2018-10-02. The long haul!
We have been traveling for six days now and have finally arrived in Colorado where we'll stay for several days while visiting my brother and cousins. Suffice it to say that it was a rude, though not totally unpleasant shock to go from the lush, moist, greens of the Olympic Peninsula into the vast, dry, desert of the high plains. The ride through eastern Washington to Oregon, through Idaho and Wyoming was everchanging but yet the same. It seemed that every fifty miles or so, the terrain would go from empty, beige, dry desert to sagebrush prairie, to high barren hills and mountains, then, to rocky cliffs and jumbled boulders. The one recurring certainty was the power of water on the landscape; from sculpting deep canyons to nourishing pockets of life, turning gold, orange and red with the autumn. Irrigation is another miracle creating carpets of green warring with the golden dried grasses and sagebrush just waiting to reclaim its own.
We passed many stopovers for the pioneers on the Oregon Trail and every time we crested a mountain only to see endless miles of desert, we marveled at the grit and bravery that it took for our ancesters to travel this path in the five month window they had from the end of the freeze in Missouri to the first snows closing the passes leading to California and Oregon. I doubt we would have the will or strength or knowledge of the countryside to make the trip the pioneers did.
Near Henderson, Oregon, we stayed at Farewell Bend State Park that was on a lake created by one of the dams on the Snake River. The water level was extremely low but, the setting sun bathed the hills a lovely amber hue. But for the green around the lake, though, everything was dry mountain desert.
When we got to Idaho, we stayed at Rock Creek city park in Twin Falls. It was a nice park and the creek was moving quite rapidly. But what made Twin Falls so amazing was the canyon carved by the Snake River. As you come off the interstate and start into town, you are traveling on high flat uninteresting prairie. All of a sudden, we were surprised by the chasm we had to cross. It was an impressive sight and a big surprise. On the one side of the bridge, you could see down into the canyon with the river rushing through it. On the other side, the city had made the most of the dramatic scenery by putting a golf course on a butte lower into the canyon as well as restaurants and other touristy things.
Then to Montpelier, Idaho, named in honor of the town's founder who was a Mormon from Montpelier, Vermont. So it is pronounced "Montpeeeelier". The ride was interesting with fire-caused haze obscuring the mountains in the distance. Fields in patterned green and striped gold benefitted from the irrigation sprayed over vast fields while dust devils whirled across the desert. Where the river nourished its course, red, gold and green colors complemented each other and trees snuggled into the creases of the mountains. We drove US 30 most of the way thru Idaho; what a difference between US 30 in Pennsylvania and here where traffic is the exception rather than the rule. We got a late start because we changed time zones and forgot to set the clocks and our watches. Oh well...
In Wyoming, we stopped at Fossil Butte National Monument, site of a lake that existed in prehistoric times. There were interesting exhibits and the casts of the fossils, including early crocodiles, turtles and birds, were amazing. This place was in the middle of absolute nowhere but was staffed by an elderly ranger who was himself a geologist. This must be a dream job for him because of the quarries that continue to reveal an amazing number of intact fossils. Then, on to Rawlins, Wyoming where we had dinner at Buck's Bar, home of the butter burger. Don't ask....
I could not live in this land of dry, desert, sagebrush and vast tracts of ranchland populated by incredibly hardy souls. That said, this land is alive. Across the wide expanses of amber grassland, we could see herds of antelope. You just had to look carefully because these animals are so well adapted to their environment that they are almost invisible. We saw birds and chipmunks that survive despite the harshness of the environment.
As we drove into Colorado, we began to see red rock formations and mountains in the distance but it is still high and dry.
Oh, a few comments about being high...every western state has legalized marijuana and in one of the very small towns we passed through, the only line in town was at the marijuana shop where people were waiting for the store to open. Rocky Mountain High indeed! Wish I were young again....enough said.
And, as for the political scene...our favorite political ad was in Montana where the candidate for US Senate called himself a "rancher". That caused the opposition to disclose that he was really from Maryland, was a real estate developer who bought a trophy ranch and worse yet, had never filed for a brand and didn't own any cattle. The slogan was "All Hat, No Cows" to describe the candidate and the commercial showed a guy in a hat stepping in cow poop. It was too funny.