Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hell's Canyon Loop, Oregon

It all started last year when I found out about Hell's Canyon, Oregon. I had never heard of this place before so of course in my usual fashion I made a mental note to find out more about this place as a destination for our next road trip. If you do a google search you will find that Hell's Canyon is the deepest canyon in the continental USA. It is 2,000 ft deeper than the Grand Canyon, and at 9 miles wide, it is only 1 mile less in width. I started to follow BLOGS some time ago and when I saw the pictures of the canyon (from The Oasis of my soul: Beemerchef) I knew that I had to travel there to take pictures of my own. I have been a hobbyist photographer for years and we enjoy taking the road less travelled. While my preferred mode of transport is anything with 2 wheels (either Motorcycle or Scooter) we usually take the car on these backroad adventures to places less travelled.
I must say that the backroads of Oregon are just spectacular. We started our trip into the Hell's Canyon area East from LeGrand and stayed in Enterprise, Ore. We used this as our base for 2 days, travelling to Joseph and Halfway. We had drive Hwy 39 three times, back and forth on day 1 and then again to finish our loop to Baker City. We tried to stop as often as we dared to take pictures, but often it was not possible. The road is narrow and there are few pull outs. Hwy 39 has lots of twisties (a motorcyclists dream) with some serious switchbacks as it winds down the mountain near the Halfway portion.

This was taken just east of Joseph, OR before you climbed into the mountains:

I believe that this was originally a forest service road which was eventually paved. The road is narrow in spots & when you see signs to slow to 15mph, they really mean it:

You have to drive approx 50 miles over a rough, narrow and winding road WITH NO GUARD RAILS, but at least it is paved. We eventually get to the Hell's Canyon Overlook viewpoint. The parking lot was empty except for 2 harleys from Alberta:


After we left the Lookout we headed east towards Oxbow and crossed the bridge over the river and noticed the sign that said "welcome to Idaho" . We took the road North towards the Dam and saw these signs:


Well, I tried to climb the first hill, but the road was too rough and had to turn around. (I sure wish I still had my YJ moment) . The road basically winds its way north mostly along the water line with great views. This is the Snake River and we noticed that the water flowed northward (or is that uphill) and was very fast moving.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Motorcycles, esp BMW's

Still on the road. When we planned our trip to Oregon last month we tried to obtain hotel reservations at JOHN DAY, Oregon and were told that the hotel was fully booked that weekend for one reason or another (couldn't remember). So on our travels through the Hell's Canyon area on our way to our alternate hotel in Mt Vernon, Oregon, we had to pass through John Day and found this:


the BMW Riders of Oregon were sponsoring their Chief Joseph Rally. I must tell you that we saw so many bikes everywhere and coming from all directions. While most bikes were Beemers, many of their friends came on other brands. At our Hotel I met 3 riders from Washington. Two were on beemers, but Al was on his '07 Suzuki Bandit 1250. We talked bikes for a while then went here:


Yes the owner/operater had a Harley 883 parked in front of his tavern.


I don't know all the details but the red R600 now has a 800cc engine, and the 1200 RT is parked in front, and that's the Bandit 1250 on the left.


It is a camping rally and some of the riders arrived a day early. The main events actually started this morning. I believe they are bringing BMW bikes for demo rides and I was told that there would be a few vendors there too selling bike accessories.

While we were having breakfast I met two other riders. One actually rode in from Florida and he met his friend who was from Boulder, Colorado. They told me that they expected 800 bikes there this weekend.

I sure wished that I had my bike with me on this trip (sigh)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

South to Enterprise, Oregon

Second day on the road, on the way to Hell's Canyon (the deepest canyon in the USA). Yes, Hell's Canyon is 2,000. ft deeper than the Grand Canyon.

We saw miles of this:

We also saw lots of neat places on the way:

And who would have known that Imbler, Oregon was the Grass Seed Capital of the world:

We finally ended up here, Joseph, Oregon:

Where we met a fellow scooterist, Linda Eytchison on her brand new Sym HD125:

you can't see it from this angle, but on the back of her GIVI top case she has a Lambretta logo. It was nice to meet you Linda, happy scooting and ride safely

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yakima Canyon, Washington

On the road today. Left Vancouver early morning. While we prefer backroads and secondary highways we had to make time and get to Oregon. I-5, I-90, I-82, SR831, SR730, hwy395 so many roads, but the best road today was SR831 which is the 20 or so miles through Yakima Canyon.


There are two roads into Yakima; the main highway which is a very long uphill battle, or the scenic way which carves through a picturesque canyon. You enter through Ellensburg, starts as Canyon Road.


Lots of things to take photos of, but no safe place to pull over. It is a great motorcycle road, lots of twisties, great scenery and lots of bikes out.


I was really thinking how great it would have been to have my Bike or Scooter here today.

Here is a recap of the day

Excuse the video quality. There was no option to pull over. If I can't pull off the road in a safe manner then we just continue on. A picture just isn't worth compromising your safety.

We made it to Hermiston, Oregon and tomorrow we should be in the Hell's Canyon area. The weather is hot (for us anyway), temps were 88 F and dry. Should be hotter tomorrow. We are in a desert area. The terrain looks like Lillooet, Cache Creek no trees, just rolling hills, sage brush and brown. Hell's Canyon is in a wilderness area, over 200 miles of limited services and gas. We shall provision ourselves accordingly before we enter the 'loop'. The loop starts at La Grande and eventually comes out at Baker, OR. We are going to make Enterprise our base for a couple of days.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hot Spring Island: Gwaii Hanaas NP

Did we tell you that we endured 3-1/2 hours in pouring rain on a speeding Zodiac in rough waves with 10 other persons just to get to our southernmost destination, Hot Spring Island, or as the Haida would say "Gandl K'in Gwaayaay" . And it was worth every minute. It is a beautiful place with natural, hot running water. Due to the differential between high and low tides the beach areas are not level and you have a hard time egressing the Zodiac, especially with all the protective clothing you have to wear. Just a couple of feet from shore and you are nearly waist level and the water came over the top of the hip waders (which are supplied). There is no development permitted and they (the Haida) wish to keep their areas as natural as possible so there will be no building of docks and piers. After we "landed" we had to follow the trail up the hill and this is what we saw:


There are three HOT pools of varying temperatures. We must have passed the one on the beach, cause we didn't really notice it until later. This is pool 3, the one with the hottest temperature. They have a shower house where you rinse off first before entering any of the pools. As these are natural hot springs the water just flows 24 hours a day and there is no water shut off. You can stand there for as long as you wish, or as long as you can stand the heat. Here is another view of pool 3:


The small building straight ahead (on the beach) is a changing room. The roof on the right is the shower building.

This is pool two:

You don't really see this pool as you climb up the hill from the beach. There is another path about half way up the hill which gives you access. This is the most beautiful pool. It is more or less on the side of the hill with a commanding view of the ocean. While we were there you could see whales in the distance crossing before our eyes and you could see their steam (blowholes) and hear grunting now and again.

This is pool one, it is right on the beach:

Well . . . it's time to leave and they are retreiving our Zodiac, which had to be tied offshore.


Sorry to post this picture again, but I really like it:

Now we have to look forward to another 3-1/2 hour ride to take us back to Moresby Camp, then another hour on the logging road to catch the Ferry at Sandspit, then wait 20 minutes for the ferry to take us back to Queen Charlotte City. We left at 6am and got back to our hotel after 8pm. It was a full, tiring, cold and windy day. But would we do it again, OF COURSE, YES.

The Haida (in co-operation with the Government) have established the Watchman program to protect the heritage of the Haida Nation. Vistors are allowed to visit protected areas under close supervision from approved tour operators and there are orientation courses which are compulsory for visitors who wish to venture on their own. Course certifcation is only effective for 2 years, then expire and you must retake the course. There is a very strict protocol for visiting these abandoned sites, and permission must first be obtained from the watchmen. You have to call them on VHF/UHF radio to let them know that you intend to 'visit', when you are nearing their location you must radio them again to let them know your intended ETA. They have a strict limite of approx 12 persons at any one time. If a prior group is still there and have not yet departed, you must "wait" and hover on the water until they leave, as you are not yet permitted to land your boat. All garbage must be taken out as you must leave no trace that you were there. You must only walk on designated pathways. You may not remove anything from any location.

I took this picture as our plane was preparing to land at YVR, Vancouver International Airport.

This is downtown Vancouver, BC. Showing Stanley Park, Burrard Inlet and the Lion's Gate Bridge.

We are leaving on our next adventure tomorrow. We are packed, the car is ready, gas is filled and cameras are loaded. I'm not sure how stable our internet access is going to be for the next week so stand by . . . I am only gone for a week and back next Sunday. I'm hoping to be able to post some pictures along the way. In the meantime here are some key words Hell's Canyon, Outback Scenic Byway .

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Haida Gwaii: Queen Charlotte Islands

Whenever we have a chance to get away for a few days, we have a habit of going to places "less travelled" away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Call it exploring. It is generally known at "the office" that I am usually out of cell phone range so don't bother trying to get hold of me. So it was recently when we decided to go to the "Queen Charlottes" for a week of R&R.
I am usually very thorough in my investigation of places to visit. I have found that the internet is usually your friend. We decided to book a tour into Gwaii Haanas as we wanted to visit a couple of old abandoned Haida villages. Gwaii Haanas NP comprises over half of the "Charlottes" and is only accessible by Boat or Seaplane and normal folks are not just allowed to step onto Haida land without taking a 3 hour orientation (at an approved centre) or be guided in by an approved Tour Operator (which you can find on the Government website). We decided to go Mid September as we have found that when school is in, there are usually less crowds (ie: tourists).
We should have realized that there were many omens which conspired to ruin our vacation. Our plane finally landed at Sandspit and we took the local transport to Queen Charlotte City to check into our Hotel. According to their website I had requested a suite with kitchen facilities. Of course the owner had decided to give us their 'best' room on the 2nd level with a view of the water (with NO kitchen). They were fully booked so no chance of exchanging rooms but he said he would loan us an electric skillet and coffee maker. Upon check-in he asked "how long are you staying" I replied "one week" Then he mumbled "what are you going to do for a week ?" Of course, I already knew that there were limited activities to do this time of year but we had already arranged some zodiac time with a local tour operator who was going to occupy some of our time. I had been in contact with this TO (tour operator) many times since booking our tour and each time they assured us that there would be NO problem and to come anyway, as they usually insist on having a minimum number of persons before they will actually proceed with the tour, or else you would have to pay for the whole boat, rather than just the per person charge. Well . . . the next morning I phoned the TO to confirm our tour and they told us that they had finished the season and would not be running any more tours until next season. Now we had to scramble to book a tour with someone else. It seems that being this late in the season is risky to do tours down in Gwaii Haanas NP (GH) because of the winds (and heavy wave action), and the only TO that was running tours was fully booked. Looks like our holidays were ruined. As a last resort we went into the tourist information building to ask about tours. The lady there told us that there was a chance that this TO would take us but when she told me their name I said forget it. I just got off the phone with them 15 minutes ago and they were fully booked. She called them anyway and it seems that they were trying to get hold of us at the hotel, but we had already left, and just had a cancellation for 2 persons. So YAHOO we were in. They also had an opening the next day for another full day tour down to Hot Springs Island and stopping at Skedans. A big thank you to Moresby Explorers (Heron & Laura) for making our trip a memorable and exciting experience.
All of their tours leave from Moresby Camp which is a ferry ride from Queen Charlotte City and a one hour logging road away. Along the way we stopped at a fish hatchery and surprised a family of these . . .


they were everywhere. There must have been 6 or 7 of them all around us. I looked down at the fish ladder and there was one trying to catch the fish coming down the chute. It must have been only 5 feet away from me.
They told us to dress warmly in layers and bring waterproof shoes and jackets. They also supplied rubber pants, boots and outerware. We could hardly move and had to waddle around. Eventually we got onto the Zodiac and headed south . . .


Our guide, Heron (from Moresby Explorers) was very good about explaining everything, pointing out scenic points of interest and giving history lessons about the area and the Haida, as well as stopping the Zodiac so we could mingle with the whales along the way. He stopped many times. Once we somehow got in the middle of a pod and were surrounded by whales. You could hear them snorting, blowin and grunting, we were that close.
Hotsprings Island is approx 3 hours south of Moresby Camp, so our tour included stopping at Skedans to see the weathered totem poles and remnants of an abandoned Haida village.

Here's another view of Skedans Bay

That's Laura on the left
Notice the white shells. You are not allowed to walk outside of designated areas as outlined. You cannot remove anything from the land and all garbage and waste has to be carried out.

You are not allowed to 'prop' up a totem pole
Poles must remain where they fall and be allowed to go back to the earth


These poles were originally the beams of a house. It's amazing to think that the Haida people once lived here and this was a thriving community (Village) in an earlier time.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Routine Saturday

Lately it seems that I've been very time challenged. I try to get my chores done during the week so as to free up my weekend. So it was last week; cut the back grass on Thursday, and the front grass on Friday. I know that it is only my imagination but to do the complete job (in one sitting, including the trimming) would probably take around 2 hours. It just doesn't seem so bad when you spread the deed into two days. Of course, my reward is a free and clear Saturday with nothing to do except . . .

Meet my friends for breakfast every Saturday at a motorcycle friendly neighbourhood cafe down in Kitsilano. We have been meeting at the same spot for probably over 10 years. Now comes the transporation decision. My preference is to take the scooter which I use for my daily commute, but today it was the motorcycle. I have a Suzuki SV650n which usually sits unused in the garage and I have been hearing whimpering sounds lately, esp on Sunny days. All the maintenance has been done and we are just waiting for summer so we can plan some weekends on the open road.

I had made a mental note to accomplish two things today. One was to try and find some soft saddlebags and get my bike washed at the Charity bike wash Hosted by Pacific Yamaha BMW, and organized by Dallas (Swan Charities) and a member of the Flying Swan Hot Chicks. I read on a recent post that all male owned bikes will be washed by a Hot Chick, and female bikes would be washed by a Burnaby FireFighter. So off to Richmond I go:

My bike seems to be getting a lot of attention:

My bike really wasn't that dirty. Only last month I purchased a rear stand and spent some time trying to clean the wheels but I don't mind donation for a good cause.

Here's another view:

I think that's Dallas on the Right, can't tell from this angle:

Yep, that's her:



I must say that there was a lot of washing going on:

There were also BBQing Hotdogs and Hamburgers (by donation):

I was getting tired just eating and watching:

It was all for a good cause.

Oh, almost forgot . . . They raised $535. for the Firefighters "Burn Fund"