The Hells Canyon Trip

Grande Ronde Valley / Wallowa Valley / OR 3 / Clarkston, WA

- 24 May 2002 -

So I got to La Grande... things went disappointingly there. :/ The lady at the hotel desk was obnoxiously fake ("How are YOUUUUUUUUU, FRIIIIIIIIIEND???"), people gave me "damn hippie!" stares due to my long hair and the vaguely '70s-style clothing I was wearing that day, and it was just generally unpleasant.

I woke up there on the morning of the 24th. I physically felt great, but emotionally I felt like crud -- again, no major change from almost every day I spent there in my teenage years ;) 

I took a few half-hearted pictures in La Grande, and then I drove around the Grande Ronde Valley, to see Union and Cove and Imbler and Elgin. I felt better the second I got out of the Grande Ronde Valley -- my crummy mood lifted at the very instant when I left Elgin to go to Enterprise. I remember that about living in La Grande, too. ;)

This page (May 24) is dedicated to Ryan. About 2,500 miles west of you, there is a scenic little town called La Grande. Avoid it like the plague, my man -- avoid it like the plague. ;)

The world-famous Hill With The L On It, towering over downtown La Grande.

Picture taken from the former Safeway parking lot.

(According to a note posted in the window of the old store, Safeway moved out to Adams Avenue, across from the Moon Motel, back in December. I drove by the new store on the way to Hot Lake. It's quite nice, really.)



Yes, folks -- it's Hot Lake again. Except that the water has returned to the lake! I guess I was a bit hasty to say in my last La Grande picture page that it had all drained away and would never come back. :b

The water was even steaming, over to the left of this picture. :)

(I was hurried, there was a bee buzzing around me and my dodgy yellow shirt, and there was a HUGE new sign that said something like "No Trespassing, At All, Whatsoever, And This Means You, Ya Damn Longhair Hippie Computer Geek From Eugene"... if it wasn't for that stuff, I would've been a lot more adventurous in taking pictures. :b )

Hot Lake, a ruin from an interesting era of tourism and prosperity in northeastern Oregon.

This view is to the left of the last picture. 

A hazy and totally unsatisfactory view of Mt. Emily. This view does not show even a slight bit of its emblematic beauty. Snarl.

Why did I have to have an outbreak of picture-taking shyness when I was in downtown La Grande? Mt. Emily is quite large and scenic in town, but it looks so tiny from Hot Lake. 

It has now become one of my life goals to get a really darned good picture of Mt. Emily to put on my website. :b

That fancy old building over to the right is a historic house in Union, Oregon.

Downtown Union, Oregon (population about 2,000).

Union was the county seat of Union County until some time in the 1880s, when the railroad decided to make La Grande its local headquarters, bypassing Union entirely. That led everyone to move to La Grande ("everyone" being a relative term ;) ), which caused Union to stagnate. And that brings us to the present day.

I almost lived here, back in the '90s. I was lucky. La Grande turned out to be small enough. ;)

A rather grainy picture of Mt. Fanny (elevation 7,132').

Mt. Fanny is located east of Cove, Oregon. It is named after someone. I would not have wanted to go through life with the name "Fanny", but the 1870's were a strange time in the history of nomenclature. :b

This was ALMOST a good picture of Mt. Emily. 



You can see most -- but not all! -- of Mt. Emily, on the right side of this picture, which was taken on OR 237 between Cove and Island City.

Mt. Harris (elevation 5,357'), as seen from Highway 82, a few miles north of Island City.

Maybe it's not too visible in this view, but to me Mt. Harris has always looked like a massive fist is rising up through the earth, uplifting the land around it. What do you think?

Downtown Elgin, Oregon (pop. ~1,700, prefix (541) 437).

This is the beginning of the Minam Grade. For many miles between Elgin and the town of Wallowa, Highway 82 runs alongside the edge of the Minam River Canyon. Quite a few twisty corners (although nothing like what I was to experience on Highway 3).

I took singing lessons in high school, because I was in two choirs at LHS. My voice teacher drove all 60-odd miles of this road several times a week, even in winter. I wouldn't do that, but I'm not a voice teacher. ;)

Minam Grade scenery.

(Minam is pronounced "MINE-um".)

A few miles down the road, there's a sign that says "Hay Quarantine Area: Unlawful to transport hay into Wallowa County."

More Minam Grade scenery.

The Wallowa Valley, near Wallowa, Oregon.

The Wallowa Mountains can be seen in the distance.

"Wallowa" rhymes with "a cow, uh". :b

The Wallowa Mountains. Picture taken between Lostine and Enterprise.

(I had to make quite a few edits to this picture to get rid of the reflection of my car's ventilation duct on the windshield. :/ But it was worth uploading, I think. :) )

A rather average view of the Wallowa Mountains, seen from Highway 82 near Enterprise.

(I had to edit out the ventilation duct reflection again. :/ )

The Wallowa Mountains -- indescribably beautiful 10,000' peaks in northeastern Oregon.

Picture taken from the parking lot of the Forest Service center outside Enterprise. Part of the city of Enterprise (population ~2,100) is visible in the distance.

More of the same. ;)


And that's all, folks.

I blinked, darnit! :b

But there I am, with my eyes temporarily closed, standing in front of the mighty Wallowa Mountains. ;)

The ordinary-looking beginnings of Oregon Highway 3, on the north side of Enterprise.

The blue sign says "Last gas for 78 miles."

The first 15 miles of Highway 3 mostly look like this.

After that, Highway 3 looks like this, with a few corners, until you get to Joseph Canyon.

Joseph Canyon -- the canyon of Joseph Creek, in northern Wallowa County.

This picture was taken from 4550' 06.8"N, 11715'49.6"W. :)

Joseph Canyon.

More Joseph Canyon.

After you go past Joseph Canyon, this is what Highway 3 looks like until you get to Anatone, Washington.

More Highway 3 between Joseph Canyon and the Washington border. 

This view is typical for a while, especially at lower elevations... but the hillsides have fewer and fewer trees the closer you get to Washington. (And they call it the "Evergreen State"... yeah, right! ;) )

More Highway 3.

More Highway 3.

The Washington state line was on a corner like this. (This might have been the corner, in fact. I know I took a picture of that corner, but the "welcome to Washington" sign didn't make it into any of my pictures. :/ )  

By this point, Oregon Highway 3 had become Washington Highway 129.

The Grande Ronde River, a few miles before Field's Spring State Park. 

Anatone, Washington.

The scenery from Anatone to just outside of Asotin looked like this -- a deceptively flat landscape, which is actually up on a plateau above the various and sundry canyons found in this area.

(That truck spoiled several potentially good pictures of my descent into the Lewiston area. Snarl. :b )

The Lewiston-Clarkston area is the thin band of dark green off in the distance. The canyon wall north of Lewiston is visible in this picture.

"Attention passengers, this is your captain speaking... We are beginning our descent into the Lewiston area. Please make sure your seat trays are in the upright and locked position." ;)

See that wacky-looking cliff, in the center of the right side of this picture? That's "Swallows' Nest Rock", near Clarkston, Washington.

It made me think of a giant SETI satellite dish emerging from the side of a hill. ;)

More of our favorite emergent satellite dish cliff.

Text written 12 June 2002.
Last updated 19 January 2006.