Ups and Downs into the High Desert

Having said our "good-byes" the night before, we had the bus-house ready to roll by 9:30am yesterday. Encouraged by patches of blue sky and a few sun-peeks, we headed east on I-84 through the scenic Columbia Gorge. I've been through the Gorge many times over the years and I'm always, every time, in awe of the stunning beauty. It doesn't matter what season or what weather, there's always something you haven't seen before in quite the same way. In my book it's one of the most amazing and inspiring drives one can find in these United States.

At The Dalles we turned south on US-197 and started up the hill. Having begun the day along the Columbia River at just a few feet above sea level, we have to climb over 4,000 feet before ending the day at our planned camp in the LaPine State Park in Central Oregon. Due to severe relief caused by eons of erosion as water finds the quickest way to the big river, we still had plenty of downhill grades to accompany the generally uphill trend along the way. At one point, after having attained almost 2,800 feet, we lost half that, 1,400 feet, as we dropped down to the Deschutes River at the little town of Maupin. Twists and turns and switchbacks kept the driver busy and presented great scenic "photo-ops" for the chief photographer.

As we worked our way south, through Madras, Redmond, and Bend, we found these towns have dramatically changed in the almost 20 years since we lived in the Northwest and would sometimes spend holidays over here. Then, they were sleepy outposts at the margin of the Cascade Mountains and the high desert. Now they're bustling hubs of activity and apparent affluence. Many folks from California moved here during those years, taking advantage of the big difference in real estate values. (Of course, that just drove up the values of everything here too.) It's an attractive area for a number of reasons... since it's the dry side of the mountains the sun shines a lot more than it does in Portland or Seattle, and easy access to Cascade Mountains through the back door provide all kinds of camping, hiking, fishing and other recreational opportunities. And because this side of the mountains experience a real winter, complete with cold temps and snow, winter sports are also a big thing here.

If you remember, we moved a day early to try to get ahead of impending winter-like weather. Well, for the next few days it looks like we'll be hunkered down here at LaPine State Park. The forecast is a complete package... it's got everything you can imagine: rain, periods of sun, snow, low temps in the low 20f's, high temps in the low 40f's. Oh, and let's not forget the high wind warning for the next couple days.

We'd really like to find a hole in the weather about Monday and make it to another Oregon State Park down near Crater Lake. It would put us a hundred miles further south and we'd like to visit Crater Lake National Park if possible. But all plans are day-to-day right now.

Dar has more photos from our day on our online photo gallery. Check them out when you have a few minutes.

It might be cold outside... but it's warm in the camper....


Slightly Better than Most