“Temperance Creek” by Pamela Royes  

(Memoir, 2016) 

As a seasonal visitor to Hells Canyon Recreation Area, I am intrigued by the region’s vast human history. There are numerous books devoted to this topic, some of which are available for sale at the historic Kirkwood Ranch site on the Snake River Trail. Many a hiker has exited the canyon with a new book tucked into their already-stuffed backpack. On a recent trail maintenance trip to Hells Canyon, Pamela Royes’ memoir Temperance Creek was recommended to me as one of the best recently published books on the canyon and the mark it leaves on those who make it home, at least for a time. 

Royes’ memoir traces her suburban upbringing in the flatlands of North Dakota, to college in Oregon, to a decision to abandon the conventional direction her life was taking in exchange for a move to full-time sheepherding and dude ranch work from the depths of Hells Canyon to the heights of the Seven Devils and Wallowas. She transitions from a young girl who rode her horse through fallow fields in North Dakota to a young woman who learned to ride narrow canyon trails and ford rivers in Hells Canyon while following and falling for a Vietnam War veteran.  

Royes paints a vivid picture of life in the canyon, from the beauty of spring and fall appreciated by so many seasonal recreational visitors, to the harshness of working within the canyon walls through the height of summer heat and the extreme solitude of winter, while leaning into a relationship that mirrors all of the rocky yet flower-lined paths along the way. For anyone who has ended a trip to Hells Canyon with a bit of wistfulness and a wish to remain longer, Royes offers a peek at what it is like to make a living in this harsh yet beautiful environment. (Holly Weiler)  

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