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The Inn Crowd visits Hells Canyon

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  • The Inn Crowd visits Hells Canyon



    There wasn't a Mini Meet at the far side of this trip. There were no deadlines to meet or relatives to visit. It was purely a 5-day, 1,600-mile foray across Washington, Idaho and Oregon to search for some of the best Mini roads in the West. And while we re-ran some familiar-but-beloved routes, we did indeed discover some new and absolutely spectacular Mini roads (see photo above).



    I was having so much fun leading the parade the first day that I forgot to take any photos of the great Washington roads we drove -- Highway 410 over Chinook Pass and Highways 261 and 12 from Kahlotus to Lewiston. Here's a shot after our arrival in Lewiston. We stayed at the Cedars Inn there. It's the kind of inexpensive, park-at-your door motels we prefer to stay in.



    Chuck and Jerry spend a moment cleaning up a throttle cable in the Cedars parking lot.



    The next day, we took the Minis up beautiful Highway 12 along the Clearwater River toward Lolo Pass. But instead of climbing into Montana, we turned south at Kooskia and picked up Highway 95 at Grangeville to cross over White Bird Summit. Dropping down the other side and into the Salmon River Valley, we entered Hells Canyon country.

    Dan
    Dan

    "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

  • #2


    That's White Bird, Idaho, in the valley below. The summit is above the ridge at the upper right, and the grade -- with its multiple runaway truck ramps -- can be seen here at the upper left. On the face of the right-hand ridge is the Old Highway 95 grade (you can't see it in the pic, but it's impossibly twisty, all cut banks and switchbacks). We'd planned to run the old grade, but a navigational error on my part meant we'd have to climb back up there in the middle of a very hot day. We changed our plan and continued south.



    We drove up the sweeping Salmon River Valley and down the sorta-twisty Payette River Valley, then cut west at Horseshoe Bend. A little-used and very contorted Highway 52, plus some minor back roads, landed us for the night in Ontario, Ore. We stayed at the Ontario Inn. In fact, we stayed at four inns this trip, and for a while referred to ourselves as "the Inn Crowd."



    Again, it's a park-at-your-door motel. Keeps you close to your car and avoids long elevator rides.



    The next morning we crossed back into Idaho, mounted Highway 95, and navigated north to Cambridge. There we joined Highway 71 westbound for a twisting, writhing carnival ride down into Hells Canyon. As I sped down 71, I was having trouble avoiding black gravel on the road. When I slowed to get a better look at the nearly golfball-sized rocks, I realized they were big black crickets. Two women working at a park down in the valley informed us the bugs were Mormon Crickets, and would we please run over all we could, thank you very much. This photo shows the cars at the mouth of Hells Canyon. That's Brownlee Dam in the distance.

    Dan
    Dan

    "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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    • #3


      We stopped for a couple of historic markers. There once was a ferry here and several important mines in the area.



      Chuck took this photo of the Minis along the Snake.



      He also captured this view of a couple of yokels taking in the history. Apparently, "Old Guys Rule" T-shirts were the uniform of the day.



      Down here along the river, the road followed every fold in the topography. Crazy, but enormous fun in the little cars.

      Dan
      Dan

      "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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      • #4


        So we crossed the Snake back into Oregon and climbed some recently paved, torturous, circuitous, indescribably delicious Forest Service roads to the Hells Canyon Overlook. When we were here in 2009 on the way to West Meets East, the overlook was entirely socked in by fog. On this day, you could practically see downtown Boise.







        Dan
        Dan

        "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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        • #5
          The road down from the Overlook was equally twisty, but potholes hidden in the dappled shade made driving treacherous. I, for one, was glad to get back on the main road to Joseph and, ultimately, La Grande. There we stayed at the Royal Motor Inn. We left the next morning and continued west on Highway 244. This was a particularly scenic part of our tour, as it climbed the Grande Ronde River Valley and descended the valley of Camas Creek. At Ukiah, we turned south to Long Creek, where we again cut west on 402, 19 and 218 to Clarno, where we stopped for a brief geology lesson.





          At Antelope (remember the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh?), we veered north to Shaniko and the Columbia at Biggs Junction. We stayed the night there (Dinty's Motor Inn) before crossing the river, climbing to Goldendale and once more attacking the Klickitat Canyon all the way back down to the river. From there, it was a spirited drive down the river to Vancouver and an I-5-paralleling route northward to Seattle.

          The overall route was an all-you-can-eat feast of twists and turns and bucking-bronco roads. We found some unbelievable, untraveled, and uncanny highways. This is going to be a hard-to-top trip.

          Dan
          Dan

          "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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          • #6
            And don't forget one of our favorite, and well-named stops: Fossil, OR!

            One could say the trip was not about being there. It was about getting there.

            Dan did almost all of the route planning, and it couldn't have been better.

            A line I've often used: Don't leave your Mini at home.
            Last edited by Cheleker; 07-28-2016, 08:38 AM.
            The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.

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            • #7
              I read this this morning and thought of your journey through out the day. Thanks for sharing your pictures and stories with us.
              Tim
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemini/collections/

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              • #8
                If I ever get my act together, someday I'll drive these roads in the van or other mini. Thank you for sharing.
                Alain

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                • #9
                  perhaps next time around planning a trip like this::>>
                  other people would join like l to drive my mini for that.
                  peter

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                  • #10
                    Thank you Dan for sharing your wonderful journey. Sounds like the ultimate Mini drive.

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                    • #11
                      Here's a look at a section of N. Pine Rd., on the way to the Hell's Canyon Overlook.



                      This is unbelievable Mini country. You just have to go out and look for it.

                      Dan
                      Last edited by BIGSHOT; 08-10-2016, 07:14 PM.
                      Dan

                      "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison

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