Ginger and Ken drive to Alaska from Texas, through Wichita, Madison, Chicago, Corpus....

We decided to make a lifestyle change and move. Following are tales of our trips, packing mishaps, beautiful drives, visitations and more! This is Texas2Alaska2 because it is my second time to make the drive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Out of Hermiston, Umatilla Army/Chemical depot, weird

Visiting family, or anyone you like or love is always a challenging time. The seeing and visiting is fun, the hard part is leaving. As much as I enjoy family, and also seeing them in some of the beautiful places they live, Ken and I are on our way and have many other gorgeous places to see. 

We are heading north from Pendleton through Hermiston up to Kennewick, Washington.  Buck said this is a nice route and I have made the call to navigate this way since neither of us has been in this area before. When my sister and I drove to Alaska, we went all the way up through Idaho. Ken and I did want to see Vancouver, but with all the small trials we have had so far with the car, we are a bit delayed as far as season is concerned, so we must try to find a route that is easy and somewhat direct. Above is the  Arrowhead Travel Stop. It is near the Wildhorse Casino outside of Pendleton and I think owned by them as well. A little bit different travel stop, not as coated with corporate graphics and ads like the big chain travel stops. In the distance are those Blue Mountains we crossed coming to Pendleton.

Around Hermiston there is nary a parcel of undeveloped land to be seen. Miles and miles of irrigated farm land are seen all along the highway. All the sections are filled with crop circles, not the creative kind, the center pivot irrigation kind that create varying shades of green circles on the land. There is no shortage of water here with the mighty Columbia River marking the border between Oregon and Washington. 

As we turn off Interstate 84 onto Interstate 82, there is yet another unusual man-made terraform structure. It is the Umatilla Army Chemical Depot. Besides the fact that there is scary stuff in the ground there, it is just a creepy looking place. All the little doors to the underground storage holes are exactly lined up in even rows across the property. Neither of us was expecting to see it so we were both gawking. Can’t believe I did not have the camera out and handy. Google it and you can see a couple of photos, not too many, but you will get the idea. I did get the camera ready in time to snap our crossing of the mighty Columbia River. On my western trip with Uncle Andy, we crossed at Walla Walla, Washington. With my sister on our Alaska drive, we saw the headwaters of the Columbia in British Columbia–simply gorgeous. I took a drive along the scenic Columbia River out of Portland to The Dalles many years ago stopping at the stunning waterfalls along the road. The Columbia is much more powerful and awesome than my photos today display. (these are not some of my best work)

The weather was so nice we kept driving into the late night. Here is a cluster of tumbleweeds gathered by a fence near a gas station where we filled up. When I was on the western drive with my Uncle Andy, he called these Russian thistles. I read about them at that time and he was right (this from a man who remembered the roads of the family farm he only lived on from 1917 - 1922) There are several plants that propagate themselves by this tumbling method. One is an asian species which has become a weed in the American West. It is so ubiquitous that it was a staple of many western films. The big Asian version is of course the most showy for film. Salsola tragus is in the Amaranthus family. Species native to U.S. that tumble are Baptisia tinctoria, some plantains (not very big), and some Eragrostis species. Uncle Andy remembered collecting these as a child from the fence rows. In the late summer when fall winds start to pick up, they stick to the fences in Kansas giving the fence the appearance of being made of the plant. 

The other interesting aspect of this corner is the sign on the fence. It reads “State Trust Land for Lease” If Alaska doesn’t work out for us, maybe we can try this lovely place. 

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