A few years ago, a good friend of mine told me to check out Joseph, Oregon. He said it was one of the most beautiful places he had ever been to. Joseph is located in the N.E. corner or Oregon. It is named after Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe who is buried there.
It's not often that some thing, or some place, exceeds my expectations. On Friday, June 15, that happened.
It was a four hour, 250 mile trip, from Boise to Joseph. I took the Road King. After reaching La Grande, I turned N.E. onto U.S. 82. The highway into Joseph was very scenic and winds along a river. It is a perfect trip on a motorcycle and there was no shortage of bikers. They were everywhere. The county seat is in Enterprise- which is only six miles from Joseph.
There is only one motel in town. There are about a dozen bed and breakfast places located within a few miles of Joseph. I had looked at them online but I really wanted to see them in person before making a reservation or commitment. Ultimately I landed on a place at nearby Wallowa Lake. (1 mile from Joseph) There are about a dozen places at the lake that will rent anything from a room, cabin, or condo. They are not cheap. My room cost 150.00 a night but you could probably find something a lot closer to 100.00. There is a giant campground nearby. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallowa_Lake
There are go-cart tracks, bumper boats, and mini golf courses. I saw a bicycle rental place. A couple of restaurants are available as well as a small store. There is a gondola that takes you to the top of the mountains. I have to admit- the gondola travels very high off the ground and I was a little squeamish at first- even though I have ridden on gondolas before. Here is a view from the gondola. Note the foreground.
There is a restaurant at the top of the mountain. There are also 9 billion squirrels that people feed. There was also quite a bit of snow which was still melting. A nearby lookout point provides unbelievable views of the surrounding mountains. Here's one.
So there is plenty to do and the place is absolutely gorgeous- but what exactly was it about Joseph that exceeded all of my expectations?
I have never met more friendly or courteous people- anywhere. Everyone seems happy to see you and they engage you. I couldn't tell if this was all part of one big, scripted, effort to attract business or whether the folks of Joseph are genuinely nice. I think they might just be genuinely nice. Let me give you a couple of examples.
On Saturday morning, we ate at a place called the Cheyenne. The place was packed and when a couple of folks who were seated at a table for 6 saw a group of 5 people come in- they vacated that table and waited for a smaller table to be cleared. The restaurant will let you order anything you want on or off the menu (if they have it) or split plates. The staff was very friendly. I ordered ham and eggs for 10 bucks. It was unreal. I really think that meal could have easily fed three people. The piece of ham was the size of a manhole cover and it came with about 5 pounds of hashbrowns. In fact, here is a picture of some passing dork holding half of that ham slice- having consumed the other half.
Only a complete idiot does something like this. Note that the man in this picture needs two hands to hold up that piece of ham.
After breakfast, we met some random guy and his wife on the sidewalk who liked the motorcycle. He introduced himself (from upstate New York) and we chatted for about 5 minutes. He told us that they came out to Joseph every year and he gave us all of the information that we needed to navigate the area.
Everywhere we went, folks were like that. Friendly. Even the people at the grocery store and gas station. It reminded me of the townspeople in the end of that movie, "Funny Farm."
A trip to Joseph wouldn't be complete without a trip to Chief Joseph's grave. Sorry Chief, they found gold on your reservation and kicked you off. You go now or we kill you. That's how we roll. Manifest destiny and all that jazz.
I absolutely loved Joesph, Oregon and the Wallowa Valley. Incredible scenery with incredible people. No wonder Chief Joseph was pissed.