grows wherever it is fit. The landscape reminded me of something a model railroader would build, complete with tunnels and long trains.
As we approached Baker City, we could see the snow-crowned Blue Mountains come into view. It was another postcard perfect scene. Above the mountains were dark clouds. Our streak of dry weather was about to end, but we were prepared because in Oregon it rains about 70% of the time. We stopped here at an efficient Subway/laundromat for late lunch and then we drove past the next major city: LaGrande.
Above LaGrande, the interstate has to pass the Blue Mountains and it takes the old Oregon Trail route to accomplish this
The Blue Mountain pass was the first spot that these emigrants would find moist wooden conditions. It must have been a relief to water the oxen. The area has been a relief in a way to mine and Andrew's dry chapped lips.
We stopped to see the scenic overlook at Emigrant State Park, where the Oregon Trail goes over the top if the Blue Mountains. The area was so beautiful and we were so tired if driving that we stayed and set up camp in the park. For $17 you get clean bathrooms and a shower. The sites are clean and surrounded by old growth forests. Some of these trees saw the emigrants of the old Trail that this park is named for. In fact, this spot has been a campground since trailblazing Astor Company fur traders opened the Oregon Trail exactly 200 years ago.
When we arrived the forests were being watered by light rain
We drove off to see the overlook and it was perfect. Ruts in the grass reminded me if the Cinestoga wagons of the Trail. I was filled with historical wonder, imagining the Midwestern farmers taking their families across this unforgiving terrain with nothing but God and each other to lean on. Rainbows filled the sky. The smell of sage mixed with fir. We could see the hills below us shrouded in mist and fog. This really was a place filled with ghosts from the past.
When we returned to camp, Andrew set up our beds as I walked to the bathhouse. There hung a sign: "The last cougar sighted at this campground: 6/23." What?! "The last bear sighted: 6/29." It is the 30th. I thought I was done with bears for the rest of this trip. It wasn't the worst thing. We just had to camp with an awareness about garbage and food as we did in the Tetons and Yellowstone
Jessica and I sat on the tailgate of the van protected from the spurts of drizzle by the door opened above us. We ate soup prepared via the camp stove and watched a fire that I built.
The light rain has been coming and going and is loud on the tent's sides. The tent is still dry as far as I can tell. The interstate is close enough to be quite loud too. I feel like I am back in Chicago sometimes at my home a block from I-90. Wood from distant fires is smoking and crackling. The alpine cold is setting in.
Tomorrow, we will dry out this tent and try to head to the Columbia River gorge. From there we have tentative plans to get a spot at the Astoria KOA. We will see. I just pray we have a safe and restful night here in the Blue Mountains