After a long night, to say the least, of friends and debauchery I roll off the couch. Its far too early and the entire house is red-eyed and somehow awake. Jamie, Mike and Camara are all buzzing around as I slide myself into an upright position.

Jeff and Andee come over around nine and the whole clan chows down on a big breakfast. It seems nostalgic since it will be my last meal in Portland. Its hard to appreciate it however, while my head feels a few sizes too small.


Wallowa Mountains
The Wallowa Mountains

The car is stuffed to the roof and thank god we did that yesterday. We are all standing outside of Michael’s soon to be old house. We exchange hugs and goodbyes and hop in the car. Portland is finally about to spit me out. We dicide to skip any last minute stops at Deek and Brians or REI and hit the freeway.


We only stop twice for Rockstars and Pissbreaks before we make it to Baker City, OR. While there we fill up the tank and stop in Safeway to grab some perishables for dinner. Its around three oclock in the afternoon and we need a place to camp for the night. I google outdoor stores and find only one.


Cows grazing

The clerk is friendly and after we explain our road trip timeline and goals, he advises we head NE to Hells Canyon. He gives us way too much information and we thank him and roll. While Mike drives us out of Baker City, I consult the Road Atlas. Stopping in Hells Canyon will take us a bit out of the way to Garden Valley, where we are meeting up with Mikes mom tomorrow, but its the deepest canyon in North America.


Following the clerks directions, we head East on I-84 out of Baker City. Looking out the passenger side the great Wallowa Mountains spring up out of the grasslands. There is a storm in the mountains and the peaks are barely clipped by the clouds. A glimpse up a valley into the range opens up and rays of sunshine burst through a gap in the clouds.


Wilderness in the canyon
Wilderness in the canyon

The minute we jaunt off of I-84 and head NNE we start navigating rolling hills of brown grass and shrubs. The Wallowa mountains shrink behind the hills and after a few houses and streams they arent visible anymore.


Descending into a valley the walls start rising around us. Following a creek the canyon begins to form. What were hills become mountains and their brown sides are spattered with stands of Virgin Pine.

STOP! PULLOVER! Coming around an outcrop is a Black Bear followed by three cubs. Mike grabs is binoculars and I grab my camera. We jump out of the car and run back around the bend.


Brown Bears

The bears have already made it past the outcrop and down a hundred feet into the valley. I am shocked at how much ground they cover while they seem to be moseying lackadaisically. I jump a fence and get as close as I dare and rattle off a couple shots. They seem indifferent to my presence and continue on their way. Both Mike and I are stoked that not only did we get a siting, but that mama bear didn’t feck either of us up.


We are back on the way into Hells Canyon and Mike slams on the brakes. A pair of Mule Deer bolt across the road in front of us. This is only the first of may times we will have to dodge wildlife on the road.

Hells Canyon
Reservoir in Hells Canyon

The sun is getting low and Mike is starting to tire, evident by his driving. We finally roll into a tiny shittown called Oxbow. It is located just below Oxbow dam on the Snake River. The sun has started to set and we decide to sleep in an RV camp called Copperfield Park. This campgrounds green, constantly watered lawn stands out like a sour thumb in the surrounding dry wilderness.

After talking with a lovely old lady/camp host we pitch tent and start cooking just in time for the sky to gradient from pink to deep blue. The cheese-filled brats and chili are complimentary and delicious. Since Mike decides he doesn’t want his second dog, he successfully convinces me that I should eat it so as not to waste it. I am pretty full after my two, but decide to slice it up and finish it along with the chili. Bad Idea.

I’m bloated and gurgling when I do the dishes and discover that included in the facilities are free showers. We both take advantage not knowing when the next opportunity to bath will be.

On the way to the showers we encounter a red-faced old man who exclaims, “Hope y’all lak hat showers! They real hat! I bin comin hare forty ot year and n’er had a hat shower! Somebody ot tell the new guy to turn idown a click!”

Well the old man was right and we both emerged from the showers beet-red. The road has taken its toll and we both are decidedly tired and hit the sack immediately. Tomorrow, Idaho.


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