June 2, 2013: Interstate 84 north to Big Lookout Mountain, Daly Creek Road, OR 86, Forest Road 39, Hells Canyon Overlook, Joseph, OR, OR 3 north to WA 129 and Clarkston, WA

Getting up early, usually I had lots of time to browse on my tablet, and determine what to do that day. Now a Sunday, I wanted to climb another peak. I had to pass on Big Lookout Mountain (7,120') last summer, and it was a good thing that I did. From the north, it is one steep road! I had another fast breakfast with the usual free Wi-Fi, then got gas. I asked the attendant about the back country road, and he replied that I shouldn’t have a problem. I used the computer company maps, and it said that the route went through. I know some of them are wrong, and motorists have gotten into trouble using them, and I couldn’t speak with any land official, being that this day, they aren’t working, and it was early in the day. I had some faith, and chose to risk it.

I had directions with photos from the Net, and one said no problem. Heading north or westbound on Interstate 84, I took photos ahead, and the Snake River was to my right. Scenic country. I came to the exit, and soon saw the dirt road to take to the peak hike. Looked O.K., so I motored slowly on up. Keeping in first gear, I remembered the road to Hat Point last summer. This’d be a driving adventure.

The dirt road climbs and climbs, and I figured at the rate of ascent, it’d soon level out. I stopped for views and photos, passing some mine. There were peaks in sight, and I eagerly awaited a spectacular view and an excellent prominence point. Entering forest, I wound about on the road, then had some doubt about a side road at about the miles stated by a sign to be the peak distance. I used my 4G to get a weak signal, and my location. I figured that this wasn’t it, so went on. I had an urgent need, from plenty of diet soda this morning, so used a cup so as to never pollute that way, ever, on this trip. It didn’t leak while placed upright with the plastic seal or lid in my trunk, then, and coming later to a campground, emptied it into the facility.

Alone in the Oregon backcountry was about as a good of a thrill as you can get, if adventure and solitude is your drift. Many hikers would be panicking, and to swear never to do this ever again! I had a full tank of gas, and having gotten a signal, figured that they might deduce where I was by my tablet usage, if bad happened to me.

Soon, by the pictures that I had seen online, I caught sight of the peak, ahead. Still a few miles to go. Motoring slowly and carefully, I came up to the parking. They reported room for only one car, and so I parked a bit further, leaving room for any but a large RV or what to pass. It was quiet, so I’d hear a vehicle from afar.

Readying my pack, I started for the peak summit by about 10 o’clock. The gated dirt summit road wasn’t signed to disallow hikers, and so I went for the top. Seeing some ATV users by the road below, someone was plinking as well. Some worry then about stray bullets. The dirt road switchbacked up, and I quickly had views. Taking pictures of the road, with bad spots, I briskly hiked on up, not wishing to block anyone that might come by with a large vehicle. If they had honked or yelled, I would have run back down to move my car, but the summit wasn’t too far up, and I soon determined to make them wait, as I did my photo business on top.

The road switchbacked on up more, and I had seen the antennas above on my way up. After about 40 minutes, I completed the 900 feet of gain, and was shooting the views, with video and self video. Too good not to enjoy and savor, and record! A gate blocked the lookout platform, but I claim this as a summit! I walked about tapping the high rocks to be sure, snapping telephotos, then started down due to the windy conditions.

Round tripping in under two hours, this was another bucket list goal, but with plenty more to do this day. Back to my car, it started fine, so then it was to make a driving traverse out north. Descending, I came to signed private land, and sought to be careful. The road became steep and rough, so I had to stop and scout, then went on. It looked like there was no chance of a return, if it got too bad. I kept in low gear, and drove slowly and carefully. No tow service up here! My car is worth only about $3-4,000, and I can get a new one, but it’s too soon for an affordable long range electric.

I came to an intersection, and one way was a safer way, back to the Interstate. The Daly Creek Road shows as good enough, and I knew it is rough, but that guy said it goes “easily.” The intersection is unsigned, with a 4WD road before this, but I guessed it correctly, and made the sharp right.

It now descended even more steeply, and deteriorates somewhat. Passing some homesteads, I would have not done this if I had known. Through a gate and the end to the private land, I came to a very steep section by which I probably couldn’t have gone back up. I took pictures, but now I was worried. It was early in the year, though the track had tire marks, but there was no one for miles. Doubtful now to get any signal.

Committing myself, I took the steep road down, with no return probable. I could see the road ahead, and hoped that it got better. I passed through flower fields, with overgrown grasses. A tremendous gamble. My car might get stuck, and my road trip would be ruined. Even some personal endangerment. A bad creek crossing and I’d be gone. Fortunately, there wasn’t any really bad spot, and I was into high desert. Coming to another homestead with cattle, I ventured gingerly on. The road climbs over a ridge, and then it gets slightly better. I then had the town in sight, and even a lake in the distance. There were the Wallowa Mountains, with snow, and then, I got within walking distance. I kept my mind to record with video, and to stop for photos, too.

The road is rough till its end by the small town of Richland, OR, and so I was back to pavement, a huge relief. Not much here good to relax by, so I went on to Halfway, OR, to stop for a break and food. Having soup, I used the restroom, and spoke a bit with the help. No one to mention my driving feat to, as I may not have been believed, and I’d also be astonished that anyone would do that!

Looking to head on, I took the wrong road, headed then for Cornucopia, a ghost town. I u-turned, and looked at my paper maps, then back into town, got onto the main highway. It was another bucket list drive, the All-American Highway, Forest Road 39.

It is well signed, and paved all the way. Shame to have missed it, last summer, but I was back, and now here. I set my video for running, and avoided the many potholes, enjoying the roaring creek to the right. Stopping at a convenient facility, I motored on, then stopped the video. Can’t be too wasteful. I started it again at the side road turnoff to Hells Canyon Overlook, taking the curving road, but the battery went dead and my video was lost.

The facility at the vistapoint was useful twice, and I strolled over to the view, civilized, and signed with information. The light was behind me, and other people left as I started with my hobby work. I could do my video and audio without the hate or profanity as I might get with the old hiking club. Then, more persons came by, and I had a chat with a visitor from Canada, by him. On his motorbike, I cautioned him about the potholes, and let him know that the way was paved and fine to Joseph, OR.

Having plenty more driving this day, going to Washington, I had to go. I set the camera for mounted video, as I know the way is scenic. It shortly comes into non-stop trees, and then backlight, so I concentrated on my motoring and sought to get to the familiar highway that I had taken last summer.

Turning left (west) towards Joseph, I had it planned to enjoy the Wallowa Lake Lodge, but even with long days, I had no time. Into the town, I stopped for more photos of the statues to Chief Joseph, and cowboys, and then found a nice brewery for eats. They had non alcoholic beer, and I ordered a good meal. Not busy, if ever, this is a good secret spot. Almost as good as Jackson Hole, perhaps someday this will be a park or national recreation area. There’s peaks to climb, with Sacajawea and Matterhorn, a good, long, double day climb that I never found any partners for. I may be back to take the tram, and some light hiking, maybe to Ice Lake.

Taking OR 84 northwest to Enterprise, OR, I took OR 3 north. High forest, then I came to Joseph Canyon overlook, an official vistapoint. I took some twilight photos, then used the convenient facility, gratefully. There had been the sunset, and then dusk while going into the Grande Rondé Canyon. I had never heard of this! Deep and scenic, I resolved to return, as this is a major geographic feature. In the dark, I motored through, aware that I was driving by cliffs and views, then came to a gradual descent into the towns of Clarkston, WA, and Lewiston, ID. Now on WA 129, the distant lights twinkled ahead of me, and then I was into town, and looking for drink and a break. Taking some road on impulse, I crossed over the Snake River on a bridge, coming to a mini mart for relief. Lost, I asked for directions, and got back on WA 129 north to come to U.S. 12 eastbound.

Coming to my motel, I sought to enjoy, ahead of schedule, slightly. Checking in, there was some yelling at the indoor pool, and I had a chat with the desk clerk. Marijuana is now legal in Washington State, but others advised of a “homeboy” that was somewhat rowdy, and they would make their rounds, keeping security, and so I declined another night here. Some of these economy lodging ops are havens for drug dealers and users, hookers, and homeless, even way out here. The hiking club gave a bad review of these twin towns, but then they also panned Vegas. Mainly then for the water, though. Locking myself into my room, with the door chain as well, as I always did, I went out only for the vending machine.

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