After camping north of La Grande, Oregon, we winched the first tree off the road before 08
Mile 1,808, N44º46'30: Cliff Tracks, Snow Drifts, and Walla Walla
Back on the OBDT east of Sumpter, we spooked a herd of two-dozen elk before setting up camp in one of the most pristine and verdant meadows in Oregon. If you've never seen an elk up close and personal, they are magnificent. In the morning, a hunter by the name of Larry, who had lived in the area for decades, stopped by with his dogs to spin a yarn and share a cup o' Joe. As we'd discovered elsewhere along our journey, locals always seem to be the best source of regional information, and Larry set us on the right track.
Between the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla National Forests lies the town of La Grande. By the time we completed a few housekeeping items-fuel, supplies, and a DeLorme Washington atlas-it was well past dark. Though we were tempted to get a room for the night (and a shower), the darkness called for a night run. The wind was howling like a pack of hungry hyenas by the time we reached the cliff-side track off Owsley Canyon Road (near Mount Emily). As we bounced through freshly filled divots in the road, water splashed off the tires over the precipitous edge and into the void below. Though we didn't encounter any downed trees, we would not see our sleeping bags till 0100 hours this night.
Kendall-Skyline Road, just a few clicks short of the Washington border, averages about 6,0
We were in deep snow and winching the first tree off the trail before 0830. The morning was chilly and overcast. After almost 2,000 miles on the trail, this was the first chance to deploy our Warn 9.5ti and Viking winch rope. It was also the first of about a dozen trees we'd wrestle with. We were on Kendall-Skyline Road, elevation 6,000 feet, just a few clicks short of the Washington border. Ours were not the first tracks of the season, but there were plenty of deep drifts and ice-covered waterholes. With the BFG KM2s aired down to 8 psi, we slogged north, pulling a few more trees out of the way before clearing the northern reaches of the Blue Mountains and heading down to Walla Walla, Washington. We didn't see a soul all day.
Mile 2,046, N 46º00'00: Washington's Bread Basket, Idaho, and Road Blocks
While Oregon brought us 400 miles of forest-lined dirt roads, southern Washington would show us the hard working farmers of America-and hundreds of miles of perfectly groomed fields. Washington is the third largest producer of wheat in the U.S.-90 percent of it exported to countries like Pakistan, Japan, and the Philippines-and Washington growers, 81 percent of which are sole proprietors or partnerships, have perfected the process of dry land farming (irrigated by rainfall only). Unspectacular as they may be, the gravel farm roads did meet our all-dirt criteria, after 100 or so miles of rolling wheat fields, we made a break for the Idaho border.
The road over the dam on the Snake River (near Almota) closes at, uh . . . 1730. Arriving about 1800, we offered the guard a bribe of happy smiles and pleading. "Sorry," he politely said. Parked in front of the locked gate with two hours of driving daylight left, we felt like caged cheetahs. But it's the adventure, right? We set up camp near a boat ramp with a sign that read, "No Camping." The security guy came by about dusk. Rather than kicking us out, he pulled up a chair, shared his life's story, and provided a thorough education on the river's fish species and their migrating patterns. Food for thought: "Bad roads bring good people; good roads bring bad people."
Camped in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, a local by the name of Larry (and his dogs)
With its headwaters in Western Wyoming, the Snake River (think Evel Knievel) cuts a mile-w
After getting our fill of Washington wheat fields, we headed for Idaho. Unfortunately, nei