Posted by: GeekHiker | August 11, 2011

The Road To Portland: ‘Nuthun But Trees

I’m a sucker for any sign about history, apparently.

Driving north from Lava Beds took me past a sign for the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument – Tule Lake Unit.  Intrigued, I pulled over and stepped out of the truck, looking over a dilapidated fence towards a couple of weather-beaten wood structures in the distance.  It was a lonely place, with nothing but the wind and the sun beating down, a hardy scrub brush growing here and there.  Hard to believe that over 15,000 people once lived there.  (More info here.)

Like Manzanar National Historic Site near Lone Pine in eastern California, this was one of the ten remote relocation centers that nearly 110,000 U.S. Citizens of Japanese ancestry were relocated to during the Second World War.  Not, by any means, one of the shining moments in U.S. history.  Located in the high desert, farmed only by virtue of irrigation, Tule Lake is much like Manzanar: isolated and lonely.  Unlike Manzanar, it’s not open to the public save four a couple of docent led tours in the summer months and a visitor center in town (which was closed on Tuesday when I drove by).  This added, I think, to the sadness of the place: no on-site visitor center, no parking lot, no rangers.  Just a shameful bit of history, abandoned, locked up, mostly forgotten.

There wasn’t much to see from the road.  I didn’t take any pictures. But I won’t forget the place.

We should never forget.

It’s taken a few days, but I’m finally starting to ease into the travel thing.  July, between losing the job, packing and moving, and buying everything for the trip, has been something of a stressful nightmare.  The one advantage, though, was not really having too much time to think about it all.  There was just so much to do.  Even though I’ve been on the road for a few days now, it’s still taking me a while to ease out of all that.  Of course, that’s always been a problem for me: it takes time for me to “come down” from the stresses of day-to-day living.  That’s why weekend trips were never that great for me: by the time I was de-stressed, it was Monday morning and I was heading back into work.

At this rate, it might take years for me to “chill out”.

I was excited about crossing into Oregon a couple of days ago.  I’d plotted a route along Highway 97 which, on the map, looked like it would be neat visually.  To the west, Interstate 5 cleaves its way over the mountains and through the Willamette Valley before rounding its way into Portland.  Between I-5 and Highway 97 are the Cascade mountains and, east of them, Oregon’s high desert.  So, I figured, I’d be driving pretty route with volcanic peaks on my left and the high desert on my right.

I was wrong.  So, so wrong.

As it turns out, the highway is mostly flat and, for large sections, is surrounded by trees.  It’s all forest, and it’s all more or less the same height, indicating prior clear-cutting.  The result was that I was for hours driving through a wooden box canyon.  No view of the mountains.  No view of the desert.

I love forests.  I love trees.  But after three hours of nothing but trees, road, and sky, I was dying for a change.

My intended State Park campground near Bend full, I ended up south in a Forest Service Campground.  Little more than a flat spot for the tent and a pit toilet, the campground’s location next to a river was still pretty.  Wandering by the shoreline at dusk, I found fishermen casting lines while, on the opposite shore, beavers worked tirelessly away.

GT - Oregon 01
Evening along the river

GT - Oregon 02
Industrious beaver at work along the evening shore of the river

The next morning, after a few more photographs and enjoying the sun by the river, I was back on the road.

GT - Oregon 03
A duck takes to the skies in the morning

Past Bend, I turned onto Highway 26, and the road became more interesting, crossing volcanic tablelands and dipping into canyons. I was on my way to Portland, the lofty peak of Mt. Hood guiding my way…

GT - Oregon 04
Mt. Hood guiding the way



  1. […] Backposted here. […]

  2. I’m going to sound like a complete dork here but: OHMYGODYOUHAVEBEAVERS!! So fat and cute!


    I have to say I love long drives. I do some of my best thinking over on them. And I’ve always wanted to go for a massive road trip, but NZ isn’t really big enough for a big two week drive. I mean, you can get from Auckland to Wellington in a day, so I think I’d run out of places to go. We just don’t have the vast expanse that you guys have!

    • I’m actually gonna disagree with you here. True, if you do nothing but drive all day, New Zealand may not have enough for an extended road trip. But there is most certainly enough variety in the country to do a trip with less driving and more sightseeing. Heck, I had a month there, and it wasn’t enough time to see it all!

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