16-18 May 2001: Pullman to Nampa and Back Via Hells Canyon
I had recently purchased a new pickup and my parents had agreed to take a trip up to Pullman in order to take my old pickup back down to Nampa for my brother to use. In order to facilitate this transfer, Melissa and I decided to drive the new truck down to Nampa on Wednesday where we would spend Thursday at my parents and then all take my truck up to Pullman on Friday.
On numerous occasions over the past few years, I have driven past Seven Devils Road. I often told myself that one of these days I wanted to drive up there and see what it was like. Melissa and I decided to make this trip the one, and so we left early enough to have time to take the 34 mile (up and back) detour. About 3 miles off the highway, there is a fork in the road. The right fork had a closed gate on it, so we continued up the left fork. We did not get much further before discovering that there was a gate across this road as well. Upon getting out to investigate, I saw that the road was not open until the middle of June, so we were a month too early. We drove back down to the lower road where we got out and walked around looking at and photographing some of the many wildflowers which were on the hillside above the road.
Last summer I drove from Nampa to Pullman via a route which took me down into Hells Canyon near Brownlee Dam and then up to the rim on the Oregon side. I had told my parents about the trip and they were interested in taking this scenic route. We got a fairly early start, though not nearly as early as my dad might have preferred (if it's light out, you're not starting early enough). After a good lunch in Weiser, Idaho we continued up highway 95 to Cambridge, Idaho. From there we went west on 72 which took us down into Hells Canyon above Brownlee Dam. The road is a little curvy as it winds its way along the side of the reservoir before crossing the river just below the dam. We stopped to get out and look at the dam and take a few pictures before heading into Oregon.
The road through Oregon follows a series of valleys which take you west and then north. Eventually you find yourself climbing out of a valley on a series of switchbacks. It is inadvisable to drive too close to the edge if you have a nervous passenger, since it is a pretty steep slope below the road and there are not too many trees to give one the illusion of safety. (If I can't see the drop, then there isn't really a drop.) My mom is a nervous passenger at times, and she does not like heights. Let's just say that I don't think the greater than average height of the cab of my truck did anything to make the hills look more inviting to tumble down. I am not sure how much of this portion of the trip she actually saw.
A short paved spur off the main road takes you to a viewing area above Hells Canyon. This was a good time for wildflowers and my dad and I both took a number of pictures of flowers along the short paved trail. The views of Hells Canyon and the other side were also fairly impressive. I should point out that, as my mom commented, you cannot really see the bottom (that is, the Snake River) from this viewpoint. However, you can see the Seven Devils peaks to the northwest. From this high point along the route, the road takes you down to the Imnaha River where you can continue up along the river into Imnaha or take a different road that goes a little more directly into Joseph, Oregon. We took the Imnaha River Road and stopped at the hatchery along the way. Unfortunately there was not much to see at the hatchery since the mature king salmon had not yet arrived and the king salmon smolts had already been released.
This route is only about 50 miles longer than the driving up highway 95. However, it takes a few hours more than the standard route due to the winding roads and stops to sightsee and take pictures. We got into Enterprise for dinner around 7pm and from there it is another 4 hours to Pullman. The drive from Enterprise to Lewiston is fairly scenic as well, especially the views of the Wallowas. Light was fading fast and it had been a long day so we drove straight back to Pullman and somehow I managed to avoid falling asleep at the wheel while doing so.