I rolled out of Walla Walla in a fog.
An external fog, actually, that lay on the bright, moist streets like a chilly gray cloud. Buildings along the way became vague, dark shapes in the mist.
Yet, a mile up Highway 204, after leaving Winn Road, I drove beneath a blue sky dimmed by a gauze-thin haze.
I stopped and looked back. A thick blanket of fog spread across the distant valley.
I stopped after passing the snow line. A gust of wind blew a cloud of snow from the tall firs lining the highway. I attached Nora the Schnauzer to the leash, stood at the road's edge with the camera ready and waited.
Eventually, a small wind-blown puff floated across the road. I snapped at it but it didn't turn out great.
Sunshine bathed the Tollgate store and restaurant and the Tamarack Inn, but the temperature remained chilly. My dashboard thermometer said 34 degrees.
Compacted snow covered the highway for several miles, until well past Summit Road.
Then, near the turnoff to Summerville, I drove into more fog.
Nevertheless, I turned left onto Valley View Road a mile before Elgin. Less than a minute later, I stopped as about 50 turkeys strutted across the road.
I drove a loop looking for elk moved into the valley by the snow. I didn't see any, but as the loop curled toward Elgin, I stopped to photograph some bison puffing out breath clouds in the fog.
And I saw three more turkey flocks.
At Elgin, I turned left onto Highway 82.
Between Minam and Wallowa, I counted seven anglers along the Wallowa River. That seemed like a high number for a weekday, so I figured steelhead must already be in the river.
In Lostine, I stopped for a fresh jolt of Joe at the Blue Banana. A customer there said elk may have moved down from the snow "near the ranch."
He meant the Lostine River Ranch, perhaps five miles up the road, near the Lostine Wildlife Refuge.
So, I drove up there. As I opened the gate to the refuge, a deer walked down the road I'd just driven over.
I closed the gate and followed vehicle tracks in the snow, for about 100 yards.
The tracks ended because the vehicle had turned around. So did I. I didn't want to get stuck. Besides, the fog lay over the valley and limited visibility to an underhanded stone toss.
After Nora scooted around for a few minutes, we headed toward Enterprise and Joseph.
Before Enterprise, however, I turned to the right onto the fish hatchery road, to look for hawks and such along the back roads to Joseph.
And I did, although the fog became so thick in spots that I couldn't see fence posts. Let alone hawks.
I couldn't see the mountains, either and eventually lost my bearings.
So, I drove mostly straight ahead, with a few left turns.
Once, despite the fog, I spotted a forlorn-looking great blue heron standing on one leg, on a berm beside an irrigation ditch.
Then six or seven deer, vague in the fog, camped beside a house.
I also stopped to photograph horses in long-haired winter coats silhouetted in the fog.
And I arrived in downtown Joseph.
I drove through town, with the fog so thick that I had trouble reading the names on the stores and picking out Mad Mary's Soda Shop, where I bought fresh coffee and two fat cinnamon rolls to take home.
I drove on to Wallowa Lake. I stopped in the fog-clogged parking area on the north end and couldn't see the water.
Or the mountains.
So, I turned around.
I stopped in Joseph again to photograph the bronze horse and the woman in the blue dress.
Normally, they appear with the Eagle Cap Mountains in the background.
This time, they stood in the snow and fog.
In Wallowa, another flock of turkeys scratched in a yard near the road, and I stopped.
Overall, between Valley View Road and Wallowa, I saw 500 turkeys.
Of course, I traveled in a fog, so my estimate could be off by a few hundred.
On the mountain again at Andies Prairie, sunshine glistened on the sno-park ice as Nora stretched her legs.
Then we drove down the hill into the fog-bound valley.
Contact Don Davis at email@example.com or 526-8326.
If You Go
It's about 60 miles to Elgin over Tollgate on Highway 204. From Elgin, it's about another 50 miles to Joseph on Oregon Highway 82. The Lostine River Road turns off at The Blue Banana coffee shop.