Great Western Adventure—Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

Part Four of Four

By Mark Bradley
Photos by Cynthia Foulk

Finally the day arrived, June 12, 2005, when I would visit my 50th state—Oregon. Unlike the early pioneers who slowly crossed the continent on the Oregon Trail with signs on their covered wagons like “Oregon or Bust,” I quietly announced my arrival with the wind whistling through my back window, its power controls broken and the thing held together with packing tape.

Nevertheless, I felt I had accomplished something truly noteworthy and gleefully prepared for my first stop in Eastern Oregon, the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute (www.tamastslikt.com). Three Native American tribes—the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla – have put together this outstanding modern museum telling their perspective of the “settling” of the West by European Americans. There is an entire room showcasing the treaty the tribes signed with the white man, relinquishing most of their lands. But they are now slowly getting something back via the adjoining Wildhorse Casino and Resort—including my $20 donation at the blackjack table.

From there it was a short ride along I-84 to The Dalles, a pleasant town overlooking the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center is a must see with its Lewis & Clark Cargo Exhibition along with local artifacts (www.gorgediscovery.org).

Downtown you’ll find a colorful salute to local history from the The Dalles Mural Society. Entire walls of buildings have been transformed into giant pages of a history book with full color murals depicting their proud heritage.

As I drove up the steep streets searching for a bird’s-eye view of the Columbia, I stumbled upon a city park with one of the most beautiful rose gardens I have seen anywhere. Oregon’s largest city, Portland, is known as the “Rose City,” but this quiet little garden suited my needs just fine and as I paused to “smell the roses,” I reflected on my good fortune in having found it.

For the remainder of my trip I had chosen the Shilo Inns as my host (www.shiloinns.com). This family owned chain offers “affordable excellence” in their many convenient locations in the Pacific Northwest. If your travels take you into this region, I would recommend checking them out in The Dalles where I celebrated my 50th state with a meal of fresh salmon, Oregon wine, and ice cream with local berries in their first rate restaurant.

The next morning found me eager to reach Fort Clatsop, the winter home of the Lewis & Clark expedition on the Oregon coast. But not before I stopped at the Bonneville Dam to see the migrating fish climbing the fish ladder around the dam. Hundreds of fish struggled past me separated only by a thick sheet of glass in search of their spawning grounds. It was every fisherman’s dream. So close, but yet so far!

After traveling through Portland it was a short drive over the Coast Range for my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean—appropriately enough near Seaside, Oregon. Nearby, among the towering coastal fir trees, Fort Clatsop greeted me, giving me closure on my Lewis & Clark journey.

By now I was beginning to feel the symptoms of Lewis & Clark fatigue, so I headed north to see the wild mountains and temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park in Washington. The majority of the park is nearly inaccessible by car, but one short walk along the “Hall of Mosses Trail” at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center gives you a feel for this unique ecosystem.

Back along the coast I found Ruby Beach and its impressive “sea stacks,” or rock formations, just offshore before retiring at the Shilo Inn Ocean Shores to a spectacular beachfront sunset.

All that remained for my trip in the Northwest to be complete was to see Crater Lake National Park. I had heard tales of this “most beautiful lake in the world” set in a volcanic caldera and I longed to see it with my own eyes.

The lengthy climb into the Cascade Range would surely be worth it, but little did I know that Crater Lake is at an altitude sufficient to generate snow even in mid June, and when I reached it I found myself in the midst of a full blown snowstorm!

The other guests and I gazed into the storm, straining our eyes for even the smallest glimpse of the fabled lake, but had to content ourselves with a snowball fight and warming ourselves around the fire in the Great Lodge.

So ended my Great Western Adventure. All told I had traveled over 7300 miles in 22 days and would drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, cross the high Sierras, survive 100 degree heat in the deserts, and be spit out of the Rocky Mountains near Denver before crossing the Great Plains to my Illinois home.

I have enjoyed sharing my experiences to offer. Above all—stay healthy and happy!

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