Returning to Texas from Washington State August 11, a little road weary but eager to immerse myself in the Mountain West, I disappeared into a landscape where space and time connect.
Leaving Winchester State Park, I followed the Salmon River on US 95. An acrid smoke from nearby forest and brush fires hung low and obscured the countryside. The swift and cool river was flanked by charred grasses and blackened tree trunks. An ominous morning until I stumbled into Fiddler's Creek Fruit Stand in the tiny community of Lucile. Using a plastic fork in the parking lot, I devoured two pieces of locally-baked huckleberry pie, chatting with a woman who had ridden her bike from Virginia. She departed 90 days ago. Destination, Portland, Oregon.
Continuing southbound, I waved at the cyclist with saddlebags hanging on both sides of her rear wheels. She looked about age 35, brown-skinned from long days in the sun. And from that point, the smoke lifted.
High on huckleberry pie, I turned west at Cambridge on state highway 71. The road narrowed and twisted up and down like a corkscrew until I was looking down a steep descent - the Snake River Canyon. Like all the mighty western rivers, this one has been choked by modern dams. This concrete monster is called Brownlee and it impedes the cool water's progress before releasing it into Hell's Canyon. A local man said I could drive into Hell's Canyon on the Oregon side but it would take all day. So I had to settle for wading into the river and splashing my face. And more huckleberry pie.
Backtracking up the steep climb, I often craned my neck, overlooking a haunting and majestic landscape I may never see again.