July 2014 – Even though the cyclists at the Baker City Cycling Classic had seen rain and hail and all kinds of miserable cold weather on their first day of racing, a scorching heat wave was predicted for the upcoming week. We decided it was time to get out of the valley. We ventured east at first, checking out the new Oregon Trail Interpretive Center that stands proudly at the top of a hill with some pioneer wagons parked outside that look very authentic from the highway below.
Most intriguing, however, were the original wagon train ruts of the old Oregon Trail that can be seen just a few feet from the highway.
We tromped around for a while, not sure if these were a modern two track road or the real thing, but after a short walk we came across a Bureau of Land Management sign that confirmed these were the real deal.
The original Oregon Trail was a wide, shallow ditch made by the horses and oxen that pulled the wagons. Early motor cars used the old trail route too, though, and turned it into a two track road.
I was floored to learn that during the peak of the migration, diaries indicate that thousands of wagons could be seen from horizon to horizon at certain spots along the trail.
How easy we have it today, driving down the smooth, paved highway, towing our fifth wheel down the road with the Mighty Dodge. What those pioneers would have given for a rig and road like this!
The tiny town of Joseph, tucked way up in the northeastern corner of Oregon (by Washington and Idaho), has been begging us to visit for years. It wasn’t an overt invitation, but Joseph beckoned me on the map because it sits at the end of a dead-end road right at the base of the Wallowa mountains.
We needed to skirt the western and northern edges of those mountains to get there, but as the road finally turned south towards Joseph, our jaws dropped at the majestic views taking shape around us.
The mountains were still snow-capped, and the rolling farm and ranch land stretched green and alive as far as the eye could see.
Wonderful old barns filled the foregrounds of every view, each one seeming more picturesque than the last. We stared out the windows wide-eyed.
If this bucolic alpine scenery weren’t enough, as we pulled into town we were smitten with the quaintness of the place.
Just 1,000 people call Joseph home, and even though it swells a little with visitors in the summertime, it is remote enough that it is still very quiet.
Asking a fellow from Portland how long it had taken him to get here, he laughed and said, “Days!”
The Red Horse Coffee Traders coffee shop soon became a second home for us, and we had lots of company there.
The locals hang out there just like we were doing, not only because of the great coffee and unbelievably yummy muffins, but because it’s a fantastic spot to relax in the shade of the trees and mess around on the internet.
“You don’t have internet at your house?” I asked the guy next to me incredulously.
“Nah, I live ten miles out…”
Joseph, Oregon, is home to a Valley Bronze, a foundry established in 1982. Bronze sculptors from all over the country cast their works here.
Each corner of Main Street in town is adorned with beautiful bronze sculptures, including one of Chief Joseph, the town’s namesake, that was purchased by Sam Walton’s daughter-in-law and given to the town to display.
A bronze rodeo rider, a soaring eagle, a cougar and Indian guide Sacajawea are all posed elegantly amid the flower boxes around town.
Even the tiny post office has a handsome bronze sculpture of an Indian warrior right outside the front door.
Still drawn in by those dramatic mountains at the back of town, we drove towards them until we came to breathtaking Wallowa Lake.
Kayakers and paddleboarders were out on the water while a few sunbathers laid out on blankets on the beach.
What a place!!
We ran around with the cameras for days, composing photos of those gorgeous mountains with anything and everything we could find in the foreground: wild daisies, vivid pink flowers in a garden, trees, cows and barns…and more barns!
Sometimes we spotted deer as they wandered through gardens in town or bounded through the hay fields on the outskirts.
Mark even saw a doe with two little spotted fauns when he was out on a run one morning.
As we hung around and chatted with people, we discovered there was a ton of stuff to do in the area besides take photos.
Going over our growing list of hikes and rides and places we wanted to visit, we soon realized we would be here in Joseph for a while!
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For more info about RV camping in Joseph Oregon, visit these links:
More from our RV travels in Eastern Oregon
- Hell’s Canyon – A Gorgeous Gorge! 08/07/14
- Hurricane Creek Wildflowers – Enterprise OR 07/30/14
- Wallowa Lake Tramway – Into the Alps! 07/23/14
- Joseph Branch Railriders – What a ride! 07/19/14
- Baker City Cycling Classic 07/11/14
- On the road to Baker City, Oregon 07/08/14
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