Day 3: Canyons
It’s a week later and I’m only now getting to the end of our romantic weekend away to celebrate our anniversary. Saturday was our third and final full day in Oregon. Thursday we had a nice scenic road trip to Enterprise. Friday, we explored the mountains. And Today (a week ago), we explored the canyons. Hells Canyon is a remarkable geologic feature. It’s deeper than the Grand Canyon, and on both sides it’s flanked by two major canyons. On the Idaho side, it’s the Salmon River with the Seven Devils creating the wall between the two. On the Oregon side, it’s the Imnaha river, separated by an extension of the plateau making up the Wallowa Valley. This formation between the two canyons rises up over 6000 feet in elevation and offers spectacular views on both sides. Unfortunately, we were unable to get over to the Snake River side at this time.
Our morning started out with breakfast outside again. I had a wonderful skillet with eggs and fresh local veggies. The sun was shining and the air was warm, but the forecast wasn’t to be so good for the rest of the day. Despite my best attempts to get out early, we still seemed to get a late start. The goal was to drive down to Imnaha and explore Hells Canyon a bit. Imnaha sits at the bottom of the Imnaha River canyon. At about 2000 feet, it’s often 10-20 degrees warmer and doesn’t get the harsh snows that the higher elevations receive. Thus, Imnaha was the winter refuge of choice for the Nez Perce.
Today, the town of Imnaha is the end of the paved road, 25 miles into the canyon from Joseph. There’s not much to the town: a tiny post office, a general store, and a couple of houses. But it is the gateway into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. We headed up the road to Hat Point, though Hat Point wasn’t our destination. My plan was to get up on the rim, hike around and find some views of the Snake River 5000 feet below. But our plan was thwarted 6-7 miles in when, at 5600 feet, we ran into snow blocking the road. The trip wasn’t without its merits. The entire drive up, the view over the Imnaha gorge just gets better and better. While we were up there, we watched as a thunderstorm developed over the Wallowas and were glad we weren’t over there. The rains slowly filled the canyon, but never actually fell upon us. Even as we drove back down into Imnaha, I was sure we’d hit the rains, but they passed before we got there.
We went back to Joseph for a late afternoon snack, and then back to the B&B for a bit. We had made reservations for a nice dinner at a place called Caldera’s in Joseph. Their menu is seasonal and the food made with fresh, local ingredients. The food was to die for.
Day 4: The Return Trip
All good things must come to an end. And so, Sunday, we got up early, packed, had breakfast, and headed back for home. Erin had to work, so we couldn’t make an exploratory drive out of it. We stopped at the Joseph Canyon overlook to use the restrooms, and we made one brief stop on the way down rattlesnake grade so that I could take a photo of the canyon.
It’s sad that the trip had to end so soon, but my days in the Wallowas are not over. I plan to make at least one trip there annually to do some hiking and backpacking. The Wallowas are a very awesome mountain range and their relative obscurity makes them that much more special.