June 13, 2005

Hell’s Canyon – and Snowy Mountains in June

Glenn Reynolds is beach blogging. Good for him! I went away this weekend, too, but I went inland. Unlike him, I didn’t blog while I was out. I took pictures instead. The Internet doesn’t exist where I went without a satellite modem. (Cell phone modems don’t work everywhere yet – and they may never.)

Half Dot Com.jpg

I stayed in a town called Half.com. Don’t let that fool you. There’s nothing dot-com about it, not really, not yet. The town’s old name is Halfway, which is still how it appears on every sign except this one. The name was kinda sorta changed because the Half.com company donated computers to the local school and offered to plug the town on its Web site as a tourist destination. It is a tourist destination of sorts because it’s just down the road from Hell’s Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. Yes, Hell's Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon. But it’s a six-hour drive from the nearest international airports in Portland and Seattle, and it’s a bitch to get to even if you live in this state. That’s why you haven’t heard of it.


Empiness Near Halfway.jpg

This is what it looks like just outside Halfway – er Half.com. The town got its old name because it was halfway between two other places, two other places that effectively no longer exist. One is now underwater. The other one is a ghost town. Now it’s smack in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, as you can see. Hardly anybody lives anywhere near it.


Field in front of Wallowa Mountains.jpg

They do have a nice view in Half.com, though. The back side of the Wallowa Mountains form the skyline to the north.


Blair Witch House.jpg

If you drive up into those mountains on the gravel road that leads to the “town” of Cornucopia you’ll find the local Blair Witch house and see why that road is not paved.


Road Near Halfway.jpg

Drive on the paved road toward Hell’s Canyon, though, and you’ll see mountains that are utterly bare and yet are somehow green at the same time.


Greenscape Near Hells Canyon.jpg

There are miles and miles of beautifully, naturally sculpted landscape. And yet practically nobody lives there. You could build nations in the empty spaces of Oregon.


Carson.jpg

There are a handful of farms around, like this one, but that’s about it.


Rain Over Hells Canyon.jpg

And here is Hell’s Canyon plunging a depth of 8,000 feet. It’s narrow and it goes down in stages. So you can’t see the top from the bottom and you can’t see the bottom from the top. It’s less photogenic than the Grand Canyon, but it’s striking all the same and it’s worth all the hassle you have to put up with to get there if you’re ever anywhere near it.


Cabin in Snow.jpg

It’s weird that I can drive to Winter in the middle of June. But I can. Here in the Blue Mountains, just down the road from Half.com and Hell’s Canyon, more snow fell on June 11 than fell on Portland throughout all of last year. (That's because we didn't get any. Portland is almost always too warm for snow.)


Anthony Lake.jpg

It was 30 degrees Fahrenheit at Anthony Lake. 10 minutes by car down the road it was 80 degrees.


Snow Close Up.jpg

It’s hard to believe I took this picture yesterday. But I did.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 13, 2005 05:53 PM
Comments

Wow.

Posted by: Asher at June 13, 2005 06:01 PM

Hey, it snowed here last Tuesday. You don't have to go to the Oregon outback to find cold June weather.

Posted by: chuck at June 13, 2005 06:23 PM

What a small world.

My maternal grandfather was the town doctor in Halfway until his death in the late sixties or early seventies. I met him just once that I remember in 1968, when Dad took the family on an epic Western States road trip. I fished Hell's Canyon with no result.

Oh, and it snowed for three hours here last Tuesday - "here" being the mountains east of Park City.

Some kind of summer we're having, let me tell ya what...beautiful pictures, Michael.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 13, 2005 06:40 PM

I had no idea Hell's Canyon was that big. The only time I have been near it was 7 devils outside of Riggins, Idaho.

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at June 13, 2005 08:43 PM

Snow in June reminds me of going up to Twin Lakes off the North Umpqua to fish. Once in a while, there'd still be snow in late May or early June.

Awesome pics. I haven't gotten out to the NE part of the state nearly as much as anywhere else. It is waaaaay out there.

Posted by: Nathan at June 13, 2005 08:57 PM

Respectfully, Mike is incorrect... it is NOT "almost always too warm for snow." Winters here are usually cold and dry (20's and 30's). When moisture does arrive it comes from the ocean and thus is "too warm for snow". But often enough cold air from the Gorge refuses to budge when the wet ocean air arrives and we do in fact get snow... In fact it usually snows about three times a year in the winter (about 3-5 inches, for 2-3 days) and we usually get one good ice storm every year as well (a half inch glazing of ice on every object outdoors). In fact, this last year was unusual in that we did not get any measurable snow fall. Stats here and here.

http://www.oregonphotos.com/Portland%20Cold.html

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/paststorms/snow.php

Posted by: sean at June 13, 2005 10:36 PM

Sean,

Snow three times a year? What? We haven't had snow that actually stuck on the ground three times in the last six years. Only once since I bought this house, and that was four years ago.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 13, 2005 11:10 PM

Sean,

Ah yes, I remember now. You used to live up on that hill where you got snow while the rest of us got rain.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 13, 2005 11:11 PM

Sean,

Sorry to go on about weather, but what on earth makes you think Portland winters are dry? That's the rainy season. In Oregon. Put down the weed. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 13, 2005 11:13 PM

Great fotos. I'd be interested, a little, in what equipment you use (not as much detail as Glenn gives).

Why not try a little "Oregon Unknown" travel book writing, with pictures?

"Some guys get all the snow,
Some guys get nothing but the rain."
(almost Stewart)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 13, 2005 11:52 PM

Tom,

My camera is a four-year old piece of crap that needs to be replaced. (It's literally falling apart.) The absolute worst camera on the market is better than what I have now.

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Gues that means the crappy pictures I take w/ my med-range (low end?) Cannon A85 -- must be my fault.
I was afraid of this...

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 14, 2005 03:52 AM

Great pictures. I used to visit Oregon once a year (one set of grandparents lived there), and I have to say it's the most beautiful destination west of the Mississippi in the US. Boring as hell, but beautiful.

Posted by: Sean P at June 14, 2005 09:32 AM

If you want to read a sad story about how Halfway blew the $73K it got for changing its name for a year, check here.

Posted by: Gordie at June 15, 2005 03:18 AM

Mike, you are smoking something. ;) We get three good snowstorms a year, every year. You bought your house only a 3 or 4 years ago. We did have a "snow drought" last year. But even then we had a record ice storm and still got one and a half good snows. You even had your gold fish frozen! I dont know why you dont remember, but I have the pics to prove it. Here is last year...

http://users.easystreet.com/~sblafren/snowbabysmall.(type jaypeg at the end - spell correctly)

Here is a whole thread on "Does it snow in Portland?" (Answer is most certainly yes, about three times a year about three inches and ha ha it closes down the city).

http://allnurses.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-72218.html

Here is another thread noting record 2003 recorded the most snow in one month in Portland (4 inches) since 1993 (6 inches).

http://www.met.utah.edu/jhorel/html/wx/climate/normsnow.html

PORTLAND, OR - Av by month beg with Jan: 3.3, 1.0, 0.4, T, 0.0, T, 0.0, T, T, 0.0, 0.4, 1.4, 6.5

Posted by: sean at June 16, 2005 12:28 AM

Portland Snow in 2000
http://alumni.iatp.org.ua/photo2/pictures/599.jpg

12/2001
http://www.lenscove.com/photo_album.asp?pic=575&id=Photos&cat=35

1/18/2002
http://www.filmfever.org/images/film_reviews/snow_dogs.jpg

Christmas 2003
http://freed.dyndns.org/image/christmas2003/Pages/IMG_3861.php

1/19/2003
http://www.cliffdweller.com/adventures/pdxsnow/bigo/myParkingLot.jpg

1/10/2004
http://users.easystreet.com/~sblafren/snowbaby.jpg

My Grandmother died in 2004 and at the funeral the priest (who was old) fell down in the snow walking around her coffin. So I remember there was snow last year. ;P

Posted by: sean at June 16, 2005 12:47 AM

As for the dry winter issue... yes, statistically the Winter is our rainy season. I had the conversation with someone else last year and we looked up the stats. The trick part is that when it rains here it is warm and when it is cold it is dry. January and Feb can be very cold and dry. Nov and Dec, and March are very wet. And in each month there are both cold and warm days, that is wet and dry. And frankly, this last winter was a complete drought. Stats can be found here.

http://www.worldstar.com/~pdxpro/weather.html

"The winter has generally mild temperatures, cloudy skies and rain. 88 percent of the area's rainfall falls between October and May. Measurable snow falls, on average, five days each year, seldom more than a few inches, and remaining only a few days. Temperatures can, on occasion, fall well below freezing, however below zero temperatures are rare."

http://movingtoportland.net/portland_weather.htm

As you can see here, roughly half of each Winter month has no rainfall and is below freezing (the other half it rains and is well above freezing, which is how we get an average winter temp of 34).

Type of Day
January
February
March

Clear Days
3
3
3

Partly Cloudy
4
4
5

Cloudy Days
24
22
23

Rainy Days
18
16
17

Mike you are correct that it rains "alot" in Portland and that our Winters are "mild". But it rains less in Portland every year than it does in either Seattle or New York and our weather is mild only when compared to the midwest and the NE. Everything is relative. But dont make it out to be a rainy, no snow place... it isnt.

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I want to visit the Blair Witch House. Looks lovely in a demented way.

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Paul Berman, The American Prospect

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Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

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