Sunday, September 2, 2018
We are off on Friday August 31. Our commitment at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery begins on September 1st. We don’t know when the hosts at the hatchery are leaving specifically so we assume that they will have departed when we arrive around noon on Saturday. That gives us a day and a half to reach our destination.
The distance from McCall, ID to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery is 422 miles, too far to drive the big rig in one day especially since many of those miles are slower going mountain driving. It doesn’t take long to get the Allegro RED packed up, jacks up and ready to roll. A lot of the preparation is done the night before. We are fortunate that we have room to hitch up our towed vehicle the night before travel. Nonessential utilities are also disconnected and stowed the night before departure.
We’re up bright and early but the sun is not. McCall is on the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone so the sun seems to come up a little late. Only having to pick up and stow the power cord and walk the dogs, we are off by 0730 Mountain Time.
We head back the way we came- head northwest on highway 55 out of town to New Meadows, south on highway 95 down the Weiser River canyon, across rolling farmland passing the towns of Council, Cambridge and Weiser. Cross the Snake River and turn right on highway 201, head north on I-84. Once past Baker City we are in virgin territory- at least for this trip. Been here, done that. The countryside is rolling farmland, mountains in the background for a long ways. We reach LaGrande and head towards those mountains. Within minutes Big RED takes us up a canyon and into the trees.
I don’t think I’ve mention the historical significance of this route. Even today the interstate follows the path taken by the pioneers:
The original fur trader trails could only be accessed by foot or on horseback. But in the 1830’s the first wagon train was organized and headed west from Missouri with the destination being the Willamette Valley of Oregon. A lot of improvements had to be made to the trails to accommodate their wagons so it was slow going. Eventually a trail suited for wagons was established that made its way from Missouri through parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and eventually into Oregon. Various trails spurred off the Oregon Trail to other parts of the West. As many as 400,000 people went West by wagon train. The Transcontinental Railway was completed in 1869. Making the trip west essentially become quicker and cheaper by rail than by wagon train so the use of the trail dwindled. Many of the nearby places are mentioned in the history books- Fort Hall ID, Baker City OR, LaGrande OR, Immigrant Springs OR……….
Once across the Snake River ford near Old Fort Boise the weary travelers traveled across what would become the state of Oregon. The trail then went to the Malheur River and then past Farewell Bend on the Snake River, up the Burnt River canyon and northwest to the Grande Ronde Valley near present-day La Grande before coming to the Blue Mountains. In 1843 settlers cut a wagon road over these mountains making them passable for the first time to wagons. The trail went to the Whitman Mission near Fort Nez Perces in Washington until 1847 when the Whitmans were killed by Native Americans. At Fort Nez Perce some built rafts or hired boats and started down the Columbia; others continued west in their wagons until they reached The Dalles. After 1847 the trail bypassed the closed mission and headed almost due west to present day Pendleton, Oregon, crossing the Umatilla River, John Day River, and Deschutes River before arriving at The Dalles. Interstate 84 in Oregon roughly follows the original Oregon Trail from Idaho to The Dalles.
Arriving at the Columbia at The Dalles and stopped by the Cascade Mountains and Mount Hood, some gave up their wagons or disassembled them and put them on boats or rafts for a trip down the Columbia River. Once they transited the Cascade’s Columbia River Gorge with its multiple rapids and treacherous winds they would have to make the 1.6-mile (2.6 km) portage around the Cascade Rapids before coming out near the Willamette River where Oregon City was located. The pioneer’s livestock could be driven around Mount Hood on the narrow, crooked and rough Lolo Pass.
Several Oregon Trail branches and route variations led to the Willamette Valley. The most popular was the Barlow Road, which was carved though the forest around Mount Hood from The Dalles in 1846 as a toll road at $5 per wagon and 10 cents per head of livestock. It was rough and steep with poor grass but still cheaper and safer than floating goods, wagons and family down the dangerous Columbia River.
In Central Oregon, there was the Santiam Wagon Road (established 1861), which roughly parallels Oregon Highway 20 to the Willamette Valley. The Applegate Trail (established 1846), cutting off the California Trail from the Humboldt River in Nevada, crossed part of California before cutting north to the south end of the Willamette Valley. U.S. Route 99 and Interstate 5 through Oregon roughly follow the original Applegate Trail.
Approaching the Blue Mountains near LaGrande, OR
So our route today includes the passing of historically significant Farewell Bend, Baker City, LaGrande, Burnt River Canyon, Emigrant Springs located at the summit of the Blue Mountains, , cross the Umatilla River, and stop for the night at the Wildhorse Casino Resort and RV Park in Mission.
Wildhorse Casino And Resort RV Park
The wind was blowing hard enough to move the RV around, sometimes a lot! Hope tomorrow’s travel isn’t as windy……..