We just returned home from a 10-day jaunt to SE Washington and NE Oregon with our 1973 Airstream trailer and 2 cats. Not too ambitious, but we saw some beautiful country and had a great time.
First we spent 3 nights at Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park in the Grand Coulee country north of Moses Lake. From the website: “Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is a 4,027-acre camping park with 73,640 feet of freshwater shoreline at the foot of Dry Falls. Dry Falls is one of the great geological wonders of North America. Carved by Ice Age floods that long ago disappeared, the former waterfall is now a stark cliff, 400 feet high and 3.5 miles wide. In its heyday, the waterfall was four times the size of Niagara Falls. Today, it overlooks a desert oasis filled with lakes and abundant wildlife.”
We did a couple of day hikes and a bike ride while there.
Next we drove south and east to Palouse Falls State Park, not to camp but just to see it. There we ran into neighbors on our loop here in Winthrop, who were on their way home from a trip to Utah. Small world!
Then we kept going to Clarkston in the very southeast corner of Washington, and down WA Hwy 129/ OR Hwy 3 to Enterprise and Joseph, OR in the Hells Canyon and Wallowa Mountains country. This was an incredibly scenic drive and involved a lot of steep twisty downhill and then steep twisty uphill sections, but the trusty Toyota Tundra pulling the 27′ Airstream did very well.
We didn’t get into Enterprise until early evening, arriving in a downpour which fortunately cleared off before we had to set up the trailer, and then went to Terminal Gravity brew pub for dinner and beers. Excellent beer and food! We stayed at a small place just north of Joseph that was recommended by my brother and sister-in-law – Mountain View Motel & RV Park. They only have about 10 sites for short stay, with water and electricity (no full hookup), but it was immaculately clean & tidy and had a great view of the Wallowa Mountains and surrounding open country.
Stormy & Juno at camp
The first couple of days were cool and alternately cloudy, showery and sunny. The first day we drove north to the Zumwalt Prairie, a large section of which now is owned and managed by Nature Conservancy. A friend had lent us a book, “The Prairie Keepers”, which led us to visit this place:
In the remote northeast corner of Oregon lies the ruggedly beautiful Zumwalt Prairie. A wild expanse of untilled ground covering nearly two hundred square miles, the Zumwalt is almost entirely managed by cattle ranchers. It also is home to one of the highest concentrations of hawks in North America, including red tailed, ferruginous, and Swainson’s hawks. Strong and beautiful, these buteo hawks usually depend on uncultivated, unpeopled prairies. Marcy Houle, a wildlife biologist and student, first went to the Zumwalt in 1979 to discover what attracts and sustains the buteos there in such startling abundance. Houle explores the vast prairie on foot and horseback, and by truck, cataloging its hawks, studying its complex ecosystem, and meeting its people… Her findings, eloquently reported, show that ranchers and grazing and wildlife not only can coexist, but in some instances must coexist if we are to save the last of the native prairies. In an epilogue to this new edition, Houle returns to the Zumwalt to look at how the prairie is faring two decades later. The American West is undergoing tremendous change and a historic way of life is fighting for survival. But Houle finds reason for hope in the Zumwalt—in the hawks and ranchers that are still there, and also in creative new partnerships. For example, the Nature Conservancy bought 42 square miles of the grassland in 2000, with a plan to encourage sustainable cattle grazing and let ranchers play a role in the stewardship of the land.
On the drive in we saw quite a few hawks. We went on a 3-mile loop hike and saw fewer hawks but many wildflowers. Not a spectacular landscape, but very pretty and restful.
Then we drove further north to the Buckhorn Overlook of Hells Canyon, and saw several large elk herds along the way.
The next day was rainy and even kind of cold, so we visited Joseph, which has an active arts scene with an emphasis on cast bronze sculpture – there are at least 3 foundries in Joseph and Enterprise. Sculptors from all over the country send their work there to be cast, most often in limited editions. There are a number of large outdoor bronze sculptures all over the small town of Joseph. Phinney Gallery was the high point for us, with beautiful paintings and sculpture, and the owner/artist Malcolm Phinney is a very personable guy.
Then we drove down to the very small town of Imnaha and had lunch at the little store there, followed by a drive up to the Hat Point Overlook of Hells Canyon. We arrived just in time to see the fabulous views before a big rain/hail storm moved in!
Upper Imnaha River valley
Seven Devils Peaks in Idaho
lookout tower at Hat Point
The third day brought beautiful sunny weather and we drove up past Joseph to Wallowa Lake, intending to take the tram ride up for views and a short hike.
However, we were discouraged by the number of people, and the cost, and decided to go for a hike along the upper Imnaha River instead. The trail goes to Imnaha Falls inside the Eagle Cap Wilderness, but we went only as far as a spot called the Blue Hole, where the river emerges from a narrow gorge. Absolutely gorgeous scenery, an easy hike, and solitude.
upper Imnaha River
The Blue Hole
On the morning of our 4th day, we took the foundry tour at Parks Bronze in Enterprise. We saw the whole process and also a huge blue whale sculpture they are fabricating for a town in Alaska. I mean, HUGE, and with water jets. It was mind-boggling.
model for blue whale sculpture
big blue whale
applying patina in the finishing room
limited edition piece with patina applied
That afternoon we drove up to Walla Walla, WA with the intention of staying 3 nights and doing some wine tasting over 2 whole days. However, there are limited options for “camping” in a trailer there, and the RV Park was surrounded by strip malls and motels (although quite clean and nicely kept). After being in the country it was a downer. So the next morning we drove 40 miles down to Pendleton, OR to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mill and check out what they might have on hand for rug-weaving selvages. Last time we were there they had very little, but this time I hit the jackpot!
truck full of good colors!
We did a little wine tasting that afternoon in downtown Walla Walla, spent a second night, and then came home a day early. Great trip, glad to be home!