Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where in the Sam Hill am I?

Child free weekends are so rare that you must seize them and make the most of that opportunity. This past weekend, that event -- rarer than a blue moon -- occurred at our house. And make the most of it we did.

I won't make you suffer through hearing about my husband kidnapping me and dragging me kicking and screaming to Skamania Lodge. (Well, maybe it wasn't kicking and screaming.) I certainly didn't complain when we sat  in the outdoor hot tub and watched the full moon. Or when I was enjoying a hot cocktail with huckleberry creme brulee. (Which I am still wanting seconds of.) And I didn't complain when, after yet another trip to the hot tub in the morning, there was an unadvertised breakfast buffet (due to the chainsaw convention happening at the resort. Everyone thought my husband was a lumberjack and we were there to attend) I got to eat all the bacon and salmon hash with fresh tomato compote I could eat, and I did. No, I won't bore you with those details at all......

View from Skamania Lodge

Where was I? Oh yes, there are just some things you can't do with kids. Most people might just enjoy the quiet of home, take a nap, get some projects done in the absence of two high maintenance little girls. Not us. We decided to take an epic day road trip since there was no chance of any whining coming from the backseat of the Rover. (I prefer to do all my whining from the front seat.) Yes, it never fails, 2 miles after we pass the last gas station/rest area for 50 miles, I have to use the bathroom like I haven't gone in days. But I digress.

We started the epic journey by driving east on Highway 14, the Washington side of the Gorge, with no particular destination in mind. There were many "Ohh...what is that! Stop!" moments. Dog Creek Falls, a particularly interesting railroad tunnel, and Horsethief Butte.

My husband at Dog Creek Falls

Our first stop. Stonehenge. Well, faux Stonehenge. As it would have looked when it was originally built, and they used concrete. Built by Sam Hill as a memorial to soldiers from Klickitat County who perished in WWI. I won't bore you with the rest of the historic details, that's what Wikipedia is for. However, if you haven't been here, the view alone is worth the trip. To be honest, this is probably as close to the real Stonehenge as I will really get, and, unless someone asks for the details, when they ask what you did over the weekend, and you say you went to Stonehenge, won't they be impressed?

Stonehenge with a Columbia River Gorge view.
Sun over Stonehenge

From there we crossed the Columbia back into Oregon and the town of Biggs. We still didn't have a specific destination in mind, but it was time to fill the tank. I then decided that I must go to Shaniko, since we were so close. (Close being over an hour away, but in relative terms, close. Hey we were in Eastern Oregon. That counted as close!)

For anyone who has traveled down Highway 97 from the Columbia River south, or in a lot of spots in Eastern Oregon, there isn't a whole lot to see if you aren't enthralled with sagebrush and rocks. I happen to be enthralled with both, my husband, eh, not so much, but, if you look and pay attention, there is actually more to see than you might think.

This is ranch country. This is the part of Oregon where the wool for the legendary Pendelton blankets originally came from, along with the sheep ranches, there were -- and still are -- many cattle ranches. There are lots of historic abandoned houses, barns, windmills, and other buildings along the way that make for interesting pictures if you are so inclined.

Windmill near Moro, Oregon

There was one particular homestead that caught my eye. It was far off the highway, down a dirt road, and I just had to stop and get closer -- until I saw the dead coyote hanging off the fence at the end of the road. Immediately, scenes from every creepy horror movie I have ever seen came to my mind. My husband explained that when coyotes start killing chickens or whatever other type of farm animal, the problem animal will be hunted, and then hung as a warning to other predators to stay away. This sounded particularly barbaric to me, and I certainly didn't want to be hung from a barbed wire fence as a warning to other tourists who considered trespassing to get a few pictures. The husband just laughed at me, and we drove down the road to get a bit closer. I was very glad we did. I got some incredible pictures, including one of a windmill that I am particularly fond of, and no one will be waiting until spring to find our bodies somewhere out in the snow covered high desert.

Abandoned Homestead

Close-up Shot of Windmill

After that, the rest of the trip wasn't particularly thrilling. We stopped in Shaniko and the town was pretty much locked down for the winter, i.e. absence of tourists. We continued on south to Madras, made a pit stop for tater tots at Sonic (mmmmmm tater tots). By this time I had lost the light, and we traveled over Mount Hood in the dark and on to home.

Old truck outside the Blacksmith Shop in Shaniko

In summary, over 260 miles, 400 pictures and six potty breaks later, we made it home to our recliners and take out Chinese from our favorite place in Sandy. An epic road trip it was. I think Sam Hill the road builder would have been proud!!

(By the way, did I mention the huckleberry creme brulee at Skamania Lodge is incredible???)


  1. Wonderful pictures and story line, Cari! I always enjoy visiting your blog.

  2. I love love travel with you and "the man" Thanks for taking me on this trip and many more to come.

    Shari aka Kali

  3. Cari, such a fine mix of scenery, photography humor, history, and personal outlooks on the Gorge and Eastern Oregon. Even though I've visited all the places mentioned in your blog, I felt like I was seeing it through fresh eyes. I look forward to your next post, as always!

  4. Thank you all for the kind comments! We really did have a great time!!