Wallowa Mountains, Oregon

Wallowa MountainsAugust 16-17, 2010

We'd always heard of the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, and Wallowa Lake is a popular, if remote, destination. So we decided to check it out on our way to Idaho.

We stayed at the Wallowa Lake State Campground, right on the lake. For families and boaters, this place would be great. There's a marina, miniature golf, bumper boats, restaurants, and a tram to the top of Mt. Howard. But for us, it was a bit too much like a busy resort than camping. And the lake itself wasn't that impressive.

Joseph, Oregon

Still, we enjoyed our stay. We spent a little time in Joseph the next morning. The nearest town, Joseph is an old western town that has been updated for tourists with cute shops and restaurants.

The drive to Wallowa Lake was long but scenic with many historic towns. We had hoped to continue through Hells Canyon on to Stanley, Idaho, but the road was closed due to earlier flooding, so we had to backtrack.

For many, many miles of the drive, we couldn't help but notice the endless line of yellow railway cars parked on tracks along the highway. I finally stopped in at a visitors center and asked, "What's the deal?"

They are lumber cars, it turns out, no longer in use since the northwest timber industry has declined. The railway company is paying Wallowa County a million dollars to "pasture" 1,200 of the empty railway cars for three years.

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