The Great American Road Trip II - 15 - Hailfire
After a good night's sleep we got on the road at noon, rested up and anticipating a drive to Boise. It was 55 degrees and, of course, it was raining. It was not a hard rain, so we were able to make good time. We saw orchards along with semi-arid hills and mountains covered in dust and sagebrush. I forgot how much of Washington was like this.
We stopped on the Yakima outskirts for gas and car snacks, then hit the road again. We crossed the Yakima and the Naches rivers and continued on the highway. We passed many apple orchards as well as warehouses. White barns along the side of the road would advertise "FRUIT - ANTIQUES" and below it "APPLES - CHERRIES - WINE - ASPARAGUS."
The sun finally came out at 1:17 in Grandview - but five minutes later the rains started up again. Vineyards were mixed with orchards, surrounding vast homes. (It's surprising to see these large houses in the middle of nowhere.)
Soon enough we began to climb again, with arid hills to our right and a vast valley to our left, filled with farmland. We saw mounds of basalt, fresh from the mine, as well as bits of the mineral poking through from beneath the hills. (Good thing it's so common, as it's a key ingredient in the production of asphalt.) My dad dubbed the electric lines we passed under "spaghetti spinners."
Rain clouds began to look increasingly more ominous in the distance, but we continued to run into only light amounts in spotty patches. We passed the entrance to an old mine shaft around 2:00. We entered areas reminiscent of the Badlands as we descended towards the Columbia River and entered Oregon.
A little ways into Oregon we stopped at a rest area and read a little about the Oregon Trail in a small outdoor exhibit. It wasn't too much more than we were already aware of but it felt good to move around a bit.
We climbed up a large hill that, in size, was somewhere between a hill and a mountain. We pulled off into a scenic overlook where we could see flat farmland for miles around. After getting pictures we pulled out and continued to climb up as high as the clouds in the distance. Eventually we ran into a cloud, which looked quite like steam coming up off the road.
We were within the Blue Mountains and climbed over in horrid road conditions. The road was rutted and bumpy with a great number of water-filled holes. It was barely raining at this point so we pulled off to visit a place in a national forest where you can still see the ruts from the wagons. Pulling out our umbrellas, we walked along the paved trail and read about the trail's history through the region. Travelers described the area as worse than the Rockies, which was surprising.
Needing some more exercise, we walked the trail again, which turned out to be a bad idea, because the sky immediately darkened and it absolutely burst. As soon as we got into the car, the rain turned to small bits of hail - noisy, but not dangerous.
Unfortunately, we needed to get back onto the highway for ten miles, and the highway conditions were atrocious. The right lane grooves where the trucks travel were filled up with water and made the car hydroplane constantly. The left lane had random lakes in it, which wasn't much better. On top of this, there was a river between the lanes. It was all we could do to navigate the scary miles, but we eventually got to the hotel. While we wanted to get farther on down the road, to either Baker City or to Boise, the reservoir-like conditions of the highway made travel all but impossible.
(The scary thing is that the Oregonians thought nothing of this weather and sped past us going well over the speed limit with no lights on. They hydroplaned but didn't seem to care, which was scary for us. We pulled over to the side of the road a few times to let them pass.)
Now, at a little after 8:00, it's no longer raining, and it looks like it will be a beautiful day tomorrow. We need one of those, I think.
Tomorrow: We travel through Boise to Mountain Home, Idaho, the jumping-off point for the Craters of the Moon National Monument.