The Wallowas

wallowa lake

We spent the last week camping at Wallowa Lake State Park, which is about six miles south of the town of Joseph, in the northeastern corner of Oregon. The park is one of the small jewels of Oregon’s park system: the lake and surrounding mountains are gorgeous, unlike anything else in the state, and there are lots of hiking trails that take you deep into the Eagle Cap Wilderness area. The town of Joseph is pretty: small and arty, but it’s clear that farming and ranching remain the lifeblood of the area. The big event every year is the Chief Joseph Rodeo, which reportedly draws thousands of people to this tiny town.

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Back on the road

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The Wallowas, from Zumwalt Prairie (2010)

After two busy weeks at home, Susan and I were both itching to get back out on the road, so last Monday we loaded the Casita, hitched it to Susan’s truck and headed out to La Grande for a few days to visit with family. This morning, we have a few errands to complete, and then we’re headed up to the Wallowas for a week, to do some exploring and hiking in one of my favorite parts of the Northwest.

The area is like a cul de sac in eastern Oregon: there’s really only one main way into it, with the pretty little town of Joseph and Wallowa Lake at the very end, surrounded by the Wallowa mountain range.

It is a bit early in the season—Wallowa Lake State Park wasn’t taking reservations until next Tuesday—so we’re expecting cooler climes than what we’ve been experiencing in Portland the last week, but it should be beautiful, and the Casita will keep us snug and warm.

After a week in the area, we’re planning on heading up to Walla Walla; it’s a place both Susan and I have wanted to visit for some time (wine country!). We’ll only get a short taste of the area, but it should be enough for us to scope out future visits.

Home!

One last beautiful sunset, at our camp in Twin Falls.
One last beautiful sunset, at our camp in Twin Falls.

We’ll post a bit more about our last few travels, but we did want to let people know that we made it home, safe and sound, after a very nice extended weekend visiting with members of Susan’s family.

The FJ and the Casita have been stripped, and will be cleaned over the next couple of days, and we’re also in the process of washing everything we had with us on the journey (there was a lot of sand in the desert, which I think I’ve mentioned). Next up, Pete and Michelle’s wedding! After that, we’ll be getting ready for our May adventures, which will be to the Wallowas and Walla Walla.

Moab to Twin Falls (via Brigham City)

Sunset at Elephant Rock.
Sunset at Elephant Rock

We spent a good week in the Moab area, camping at Archview RV Park, a perfectly fine park about 10 minutes north of Arches National Park. We probably wouldn’t stay there again—the park really catered to folks driving ATVs—but it was a fine base of operations for us.

As I noted previously, we didn’t plan to hit Arches at all on this trip, and we focussed instead on the northern section of Canyonlands National Park, which includes the rather unbelievable Island in the Sky. Susan and I hiked together a bit, and she also went out for a day by herself to do a longer group of hikes (my knee can’t take too many long hikes, and I overdid it the past couple of weeks).

I have to say that Canyonlands is nothing short of breathtaking in its scope, and worth a visit from anyone looking for something a little less busy than other national parks in California and Utah. From the Needles to Elephant Rock to Island in the Sky, to the Green River, the Colorado River and more, it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and Susan and I both felt as if we missed quite a bit. As was the case with our trip to Zion, Canyonlands is one of those places on our shortlist for a return visit.

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Moab

Susan captured this gorgeous sunset last night while I was off doing the dishes after dinner.
Susan captured this gorgeous sunset last night while I was off doing the dishes after dinner.

After a lovely week in the relative quiet of the Canyonlands National Park’s Needles district–an area we highly recommend, by the way–we are now a bit north of Moab, in a decent RV park. We had been prepared for a bit of craziness here in Moab, but it is very quiet. It appears that the never-ending spring break of the western states, which we’ve been butting up against since Joshua Tree, is finally at an end.

Yesterday, we spent a quiet day: doing laundry, shopping for groceries and performing a little bit of recon in Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district. Once you get in the middle of this district, you immediately know where the name came from: you are up above the canyons with an unbelievable view from nearly every vantage. We took a nice two-mile hike yesterday along the Grand Viewpoint trail, which literally followed the rim of the island over the canyon. Today, we’re going to go off on a longer hike over there while Susan’s curry simmers in the crockpot.

This will be our last extended stay on this trip; at the end of the week, we’re going to wind our way back to Portland via Boise and La Grande, to check in on the grandkids (and their parents 😉 ). It’s been a pretty amazing trip so far, and, while we’ll be happy to get home for a short while, we’re already thinking of our next trip, which starts in May.

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