Halley Roberts is a photographer based in Portland, Oregon. No stranger to the outdoors and to travel, Halley and her mother Bobbe Besold took to the road — revisiting one of their favorite family traditions.
When I was five years old, my mother Bobbe plopped me, my books, The Talking Heads, Paul Simon and our stuff into our blue Toyota pickup truck and we drove to Zion. Since then we’ve driven across the country several times, to Canada, New York, California and Portland. Now we’re driving the continental divide, I’ll be 28 in three days, she’ll be 63 in three months.
Saturday | Bobbe: We start out from Portland, following the Columbia River. Eagles. Ravens. Hawks. Waterfalls. As we get further east, the land dries and the trees vanish, giving us rolling hills, river and summer heat.
Wind generators. Blue Canyon. Echo, Oregon. Over the Deadman Pass.
Gas in Pendleton, OR where it was the last day of a major week-long rodeo. Big hats, pointy boots, tight pants, rodeo wives, greasy food and souvenir booths. At a tiny store in Lostine, we stop for Treenware, hand carved wooden spoons from Birch and Juniper.
The Wallowas start to peel off the horizon, jutting up into our horizon looking a lot like the Alps. We camp at Wallowa Lake.
Sunday | Halley: A large dark feather leaps, blowing around, into my eyesight from the road and I pull over. We do this a lot, spy feathers or dead birds from the road and move them. There are twenty or so wing feathers from a Raven littered around this hairpin bend in the road, and a dead Golden Eagle thrown out of a car window, rotting in a plastic bag.
Monday | Bobbe: After using most of our food and necessary coffee making at Lewis and Clark State Caverns, we arrive in Yellowstone. Yellowstone is spectacular. Yellowstone is driving from place to place, to that Overlook, that Geyser, that herd of Pronghorn, Bison, and Big Horned Sheep. Yellowstone seems to have the same sort of draw as Disneyland, but instead of media, in Yellowstone humans experience Nature.
Halley: A bison dies. So we drive to find it. Yellowstone drama.
Directly across from us about 500 yards away, is a mother Grizzly Bear and three cubs.
They’re all gorging on the dead Bison that thirty people have driven to stand awkwardly on a hillside to patiently watch.
It’s like we’re all watching outdoor TV, together, outdoors.
One of the cubs lolls about next to the biggest living wild creature I’ve ever seen. The mother extends her mouth lifting up her jaw showing the most fantastic animal profile.
Tuesday | Halley: I stumble out of sleep at 6 AM, rousing to see my mom’s white head poking out of her tent door as well. We quickly pack, neglecting coffee to see something I’ve wanted to see since I was eleven, the Lamar and Slough Creek wolf packs.
We head to the ridge with binoculars, wiping sleep out of our eyes and walking onto the ridge.
As we stand ready with our binoculars, a storm begins to gather in the west, lightning pulsing on the horizon inside of powder blue thunderheads. By the time we’re too hungry and caffeine deprived to stay and wait for the wolves any longer it’s raining. By 8 AM when we reach our campsite at Tower Falls, the tent pad and our tents are filled with water.
It rains for the entirety of the day, really for the rest of our trip. I can’t fly fish with the heavy lightning, as I had hoped, until we arrive in New Mexico.
Thunderstorms follow us everywhere we go, building in the distance, raining in the rearview mirror.
Wednesday | Bobbe: The cattle look out of place in the landscape. What’s wrong with this picture? There are no Bison, that’s what wrong. There’s an elk in a field by the side of the road, a swerve to avoid an eight point deer, and a rabbit bolting across the road. Hawks, ravens, crows, magpies, bluebirds and the glorious sky. Mining towns, tailings and abandoned cabins, picturesque marks of a history that brought great wealth for some. A rainbow that shifts and arcs as we change direction, driving through the mountains, the Fourteeners as Halley’s Grandmother calls them. She climbed some of them. Her goal was to summit them all at one point.
We cross the border to New Mexico, the land rolls around us, to the east is the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, water for so many of us who live here. To the west: the Rio Chama, Abiquiu, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, farms, multi-hued mesas and hills. South is Santa Fe, adobe warm earth coloured buildings, and home.