On Friday, I set off from my spot at Hayspur Fish Hatchery, headed West towards Oregon. I spent one night on the Snake River outside of Huntington, Oregon, before spending all of Saturday exploring Hells Canyon. Saturday night, I camped on the West Rim of the canyon before heading towards Washington on Sunday. Due to a flat tire, the weekend got cut short, ending with me in a hotel room in Walla Walla for a couple of nights, waiting to get replacement tires.
Hayspur really was a wonderful spot to stay for the majority of the time that I was there. However, Thursday night, the crowds came in and the campground filled up for the first time that I was there. And with the crowds came the noise. I was more than happy to be on my way out on Friday.
With nothing too eventful planned to see, I headed straight to the campsite I had scoped out: Spring Recreation Site on the Snake River. It ended up being a $5/night stay, but the only other campers there at all were the campground hosts. I had a lovely stay, with a wonderful view of the river, before I set out Saturday morning to go explore Hells Canyon downstream.
I had previously explored Hells Canyon on the East, Idaho side. I was a bit excited to do the drive into the canyon below and also explore a decent bit of the West, Oregon side. I set out with 3 main goals: the Hells Canyon Creek Visitor Center, Hells Canyon Overlook, and Hat Point Overlook.
The drive down to the visitor center was surprisingly lovely! The views down the canyon down the otherwise just fun road to drive were simply amazing, and the lack of other people driving on the roads at the same time for me made for a wonderful drive. I stopped to take several pictures as I made my way to the visitor center.
At the visitor center, itself, the Rangers there told me that they were even surprised by how not busy the canyon was this Labor Day weekend. I would absolutely take having such luck any day!
With the visitor center bagged, I headed back up the canyon, this time heading off to explore the West Rim on the forest roads above. I followed the paved roads all of the way up to Hells Canyon Overlook, where I stopped and took the short walk along the paved walkway, taking in the wonderful views across and down into the canyon.
Although I felt somewhat underwhelmed by that viewpoint, I still had Hat Point Overlook to make my way to. I hopped back on the road, making my way further North. In a quick spur of the moment, I decided to take the gravel Upper Imnaha Road route, instead of taking the longer but paved route through Joseph, Oregon. And what a choice that was!
Every twist and turn of Upper Imnaha road, I was tempted to stop, get out, and take pictures of what I was staring at. Although it only started as a pleasant drive through forest, the land quickly opened up in a massive canyon, following the Imnaha River, often very close by. The views of the canyon walls left me often breathless. Alas, I didn’t stop and take many pictures at all, simply just driving and enjoying this absolutely magnificent drive down one of the best roads I’ve probably ever driven down. If you, my reader, ever get a chance to do this drive through Upper Imnaha Road, I absolutely recommend it!
And if the drive through this canyon wasn’t quite enough, once I made my way into the small town of Imnaha, I was prepared to head on up towards Hat Point. I stopped at the local bar for a Pepsi and then headed on up the narrow, winding road. More than 20 miles of absolutely spectacular views. For the first significant part, looking back down over the canyon carved by the Imnaha River that I had just driven through, I was in awe all over again at my day. It was just simply amazing!
Entering back into forest as I left the wonderful views of one canyon, it was only a matter of time before views of Hells Canyon, itself, came back into view. And wonderful views they were, only getting better and better as I went. Eventually, I finally reached Hat Point and was in awe. A hawk greeted me, flying and landing on a branch just close enough for me to snap a picture of it before it flew off. I spent time walking around the picnic areas, taking in the views, before making my way up the fire tower.
Going to the top of the fire tower, I stood in absolute awe. Looking down into Hells Canyon and the Snake River, across at the Seven Devils, and back at the storm clouds shadowing the West, I nearly wanted to cry over the experience. This canyon is the deepest canyon in all of North America, and it actually retains its rugged, undeveloped nature in spots like this more than so many of the other places I have visited in all of my travels. The beauty of it stands simply magnificent.
I couldn’t spend all of my time at Hat Point, of course, so I headed on over to the Saddle Creek Campground, about 5 miles back up the road I came up on. Being just a small campground, I was amazed to find that absolutely no one else had come to stay here yet. In fact, I ended up having the entire campground to myself all night. I hung my hammock and enjoyed the amazing views as the surprisingly cold night set in.
Waking up, my cold hands struggled to tear down camp, but it was time to say goodbye to Hells Canyon for this year. It’s a place I absolutely wish to come back to and explore in much more depth than I have this year. It seems simply impossible to truly experience all of this canyon, but I hope to have at least one more go at it in the future!
Almost immediately on my way out of the campground, the TPMS sensor on Tivona went off. I checked everything then, without seeing any obvious flat tire or hearing any air leaking. I figured it must be the cold; I would let the tires warm up a bit on the drive down the long dirt road and check the tire pressure then. Unfortunately, when I finally did, it was pretty clear that the rear passenger side tire had a nail stuck in it. I swapped on the spare tire and made my way down the long trek to Joseph, OR, hoping to find somewhere to get the tire patched.
To my luck, the first gas station I arrived at notified me that they, themselves, repaired such tires, so I left it up to them to try the attempt. They pulled out one hell of a nail, but were unable to patch the hole that the thing left behind good enough to not continue leaking. The hole would not be repaired. I quickly looked up camping and hotel options, finding that the best option I would have would be to try and limp my way on to Walla Wall, WA–another 100 miles away.
It was a slow, frustrating drive, but I did it. I reserved a night at a hotel in Walla Walla and drove 45mph all of the way there, despite being primarily in 55 zones. People passing me left and right, a couple even honked at me. I didn’t dare go a speed that they wanted on this donut spare, though. Keeping at it, I made it to the hotel safely for 2 nights stay, waiting for a tire store nearby to open Tuesday morning.
Of course, the hotel, itself, can’t be uneventful, either! First thing Monday morning, the fire alarms go off, and the hall is filled with smoke. It turns out that someone put something stupid in the microwave, but all of the guests sat outside as the fire truck arrived and cleared the situation for us to go back in.
One hell of a labor day weekend!