View on Puffer Butte
View on Puffer Butte, Fields Spring State Park



Almost one year ago, I married the most wonderful girl in the world. Unfortunately, we did not have time to take a nice honeymoon. We spent the night after the wedding at the luxurious Bedford Springs resort, but that was it. Our intentions were to take a trip later in the year, but as winter break approached, we had neither the time nor the funds for a romantic getaway. The winter was long and cold, and still we weren’t able to get away. But finally, as the semester ended and Erin had some long weekends in her schedule, we were able to take some time for ourselves This coming weekend will be our first anniversary, but we chose to celebrate a week early, in part because it’s also Memorial Day weekend and everything would be crowded, and in part because the place we wanted to go was booked up. So here’s how it started.

My parents are planning a trip to Idaho at the end of July, and I was looking for places to go with them. One of my favorite spots in the greater area is the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon. It’s unlikely that I could get everyone to hike the 5000 vertical feet to some of the best views around, or the 7+ miles one-way to one of the many alpine lakes. But just outside of Joseph in the Wallowa River valley, there is the Wallowa Tramway, a gondola that takes you to the top of Mount Howard. From there, you can walk the nature trail to a miriad of overlooks, or take off for one of the nearby higher peaks. Since the trip to Enterprise and Joseph is at least a 3-hour scenic drive (with no stopping) from Moscow, I decided to investigate lodging. That’s when I came upon the Barking Mad Farm, a Bed & Breakfast that not only caters to Erin’s special dietary needs, but is also friendly to dogs. After browsing their site, we decided it would be the perfect place to take a mini honeymoon and celebrate our anniversary.

Day 1

We left pretty late, later than I wanted. We had to go to Moscow first to pick up snowshoes (I wasn’t sure how much snow would be on the trails) and get some food for the trip. It was after lunch when we finally pulled out and headed for Lewiston. The drive to Enterprise is one of the most scenic there is. It starts on 95 through the rolling hills of the Palouse and then drops 2000 feet into Lewiston and Clarkston. From there, we travel along the Snake River to the town of Asotin where we climb back up to the top of the canyon. The plateau is fairly flat, but gradually rises to 4000 feet only to be cut by another canyon.

Calypso Orchid
Calypso Orchid

Just before we hit Rattlesnake Grade, the 3000 foot drop to the Grand Rhonde river, I saw a sign for Fields Spring State Park. At the last minute I decided to turn in and see what it was all about. Worst case scenario, we could always turn around if there was an obnoxious entrance fee. But it is a free park. It’s pretty small, mostly a campground, but we found a trail leading to Puffer Butte, and with the lovely weather, decided it would be a good time to stretch our legs and let the dogs run around. Well, it’s a good thing we stoppe because it turned out to be a magical walk. The first thing I noticed was the carpet of Glacier Lilies. Then Erin pointed out a purple flower. I examined closer and became giddy with excitement. We had found an orchid. It only got better as we ascended the hill. Ballhead waterleaf, Western Trillium, Spring Beauty, Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Shooting Star, the list continues. Then the trail departed the confines of the forest as we reached the grassy summit of the butte, a view into the deep gorges of Hells Canyon and tributary canyons, the high peaks of the Blue Mountains to the west, and the snow-capped giants of the Wallowa Mountains to the south. There is a cabin on the summit which is open for overnight visits. It’s primarily a shelter for winter recreation. The roads and trails become a cross-country ski and snowshoe area.

Rattlesnake Grade
Rattlesnake Grade

After enjoying the view and the flora, we headed back down to the car to finish our journey. As mentioned before, the road descends 3000 feet over 10 miles of twists and turns only to cross the Grand Rhonde and retake all of the elevation lost. We climb out of the canyon into a flat, open woodland that is just beautiful. We saw a large, dark bird fly across the road and land on a fence post. I thought it was a raven, but as we passed, it became evident that we had witnessed a Great Grey Owl. I turned around to get a photo, but as I got out of the car to get the camera, a large truck passed and the owl was nowhere to be seen. Soon, it becomes evident that you are driving along the rim of another deep canyon. The Forest service was greatful enough to put in an overlook to peer into the Joseph Canyon.

As we get closer to our destination, the snowy summits of the mountains give us previews of what is to come. Finally, the forest thins and we enter into the prairie habitat that would have made up the Wallowa Valley. Chief Joseph, the 9716 foot high giant appears straight ahead with all of its majestic beauty and splendor. Soon after, more of the range appears and we descend into the town of Enterprise, elevation 4000 feet. It was 7:30 when we checked into the B&B and unpacked the car. The room was amazing, a luxurious suite above the garage with a big view of the Seven Devils to the east. We had a delicious dinner at the Terminal Gravity Brew Pub with the most spectacular pink sunset we would have all weekend.

Day 2 to be posted soon…