NW Montana to the Oregon Coast

Day One: Fortine, MT to Ritzville, WA

Car packed and house searched for last minute items left in nooks and crannies, we left Fortine, Montana, passing the local On The Fly Cafe for the last time. We started north, through Eureka, then turned west to Lake Koocanusa, where we turned south–no trip is a straight line in the mountains.

Morning mist was just rising off the mountains, and though the sky looked threatening, we had no rain. The lake was a pattern of shimmering silver disks, reflecting the gray sky.

Our route across NW Montana crossed the Kootenai National Forest, as beautiful a drive as ever through the tall pines. We drove via Libby, formerly a mining town, now a superfund site with some impressive murals of local wildlife, then the road headed north again. Crossing into Idaho we drove a strange stretch through the panhandle, passing a tremendous number of rail lines full of freight trains mostly sitting still. Was it the Covid19 decrease in commerce, or a bottleneck on the line?

Libby, MT grizzly mural

North Idaho is also home to some very large auto scrapyards. Huge, even. There were hundreds of cars spread across fields. Some had a few choice older vehicles lined up by the gate (school bus yellow Camaro, anyone?). Stretching into the distance were rows of increasingly distressed cars, trucks, and farm machinery.

We turned south once again, and headed for Spokane, coming out of the mountains into rolling hills that rapidly flattened out where we picked up the interstate. Suddenly, we were surrounded by wheat fields to the horizon.

By mid-afternoon we arrived at the Best Western Bronco Inn, in Ritzville, WA. We were tired from the long day, and had a picnic dinner in our room. Jonathan was pleased to find the “Grass Station”, next door to the motel, and paid a visit to check on their inventory. (NB: Bronco logo from motel appears over the Grass Station.

Day Two: Ritzville, WA to Cannon Beach, OR

The fields of wheat accompanied us south to the WA/OR border, but things changed when we crossed the Columbia River. The highway follows the river from Umatilla all the way to Portland, along the shore and past the Dalles, the Columbia River Gorge, and the Lake Bonneville Dam and power plant. Rock formations loom over the highway,

We stopped to picnic in a park along the roadside just east of the Columbia Gorge. The day was beautiful and we enjoyed the break from driving. After that, we made a beeline for Cannon Beach. Traffic through Portland didn’t slow us down at all, and we arrived at our new home in the late afternoon. A quick shopping trip to the grocery store around the corner and we could stop moving for a while. We can see the ocean from our living room. Ahhh!


Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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