What do you think of when you think of Oregon? Rain? Yes we have plenty of that. Towering forests of pine and fir trees? You’ll for sure find them here. Majestic snow-capped mountains, frigid wild rivers? Rainbow trout, salmon, lakes? Perhaps you think of the awe-inspiring cliffs and lighthouses along the Oregon coast. All of that is here, but there is so much more.
I am well acquainted with all of those wonders of nature that are associated with western Oregon and the Willamette Valley. I am also somewhat well acquainted with the high deserts of central Oregon. But the vast plains and rolling hills and vistas that seem to go on forever caught me somewhat by surprise. The trip from Pendleton to Mt. Vernon on Hwy. 395 showcased the beauty of Eastern Oregon as I had never before experienced it.
We bid a glad farewell to Pendleton and its cow pokes at exit 209 and headed south.
Not too far south of Pendleton, we saw a scene that was to be repeated many times on this drive. Vast open areas, rolling hills, varying shades of green as the growing season begins, and cattle….many,many head of cattle.
This particular stretch of Hwy. 395 was new to both of us so it was a joy just to see something we have never seen before. The road itself was in great shape. It’s not something I would want to tackle in a motor home in bad weather, but we had a perfect travel day. The clouds thinned out some as we traveled south but maintained just enough cover to keep the drive cool and comfortable. Gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, curves kept the drive interesting.
Mile after mile of sparsely treed rolling hills stretched before us.
Traffic was light and we encountered very few other vehicles. We couldn’t seem to shake this tail-gaiter however, and it rode our bumper all the way to Clyde Holliday State Park. The nerve!!
We traveled in and out of the Malheur National Forest several times. Part of the drive was along the John Day River. Lots of “S” curves on this stretch but well engineered and not a problem for motor home travel. This part reminded me of traveling along the Walker River in another portion of Hwy. 395. Wildfire is always a danger in the hotter summer months and you can see where a fire traveled over this hill at some time in the past.
A roadside waterfall provided another interesting view along the route.
Lots of evidence of hard times along the highway.
As we gained elevation, the views of valleys and mountain peaks seemed to stretch forever. Here and there a homestead dotted the hillside.
Along with the hills and valleys, were flat topped mesas that looked like they could have been in Utah or Arizona.
A simple machine made by man, cannot begin to capture the beauty of this landscape. The views and differing topographies encountered on this portion of Hwy. 395 are (to borrow an overused word) just awesome. The wide open spaces, the unending vistas, the open land are impossible to capture except by the human eye. One must see it to truly feel what this land is all about.
There is more to this journey and certainly more to this highway, but this post grows long. Someday I am going to travel the entire length of Hwy 395 and write a book about it. I love this highway. Join me if you can.
Still to come are a few small towns along the way and our campsite at Clyde Holliday State Park. Here’s a teaser…