Monday, June 27, 2011


Another Joseph sceneSnapshots.  Are they still called that? 

I am a snapshot photographer, taking photos to remind myself of all the wonderful places we have visited (and the not-so-wonderful places, too), of the good times we have with friends and family, of the interesting folks we meet in our travels, of the oddball sights, of the great meals… snapshots to share these experiences with family, friends and, these days, our blog readers as well.

Photographic artist, I am not.  Most times, this isn’t a problem.  My little pocket-sized Canon digital camera is perfect for me, always going where I go, always ready.

Joseph, Oregon… now, that’s another story.  Breathtaking, awe-inspiring views in every direction, and my little camera (and I) are not up to the task!  The play of sunlight on looming, snow-covered mountains; the hundred and one hues of green, from bright, newly unfolding grasses to dark pines; shades of sky blue, dawn through dusk… it’s all out of my league.  Photographer angst, it’s around every corner here!  But then – no camera can record the sounds of birdsong and gentle breezes, of bees working the prairie wildflowers… the clean scent of pines shading a rushing creek or of lilacs bending over old split rail fences… ya’ gotta’ be here!

Old Town Cafe Bright colors

Cute façade of the Old Town Café.

Brightly colored garden art – and a lilac bush.

We’ve been in Joseph four days.  We had planned to leave today, but extended our stay at 5 Peaks RV Park (click here to read our review and view photos) to seven days as soon as we arrived.  When Marci, the owner, had a cancellation over the 4th of July weekend, we added five days – the town is that beautiful, the weather is that perfect, and there is that much to do around here.  Scenic drives, hikes, the farmer’s markets, live music, and just soaking up the friendly ambiance of Joseph.  Time to get down to it!

Hells Canyon picnicThe most well-known of the driving tours of eastern Oregon is the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway.  We drove about a third of the route when we moved from La Grande to Joseph; on Saturday, we drove another beautiful portion, the Wallowa Mountain Loop to the Hell’s Canyon Overlook.  Though we saw very little traffic on the winding (paved) mountain road, half a dozen cars and motorcycles were parked in the overlook lot when we arrived.  We appropriated a secluded picnic table on the edge of Hell’s Canyon and enjoyed our picnic lunch in a spot surely closer to heaven than hell.

Back at the parking lot, we grinned at each other when Jules started right up at the first turn of the key.  After we replaced our battery in John Day, we had the odd experience of the jeep not starting once we hooked up to the motorhome to leave our fairgrounds campsite.  In La Grande, we stopped by an RV service center to have the electrical connection between the motorhome and the Jeep (providing power to the Jeep’s tail lights and turn signals as we tow) checked out, but found no problem.  We towed successfully from La Grande to Joseph, so the problem (just a click when we turn the key) doesn’t seem to be caused by towing.

Seven Devils Mountains in IdahoLooking back on the symptoms in light of problems we have eliminated (old battery) or ruled out (a short in the towing system), we now believe that the Neutral Safety Switch (NSS) is going bad… I should say, going “badder”, as our backup lights quit working many months ago.  The NSS tells the backup lights when to go on (when the transmission is in reverse) and also tells the ignition not to start the vehicle unless the transmission is in Park, nor can you remove the key – both problems we had in John Day! 

Although a new NSS (the part) is not particularly expensive, the labor to replace it is very costly on our particular year and model (V8 engine) of Jeep – at least, according to the repair facility who originally report the problem.  We sidestepped the problem last November when the brake lights quit working, adding a funky (and way less expensive) bypass switch that allows us to manually turn on the back up lights.  I can’t tell you the number of times we have flipped it on, then driven miles to our destination without remembering to switch it off, driving obliviously down the freeway – wonder if our turn signal is on, too?

Wildflowers at the Hells Canyon OverlookThe “bypass” solution to this non-starting problem is to jump the battery, which starts the car even if the NSS says it isn’t in park (when we know it is).  So now we carry along a Jump-N-Carry (delivered from via UPS twenty minutes after we arrived at our site in Joseph on Thursday!), giving us a feeling (perhaps false) of security as we travel these roads-less-taken of eastern Oregon.  One of these days, we’ll have to break down and get the d^*! switch replaced!

Encouraged by Jules good behavior, we set off on Sunday for what turned out to be more of an adventure than we anticipated, traversing the Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve on a “road” that barely deserves the name.  Once again, my snapshot photography skills can’t begin to capture the experience… which deserves a post of its own.  Tomorrow!


  1. Your photos are wonderful.... don't sell your little Canon short! I love the way you write your blog and wish I had just a smidgen of your talent for writing.
    Have fun & Travel safe

  2. So very true. There have been places that my little camera just did not do justice to in this beautiful land of ours. But your pictures captured the essence of the area. Just beautiful.

  3. Between your snapshots and the beautiful pictures your words paint you are doing fine.

  4. Your pictures can't be too bad, I just made the one with all the flowers my desktop background picture. Gorgeous!

  5. Your pictures are just great!! I did find, when we went to Alaska, that sometimes I spend too much time trying to get the picture and miss the beauty....

  6. Your little camera and your description is much better than any big box camera and journalist will ever be.

    Temperatures here 100+, Odell in his hoodie. What a difference. Enjoy them while you can.

    Mac & Dianna

  7. Loved your last picture with all the colourful flowers. They really appeal to me. I really enjoy reading your Blog.

  8. Oh Laurie, if your camera isn't doing a great job them the vistas must be beyond breathtaking. Your photos and stories are so wonderful. Just a little side note: In the 1980's, one of the highlights of my soil survey career was mapping the soils in Hell's Canyon, by helicopter. We would work in pairs, land on a ridge, hike down on opposite sides of the ridge, dig a hole in the middle of the wilderness, describe the soil, and hike back up to catch the helicopter to the next site picked from aerial photos. It was amazing, and your photo of the overlook brought it all back.

  9. a picture is worth a thousand words! the picnic stop!!

  10. Nothing wrong with your snapshots! I love Joseph and it's been way too long since I was there, so thanks for the virtual re-visit.

  11. I know what you mean about the point and shoot camera. I keep thinking I should invest in something better. But then would I take it with me?

    But having said that, your pictures are wonderful. I'm enjoying riding along with you.

  12. I have to agree with all the comments :D I am originally from Oregon and you can never get enuf of all the grandeur, not matter what type of camera you use. I was like you about the P/S (Nikon here) and finally broke down and got a DSLR. I still use both depending on where/what I am doing. I camped in Hells Canyon before it was dammed in 1968 with my family. What a beautiful area! Love your pics, keep on taking them and keep on writing...

  13. We will be heading to Oregon later this summer (who knows it may be closer to fall) and your photos and written descriptions of your travels will surely be part of our inspiration to visit there! We totally enjoy your blog and are glad to see Odel getting around so well too!!

  14. We look forward to reading your stories and looking at your photos and they both always seem to do a place justice!

  15. Your pictures are wonderful!! No need to feel ashamed of these shots at all...quite the contrary. Really enjoying your trip thro' OR. We're planning our 2012 route up that way, so taking note of all the wonderful places you've stopped. Nina

  16. I have to protest that your photos are fabulous! The color is crisp and clear. They are sharp always. I really have a hard time imagining that things could look better than your great pictures show them to be.

    I am definitely putting this spot in Oregon on my must see list.

    I so know what you are talking about in side stepping an expensive problem. One rear jack and at least 2 other things are on our list at the moment. I love your solutions.