Joseph, Oregon – At Heaven’s Door!

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.

Oregon Trail Wagon train ruts

Original ruts on the Oregon Trail

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.

Fifth wheel trailer on the road to Joseph Oregon

Heading down our Oregon Trail!

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!

Wallowa Mountains in Joseph Oregon

The first glimpse of the scenery surrounding Joseph – WOW!

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.

Red barns and Wallowa mountains in Joseph Oregon

Such pretty landscapes!

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.

Joseph Oregon barn

I love those old red barns

The mountains were still snow-capped, and the rolling farm and ranch land stretched green and alive as far as the eye could see.

Snow-capped Wallowa mountains and red barn

The Wallowa mountains make such a beautiful backdrop!

Wonderful old barns filled the foregrounds of every view, each one seeming more picturesque than the last. We stared out the windows wide-eyed.

Main Street and mountains in Joseph Oregon 681

Main Street in Joseph

Lilacs and the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon

How’s that for a backyard garden?!

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!”

Red Horse Coffee Roasters cafe in Joseph Oregon

Red Horse Coffee Traders is a favorite gathering place.

The Red Horse Coffee Traders coffee shop soon became a second home for us, and we had lots of company there.

Rodeo sculpture in Joseph Oregon

Ride ’em cowboy!

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…”

Chief Joseph sculpture in Joseph Oregon

Chief Joseph watches over the town.

Joseph, Oregon, is home to a Valley Bronze, a foundry established in 1982. Bronze sculptors from all over the country cast their works here.

Indian sculpture at the Joseph Oregon post office

Even the post office has a beautiful bronze sculpture outside.

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.

Garden flowers against snow-capped Wallowa Mountains

Daisies and the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon

Wild daisies were in bloom everywhere.

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.

Wallowa Lake in Joseph Oregon

Wallowa Lake

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.

Deer in our yard

Deer wandered all over town!

Mark even saw a doe with two little spotted fauns when he was out on a run one morning.

Sunset behind our fifth wheel trailer

Happy camper!

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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