Oregon Trail, Day 4

I woke up about 6:30 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. It seemed Moises couldn’t either, because he kept jumping on the bed, walking over us, then jumping back down on the floor to claw at the carpet of the motel room. I’d been itching to IMG_3124walk around, so I let Allyson know I was going out and went to the nearby Evanston river walk. It was cold, because the sun still hadn’t risen over the mountains. The sky was changing to a lighter blue, and you could feel the world waking up. It was great to get out and experience a little on foot. I’d been missing that so far.

Our goal for the day was to make it to Baker City, Oregon, which is about 7 hours from Evanston, Wyoming, so we were able to take a few scenic detours. We decided drive through Salt Lake City rather than take the bypass around it. The mountain pass we traveled to the city was absolutely gorgeous–tall rock faces, turning to snow-capped mountains. We rounded a corner and Salt Lake City emerged in the valley below. The town has some beautiful areas and some fairly ugly, industrial areas. We unwittingly chose the route that focused on the ugly, industrial areas.

I hoped to get a good look at the Great Salt Lake, but we chose a route that barely came within view of it. On trips this epic, it bothers me to get the “let’s make the best time,” mentality, especially at the sacrifice of seeing great sites and missing out on

Troy walking to the edge of the Great Salt Lake
Troy walking to the edge of the Great Salt Lake

cool experiences. I don’t know the next time I’ll be in Salt Lake City, so I really felt this strong desire to at least stop next to the thing and take a picture. We found an exit for a marina and state park sort of area, and I suggested to Allyson we take a break from driving there. We found, though, it was a fee area with $10 for day-use. It seemed ridiculous to pay that much for a 15 minute stop-off. I was frustrated and told Allyson I wasn’t mad at her, just frustrated about the situation. She said, “no, we’ll see the lake,” and she drove past the pay station (that was unmanned) and we got to stand next to the lake for a little while.

This day has been, hands down, the most beautiful scenery of the trip. As we passed from Utah into Idaho, we traveled through these enormous valleys surrounded by enormous, snowy mountains. There were scrubby bushes all over the valley floor. There were many signs warning this could be a dust storm zone. The area around us seemed so huge and wide-open. I car was barreling along at the 80mph speed limit, but it felt like we were taking this part of the trip slowly. There were few passenger cars on the interstate, and it felt so solitary. I understood the romance with being a cowboy and roaming the huge swaths of land. There was nothing crowded about this–I felt you could stretch out in all directions, run for miles and never step on someone else.

I felt so compelled by these feelings about the West. I’ve been drawn to the West for so long, and today I really felt like we had crossed into it.  I wanted to stop off to see the Snake River Gorge and Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, Idaho. I read good

Allyson looking over the Snake River Gorge
Allyson looking over the Snake River Gorge

things about it, and it is just off I-84. We turned off the exit that explained the falls were just 10 miles away. The directions confused us both, though, because we were in such flat, farmland. Where was there going to be a waterfall on terrain like this. It looked like West Tennessee, and there aren’t many waterfalls there. Then the road, all of a sudden, gave way to a bridge that was about 300 feet about the Snake River. We didn’t see it until we were already on the bridge. It was amazing how quickly the gorge emerged. We need we had to pull over and take a closer look.

As we went through Boise, clouds started to roll in and the sky darkened a bit. Before long it was drizzling, then raining. It was like Oregon was preparing us for what to expect from it. It was telling us, “I’m not going to sugar coat this. You know it rains a lot here. No need in waiting on it.”

It was a bit of a shame that the rain clouds darkened the sky a little early–this stretch of interstate looks to be maybe the most beautiful stretch of highway yet, and we’ve seen a lot of beautiful stretches. It went to more rounded, green rolling mountains, and the interstate hugged them, with huge walls just beyond the shoulder. Just before Baker City, we hit Campbell’s and Progresso quality fog. There were moments where I could only see the lines and nothing else, and I wasn’t seeing those too far.

We rolled into Baker City at about 6:30 Pacific Time. We are staying at the Geiser Grand Hotel, which is a sort of swanky old west style, with dark stained wood finish, chandeliers, and stained glass. It is such a nice way to round out our road accommodations. We’re considering staying an extra day here, the place is so nice. As Allyson and I sat in the cafe, watching Super Bowl analysis, eating our dinner, I was thinking, “this is our state now.” We are Oregonians, and we made it to Oregon. We’re still all the way across the state from our home, but I already feel this connection with my new state.

IMG_3177I think about what the pioneers must have felt as the made it to the Wallowa mountains on the Oregon Trail. It would not be long before they’d make it to civilization and new opportunity. They had been traveling for 6 months with a lot of uncertainty. What an enormous joy they must have felt knowing they were so close to their destination, that this was going to happen. We have only been traveling for a few days, but I have a touch of that feeling. The journey has been great, but it is a different feeling altogether to approach that place you’ve been dreaming about, that new life that’s just over the horizon.

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