Joseph Oregon Trip
September 9-12, 2011
On the drive to Durango, CO in 2002, Dan spotted these mountains off of the road heading south through Oregon. He looked them up and saw they were the Wallowa Mountains in the Northeast corner of Oregon. I saw them on my drive to Las Vegas earlier this year and after some reading, I knew we had to plan a trip. Our schedule was crazy all summer, but we were able to sneak in one last trip before fall sets in.
Friday, September 9, 2011:
After the debacle on our last trip trying to get coffee just as the ferry is leaving, we decided to play it safe. We got on the ferry first and went upstairs to get food for breakfast. What a rip off! $13 for breakfast? Yeah.. it's better to just make something at home or stop at Commuter Comforts.
Another negative was that we had to stop for coffee in Seattle. Dan loves Cafe Umbria in Pioneer Square so we went there. Dan hopped out and I pulled over to the curb. A few minutes after he was out of sight a parking enforcement car pulled up behind me and honked until I left. I drove around the block and Dan was calling to see where I was.
Too much hassle. But we were on the road earlier than if we'd waited for the later boat. We made a quick stop at Snoqualmie Summit. We got a couple snacks from Red Mountain Coffee up there and were back on our way.
We took a side road that takes you through this long canyon on the way to Yakima. We did the drive before on our way to Yakima for wine tasting, but today we did it in the daylight. Beautiful.
We did some calculations and realized we'd be going through Zillah, WA about the time Hyatt Winery would be opening their tasting room. Dan's been talking a lot about the Muscat we bought there, so we drove a few miles off the highway to get a couple bottles. Eight tastes and 6 bottles later, we were back on the road. :) We stopped to get gas at the first station we found. We paid $3.99/gal. Around the corner, we found another gas station at $3.87. DARNIT!
Dan was starting to worry about the time we were spending with our long drive so we just had some cheese, crackers and salami in the car for lunch along with some trail mix I made and some mixed nuts. It wasn't fancy, but it was yummy.
We took a short cut down through Patterson, WA to the Columbia River crossing. I think it saved some time. After we made it through Pendleton, OR, we stopped at the rest area at Deadman Pass where we found a fun tunnel thing to drive through, but Dan didn't want to drive out to the scenic viewpoint.
Back on the road, we made a stop at the Emigrant Gap State Park to see what was there. There wasn't much from what we saw, but we found a nice frontage road that wound us around to La Grande where we topped off the gas tank and headed off the highway to drive the Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway.
Our first stop was in Elgin, Oregon where I heard there is a beautiful old Opera House with fantastic acoustics. I guess it's the old City Hall building because that's all we found. We saw a sign for Annie Get Your Gun, so we might have been in the right place, but everything seemed closed in the town.
We saw a few places we'd stop at on another trip, but it was getting late so we headed straight for our hotel and checked in. I had been under the impression our hotel was closer to downtown than it was. Certainly not walking distance, but it had a beautiful view of the mountains. We were not lucky enough to get a room with a view of anything besides the parking lot and a hill behind the hotel. :) Next time I'll reserve a view room and not chance getting an upgrade.
After we were settled, we looked around in the information in the hotel room for a place for dinner. I didn't find much that looked interesting, so I opened my Yelp app on the phone. The only place with a good rating in Enterprise was the Terminal Gravity Brewing Company.
Dan wanted to check out downtown a bit and see if we saw another restaurant, but we'd keep it as a backup. So we headed downtown, parked and walked up and down beautiful downtown Enterprise. There was a whole lot of nothing going on there. These outlying towns are hurting hard in this recession. I know Labor Day is over, but there should be SOMETHING open in town.
We did spend some time outside their City Hall building looking at the veterans memorials. Some were moving and others were beautiful. It was pretty impressive considering how little else there was in town.
We used the smart phone to direct us to Terminal Gravity Brewing Co and found it rather quickly off the highway. It was a small building with a large barn in back and a giant gravel parking lot. We parked and walked around the front just in time to see a couple of people grab the last table on their front lawn.
We looked around at the area and found a picnic table in the parking lot, but that seemed depressing when there were so many other tables on the lawn by the creek and in the shade. Dan looked inside for tables, but it was really hot in there. It was in the 90's the whole trip.
We had a conversation about whether or not to wait for a table to clear out or to go into Joseph to find another restaurant. We decided to move on. Dan was reluctant to see the lake before he was ready, but we found a restaurant in downtown Joseph without having to go out to the lake.
We stopped at Mutiny Is Brewing on the main street in town. We sat at one table, but then a better one opened up and we moved back to the back area of the patio dining.
Dan ordered one of their beers, SssssWheat. With that he ordered the fish tacos with wasabi sour cream. I wanted something fried with french fries, but after my health problems, I was good and ordered a Tequila Lime Chicken sandwich with a side salad. I'm such a good girl. :)
After dinner we were tired from the long drive and headed back to the hotel for some sleep.
Saturday, September 10, 2011:
Today is Joseph Day!
The plan for today was to spend the whole day in and around Joseph. Dan was up early and took some early morning photos of the mountains from our hotel. There was still a lot of smoke, but we were hopeful it would clear up some in the afternoon when the winds picked up.
We had our breakfast in the hotel. Dan got his "flippy waffle", but I found a shortage of protein unless you wanted hard boiled eggs. I was able to get a good meal, but wished there were more choices for me. We each grabbed a coffee and went back to the room to grab the cooler and the things we'd need for the day.
On the way through Joseph to the lake, we stopped at Chief Joseph's grave site. We both had to admit that we knew very little about him and the Nez Perce tribe, but we learned a lot while we were there. The grave site was interesting as many people had left items on and around the grave in tribute. We saw everything from painted feathers, toys, rocks, a Beatles CD and what I believe might have been a joint. We walked around, reading signs and looking at the amazing views.
We decided to drive all the way to the south end of the lake to see the tramway and the Wallowa Lake Resort. We never saw the tram, but at the end of the road, we parked the car and walked around a bit. There was a hydro plant somehow connected to the Wallowa Falls, but I never figured out where the water came in. It must be piped to that location and then send down a little "creek" to the lake.
It was smokey, but we had lovely views and we saw tons of dogs walking with their owners and having a great time. We walked down towards the lake, but found some no trespassing signs and turned around.
Back in the car we headed back to the resort by the lake and the state park. We finally spotted the tramway ticket booth and pulled into the parking area. We had a brief talk and Dan wanted to wait to see if it cleared up more, so we went to the park and looked at the lake from this direction. It's an interesting lake with two totally different moraines on either side. It's like looking at two lakes, depending on what shore you are standing on.
We decided to drive a short distance up Hurricane Creek Canyon to the end of the road and trail head. We found a great campsite by the side of the road and borrowed it for lunch. We had more of our picnic spread and then Dan settled into his camping chair with his book.
I wandered around the area by the creek and found this area full of butterflies and other critters. One was kind enough to pose for a photo.
The wind started to come up in the afternoon and we thought the sky looked a little clearer from our spot in the canyon. We packed up all our stuff and drove back to our hotel so I could change from shorts to capris as our plan was to take the tram up to 8000 feet and I was sure my shorts wouldn't be enough up there.
Poor Dan drove us down through Joseph and to the lake for the 3rd or 4th time this trip. We pulled into the Tramway area and found a parking space right in front of the tram. He offered to wait for us to get a better spot, but I couldn't imagine being able to park in the actual tram station, so we headed out.
Dan grabbed us a couple of tickets and we tried not to think about the price too much. I got our hats and water, etc. and before I could think too much about it, we were on the gondola on our way up the mountain. It didn't look too bad from the ground, but the area I could see at the "top" was really only the first of 3 ridges we'd climb up. YIKES! My fear of heights was in overload and Dan kept shifting around in the car, making it wiggle and making me make this screaming noise. :) The views from the tram were stunning, if not a little bit nauseating for poor Sonya.
After a 15 minute ride, we made it safely to the top. We walked past the Summit Grill and headed out to one of the view points. Again, I was attacked by butterflies.
The views were still smokey, but it wasn't so bad that we couldn't see anything. It was all amazing up there and we headed up to Royal Purple. The views were great and the climb up was interesting up a giant flight of stairs.
From there, we headed back down and Dan took the Summit Overlook Trail which was really steep and rough. I went back down to the grill and took a less strenuous route to the overlook. We met up and viewed the Summit Overlook and the Highlands Overlook. We decided to skip the Valley View as it was really smokey and we couldn't see long distances out into the valley very well. So we went back to the Summit Grill for some "dinner".
Dan ordered a giant Chili Dog and I had a "Kids Dog" that was a plain hot dog. We also got a basket of fries. Dan tried a Terminal Gravity IPA. I had lemonade. The heat was dehydrating me out. We had a good time sitting by the tram station watching people coming up and heading down, grasping the center bar for dear life. I was glad I wasn't the only one traumatized by the heights. :)
After "dinner" we walked around one more time and got back on the tram before the 4:45pm deadline. Dan loved torturing me on the way down. I think I was a trooper, but I will admit to some seriously sweaty palms. I was glad I chose to ride down looking up the hill so I couldn't see the worst of it. Still, looking around was a bit traumatic.
Dan had promised that he would stop and let me take a picture of him in this giant chair by a resort near the lake. Even through there was a big group of guys drinking beer on their patio right near us, Dan hopped up in that chair and did the perfect pose. And that's the truth.. pbllllttttt
Back in Joseph, we parked in town and walked up and down both sides of the street, admiring the bronze sculptures all over town. Apparently Joseph is famous for it's bronze works and the artists that live in town. Some of the pieces were amazing and Dan got some great photos to share.
I even managed to find a yarn store!!! The store had lots of items from local artists and we looked at all of them. Then in the back room, I struggled. My hands were deep into piles of hand painted yarns, but my logical side was telling me that I have more projects in my queue than I will ever have time to finish in my lifetime. But the skeins were only $10!!! I was good again and resisted. Sigh. And here's something for my mom to be tempted by. :)
We had already eaten semi-food at the summit of Mt. Howard, so we each grabbed an ice cream cone in town and sat down to talk about what to do next.
Dan wanted to look at the sunset over the mountains and we tried to figure out the best spot by looking at the map. We decided on a spot at the north end of the lake, facing town and the mountains. We found the perfect spot to sit at a table on a little section of grass that jutted out into the lake. Unfortunately, just below us was a guy who I now know more about than I know about my husband. He was such a CHATTER BOX!! I'm quite chatty, but he never shut up for a second. I swear at one point I actually heard him say, "This one time at band camp..." Okay, maybe not, but eventually I got tired of hearing about his job working in computer support and this one time where blah blah blah so we moved to the other side of the park to a table on the beach where our sunset time was much more relaxing.
As the sun moved behind the mountains to the west, the moon rose up over the other side of the lake. Spectacular! What a great day!
Every time we drove past the North end of the lake, we passed this one house that was for sale. The house wasn't anything special. But the VIEW!! It's basically the same as the 4 photos above as it's across the road and a bit higher up on the hillside.
On our way out of sunset viewing, we picked up a flier. 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 1 story ranch built in 1947. Two fireplaces, a metal roof and it sits on a little more than an acre. Price? $489,000! If only there was a job for Dan in Joseph. :) If anyone is shopping, I can forward the MLS #.
Sunday, September 11, 2011:
Okay, elephant in the room. Today is the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. I knew staying home was going to be a bad thing for me. Dan is a bit of a news junkie and I knew we'd sit around and watch all the depressing coverage. There are only so many times I can see that plane hit the building before I get overwhelmed by how much the world sucks and that's not good for my mood. Instead, I've started having us do things on the 11th of September that keep us away from televisions.
Our only coverage was when the TV was on in the breakfast buffet room at the hotel. We saw a portion of the memorial service that was sad. I was ready to get away from TVs for the rest of the day.
We stopped in downtown Enterprise to grab coffee that was better than the hotel coffee. We had noticed Gypsy Coffee on our walk the first night and decided to go back there. I think it was around 7:55a when we pulled up at the store and it looked like they were closed. We were trying to decide if they were really closed or not when a woman opened the front door and waved us in.
She was very friendly and made us some wonderful coffees. The best part of our visit was getting to meet Pattywhack, the shop dog. I sat right down in a window seat and Pattywhack was right there with me. We played the paw game where I put my hands out and then she put her paws out and then I pull my hands back, etc. We did that faster and faster until she started to bark and get excited. Then we moved on to belly rubs, along with ear scratches. We had a good time. As we left, I saw Pattywhack watching us through the window. I think she wanted me to stay and play all day. I was a bit tempted, but we had things to do and see.
I had a huge day planned for us in Hells Canyon. Maybe too huge. I drove the first leg of the day to the Hells Canyon Overlook. MapPoint told me this route would take about an hour. Apparently they lie. :) The road was much slower going than we predicted. We did get to be up close and personal with some cows on the road and oncoming traffic was interesting as the road was only just wide enough to pass.
Once we got to the Overlook, we both knew that we'd never make it to Hat Point and down to the Dam. The view was smokey again and hard to see down to the bottom. Because Hat Point included many miles of dirt road, we decided to save that for a future trip when we had a more appropriate car. We headed down off the mountain to go into the canyon.
We arrived at the Snake River, crossed over into Idaho, and turned up the canyon. We drove and drove and drove up the long road. There were beautiful sites at every turn. It was well into the 90's when we were there, but there was enough breeze that it didn't feel oppressive. We drove up to the point that we could see the dam and then we saw a scary sign about security checks and different regulations for driving across the dam. We got nervous and went back to a pull out to take some pictures and look at the map.
While we were stopped, we saw another car drive up and go over the dam. Nobody came out. Nobody said anything and, most importantly, nobody got shot. :) So back into the car and over the dam we went. There were some serious speed bumps on the dam. They apparently want to be sure you go 5mph. On the other side of the dam we found a visitor center and a place where they launch boat trips up the river. We went inside and toured the visitor center.
After that we found a picnic table in the shade and had another picnic. More people started to come out to picnic around us and drove down to where the boats launch to look around there. Dan took a trail up the side of this hill to get a picture down the river without anything blocking it. I waited in the shade by the boats until people started to arrive for their trip.
Back in the car, I drove back down the canyon so Dan could get a better look around. On our way up, we had seen a park set up by Idaho Power. There were lots of trees and grass along the river and it looked like a great place to take a break. We pulled in and found a nice spot by the water to relax in the Day Use area.
Nearby was a large family group camping and they had several dogs with them. One of them was a border collie. At one point, we were sitting on our blanket on the grass when I saw a flash in the corner of my eye. I turned around to see this border collie, Skyler, crawling on her belly to get between Dan and I on the blanket. Once she was settled in as tight as she could between us she flipped over on her back, showed her belly and said, "Hello!" I gave her some rubs and scratches.
The owner saw her and called her to come, but she hunkered down between us and looked up at me. I shouted that she was fine and just came to give me some dog time. He said that if I pet her, I'd have to keep her. :) HA HA After just a couple minutes, she dashed back to her family and just watched us from the back of the family truck.
We put on our sandals and walked around in the river and just enjoyed our relaxing time by the river in the shade. Dan read his book and I worked on some knitting. Ahhhh.... Actual down time! Amazing. We should do that more often. :)
It was getting late in the day, so we headed back up into the mountains and towards our hotel. As we got close to the Hells Canyon Overlook, we decided to drive up again as the sky looked much clearer. The views were much better and in the late afternoon the light was in a better position for photos. We snapped a few and then headed back into Joseph for dinner.
This time we stopped in Joseph at Embers Brewhouse on the main street in town. We got a table outside on the patio and after some creative umbrella arranging, we had some shade and a nice view of the sunset over the mountains.
Dan ordered a big burger and fries along with a Terminal Gravity ESG beer. Later he ordered a Terminal Gravity Pale Ale. I got a glass of a huckleberry white wine. It was tasty! I also ordered a chicken/avocado club kind of sandwich with a side salad. I created a theme by going with the huckleberry vinaigrette dressing. All the things were delicious.
While we were eating, a guy came in with a golden retriever. The dog tried to come sit under our table and the guy apologized and dragged him away. A couple times after that, the golden tried to sneak back up to our table and kept watching me. I was some kind of dog magnet today. I think someone is trying to tell me it's time to get a new dog. :)
After dinner, our waitress was evil and tempted us with a slice of this amazing chocolate cake. We were thinking about it when she brought one out for another table and passed it by us saying "Yummy chocolate cake!" We were hooked and split a piece. It was heavenly.
We went back to our hotel after it was dark and despite my plans to get organized and packed for the drive home, I just passed out on the bed and was ready for sleep.
Monday, September 12, 2011
We were up early because we had a long drive today. Longer than we thought because we had to do that long drive from the hotel to Hells Canyon again. We had a quick meal at the breakfast buffet and then packed up and loaded up the car.
We made good time on the route we did yesterday and then cut down towards Baker City, OR. The scenery was spectacular and we made a couple brief, roadside stops along the way.
Our main destination for the day was the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. We were worried about the time it would take, but we agreed to take the right amount of time to see everything we wanted to see.
They have a wonderful display of mannequins and dioramas with recordings triggered by you walking by that told the story of the Oregon Trail. We started out in Missouri and headed west and followed the trail to Oregon as we walked through the museum. They had some wonderful artifacts and interesting signs.
Once we were done inside, we decided to drive down to the bottom of the hill and walk along the Oregon Trail for a short bit. We found the trail and headed out. There was no shade or breeze that could save us from that heat. As we walked and walked along the Oregon Trail we both started to complain about our sore feet and how hot it was as we wiped our brows. I mean, we walked almost a half mile out to that covered wagon. Oh the humanity!!! Then on the way back up, the trail went uphill a little bit. UGH! Just kidding, but it sure did put the Oregon Trail trip into some perspective. All I know is that I would have made a horrible pioneer.
Back in the car we were late, late late!! We had spent several hours at the museum and now were far behind on a schedule that would get us home late enough. We had more cheese and salami in the car for lunch and headed out.
As we were getting close to La Grande, we saw a huge trailer flip over and roll into the center divide, kicking up a ton of dust. Dan pulled over to the side of the freeway as I kept repeating "I know CPR! I know CPR!". We were thinking about running across the freeway to get over there when we saw several other cars stop on the other side, including a tow truck. We assumed they had it covered so we moved on. I always worry in those situations that we didn't do the right thing, but hopefully the other people took care of it.
We made a quick stop in Sunnyside, WA to grab some dinner around 5:30pm. There's a burger stand there we discovered on our wine tasting trip a few years ago. It's the Burger Ranch and is famous for their fried asparagus. Basically anything you get there that is fried is wonderful.
We each had a burger and split one order of fried asparagus and one order of actual onion rings (with real onions! Not that fake stuff they have at the chains. YUM!). Dan had a peach milkshake and I got an brownie ice cream thing on the way out for my dessert. Then back onto the road and headed home.
We arrived in Seattle around 9:30 and got in line for the boat. The ferry left at 10:05pm and it's a quick drive from the ferry to our house. We got home much later than planned, but it was worth it. And what could be better than 1185 miles of scenery? :)
All in all, it was a good trip. We found a new, interesting and pretty place for us to explore in the future. I liked that we found time for just sitting around. That's something we usually forget to include in our itinerary. Maybe that's why we always feel like we need a vacation after our vacation. :)
That's the last trip I've got planned for this year. I was going to do some travel in October for some seminars and Vegas stuff, but I've cancelled them. I still want to do something for my birthday and Dan has to take some more PTO time. Hmm.... what sounds good? Where did I put that atlas anyway?
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