Wildfires and Smoke

Mileage today: 189 Total Mileage 3,393

I guess you have to be flexible on a road trip. Our plan today was to take the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway route north from Halfway, through Imnaha, amid amazing scenery and views in order to get to Wallowa Lake, our stop for the next two nights.

We set off after breakfast and got about 10 miles before we hit a “Road Closed” sign. We knew it was a possibility but hoped we would get through. It was not to be. There are wildfires absolutely raging in north east Oregon, north of Hell’s Canyon in particular and that route would have taken us too close. Or into bad smoke. We had no choice but to take the longer route, back through Baker City, north to La Grande and then east and south to Wallowa Lake. Although 100 miles longer, the journey time difference was very little because a lot of the new route was on the interstate, whereas a lot of the Byway was on narrow scenic roads. Let’s pause for a minute and consider what a 100 mile detour tells us about the wilderness involved here. It wasn’t that far because of smoke. It was that far because there just weren’t any other routes through the forests and mountains north of Halfway and between that town and Wallowa Lake. Take a look at the map. Imagine an area in the UK that big that was not penetrated by at least some country lanes….. and then let’s imagine what it takes to fight a wildfire in such terrain. Just terrible.

Anyway, we made it to the Wallowa Lake Lodge without a problem and all is well here except there is definite haze in the air from smoke. You can’t smell anything but the mountains are dim in the “fog”, you can barely see them. It’s Labor Day Weekend, so plenty of people out on the lake and at the beaches enjoying themselves. Our plan tomorrow is to have a lake day.

The lodge is very lovely. Not a national park service lodge but very much in the spirit of….. we have a really nice corner room. Looking down to the lake. It’s the biggest lodge room we’ve ever had and a private bathroom. No elevator, kettle, tv, fridge of course…. No phone signal either but the wifi is very good. And we have plenty of ice from their ice machine so we’ve bagged up ice for our portable fridge. Theyve also put our ice blocks in the staff fridge so hopefully they might freeze too. And we have a travel kettle so we can make tea and coffee whenever we want. It’s a lovely peaceful spot so we will just enjoy relaxing here for a couple of nights.

The restaurant is closed on a Sunday and Monday night now, so rather than drive somewhere, we’d picked up a rotisserie chicken. We ate that with potato salad and pickles on a picnic table on the lawn. Bob had a blueberry pie for dessert! It was a nice end to the day.