Last weekend, we went to Orofino to check out a riding mower that someone was selling. The drive to Orofino is quite scenic, dropping into a canyon, and then climbing back out before reaching Kendrick, passing a few small mountains, and then descending into the big canyon: the Clearwater River. Orofino is kind of neat in its geographic setting, it sits deep in the intersection of the North Fork of the Clearwater River and the Middle Fork (South Fork? ). It almost reminds me of those towns in Europe that are nested between steep mountains and a river, only not quite as elegant.
There is another way to get to Orofino, and that is by way of the Elk River Scenic Byway, which connects Elk River to Orofino. The scenic byway is pretty neat, and mostly scenic. From Orofino, it travels the high country above the Dworshak Reservoir, a lake created from a dam on the North Fork, one of the largest dams in the northwest. The dam created a lake about 50 miles up stream into some pretty and wild country. The reservoir itself is owned and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, but beyond that, the land is primarily owned by the timber companies. So, in the course of driving through lush woodland and high country wetlands, you do come to some clearings.
The road must cross the reservoir at some point, and does so by way of a very scenic and expensive looking suspension bridge. One only wonders how such a fancy structure was placed in the middle of nowhere, a fine use of federal funds no doubt. Nevertheless, it is a sight to see. Once on the north side of the reservoir, the road becomes unpaved and remains that way until reaching the town of Elk River. Since the land is owned by the logging companies, it is not uncommon to drive through an expansive clear-cut. These openings do provide views of the larger mountains, but with a very ugly foreground. Clear-cutting is probably not the best way to manage a forest for timber, and certainly not the best practice when it comes to impacting water quality, but that’ll be a debate for another day.
Once we hit Elk River, we’re back on familiar ground, skirting the still-frozen reservoir with a glimpse of the freshly snow-covered Elk Butte. From there, it’s back home by route 8. There are so many cool places to see around here, even by scenic drives, but as the price of gasoline continues to to rise, I wonder how many of these joy rides I’ll be able to take. But some of them will get me deep into the backcountry where I hope to escape for a few days at a time.