The Fourth of July dawned bright and clear. Daniel and I packed up, crossed the Snake River to Clarkston and turned south along the river through Hell's Gate to Asotin, Wash., looking for a gas station to fill up. Then, in a repeat of yesterday's twisty descent into Lewiston, we climbed out of the Snake River Canyon and headed south.
Neither of us knew about the Rattlesnake Grade, a 13-mile stretch of twisties descending to the Grande Ronde River. It's 110 curves rival the Smoky Mountain's often-crowded Tail of the Dragon, but the Rattlesnake is a long way from any major population centers and we had it virtually all to ourselves.
As we wound our way along the Rattlesnake with me in the lead, I rounded a corner in a forested area as a cougar dropped gracefully off the slope to my left into the middle of the road. I was only about 50 yards away and it was unmistakeably a mountain lion. As soon as I spotted him I asked myself if I really wanted to stop, but he took one look at me and, in a bound, was over the guardrail on the down-slope side.
|Rattlesnake Grade, Washington Hwy. 129, 13 miles and 110 curves of motorcycle fun, took us from Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Wash. into Oregon.|
Daniel and I had a blast on Rattlesnake Grade and then stopped for breakfast at Boggan's Oasis on the Grande Ronde River at the bottom of the hill.
|Entering Oregon, Wash. 129 becomes Ore. 3 and climbs to overlook Joseph Canyon, named for Chief Joseph, whose Wallowa band of the nomadic Nez Perce people once wintered in its shelter.|
|It was a long day. Beginning in Lewiston (A), I rode the Rattlesnake Grade to Enterprise (B), headed west to La Grande (C), south to Baker City (D), turning west again through Picture Gorge, and camped in Sisters, just north of Bend (E).|