The Loneliest Road in America

Yesterday, we left Winnemucca and headed to Ely.  On the way, we drove on a road named “The Loneliest Road in America.”  When the GPS told us to turn on “The Loneliest Road in America,”  Regis almost broke a rib he laughed so hard.  

We found that the road wasn’t as lonely as some of the other roads we drove on recently.  There were a few real towns along the route and we saw a fair amount of traffic.  But, between towns, it is desolate.

As we came into Ely from the west, we saw a HUGE open pit copper mine.  Although there are some pictures here that were taken from the motor home while driving, you can’t get an appreciation for the magnitude of the mine from the pictures.  You have to see it to believe it.

Copper mine west of Ely, Nevada
Copper mine west of Ely, Nevada

I was expecting it to be very hot once we left the Pacific Northwest, but the weather has been beautiful.  Daytime temperatures are in the 60’s or 70’s and at night it gets cold.  Our heat pump has been keeping up with it, so we have been very comfortable.

We head to Utah tomorrow.  Remember that when we post our next “Where’s Dart?”

Lonely Road

We left southwestern Oregon yesterday and arrived in Northwestern Nevada.  We drove about 390 miles and it was the loneliest drive we have ever taken, but not on the loneliest road.  Between Lakeview, Oregon and Winnemucca, Nevada there are 2 gas stations and it appears one of them is closed.  There is almost nothing else the entire trip.  There is the road and possibly fencing.  There are no houses or other buildings.  It was very beautiful but a little scary.  We saw some vehicles coming in the opposite direction, but we never encountered a vehicle going our way until we were close to Winnemucca.  Since we drive slower than the speed limit in the motor home, cars usually catch up to us and pass us.  We stopped at both of the two rest stops along the way and the entire time that we were there playing with Dart and stretching our legs, we never saw a vehicle go by on the road.

Potential hazards of traveling next to rocky mountains. This is Route 140 in Nevada.
We believe this may be a dried up lake bed. It is on Route 140 in Oregon or Nevada.

Our GPS did not want to send us on the route we took.  On the map, we saw that Route 140 was the most direct route.  Any other route would add at least 100 miles to the trip.  But, the GPS kept trying to get us to turn around.  It appears it was because we had to cross over several mountain ranges.   The GPS got particularly desperate prior to the worst mountain range and tried to send us off on a dirt track instead.  After driving up the mountain in a motor home towing a car with a steep drop off and no guard rail, I was beginning to think we should have listened to the GPS.

Road going up mountain on Route 140 in Oregon
Road the GPS wanted us to take instead of going up the mountain on the paved Route 140
Route 140 going up a mountain. This is why the GPS may have been correct about an alternative route!!

When we got to the top of the mountain, there was a spot to launch hang gliders.  No one was there but it would have been fun to watch.

Sign at top of mountain on Route 140
View from top of mountain on Route 140 next to hang glider launch site.

Winnemucca is the biggest town we’ve been in since we left the Seattle area.  I went grocery shopping in the local Walmart Super Center and bought so many fresh vegetables that they will probably go bad before we have a chance to eat them all.  I went a little crazy.

Winnemucca Walmart produce section. Compare to the picture of the produce section in the last blog post.
Regis saw this on the way to the hardware store in Winnemucca. He sent me a text message asking if he should ask for directions!

Crazy Logging Roads and Fish

We managed to see 6 more waterfalls, making it 11 waterfalls in 2 days.  Two of the waterfalls had fish jumping up them.  We stayed the longest at those waterfalls.  One of the waterfalls had a bench located where you could sit and view the falls.   I enjoyed rooting for the fish and hoping they would make it.

Fish jumping up Deadline Falls, Oregon.

For a couple falls, we had about 2 miles of hiking round trip through old growth forest.  Very cool!  We were particularly impressed with the hike that is designed to accommodate disabled persons.  The trail was wide and smooth.

Hike to Susan Creek Falls with a trail designed for disabled access.
Dart and Regis at Susan Creek Falls, Oregon

The most interesting adventure turned out to be the last fall of the day.  We had to go up about 8 miles of logging roads to get to Grotto Falls.  About a mile or so in, we saw a forest service employee driving in the opposite direction.  He flagged us down to tell us there was a state truck with a tractor on it heading our way and just wanted to warn us.  As we continued, I became particularly aware of how narrow the road was with no shoulders.  If we encountered this truck, where would we go to get out of the way?

Fortunately, we didn’t meet up with the truck by the time we got to the trail head.  We saw another car at the trail head but never saw the person(s) who belonged to it.  We hiked up the mountain to see the falls and they were spectacular.  You could stand behind them.  Regis nearly took a shower under them.

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Looking out from behind Grotto Falls, Oregon
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Grotto Falls, Oregon

When we left, I did not think we needed to backtrack because the lousy map that I had showed the road continuing on to meet back up with our main route.  This is a decision that made for an interesting ride back.  Well, Regis thought it was interesting.  I might use another word.  Maybe the word terrifying fits for parts of the trip.  We encountered LOTS of downed trees on the way back.  Someone had cut the trees so you could drive by, but they were cut with a gap narrower than the road.  There were also rocks in the road from sliding off the mountain side.  Much of the road was flanked by rocky cliffs with loose debris on one side and a steep plunge down the other side.  Remember, there were no shoulders and it was a narrow road.  We saw no signs of human life on this road with the exception of the roads existence and someone having cut trees.  We saw one human made structure – a shelter.  Oh, and there was no cell phone service.

As we began to reach the point of being 20 miles in and the road was getting rougher, these were my thoughts.  What if there is a downed tree we can’t get around and we have to turn and go back?  And, what if another tree fell behind us as we went by and we would now be trapped?  Do we have enough food and water?  No, we don’t.  I just purchased a can of tuna fish and a small can of chicken and a bag of hamburger buns.  We did not have a can opener.  Dart and we were doomed to eating buns until we found our way out of this mess.

Then, we came upon the worst tree yet with a small gap.  We weren’t even sure we could fit through.  I got out to guide Regis and we made it through.  After at least 30 miles of driving, we finally got back to pavement.

I asked Regis if he enjoyed it.  After all, this was finally a road that was worthy of the jeep.  He said he didn’t want to have to turn around and go back and he was worried about that.  He also got concerned when the trees got bigger than the car.

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Obstacle on logging road

Now we had two situations where there were numerous downed trees.  The one trail was extremely difficult (see last post) and the logging roads had downed trees everywhere.  In addition, we saw lots of trees in the area that had snapped off toward the top.  It was clear that a lot of work had been going on to clean up the mess.  A forest service employee told me they had a bad winter and they got what they call “cascade concrete.”  That’s snow stuck to the top of the tree and weighing it down.  It snaps the big trees and the smaller trees bend over to the ground.  It certainly explains a lot about why we spent so much time trying to bypass downed trees.

The last time we posted, we had to drive 30 miles to the nearest town where we could get cell phone service, gas, and groceries.  The only store available was a little convenience store where I was able to get chips and Dinty Moore beef stew.  (I remember liking that as a kid when we went camping.  After eating it again, I don’t feel the same way.)

On our second day of waterfall adventures, we found a bigger town with a grocery store (if you could call it that).  They had a produce department – see below.  I am looking forward to getting somewhere where I can eat a salad!  I was almost ready to eat the green stuff growing in the campground because I miss my vegetables.

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Produce department in grocery store

We saw cars parked at the side of the road in the national forest and couldn’t figure out what the people were doing.  The cars were empty and only there during the day.  It turns out that there was a fire not too long ago in the forest and after a fire, lots of mushrooms grow.  The people were gathering mushrooms for commercial sale.

Crater Lake and Waterfalls

Dart in Crater Lake National Park.

Dart was in Crater Lake National Park.  Yes, the water really is that blue in the lake.  It is astonishing.  The water is exceptionally clear and it is the way the light waves pass through the water that makes it so blue.  The lake is one of the deepest in the world.   It was formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama collapsed in on itself.

Wizard Island in Crater Lake National Park. The water really is that blue.  The island is a cinder cone. 
View of Oregon from Crater Lake National Park. The lake is on the left. Way off in the distance on the right is a volcanic mountain but I am not sure which one it is. There are so many of them in Oregon.  Also, you can see Mount Shasta in California from Crater Lake.

We got a guide to 24 waterfalls in the area so we thought we might try to see them all over the 3 days left that we have.  We saw 5 waterfalls today.  I think our goal is overly ambitious.  It wouldn’t be so bad if some of the waterfalls didn’t require difficult hikes of almost 4 miles round trip.  On our hike to Warm Springs Falls there were lots of trees down on the trail.  It was an obstacle course.  I think Dart loved it.  He may have felt like this was the most unusual agility course he’s ever done.

Toketee Falls in Oregon.
Watson Falls in Oregon.
Whitehorse Falls in Oregon.
Clearwater Falls in Oregon.
Warm Springs Falls in Oregon.

The weather is in the 60’s here during the day and the 30’s at night.  Dart loves it.  He was very happy hiking today.  We were hiking in forests, so we were always in the shade.

For some reason, the motor home hasn’t been too cold at night even though the temperatures plummet.  We are wondering if it is because the night starts off so warm and takes awhile for the temperature to drop.  It doesn’t stay freezing long enough to cause the heat pumps to stop working entirely.  This morning, we did hear the ice breaking up on one of the heat pumps.

Oregon

Where’s Dart?  He is in a National Park.

Where’s Dart (11)? Name the park and/or lake.

We stayed in Pendleton, Oregon for a few days and visited the downtown area.  We had a couple options for our next destination and opted for the easiest route.

We loved our trip and had a spot along the way where we could see multiple volcanic peaks at the same time.  There were about 9 peaks we could see.  The only one we couldn’t see was Mount St Helens.  There were a lot of clouds in that spot.  It was amazing to see so many peaks but nearly impossible to get good pictures.  We have found that it is extremely difficult to take pictures of snow covered peaks in the background.  They often don’t show up in the picture.

We are currently at a place with barely minimal cell phone service and no internet service.  Regis is able to get some basic reception on his phone but I can’t get enough reception to send an email.  The closest grocery store is almost 30 miles away and I have difficulty calling it a grocery store. They had some “fresh” food and we bought the last dozen eggs.  I am almost ready to eat the grass in the campground in order to get some fresh greens.  Coming from a home base with outstanding grocery stores, it is particularly hard for me to deal with so little options regarding food.  I have heard of food deserts and I believe we have been sitting in them regularly.  I deeply appreciate that we have so many food options where I live.

Regarding Dart – Since December, Dart has vomited regularly with commercial dog food no matter that it is premium dog food.  I have been making his dog food and occasionally he eats the same thing we had for dinner.  He has been extremely healthy ever since.  I don’t know how to explain this.  It is what it is.  We have noticed that he will not eat ground beef.  Go figure.

Pow Wow

We left the cool air in Washington on Friday and arrived in Oregon.  It has been in the upper 80’s in the afternoons.  That may not be that hot, but it’s hot compared to where we have been most of the last month, in the low 60’s.  I think Dart is ready to head back to Jason’s apartment and leave us.

We went into the town of Pendleton on Friday evening to go to the farmer’s market.  We saw a parking lot but the sign said exit only so I rounded the corner to find the entrance.  There was no entrance on that side.  Regis told me to take a U-turn and go back since there was no traffic.  I followed directions and when I turned around I was facing two lanes of oncoming traffic.  I was on a one-way street facing the wrong way.  The lessons to be learned:  1) do not blindly do what your husband tells you to do and 2) traffic will show up when it is most inconvenient.  We survived, found the entrance to the parking lot, and bought some delicious peaches and cucumbers at the market.  We also saw a wine and coffee bar that was packed.  Since we had Dart and all the outdoor tables were full, we didn’t get to check it out.

The Umatilla Indian Reservation is hosting a Pow Wow this week-end, so we went to check it out.  We saw much of the dance competition on Saturday and heard the drumming contest.  The outfits were beautiful and very colorful.  It was very impressive.

Tiny dancer at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Tiny dancer at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Golden age dancers (55+) at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Back of outfit worn by dancer at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Dancers at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation checking cell phone between songs
Tiny dancer at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Dancers at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Dancers at the Pow Wow at the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Mount Rainier

Dart was in Mount Rainier National Park.

A view to the east in Mount Rainier National Park
A view to the west in Mount Rainier National Park

Yesterday, we planned to visit Mount Rainier National Park.  When we woke up, it was cloudy and drizzly.  I was certain the mountain would be covered with clouds but we went anyway.  Good decision!  The clouds went away and we saw awesome views of Mount Adams on the way and Mount Rainier when we got to the park.

Mount Rainier National Park

For those of you following us last year, you may remember we went to Mount Rainier National Park but wound up hiking outside the park in the National Forest because we had Dart with us.  We had entered the park from the west but the road going through the park was closed.  We went part way, never saw any views, and went to the National Forest.  Yesterday, we entered from the east.  What a difference!  We had spectacular views.  We stopped a few times at overlooks and just sat and stared at the mountain.  We ate lunch within view of the peak.  The road was open and we drove all the way through the park.  We highly recommend it to travelers in this area.

Life is tenacious and will find a foothold anywhere it can.

The Park paper has interesting information on how to react with close encounters by bears and mountain lions.  The place where we ate lunch had signs on all the picnic tables regarding bears.  But, the thing that got us the most was the following guidance:

“If you are near a river and notice a rapid rise in water level, feel a prolonged shaking of the ground, and/or hear a roaring sound coming from upvalley – often described as the sound of a fast-moving freight train – move quickly to higher ground – 200 feet above river level should be safe.”  We are reminded that this is an active “hot spot” and earthquakes happen regularly and the mountain is NOT dormant.

Eating lunch with Mount Rainier in the background.

From this picnic area, we were able to see a lot of people walking across the snow on Mount Rainier.  Here are three views with different lenses to give you an idea.  Look for the spots that look like pepper in the second picture.  It is people.

People hiking up Mount Rainier.
The little “pepper” spots are people hiking up Mount Rainier.
Mount Rainier. On the right side of the picture, there are people hiking up the mountain.

I have been reading a lot about the geology of the west.  Maybe I shouldn’t with all these volcanos surrounding us.  It’s time to try out the local brews and forget about it!