$n$ OUTDOORS - A Sunday Drive

turns into a trip down Nostalgia Lane on a rambling drive through Northeast Oregon.


I slept too late to go fishing on a recent chilly and windy Sunday.

Well, that was my excuse. Actually, I didn't feel like cleaning a bunch of fish.


Then, with most of the morning gone, my wife Darlene said, "Let's go for a drive."

Nora the Schnauzer wagged her tail.

So we went.

We headed south, more or less, and stopped for coffee and muffins to go. Nora sat on the console between Darlene and me and swallowed her tidbits whole.

With no destination in mind, I drove through Athena and, at a rambling 25 mph, toward Helix.

We scanned the fields for deer or coyotes. It was a slow day.

We toured Helix, briefly, and continued slowly toward Holdman. I'd once seen about 20 deer in a field along that road.

At Holdman, a junction with Oregon State Route 37 (also known as Cold Springs Highway), we drove slowly past a long-vacant one-room school (District 105).

I wondered how many generations of students passed through it.

"I went to a school like that," I said, knowing I'd told Darlene that before. "In Virginia, near Fries."

"So did I, in Montana," she said. "Near Helena."

"We had six rows, and each was a grade," I said. "First-through-sixth. I read orange-colored books about Daniel Boone and Kit Carson over and over," I said. "I walked three miles with my cousin Gene to build a fire and warm the school house before anyone else got there."

"I walked five miles every day, and it was uphill and against the wind," Darlene said. "Both ways."

So much for nostalgia.

Not long after that, we passed a huge skeleton of barn. I imagined that it once bustled with a rancher, his wife and children feeding and milking the cows.

Not long after that, I saw an owl on a nest in a tree.

"That could be a long-eared owl," I said.

"It's a great-horned owl," Darlene said.

Nora watched quietly from the window.

As we headed down the hill toward the Columbia River and Oregon Highway 730, near the weigh station and the turnoff to Warehouse Beach, we passed a rough-hewn ORV park.

Four-wheelers and bikers sped around the sandy trails, stirring up clouds of dust.

We passed Warehouse Beach, Hat Rock State Park and McNary Beach.

We drove down to the McNary Wildlife Refuge to see if any painted turtles showed themselves in the ponds.


Anglers surrounded the ponds, and vehicles crowded the parking areas. We would see no painted turtles.

I eventually parked at the side of a road, and snapped Nora to her leash.

We strolled around two of the ponds, and I saw one man with a fish.

Finally, I treated Darlene to a late lunch and early dinner at the deli in the Burbank Heights store.

I drove to the overlook above McNary Dam, and we ate in the car. I gobbled my lip-smacking good turkey sub-sandwich and Darlene and Nora shared chicken strips.

Nora lobbied for a bite of sub and got it. A small one.

We drove the same route back to Walla Walla, and we saw a great-horned owl on a power line a mile or so from the one in the nest. We also spotted about 20 silhouettes of deer on distant ridge.

We didn't see a single coyote, however.

Otherwise, we arrived home after a pleasant, old-fashioned Sunday Drive.


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