We left Helena, MT shortly after 7 AM on Sunday, June 16th of 2019. Our route took us West to meet Interstate 90 at the Garrison exit. The last time we’d taken this path out of Helena, in June of 2017, we’d narrowly avoided colliding with a doe as she’d ventured onto the highway from thick shrub growth on the right side of the road. This time, thankfully, there were no near misses.
We remained on I-90 for only a short while, taking the exit at Drummond as that was the recommendation of my GPS. I should have learned not to trust the GPS after a particularly awful set of directions in August of 2016, but shame on me because I was fooled twice. We started out on a simple frontage road running parallel with the interstate before connecting with a meandering gravel road. It wasn’t in perfect condition, but I’d taken my 2001 Chevy Impala down worse roads, for sure.
What initially appeared to be a rough patch of road, perhaps still rutted after late winter in the higher elevations, soon became only a taste of what was to come. If I’d been driving a Jeep, I’d have avoided this road if given the opportunity to do so. It kept getting worse rather than better, large stones protruding from the road’s surface (if one could really call it a road) at random points while giant ruts carved miniature ravines through the hard-packed dirt that made up the islands of discernible road.
Unfortunately, there was no choice but to continue forward. Attempting to reverse down the trail would have certainly led to disaster, while powering through the god awful, stressful ordeal was at least potentially going to lead us to a happy outcome.
The road cleared up just as we approached our destination. Garnet, a ghost town maintained by the Department of the Interior, was just ahead. We’d made it…and without tearing anything from the undercarriage of my car.
To add insult to injury, there was a much nicer, well-maintained gravel road up there as well. There had been a far less treacherous path to this destination. We could have avoided the hazards associated with taking my car up something barely suitable for four-wheel drive. Damn the GPS.
We remained there in Garnet for about an hour and a half, not departing until around 11 AM. Photos from our time in Garnet are featured above.
The route we followed leaving Garnet and making our way to Missoula, where we rejoined Interstate 90 was far less stressful than the one we’d experienced only a couple of hours earlier. Along the way, there was a fantastic view and a great place to stop and take it all in. I’ve included photos of that vista below.
Crossing the rest of the distance through Montana and the upper panhandle of Idaho, we entered Washington. At the recommendation from my cousin, Jeremy, we stopped at Viking Drive-Inn. This is a modest diner located Southwest of Spokane, in a small town known as Sprague. The burgers, while simple, were deliciously seasoned and precisely what we were hungry for at just after 2 PM.
We continued following I-90 until we reached Ritzville, WA, where we headed South, making our way to Palouse Falls State Park. We’d seen photos of the magnificent falls, but we’d never seen it in person. It did not disappoint.
Photos of Palouse Falls follow.
We left Palouse Falls at approximately 4:30 PM before continuing Southwest through Kennewick before crossing the border into Oregon. We connected with Interstate 84 and continued on to Portland, OR. We arrived at our hotel shortly before 9 PM.
Having built up an appetite again, we went to the nearest MOD Pizza. We’d fallen in love with that design-your-own pizza chain when we’d been in Seattle in June of 2017. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a particularly seedy 7-Eleven, in what appeared to be a fairly run down area of Portland. Regardless of that, we continued returning to this same 7-Eleven during our week-long stay in Portland because they happened to have green apple Jones Soda in their fountain soda machine. It tastes even better as a fountain soda than in the bottles.
We settled back in at the hotel just before 10 PM.