Sunday, September 30, 2007


Yes, that is snow! Beautiful though it is, it signaled an end to our Wallowa Lake visit.

We had made a reservation at Wallowa Lake State Park a couple of weeks ago, planning to stay four days. We had been told how beautiful it was ("the alps of Oregon"), and had a long list of things to do there - mostly high country drives and hikes. A tram, within walking distance of the campground. takes hikers to the top of a nearby peak for hiking and sightseeing. The town of Joseph, 6 miles away, is developing a reputation as an "art town", and is on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, one of the drives we were happily anticipating.

When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, the weather was perfect. Campers strolled the park in t-shirts, including us. I only snapped a few photos, since the sun was high in the sky... I figured I would take more photos of the mountains and lake on Friday, earlier in the day.

This, a view from our campsite, is one of the few pictures I have of that innocent time!

When we set up Scoopy, we got a pleasant surprise: our roof-mounted TV satellite dish was somehow able to find a little opening in the trees and lock in on the satellite, a fact we came to appreciate as a miracle later.

We did our usual "day of arrival" stuff: went to the Forest Service visitor center to get maps of trails in the area, got the detailed local lowdown on the drives we planned to take (up to 7,000 ft. elevation), local maps...

We went for a walk around the park and campground, admiring the lake, chatting with the volunteer hosts, and taking photos of the incredibly (I probably should say "annoyingly") tame deer in the campground.

How would you like to come home to find this well-fed buck guarding your front door?? When Odel and I joked with the volunteer about whether or not you should kick him to make him move, she showed us a newspaper article that was posted prominently in several places in the park, detailing an attack on a couple (and their dog) by a doe... the woman ended up in the hospital. No kidding!

So we went to bed Thursday night fat, dumb, and happy, planning a high-country drive for the next day. Friday dawned sunny and calm... for about 5 minutes. Before long, fast moving clouds hid the sun. By the time we were up, dressed, and fed, sprinkles were falling.

I think we reached the high for the day - in the low 50's - by noon, and it went down fast from there. Around 1 pm, I decided to leave Odel watching golf (hurray for the satellite TV!) while I went off to explore the little town (1,200 pop.) of Joseph.

It was FREEZING, drizzling rain and blowing wind, when I got out of the car. My first stop was Wolfe Fleece Company, an entire (small) store of nothing but fleece goods, all made right there in Joseph. I immediately bought myself a fleece hat, fleece gloves, and fleece socks, along with fleece socks for Odel and a fleece catnip toy for Luna. Thus fortified - wearing my new hat and gloves - off I went to explore.

It was absolutely raw outside... and then the drizzle turned to sleet, and the sleet had white flakes mixed in. I hopped back into the car and took off for the campground. Needless to say, there were no invigorating hikes that day, and no high-country scenic byways!
We huddled inside, furnace blasting, and watched the weather channel, our only source of news about this unexpected event: "unseasonably" cold weather was moving into the Pacific Northwest, the "storm door" had opened, Portland and Seattle could expect a week of drenching rain from "unusually energetic" storms, and the higher elevations could expect snow.

One bright spot: there would be a lull between storms on Saturday.

As I tried to sleep on Friday night, peeking out occasionally to watch the snow fall, I knew that I did not want to travel back over the winding pass between Joseph and La Grande in snow, nor did I want to hike in snow, or drive a remote, 23 mile long, gravel road to the best lookout point in snow. We could either stay until Monday, as planned, and take our chances with the incoming weather, or leave on Saturday, going where we would be in rain instead of snow.

When we awoke to this scene, the answer was clear to me: get out while we can!

We put on our fleece hats and gloves and headed outside. Odel dug an ice scraper out of the back of the Jeep (wow, we have one of those??) and cleaned the ice and snow off the Jeep, while I knocked it off our chairs, where we had enjoyed a glass of wine in the sunshine the afternoon before.

It was another BEAUTIFUL day... cooler, but sunny. With misgivings, we left at noon, after the roads dried. The fall colors glowed. It was difficult to believe more cold and wet weather was on the way, and I second-guessed our decision as we headed to Pendleton

Look at lower right hand corner of this photo. See that deer about to dash in front of us?? It was number four in a group. You know how they do... the lead deer runs across while you are well back, followed by another. Then number three surprises you as you get close. Just about the time you breathe a sigh of relief, number four, still trying to decide whether or not to cross, appears from nowhere and bounds across the road. Luckily for us all, we were moving very slowly at that point. She lived.

The rest of the ride was blessedly uneventful. The countryside was golden, with blazes of red and gold leaves. This is the view on the descent into Pendleton on Interstate 84, a long, steep grade.

We pulled into an RV park not far from town at an Indian casino, next to a manicured, green golf course. Once again, a beautiful afternoon... we walked to the course in sunshine and Odel started dreaming about playing 18 holes.

Now, as I write this at 7 am, the wind is blowing, the sky is completely gray, and rain is beginning to fall. I am grateful to be here, where I don't worry that it will turn to snow and where our broadband internet connection allows us to check weather and radar images with just a few keystrokes! We'll leave the glories of Hells Canyon Scenic Bypass and the Wallowa Mountains for another time.

1 comment:

  1. Mom and I think you are very WISE! Syd and I will now entertain you with pictures from my trip to Italy!!!