The Lewiston Highway Hinterland
Words by Dillon Maxwell, photographs by Daniel Wakefield Pasley
Glancing at a map, it looks like there isn’t much there: a simple highway connecting two towns, some land, a ghost town, and a few hairpins. That’s about it. The Northeastern borderland of Washington and Oregon does not evoke the stereotypical images of Cascadia: in the land between Enterprise and Clarkston-Lewiston, there are no lush forests, no moss-laden hillsides, and a very limited amount of green. This is arid country sentenced to an eternal dry spell, stuck in a timeless rain shadow thanks to the surrounding mountain ranges.
85-some miles of road dubbed the Lewiston Highway connects the aggie-lands of Enterprise, Oregon and the border town of Clarkston-Lewiston, Washington-Idaho. Built in the late 1930s to expedite livestock shipments, the highway cuts through the Grande Ronde River near the border of Oregon and Washington. It was built to deliver stock to the port of Clarkston-Lewiston for transportation down the Snake River, the Columbia River, the West Coast and all ports beyond. In the olden days, livestock north of the Grande Ronde went to Clarkston-Lewiston, livestock south of the river to Enterprise. While the Lewiston Highway might look like a plain old livestock route, there is much more to it.
Heading north from Enterprise, the road is easy going: rolling hills and canyon lands in a more or less straight line. Thirty miles north of Enterprise, you’ll come across the Joseph Viewpoint on the eastside of the highway. This area was once home to the Nez Perce during the winter months and in the area west of the road you will find the ghost town of Flora, OR. The juxtaposition of a ghost town, the wintering grounds of the Nez Perce, and the curent collection of sparse, small commercial outcroppings is a reminder that the more the culture of this area changes the more it stays the same: desolate, stripped, and wasted.
Just past the Washington-Oregon border is the Grande Ronde crossing. There is a general store called Boggan’s Oasis. This is the last stop until Anatone, Washington. The next thirteen miles are a hellish mix of turns and elevation changes until you hit Fields Spring State Park. The cruelest feature of the Lewiston Highway lies in middle of this diabolical geography; it has earned the name the Rattlesnake Grade and the road’s hairpins are sharp fangs sinking into the hillside.
The road straightens out after Fields Spring State park and the singular line stretching to the horizon only heightens the feeling of vacant solitude as it continues through Anatone. From there its more open miles until Asotin and then Clarkston-Lewiston. Upon closer look, it’s an interesting 85 miles: one highway that connects two towns, some canyon lands, a ghost town, a few hairpins, and a whole lot of inner-reflection.
On the Importance of Rural Roads
By Kyle von Hoetzendorff
Every road has a story, someone somewhere once said, and it's true, it can’t be otherwise. From the goats, antelopes, and bison that first cut trail to the men that hunted them and so on through the construction workers with their tar-stained boots and sweat-streaked vests along to the wrecks, near misses, shared tales, and lonely musings that must happen while traveling upon them. Roads are like lines on paper, palimpsestic in their account, lapidarian in structure, story after story piled up commemorated in plaques, in stains, in memories.
It's not the destination it's the journey, says the poster with the soaring eagle. And roads are our most recognizable embodiment of linear trajectory, of our journey. They are imbued with possibility, and on them, at the very least something, anything, must happen. There is no doubt that this eventuality exists in every road. While the main highways, freeways, interstates, and turnpikes have much to offer in our biomimetic approach to commerce its seems we may have focused too much on these arterial and venal conduits. The mass trafficking of goods, services, and people focused along our most expedient routes with their Jersey barriers and concrete cinder block walls, narrows our focus and cuts down on our distractions. Convenience stores, safe havens bathed in flickering blue light pulse along the roadside in monotone, each one the same. Our arteries and veins, though efficient in bulk, do not have the capacity to inform and replenish the far reaches of our body, this is left to the capillaries, numerous and tiny they alone reach the farthest outposts, the last points of contact, the end of it, the end of us, and the point at which everything else begins.
Like the unaccountable capillaries it is our faceless Rural Roads that we find feed our experience most. Their tendrils reach everywhere; on a map they form a web, trapping the stories and characters of little known places. We want to call attention to their forgotten twists and turns, their unimprovement, their cracks and pot holes because it is only these roads that can lead us to everything else, something that we haven’t seen before, something that we could never see from the fast lane.
Yonder Journal is hitting the broken cracked and forgotten asphalt in order to make the definitive catalogue of America’s Rural Roads. While we don’t know exactly where this will lead us, we can promise that we will highlight the essential splendor of these forgotten roads with hopes to imbue them with their well-deserved value. This might be an organization, association, or Elks Lodge type thing or maybe something complete different, we can’t say, but we are out there, on the road, and when we reach our destination we’ll figure it out.