Tuesday, August 21, 2018
A FEW DAYS IN THE SHADOW OF CHIEF JOSEPH
notes from an eastern Oregon road trip – part 2 of 4
This would be our second visit to Joseph, Oregon and to the impressive mountains and waters of Wallowa County. Joseph, the town, has preserved its rustic western heritage adding a few hip eateries and a couple too many t-shirt shops.
The museum in the old bank building is musty and great https://co.wallowa.or.us/community-services/wallowa-county-museum/and the street side displays of public art is engaging.
Securing lodging in a lovely ranch style house at the north end of the lake, our initial view was breathtaking.
Shifting winds, however, brought smoke from area wildfires as far away as both California and British Columbia.
Still, the serene view provided ample respite between the three days spend riding north and the three days of returning.
Hells Canyon is an hour of serpentine pavement away. Somehow my camera didn’t make it into my tank bag – a bane of being an old guy on a motorcycle, I suppose. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa-whitman/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5238987
Long time readers may note my railroad-buff-ness. So, the opportunity to ride the rails – well pedal the rails – from Joseph to nearby Enterprise would not be missed.
The grade is slight between those two villages with the return trip being the uphill – though gentle – portion.
The two-person pedal cars are quiet, light and easy to propel. The one we piloted provided excellent exercise for my game knee – exercise said knee does not receive while riding on the big Yamaha.
Heron, osprey, crows, cattle horses and even a coyote were seen from the right-of-way. All in our party wondered how many other abandoned rail lines might offer a similar experience.
Given that we’d rented a house, we elected to eat in rather than out. The nearest big grocery store is located in nearby Enterprise. Also, in Enterprise is the Terminal Gravity Brewery. We loaded ourselves in the chase car and stopped in for some suds. http://www.terminalgravitybrewing.com
Ten years ago, I’d ridden the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard (to the victors go the spoils) too late in the day to explore. http://wallowalaketramway.com
This time, the timing mistake would not be repeated. We enjoyed the ride up with its 4,000-foot elevation gain, the two-plus miles of trails around the summit, inquisitive little kids being coached, counseled and exposed to these wonders by their parents, and the views afforded though limited by a smoky haze.
The wildflowers seemed to have reached the end of their season.
From lake level, we’d notice hang-gliders drifting off the mountain and sailing over the waters. Atop Mount Howard, we came across their launching point.
Not the sport for me, I’m afraid.
The trail back to the tramway offered breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain, or perhaps that breath-taken-ness had more to do with hiking at the 8500-foot elevation.
We caught up on a lot of reading and solved many of the world’s problems during the placid evenings on the cusp of Wallowa Lake.
Mounting up and heading off the next day, we lamented that this beautiful place wasn’t just a bit closer to home.
Next: Returning home – by a different route. That’s what the wise men did, isn’t it?
Church of the Open Road Press