Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 in Art, Biking, Gallery, Hiking, Oregon, Travel | 22 comments

When people find out that we’ve been traveling fulltime for three years, they often remark that we must have been everywhere and seen everything by now. We naively assumed the same when we embarked on this journey. But what we didn’t anticipate is that our travel bucket list is getting longer instead of shorter (this seems to be the lament of most full timers we’ve met). It doesn’t help that we’re not really crossing much off our list—many of the places we visit go right back onto our “must return to” list.

Thus, in early June, we once again found ourselves in Joseph, Oregon—the first destination on our list when we began our journey three years ago.

Joseph is an easy town to fall in love with. Cozy and welcoming—with only 1,000 residents—the town is postcard-perfect, but refreshingly lacking in pretense. Nestled against the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains, there’s a pretty main street brimming with flowers and interesting shops; the street corners are anchored by magnificent bronze sculptures, all created by local artists.

The most striking bronze—and the most prominent—is that of Chief Joseph, the esteemed Nez Perce leader who fought, first diplomatically, and then in battle, for the right of his people to remain in their ancestral lands.

The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. ~Chief Joseph

Long before white settlers arrived, this rugged place of high mountains, deep canyons, and cascading rivers was the homeland of the Nez Perce. A peaceful nation, the Nez Perce cultivated good relations with white settlers—until gold was discovered nearby, and they were forced out of the valley they called “The Land of Winding Waters.”

The legacy of the Nez Perce is woven deeply into the fabric of Joseph. The town, once called Silver Lake, renamed itself Joseph in 1880 (in honor of Old Chief Joseph, the father of young Chief Joseph). Just outside of town, Chief Joseph the elder is buried, forever overlooking his beloved Wallowa Lake.

Adjacent to his gravesite is the Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site. It was here the Nez Perce began the sorrowful journey that took them from their homeland. It is a beautiful place; rolling green hills dotted with wildflowers and a small pond lie beneath the grand presence of the Wallowa Mountains. This is sacred land to the Nez Perce, and it is a gift to be able to walk the trails.

We spent our week in Joseph hiking, biking, and exploring the town. The  Eagle Cap wilderness is nearby—this is truly wild country, best seen on backpacking trips. But a few trails allow access into the wilderness for reasonably easy hiking adventures. We hiked both the Chief Joseph trail just outside of Wallowa State Park, and the Hurricane Creek trail, just a few miles from town. For a different type of adventure, we “rode the rails” on a unique bicycle-built-for-two contraption with the Joseph Branch Rail Riders, pedaling 12-miles of repurposed train tracks through undulating farmland, from Joseph to Enterprise and back.

We planned our visit to Joseph to coincide with the peak wildflower bloom along the Hells Canyon Byway. It’s a long, slow, dusty 40-mile drive (three-quarters on a rough gravel road) to the Buckhorn Lookout, but absolutely worth it. The road passes through the Zumwalt Prairie, Oregon’s largest native wild grassland. The wildflower bloom in the grasslands and at the canyon overlook was just as spectacular as we remembered.

I wish I could say that we could now cross Joseph off our list. But we can’t. There’s more we want to explore in the area—rafting the scenic Grande Ronde River is at the top of the list. I think we need another lifetime to fit everything in.

About the RV Park:

We spent six nights in Joseph, and just like last time, stayed in town at tiny Five Peaks RV Park. It’s the perfect location for walking and biking into the pretty little town and just a few miles from trails heading into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Full hookups, excellent WiFi, friendly owners, and a cozy, peaceful vibe (no showers, bathrooms, or laundry).

Next Up: Family Fun In Pullman, WA

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR

Cowboy Bronze In Downtown Joseph

Honoring Chief Joseph

A Nez Perce Warrior

Chief Joseph Trail In Wallowa State Park

A Rocky But Beautiful Trail

Nope, Not Crossing That Bridge

Riding The Rails In Joseph

Miles Of Repurposed Train Tracks

Bucolic Scenery Along The Railway

Watching The Rail Riders

A Bobolink

Hiking The Hurricane Creek Trail

Practicing Balance Beam Skills

Up Close With The Wildflowers

Lovely Little Calypso Orchid

Hiking Along The Ridge

Hurricane Creek

Trails At Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site

Nez Perce Historical Site

Chief Joseph's Gravesite

Downtown Joseph

Historic Buildings In Downtown Joseph

Bronze Warrior In Front Of The Post Office

Waiting For His Coffee

Delicious Mochas At Arrowhead Coffee

Folk Art Chickens Waiting To Cross The Road

Terminal Gravity Brew Pub

IPA, Please

Buckhorn Lookout Station

Vivid Blue Penstemon

Hells Canyon In The Distance

Looking Toward Hells Canyon

On The Road Back To Joseph

Field Of Lupine

Cozy Site At Five Peaks RV Park

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR
Cowboy Bronze In Downtown Joseph
Honoring Chief Joseph
A Nez Perce Warrior
Chief Joseph Trail In Wallowa State Park
A Rocky But Beautiful Trail
Nope, Not Crossing That Bridge
Riding The Rails In Joseph
Miles Of Repurposed Train Tracks
Bucolic Scenery Along The Railway
Watching The Rail Riders
A Bobolink
Hiking The Hurricane Creek Trail
Practicing Balance Beam Skills
Up Close With The Wildflowers
Lovely Little Calypso Orchid
Hiking Along The Ridge
Hurricane Creek
Trails At Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site
Nez Perce Historical Site
Chief Joseph's Gravesite
Downtown Joseph
Historic Buildings In Downtown Joseph
Bronze Warrior In Front Of The Post Office
Waiting For His Coffee
Delicious Mochas At Arrowhead Coffee
Folk Art Chickens Waiting To Cross The Road
Terminal Gravity Brew Pub
IPA, Please
Buckhorn Lookout Station
Vivid Blue Penstemon
Hells Canyon In The Distance
Looking Toward Hells Canyon
On The Road Back To Joseph
Field Of Lupine
Cozy Site At Five Peaks RV Park
Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR thumbnail
Cowboy Bronze In Downtown Joseph thumbnail
Honoring Chief Joseph thumbnail
A Nez Perce Warrior thumbnail
Chief Joseph Trail In Wallowa State Park thumbnail
A Rocky But Beautiful Trail thumbnail
Nope, Not Crossing That Bridge thumbnail
Riding The Rails In Joseph thumbnail
Miles Of Repurposed Train Tracks thumbnail
Bucolic Scenery Along The Railway thumbnail
Watching The Rail Riders thumbnail
A Bobolink thumbnail
Hiking The Hurricane Creek Trail thumbnail
Practicing Balance Beam Skills thumbnail
Up Close With The Wildflowers thumbnail
Lovely Little Calypso Orchid thumbnail
Hiking Along The Ridge thumbnail
Hurricane Creek thumbnail
Trails At Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site thumbnail
Nez Perce Historical Site thumbnail
Chief Joseph's Gravesite thumbnail
Downtown Joseph thumbnail
Historic Buildings In Downtown Joseph thumbnail
Bronze Warrior In Front Of The Post Office thumbnail
Waiting For His Coffee thumbnail
Delicious Mochas At Arrowhead Coffee thumbnail
Folk Art Chickens Waiting To Cross The Road thumbnail
Terminal Gravity Brew Pub thumbnail
IPA, Please thumbnail
Buckhorn Lookout Station thumbnail
Vivid Blue Penstemon thumbnail
Hells Canyon In The Distance thumbnail
Looking Toward Hells Canyon thumbnail
On The Road Back To Joseph thumbnail
Field Of Lupine thumbnail
Cozy Site At Five Peaks RV Park thumbnail