Road Trip: U.S. 26 Portland-Caldwell

US 26 Portland, Oregon-Caldwell, Idaho

Every now and then I like to escape the madness and congestion that I often find in the Portland metropolitan area. One of my favorite destination is heading east of the Cascades. That to me sounded like a great plan on Monday morning.

My trip was on U.S. 26 from the Ross Island Bridge in Portland, Oregon, to I-84 in Caldwell, Idaho. The drive on U.S. 26 was 420 miles.  It was a easy going drive to see what is out there and take some pictures.

Between Portland and Prineville was the least interesting. There was very little attraction along the way through the forests of western Cascades, over Government Camp Pass, and through the high desert of Warm Springs and Madras. The traffic is mostly motorists rushing to commute to central Oregon.

After I passed east of Prineville is where I found it to be more interesting. The secluded mountainous terrain dotted with ponderosa pine and patches of golden grass and gray basalt rocks.

I find small towns like Mitchell, Dayville, John Day, and Ironside fascinating. I reflect on the early days of those towns and see how simple life was back then. They have character.

Sometimes, I like to stop at a good diner and grab a bite. When I’m traveling with my dog and it’s about 100°F outside under the blazing sun, leaving my dog in the car is not an option. The places I encountered that were open did not have outdoor seating. I had to save my meal for a quick bite at an A&W in Nyssa, Oregon, near the Idaho border.

One challenge I face when photographing on the road are the minimal pull outs. The shoulder on U.S. 26 is narrow and thick, soft pea gravel. This was especially a problem through Picture Gorge.

The sad past about this whole journey is seeing the many town no longer focus on tourism. A majority of places I passed had a “Closed” sign posted. The highway speed limits are up to 65 miles per hour. There is a feeling of rush and lack of appreciation. It makes me think of the “Ferris Bueller” quote, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Even on this trip I felt a little bit rushed. I need to slow it down a bit and spend more time photographing. I’ll make it a multi-day trip next time.

The weather was hot and sunny. By afternoon, clouds begin to puff up over Wallowa and Malheur National Forests.