This trip was the best.
Eric and I have taken a lot of pretty spectacular trips over the years, so I can’t say for certain that this was the absolute best one of all time (I mean, we did roadtrip across America a few years ago, and drive up and down California last spring, so the competition is pretty fierce). But it definitely ranks near the top of the list.
Since we live too far away from our families to visit for Thanksgiving, we’ve started a little tradition of traveling somewhere not too far away for a mini-Ringer-vacation. Last year, we went camping in the Redwoods of California. This year, we went to the Wallowa Mountains.
For those of you who have never heard of the Wallowas (you aren’t alone, I assure you), they are a mountain range in northeastern Oregon, about 5 1/2 hours from Portland. The range has at least 17 peaks over 9,000 feet tall, which is why people call it “Little Switzerland” or “Oregon’s Alps.” It’s as spectacular as it sounds. And I’m ready to move there now.
The drive out there was pretty long and not too exciting, but we tried to spice it up with stops in Pendleton for lunch at The Prodigal Son and a visit to the Pendleton Woolen Mills, where I just stood and swooned over all the blankets. Oh, the blankets.
We pulled into Joseph a little before sunset, so we headed to Wallowa Lake to check out the view. My goodness. That water. We visited the lake a handful of times during our trip, but this was the only time the water was still enough to see the beautiful reflections. Give me this view every day.
We stayed at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast during our visit to Joseph, and it was the best. Mountain views, delicious breakfasts, cozy rooms, and board games! And the hosts, Bill and Heather, have a library full of books on the area, along with tons of recommendations of places to go, things to do, and foods to eat. Even though I did a bunch of research before we headed to the mountains, I’m not sure we could have done anything without them. I really can’t say enough good things about our stay there. Plus, the B&B is just on the edge of town, so you can walk to the lake, the stores, and all the restaurants in town. (The town is small and precious, and essentially everything is on one street. Perfection.)
On Thanksgiving, we went down to the lake to watch the sunrise before heading out for a morning bike ride around the area. We did the 19-mile Hurricane-Dobbin Route, and it basically rocked our world. Since the area’s population is so small, we only encountered a handful of cars along the route, and were free to stop and take pictures whenever we felt the need. And trust me, you will feel the need to photograph everything when you’re cycling through farms and ranches with mountain views.
The next morning, we headed out for a hike in the rain on the Hurricane Creek Trail (NW parking pass required, plus fill out a free wilderness permit at the trailhead). It was gorgeous. The trail runs along the creek, which is full of waterfalls, through the woods, and into a meadow with views of surrounding mountains. We didn’t get the best views in the meadow because it was raining so hard, but it was still pretty spectacular.
We crossed smaller creeks several times along the trail, but this was the most impressive one. And while we were admiring this waterfall, the rain turned into snow. It was magical. We turned around pretty soon after this waterfall, which we think was somewhere between 3 and 4 miles into the hike.
And the next day, all the rain turned to snow! We woke up to a fresh layer of powder, which basically begged me to go for a morning jog. I ran down the street from the B&B to the Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, which has some running trails. I didn’t get much of a workout since I was stopping to take photos every 30 seconds, but it was beautiful. Snow is my favorite.
That afternoon, we headed out to the Wallowa Lake Trailhead (fill out a free wilderness permit at the trailhead) for a hike in the snow. We hiked up a portion of the Chief Joseph Trail, which was a beautiful, snow-filled adventure with (what else?) great views.
And what’s the best way to end a cold, snowy hike? Coffee and artisan chocolates at Arrowhead Chocolates, of course! It’s a family-owned shop with super friendly and helpful employees who will tell you all about all the varieties of chocolates. We settled in for some good snow and people watching, and enjoyed every last bite of these chocolates. My recommendations: the espresso and tiramisu truffles, both in dark chocolate. Swoon.
That evening, we bundled up to join the rest of the town to watch the Jingle Thru Joseph Parade, which was adorable, but freezing (the windchill was around 14 degrees), before warming up with a delicious meal at Mutiny Brewing (our second visit of the trip). So good.
It was around 1 degree when we woke up on our last morning in Joseph, and we had to head down to the lake for one last look. Did I mention that I’m ready to move to Joseph? We’re already plotting a summer visit for a backpacking trip. And maybe building a mountain cabin…