Summer is for Road Trips

I had two destinations in mind for this summer, visiting family in Northern California, and driving the Sawtooth Mtn. Scenic Byway near Boise, ID. I toyed with the idea of combining them into one big trip, but the massive wildfires here in the Pacific Northwest made that all but impossible. So here are some scenes from my two summer road trips.

The summer fun started with a visit from my old friend Polly, who often stops off in Portland on her way from winter in Mexico to summer in Eastern Washington. This year we combined our travels, and after a week of shopping and seeing old friends in Portland, had a girls road trip to the Lewiston/Clarkston area, by way of Boise. From Boise we headed out into the Castle Rocks area at the southern end of the Sawtooth National Forest.

First stop was in Ketchum, ID, which was briefly the home of Ernest Hemingway. I thought there would be a house we could tour or some other Hemingway memorabilia, but a friendly volunteer at the visitor center explained why he is not the focus of Ketchum’s tourism efforts. Today it’s known mostly as a ski resort, with the shops, restaurants and art galleries typical of resort towns.  Hemingway only lived there for a short time in 1939-40. While he was there he was asked by Averill Harriman, the railroad tycoon, diplomat and future presidential candidate, to help promote his nearby, newly opened Sun Valley ski resort to his Hollywood celebrity friends. SunValley became a big hit but Hemingway left soon after and didn’t return until just before his death.

Armed with lunch recommendations and route information from our friendly volunteer, we continued north from Ketchum to the Galena Peak summit. After enjoying the spectacular though somewhat smoky view, we followed the Sawtooth Mtn. Scenic Byway around the loop and headed back south on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. I am usually one to stop at every possible pullout for a photo, but although this narrow, winding road has amazing views, it had almost no safe place to pull out, so you’ll have to take our word for a lot of it! I think you can get some idea from the photos above, taken at the summit viewpoint.


This evening back in Boise we treated ourselves to the famous lamb dip sandwich at Bar Gernika, in Boise’s Basque Block. For our side dish we chose the exquisite croquetas, which are a little like tater tots, if tater tots were made by angels using butter and whipped cream.

We left Boise and followed the Payette River Scenic Byway up to Polly’s place in Asotin, WA.  Another gorgeous drive on a narrow mountain road with no viewpoints. Sorry! The few places where we normally could stop were taken over by fire crews, with reduced speed limits and “no stopping” posted.  The Rattlesnake Creek fire is the big one in this area.  Strangely, farmers on the other side of the pass from here were burning their fields! Back in Asotin, the neighbors paid a visit to sample apples from our trees.

In today’s anxiety-ridden world I’ve started reserving at least one night of a road trip somewhere with a view of the water. Whether it’s the ocean, or a lake or river, staring at the water seems to calm the anxiety and slow down the crazy. On the way home from Asotin to Portland I spent the night in Richland, WA on the Columbia River.

After a few days at home I started off on the next adventure, to see my kids and grandkids in California.  I was a little apprehensive about all the fire activity but the highway remained open despite all the smoke. Here you can see the smoky skies at my lunch stop (In ‘n’ Out Burger in Grants Pass!)–those hazy hills are right across the road. The other photo shows the ash particles I woke up to after spending the night in Corning, CA just south of the Carr fire in Redding.  The worst area is around Shasta Lake.

I was in a big hurry to see my granddaughters before they all had to go back to school. Isabella was leaving for her sophomore year at Cornell the day after I left! They start track practice early.  Emma, here with her dad, is doing her favorite thing…putting together incredibly complicated Lego vehicles–in this case the James Bond Aston Martin. There was about a three-hour gap between the first picture of  a zillion little pieces, and the finished product! I think she will make a great engineer someday.  And Katherine’s about to start her senior year!

Sunday we checked out the massive Antique Fair that goes on once a month under the freeway in downtown Sacramento.  Everything you can imagine is for sale here. At lunchtime I was introduced to the best food truck ever…Cousins Maine Lobster!  I had the lobster tacos…OMG. And later I persuaded Emma to show off her new school uniform. She’s heading to private school in September.

After a quick trip to visit with Loren in San Francisco, which is probably the only place in the entire country that is having “normal” weather (65 and foggy), I started heading back north. For another calming experience, I booked a room in the lodge at Bridge Bay Resort, on Lake Shasta.  They specialize in houseboat rentals but also have hotel-type accommodations. They’re located right where I-5 crosses the lake several miles east of the dam.  On this day most of my fellow guests were working for CalFire in one way or another.  This was the smokiest area of all my travels.

I usually drive through here in November on my way down to spend the winter in Texas, and the place is usually deserted. I often stopped here to take a photo of the lake.  Between Weed and Redding, I have five or six favorite spots–viewpoints, rest areas, Burger King parking lots, etc.–where I can usually get a good view of Mt. Shasta.  I tried them all on this trip and never saw even a ghost of the tippy top of the mountain.  You drive right by Mt. Shasta on I-5 but it might as well have not been there at all.  That’s some smoke!!

One of the best spots for mountain views showed only the weirdly orange sunlight this morning as I headed back to Portland.  My heart goes out to all the firefighters and the many people who have been evacuated and lost their homes.  We’ve never seen a wildfire season quite like this one, but something tells me it won’t be the last.


4 thoughts on “Summer is for Road Trips”

  1. Looks and sounds like you and your friend had a great trip and I love all your pics. You are so brave to go tripping all by yourself. I guess I should try to do some of that at nearby places to start. Glad you got to visit family and that all is good. Take care and keep in touch when you can. Love ya, Carla


  2. I do not like winding mountain roads!!! I am scared of driving on Hill Country roads in Texas! But, yes, I’m sure the views were spectacular. I hope your next trip is to flat as a pancake Iowa.


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