Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Trip to the Wallowa Mountains and Joseph, Oregon http://candidbob.blogspot.com/2015_06_01_archive.html

On Wednesday, June 17th I headed off to go camping in Oregon. Son James and his Jessica and their two boys - only ages one and nearly two - had left Alameda separately in their family van the morning of the day before.  I started my journey via AMTRAK's Coast Starlight from Martinez to Chemult, Oregon, where I made a bus connection to Redmond, Oregon and then met-up with them in Redmond.  We all stayed that night at my daughter-in-law's sister's home, from which we all left for the Wallowa Mountains and the area near them in northeastern Oregon the next morning, Thursday the 18th.  We "convoyed" with them in son's minivan and sister's family's Range Rover from Redmond to the Wallowas.  In many of the photos taken while "on the road" in this blog you will see the back of the Range Rover!

First leg of my trip, from Martinez to Chemult, Oregon was aboard the train. . .   Travelling in style on my way to go "Glamping". . . .
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The following photos were all taken from the train, looking to the west, while I think it was somewhere north of Dunsmuir, California and south of Klamath Falls, Oregon in the early morning of Wednesday, June 17th:
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A bit farther along in the journey, but again looking to the west of the tracks. . . .  Unable to identify these mountains.  Anyone want to hazard a guess?
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At the Chemult railroad station, I changed to a bus to take to Redmond. . . .  The bus stop in Redmond is at the municipal airport there:
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This photo was taken from the bus. Can't recall exact location, but probably near Bend, OR.  I'm unable to identify the mountain, but it looks very similar to a photo of Mt. Bachelor that I found on Google Images.
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The Google Images pic:
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On arriving at the Redmond airport bus stop, I saw a chain of mountains to the west that were no doubt Mt. Washington (northernmost, to the right) the Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor (southernmost, to far left) in the Cascades:
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Figured this out by checking Google Maps:
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. . .and Wikipedia:
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A better shot of Mt. Bachelor (to the left) & Three Sisters (to the right of the lamp post):
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And an even better one of the Three Sisters:
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When I got to daughter-in-law's sister's home, I again saw the Three Sisters, from another angle, from out of her living room window. . . .
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On the morning of Thursday, June 18th we got into the vehicles and drove to Joseph, Oregon, with a few stops along the way.  
We drove first along eastbound US Route 26. . . 
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. . .which has some very interesting rock formations.  
When I saw this one. . . .
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. . . .I couldn't help laughing out loud, recalling THIS that I'd recently seen on the Internet:
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Then we saw this interesting peak as we got closer to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument's Paleontology Center:
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The Paleontology Center at Sheep Rock, one of three areas in the vicinity that are part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is quite the place.
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The exhibits in the building were very informative.  The Center is used for ongoing research:
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The many exhibits there show fossils from as far back as 65 million years ago:
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Here are just a few photos of some of the many exhibits. . . .
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The Center is very "kid-friendly" with items they can examine in drawers near the displays:
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My grandsons' cousin found a perch, intended for kids to sit at. . . .
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Outside the building there's this, explaining how the fossil beds were discovered. . . .
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. . . .as well as tremendous views of the layered rock formations that are still being researched, directly across the road from the Center:
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Another one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is the Painted Hills, which we did not stop at along the way, but the one hill outside of the Paleontology Center gave us a good idea of what they look like:
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Here's what we missed by having bypassed Painted Hills, which was not very far off the route we had taken:
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All three of the units - the Paleo Center at Sheep Rock unit,
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the Painted Hills unit,
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and the Clarno unit 
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- belong to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which was named after an early fur trapper/explorer who visited the region nearby in 1812. . . .   Day never set foot in the actual vicinity of the fossil beds, but Geologist and Congregational Minister Thomas Condon (*mentioned on the placard "An Oregon Fossil Rush" pictured earlier, above) - realizing what Union soldiers had discovered in 1862 in the area of the fossil beds (besides gold which they mined and sent to the U.S. Mint) - named the fossil beds after Day.  Condon was familiar with Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published only three years prior.  A very good biography of Condon - who apparently believed in Darwin's controversial-at-the-time "theories" - can be found at   http://www.ochcom.org/thomcondon/   
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With our visit to the fossil beds concluded in mid-afternoon, we departed for our campground near Joseph, Oregon, still another four and a half hours away:
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We made it to Joseph by about 6pm. . . 
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. . .but didn't stop there then, but only passed thru on our way to the Wallowa State Park campgrounds on the other side of town.

I took these photos of the town when we went back there on that Sunday, admiring its "Western Flavor."
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The town is named after Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, whose tribe made their nomadic home in the area at times, but who had the land taken from them by what their tribe later called "The Steal Treaty" of 1863. . . .
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As you can see, bronze statues are abundant in the town.  There is a small foundry that manufactures them located right on the main street.

We made our way to the campgrounds, pitched our tents and had dinner there. . . .
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At the entrance there was a bridge with a beautiful trout stream under it. . . .
Looking north from the bridge:
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And looking south from it:
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Our site:
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Our cooking was so good that at least one of "the locals" just couldn't resist snacking. . . .  (actually it was a pan of dishwater; mule deer must have unusual tastebuds)
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Scenery at our site was great. . . .
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The next morning, Friday June 19th, we all went on the tramway up Mt. Howard, within walking distance of the campgrounds.
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I've cut and pasted the following description of the tram from the Wallowa Lake Tramway's website - http://wallowalaketramway.com/     . . . .

"With the opening of the gondola in 1970, Wallowa County added one of it’s most popular attractions. The 3700′ vertical ascent to the summit of Mt. Howard is a memorable experience. The exciting trip to the top of the mountain allows one to enjoy the 4000′ view as the gondola rises above Wallowa Lake Village and the blue waters of Wallowa Lake.

Wallowa Lake Tramway is located in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and operates under a special use permit from the USDA and Forest Service, and is an equal opportunity provider and employer."
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I have found an excellent article from the Medford Mail-Tribune, written in 2010, about the tramway, the area in general, and the Native Americans who once inhabited the area. The full text of the article can be found at: 
http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20100916/LIFE/9160303

. . . .but here is a "condensed version" of the article, with my own photos and a map to illustrate it:

  • The view from Mount Howard — a haunting history lesson

  • Wallowa Lake Tramway gives visitors a bittersweet look at the former homeland of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce


  • Posted Sep. 16, 2010 at 2:00 AM 

  • <Snip>. . . .
  • Set at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains, the lake is held in a grassy moraine, a natural dam in the heart of what once was Nez Perce country, the "Land of Winding Waters" as the tribe called it, a country now dominated by farms and ranches.
    <Snip>. . . . At [an] overlook, near the top of 8,256-foot Mount Howard, I am [not far from] the Summit Grill, a mountaintop restaurant where giddy tourists sit and chatter. They come here, as I did, on a tram that ascends 3,700 feet up the peak every mid-May through September.
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    Few of the tourists seem to know that their view from the restaurant is dominated by Chief Joseph Mountain across the way, named after the famed chief who helped lead the Nez Perce in their flight from U.S. soldiers rather than submit to life on a reservation. Brought to bay in Montana, only 40 miles from the Canadian border, with his people surrounded, starving, cold and dispirited, Chief Joseph surrendered on Oct. 5, 1877.
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    His mountain contains no restaurant, just a rarely used trail that stops well short of the summit. <Snip>. . . .
    Nothing sums up the differences between the Nez Perce culture and that of the pioneers whose depredations led to their flight toward Canada than these two mountains — the one left to nature, the other a travelers' destination named after Gen. Oliver O. Howard, the Union Civil War veteran who relentlessly pursued Joseph for more than 1,000 miles.
    Joseph never wanted to leave the Wallowa Valley, preferring to stay and fight rather than embark on the band's unsuccessful run for safety, but he was outvoted by his people. Today, in the bitterest of ironies, his name is everywhere in the land to which he was never allowed to return, most notably in Joseph, the town named after him.
    Mount Joseph in background, town of Joseph in foreground:                               0071
    <Snip>. . . .  From the Summit and Royal Purple overlooks on Mt. Howard, you can see majestic 9,595-foot Eagle Cap and the 9,832-foot Matterhorn dominating the skyline.
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        Matterhorn from Sacajawea (with Eagle Cap just to the left):                                                                    0073

    Meanwhile, on the other side of Mount Howard, the trail reveals a panorama of drier country near the Idaho border, where the Seven Devils loom broodingly over Hells Canyon, once a Nez Perce winter refuge.   
    The main Seven Devils. . . . Left to right are The Goblin, The Ogre, The Tower of Babel, She Devil and He Devil.                                                                                                                             0074  

    <Snip>. . . .  after years of hardly any presence here, the Nez Perce are coming back. In 1997, a ceremony was held on the rim of Joseph Canyon to return some land to the tribe. And [in 2009], when I took the Mount Howard tram and summit trail, a 62-acre state heritage area was being completed not far from the lake and adjacent to a monument honoring the gravesite of Chief Joseph's father.                   0075
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    That rolling grassland, part of the tribe's ancestral homeland, is called "Iwetemlaykin" or "at the edge of the lake," where deer, elk, foxes and raptors roam just as they did in the tribe's heyday when the land was wild.
    by Steve Dieffenbacher, a Mail Tribune page designer/copy editor. sdieffenbacher@mailtribune.com

Interesting. . . . and in that I had read Stephen Ambrose's book, Undaunted Courage, a few years ago - somewhat disturbing.  In his book, Ambrose describes how the Nez Perce were the friendliest of the Natives to assist Lewis and Clark in their journey. Were it not for them giving the expedition horses and food and assisting them in making winter camp instead of attempting to cross the Rockies in the dead of winter 1804-05, the expedition would have undoubtedly failed. Tho Lewis and Clark were in the area over 70 years before General Howard was, it seems unkind - at best - to think that the U.S. government herded the Nez Perce out of the area less than four generations later.

As shown in that earlier photo, we had our lunch at that restaurant at the top of the tramway, but only stayed about an hour since it was very cold and the children needed to have their naps. So we all went back down to our camp at about 1pm. 

I, however, having seen that there was a loop trail around the top of the mountain, put on a heavy jacket and sweatshirt and decided to go back up there and solo hike it that afternoon.

 Returning to the top, and walking to the north on the trail, here's what I encountered:

There were many placards along the trail. . . .
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Later on, in some places I found that burrows were widespread:
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The trails were well-groomed and not many places were steep.
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Going towards the north side of the mountain, after trekking thru some forested areas, and then an area of a small plain, the view was of the valley below. . . .
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Going off the loop trail and onto a spur-trail on the north side of it I came across the following:
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I came upon a spot at the end of the spur trail to the north where the view of the valley was spectacular. 
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The above photo of me was taken by the fellow in this next one, and I returned the favor, taking a shot of him and his wife and kids.
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 \
The particular spot is used as "a jumping-off spot" for hang-gliding. This placard was nearby. . . .
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As I returned from the spur trail to the loop trail, I could see the tops of the mountains at the opposite, western, side of the small valley that held our campsite:
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Sacajawea and Chief Joseph Mountain, I believe:
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Arriving back onto the main loop trail from the "Hang-Gliding cliff" spur, and looking towards the east, Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains in the distance. . . .
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A bit farther along. . . .
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The trails were very well maintained. At some places along the trails there were rocks embedded apparently by trail keepers across the trail. . . . I think that the purpose of these "roadblocks" was to keep rainfall from cascading down the trail-beds and eroding them:
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A bit farther along the trail, again looking east towards Idaho:
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Panning a bit towards the southeast:
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Just an interesting bit of "flotsam" alongside the trail:
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In another clear area on the east side, looking across to Idaho again:
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Some more burrows:
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This sign was near the firs pictured in the next photo:
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And this sign was near the area pictured here directly below it:
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More detritus:
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More info about the local critters:
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But I didn't see any that looked like the ones on this placard.

There were, however, plenty of chipmunks here atop the mountain, besides down in the intermountain valley of our campground:
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Coming back over a crest to the east:
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Some colorful vegetation:
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I shoulda realized this (actually everyone in our "tribe" shoulda known this) before we came to the restaurant at the top of the tramway for lunch!
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Now over on the south, southwest, 
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Panning a bit farther to the south and southwest. . . .
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While ascending to the "Royal Purple" spur trail, the highest point of the mountaintop:
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Continuing on towards the Royal Purple spur. The condition of the trail - which even had "staircases" along it - was phenomenal.
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The view from the Royal Purple site:
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I took a "blind alley" kind of trail for awhile before realizing that it wasn't part of the planned "architecture" and came across some snow. . . .
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More informational placards, along the way of the shorter distance back on the main loop from Royal Purple to the restaurant/tramway terminus:
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Fortunately, I didn't suffer any Altitude Sickness. Sis-in-law's hubby, tho, later told me he didn't come along with me because he'd suffered it several times during his travels in New York's Adirondack Mountains and didn't want to risk it again. . . .
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It just doesn't get any better than this. . . .  I turned around on my way back to the tramway terminal and took this shot:
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Life adapts. . . .  both flora,
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and fauna.
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According to Wikipedia - and not surprisingly, "This bird derives its name from the explorer William Clark."  
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Influenced by the changing climate over eons:
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Panning around, back towards the northwest, on way back to the restaurant/tramway terminal:
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And back behind me again:
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What could have formed these holes in the rocks?
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Yep, we're definitely above the timberline. . . .
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That's a lot of area:
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Still descending towards the restaurant/tramway terminus:
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Another patch of snow:
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In my estimation, this was the trickiest part of the entire trail; the mud was pretty thick in the middle and the somewhat "un-gooey" part was at the edge of a dropoff:
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Not many steep parts on the trail. This may've been the steepest and most gravelly, but not - in my opinion - as big a challenge as the mud in the above photo:
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Wind-weakened trees:
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The one and only place there was any graffiti on the entire trail, on top of a trash can not far from the restaurant.  Seems you just can't escape this stuff, no matter where you go.
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It's all downhill from here.
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How the trees got their start:
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Winds apparently have a lot to do with life on the mountain:
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Nearing the end of the loop. See the tram-bucket?
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The biggest moraine, tho mentioned in this placard at the top of the mountain as I neared the tramway there. . .
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. . .is easier to see closer to ground level. This is a panorama shot I took two days later, while boating on the five-mile-long Lake Wallowa with daughter-in-law's sis's husband piloting. The terminal moraine "berm" on the left of this photo almost looks man-made, but it is not:
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The glacial moraine at side of lake, as seen from on top of Mt. Howard:
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And that's that's what I encountered up top:
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The next day, Friday June 19th, we all went into town, turned down a side-street and hopped on board a "Railrider." This was the main attraction for most of the family to come here on this trip. My daughter-in-law and her sister had found out about this and described it to the rest of us.  All that I could picture was a "Gandy Dancer" rail-car that we'd be pumping down the tracks. . . .
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. . . . but - in fact - this was much more sophisticated. Cars were custom-designed, made on aluminum frames with lightweight plastic wheels and seats for two pedallers:
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We took the kids along and took four rail-cars. . . .
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We pedaled the six miles of track from Joseph to Enterprise, the next town over, and saw some interesting things along the way. . . .

An osprey nest. . . .
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The mountains to the northeast, where we had camped:
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Farms:
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Some wildlife bounding across the grass:
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And lots of wildflowers:
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There were several small bridges:
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The pace was leisurely and not at all difficult, the grade being only about one percent:
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One of the more interesting aspects was "the braking system." There was a hand-brake, similar to that on a bicycle handlebar at each chair-side, but our instructor told us that the preferred method would be what you see here. . . .
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Braking was an absolute necessity at five road-crossings along the route. In other words, the rules of the road were sort of reversed, with "trains" stopping for cars at small STOP signs alongside the tracks, tho the normal "Stop, Look and Listen" signage was also at each crossing for motor traffic on those roads.
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The entire round-trip was 12 miles and took almost exactly two hours.  Here's a one-minute video about the ride that was produced only a few days before we took our ride:
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On our last full day there, we went boating and fishing on five-mile long Lake Wallowa in the morning. . . .
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. . . .and then went in to town to roam the streets awhile and have dinner at a micro-brewery there.  
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I also stopped by a small Nez Perce heritage museum.
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On the morning of Monday the 22nd, we packed our gear, had breakfast in a nice little cafe with a great bunch of local people in town, and then hit the road, heading back for an overnight stay at Jacqui and Dickie's in Redmond again, and finally on Tuesday the 23rd driving from there the rest of the way home to the Bay Area.

Our breakfast:
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The old-timers having their Breakfast Club at the big long table to one side of the room were a hoot, winking at the boys and making our last bit of time in town a great experience. A really nice bunch of fellows!

Jessica had planned stops along the way home that included McDonalds' having "Play Places" for the boys to stretch and get some activity as well as this hidden gem in Redding, California on Tuesday afternoon.
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With a "volcano" having loud thunderous sound effects, that with those warning sounds spouted a fuller torrent of water for about three minutes out of every 10. . . .
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My son and I, however, were more impressed by this little "find" on the day before, in LaPine, Oregon.  The donuts there were excellent!
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Yep, This is how their "First Responders" revive those in the throes of "Donut Withdrawal". . . .  Too cute, but those donuts were some of the best I have ever had.
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Tuesday we spent a long time on the road, but the scenery was again beautiful. . . .  
Shasta welcomed us:
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As did - finally - "our little mountain". . . .
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We had a great time, and we were home by 8pm on Tuesday June 23rd, tired but with many memories of a wonderful  camping trip!


























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