Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Kings and Seven Devils!

Pictures L to R: The switchbacks...if you look closely. The upside was just as bad; The Big One; Way in the background are the Seven Devils in Idaho; Us on top of Mt. Howard; Wallowa Mountain View; Wallowa Lake and Valley; Betty and Merrill King--our hosts.

30 July 2009 Clarkston, WA to Wallowa, OR 141 miles

We got up very early today…Dave had spoken with Betty King, from the Capitol A’s, and we are meeting her and Merrill in Enterprise, OR between 10 and 11. Enterprise is about 90 miles away.

The drive was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! With the early morning light the colors were golden toned as we followed the Snake River for the first 5 miles or so…then we turn inland and upward. Dave didn’t mind the inland so much, but he was not real happy about the upward—three separate climbs up and two down the side of canyon walls. The first one was not quite so bad, and as we reached the top, we were actually surprised to see the flat plateau. We felt like we were on top of the world, as the road curved along the cliff walls before turning further inland. Down in the valley, along the river, was the north end of Hells Canyon National Park. Up on this plateau is farmland—for cattle feed, I think. The golden hay was slowly waving and off in the distance we saw a coyote trotting through the field. Further along, we saw a doe and her two fawns along side the highway. One of the fawns was on the highway side of the fence, and started looking a little panicked when mama moved away as we drove by. I sure hope she figured out how to get back on the field side of the fence…

We slowly climbed in elevation until we were once again surrounded by pine forests. This was where Dave got a bit grumpy…when he saw the switchbacks heading down. However, with nowhere to go but forward, we continued on. It really was pretty…but also incredibly steep off the edge of the roadway…like almost vertical! We’ve decided that those three switchbacks were probably the worst climbs we’ve done on this trip.

After a brief rest, we continued on into Enterprise. Along the way we saw a herd of long-horned cattle, and a bison ranch. We met up with Betty and Merrill, and followed them into the town of Joseph (also named for the Chief) where we stopped for a root beer float before walking around the town. This town was neat to visit…somewhat of an artist’s colony…and when the logging and lumber mills closed, the space was converted to bronze foundries. The town has bronze sculptures along the main street—some incredible work. We stopped in one of the galleries and were just amazed at what we saw. Unfortunately, the pieces we liked were a bit beyond our budget.

We continued up into the canyon to Wallowa Lake, stopping at the gravesite of Old Chief Joseph (Chief Joseph’s father). This is definitely somewhere we will come back to visit. They have a campground at the end of the lake, and then the rest is hike-in trails and campgrounds up into the backcountry. We did take the tram up to the top of Mt. Howard, elevation 8,150 feet, and walked around the trails up there for a bit. Looking to the north, you can see the lake and the Wallowa Valley, and Washington state off in the distance; To the east, a view of the Idaho side of the Snake River and Seven Devils, the mountain peaks forming the east side of Hells Gate. To the south were the magnificent mountain peaks of the Wallowa Mountains, still spotted with snow, and waterfalls falling nearly to the lake level. To the west was Chief Joseph Mountain. Certainly well worth the cost of the tram ride!

We eventually made it back to Betty and Merrill’s home in Wallowa, which is the town where Betty grew up, and had a nice visit with them. Dave and Merrill eventually made it out to the cars (Merrill had his A up there) and they worked on a carburetor problem on his 1931 Victoria.

31 July 2009 Wallowa, OR to about 15 miles south of Baker City, OR 123 miles

Merrill mentioned that Betty has always wanted to open a Bed and Breakfast, and given the way we were treated, I think she would be a success. After a good night’s rest, we had a gourmet breakfast before leaving their home and continuing our way south.

The drive through the canyon leaving the Wallowa Valley was beautiful. Meandering along the riverside, the cliffs and mountain sides towered over us. Once outside the valley, we turned toward LaGrand, Oregon, a huge farming community. Merrill and Betty had mentioned that the crops grown here are hay, alfalfa, sugar beet, and mint. We also saw some fields of sunflowers. As we passed the mint, it was being watered, and the aroma was wonderful driving by.

Skirting the base of the mountains , we were soon driving through high desert scrub brush before dropping into Baker City. We stopped to stretch our legs and walk around before refueling. Our initial goal was to reach John Day, Oregon, which is near Highway 395—the highway that will take us nearly all the way home. However, when we headed back up into a mountainous area along the way and happened to pass by a beautiful lake and saw a campground we decided to check it out. Union Creek Campground on Philips Lake almost has it all...Pine trees…shade…water…no showers...and it is Friday noon—once late afternoon hits, we have found that it is nearly impossible to find a campsite if the weather is good. We decided to stop and stay—it will be a two day stay, because finding a site on a Saturday is even harder.

“Camp” is set, and Dave is sitting reading while I finish up the last two days of journaling. We may go take a dip in the lake a little later…


  1. Hello Peggy and Dave: Dodi dropped by and we've been reading your adventures, following your path with our fingers. We were frightened with you on those mountain curves---whew! We're guessing you camped at Phillips reservoir. Onward! and happy trails. Randy

  2. Beautiful Photos.......

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