I recently had a chance to drive from Boise, Idaho to Seattle to bring our van back home after an RV trip with Karen's parents. I chose to follow the backroads and to see a bit of the country along the way. This is the first part of my route from Boise to Walla Walla via Hells Canyon. Clicking on the map will take you to a Google map of the route in detail.
Total distance: 319 mi – about 7 hours 32 mins of driving time if you don't stop.
Leaving Boise during the evening rush hour, I avoided crowded I-84 and instead headed north on State Route 16 to Route 52 then to Route 95. It was hot and driving in the early evening with the windows down was like being in a windy sauna. With the noise from the open windows I really couldn't hear the radio so I kept it off and let my mind wander.
After passing through a couple of small towns, I reached the river in early evening. The Snake forms the border between Idaho and Oregon. This part of the river is dammed and forms a series of reservoirs. The white mark on the distant shore is the high-water mark.
The evening light continued to fade to red and it was slow going as every bend in the river made me pull off to enjoy the light and snap a few photos. After a swim in the cool water below one of the dams, I started looking for a spot to spend the night. There are numerous turnouts you can camp at and a couple of official campgrounds. Nothing seemed appealing and it was still very hot in the tree-less canyon so I continued on into the evening.
Turning north up NF-39 into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, I finally found a spot to park for the night next to a stream down a short, unmarked road. It's nice to have a vehicle that has a clearance better than most SUVs because you can go just about anywhere. It was quiet, with nobody around for miles.
In the darkening evening, I cooked a simple one-pot meal, and soaked in the ambiance of the forest.
The next morning I awoke early and pulled out the camera to grab shots of the sun rising through the trees. There was a slight haze in the air, and it made everything seem to stand out in stark relief.
After a small breakfast, and my favorite morning beverage while traveling (Nescafe Classico), I continued north on the nicely paved but infrequently used NF-39. This is a shot of the stream I spent the night next to, a little further up the canyon.
|Hells Canyon Overlook
Near the ridge top, I took the short turn-off to the Hells Canyon overlook. It was still morning and forest fires in the area made the view fairly dramatic. I probably took 30 different shots up here. I'm not sure if this is the best one, but it seems to capture the mood. I continued down out of the mountains into a dramatic valley with the Wallowa mountains rising up to the south. I was just passing through but this would be a great place to spend more time. Up and over the Blue Mountains I finally got on the road into Walla Walla.
Scott & Karen Semyan