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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Unique Drive

In his Book "Nature," Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "the eye is the best artist" and goes on to describe how due to its structure and the laws of light perspective is produced.  This structure, this art, that is created by our eyes is unique to each of us.  How you see a landscape is not as I see it due to the differences in perspective owed to the uniqueness of our eyes and ourselves to process the light and objects.

As Leslie and I drove up US 395 from Reno into and through Oregon to Pendleton yesterday I was thinking again and again of Emerson's eye, the artist.  What we saw on our drive yesterday was some of the most unique, and beautiful, landscape we have seen anywhere.

Crossing back into California the land was similar to what we saw further south, high desert, sage brush, valleys and large hills, mountains, winding next to rivers and creeks.   Approaching the Oregon border we started to run along the eastern shore of Goose Lake.  Goose Lake is very large, it appears to be as large as Lake Tahoe and very beautiful.

North of Goose Lake is Lakeview where we stopped for a sandwich in a local deli.  Back on the road, with each mile north we saw fewer travelers on the road, and fewer farms or other evidence of human habitation.

After several miles we came upon Lake Abert, a truly unique and interesting area.  The highway ran right on the eastern edge of the lake.  Looking across to the far side it appeared completely barren of any vegetation, just big brown dirt hills falling to the lake.  The lake itself appeared similar to some of the lakes we saw last summer in Yellowstone, white shores from alkaline or other minerals, completely still and a lack of vegetation anywhere but on the slopes of the eastern shore where we were driving.  Leslie took a picture or two and said, "pictures cannot capture this."

And we saw no one.  For perhaps 120-150 miles we had perhaps five or six cars pass us going south, otherwise we were completely alone in this barren and desolate landscape.

Driving north of Lake Abert the land became huge plains that had some cattle grazing every ten or twenty miles, sage brush, no trees, just vast space and no sign of human habitation.  For a few hours our drive was like this.  Straight highways for miles, then a few bends through some hills and then straight again.

Eventually we reached Burns, filled up the tank on the  Odyssey and pointed to Pendleton, 200 miles north and our destination.

It was as if we crossed a distinct barrier laid down at Creation, below this line shall be vast desolate spaces with little vegetation, above this line shall be forests and rivers and creeks.

The 200 mile drive was through the Malheur and Umatilla National Forests.  Climbing to peaks over 5000 feet and then dropping to valley floors.  Winding through tight turns surrounded by towering pines following a river or creek and then breaking out of the forest into a huge valley with alfalfa fields and grazing livestock, and them back into the forests.

When we first entered the Malheur National Forest we drove for many miles through small white butterflies that were flying all over the forest and roadway.  Thousands of them for miles and miles.  It looked like we were driving through falling flower petals.  When we would clear the forest we would clear the butterflies, when the road wound back into the forest we would be back in them.

When we finally exited the Umatilla National Forest and began the final 20-25 miles to Pendleton we entered a much different landscape.  Huge brown hills that would come together like large round globes pushed together, not gently sloping from one to the next but steep drops. Think of hundreds of balls of dough rolled up to make rolls that are pushed together with little valleys in between.

Eastern Oregon is beautiful in its vastness and its extremely diverse landscapes with a common theme of being an arid climate.  Our 500 mile drive was the most unique of any we have experienced and one we thoroughly enjoyed and will remember.  The eye is indeed the best artist and yesterday we were treated to a masterpiece created by The Artist.

Today we head northeast.  Going through Walla Walla, Washington, then Lewiston, Idaho and finally to Missoula, Montana.  Our drive is about 400 miles and per one of the guests at the bar last night we are in for another beautiful drive.

Today's picture is from Riley, Oregon.  This is at the junction of the 395 and 20, and the only building for miles--I guess this is all of Riley.

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