Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Road Trip – Part I

During a recent bike riding adventure, my friend Dale and I were comparing notes on the numerous places that we had fought fight forest fires during our careers. It was during this discussion that we realized I had never been to the northeast corner of Oregon. Since much of this part of the state is remote and not exactly on the beaten path, you actually need a reason to go there; thus the idea of a road trip was born.

We originally planned to make the trip in early May but life’s circumstances just seemed to keep the trip on hold. Oregon also saw very little nice weather this spring, in fact a couple of days before we departed, the higher elevations of the state were blanketed with a late season snow. Finally on June 12th, we loaded Dale's vehicle and headed east on Interstate 84. The highway follows the Columbia River for nearly 200 miles and the scenery is incredible, especially while passing through the Columbia River Gorge. If you get the chance to one day follow this route, be sure to stop at Multnomah Falls and Crown Point, they definitely are sites not to miss!

As we continued east, we stopped in Pendleton, the home of the world famous Pendleton Roundup, for refreshments at the local Dairy Queen. Pendleton has a long and colorful history as an old west cattle town and is now a hub for agriculture. It came as no surprise that the stools in the Dairy Queen were actually seats taken from old farm tractors. Mind you they were not of the padded variety, but just bare steel! Those old farmers were either extremely tough or had very sore butts!

We finally hit La Grand and at this point we turned northeast on state route 82 which takes you through Enterprise and Joseph and some of the most incredible scenery I believe Oregon has to offer! The road passes through a broad valley which supports numerous ranches while the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness tower high above you.

The Eagle Cap Wilderness in the distance

We finally arrived at Wallowa Lake State Park and were fortunate to obtain a tent site which included a view of both the surrounding mountains and the lake. Since the park is one of the State’s larger facilities, it boasts flush toilets and heated showers. The only way I was willing to consider camping out was if the park offered hot showers. I did all my primitive camping as a Boy Scout thank you very much!

Once camp was established, instead of building a fire and burning some hot dogs, we opted for fine dining in the city of Joseph at and establishment called Embers Brew House. What a place, the food was first rate and view of the sun setting over the mountains while we dined on the front porch was beyond words! After stuffing ourselves, we decided to stop at Chief Joseph’s grave site; the chief of the Nez Perce tribe is buried on a small knoll which over looks Wallowa Lake and the mountains.

Chief Joseph's grave site

Views of Wallowa Lake and the Eagle Cap Wilderness from Chief Joseph's grave site

So ended day one of the trip; we logged over seven hours in the vehicle and traveled nearly four-hundred miles.

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