We trundled back over the Snake River and back into Oregon at Oxbow Dam on Highway 86 and took a right onto Forest Service road 39. FS39 (Hell’s Canyon Scenic Highway) is a well maintained paved road, and while curvy, and in some places steep, it is easily navigable for most rigs, and it is the shortest route to Joseph at 45 miles long. About halfway to Joseph, we turned onto FS390 and drove about 3 miles to Hell’s Canyon Overlook. Cate, Frankie and I hopped out to take a few pics and get a look at the canyon from above. The landscape was gorgeous, but the gorge was too deep to see the river. While there we met a fantastic ranger who gave us a lot of background on the canyon, and potential camping opportunities around Joseph. She also mentioned that her husband worked at a hardware store in Joseph, and it just so happened that we needed a new doorknob for the Argosy, so we figured we would pay him a visit. The trip down to Joseph was uneventful, although we did pass a truck at one point hauling a giant wagon wheel and bison head…only in the West!
The soaring Wallowa Mountains, sometimes called Oregon’s little Switzerland, loomed on the left as we descended into Joseph. At every turn were picturesque barns. We stopped at the Ranger’s husband’s hardware store, and in short order I was introducing myself to him and buying the aforementioned doorknob. All the driving had awakened a need for sustenance, and we soon found ourselves at Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise, OR . They had a lovely outdoor area with a small stream and picnic tables, were goat friendly, and had fantastic beer and food! We chatted with the owner a bit and before long the sun was getting low, signaling us to go find our camp for the night. We drove back to Joseph and attempted to find a boondocking site at the terminus of Hurricane Creek Rd, only to find it overrun with equestrians and RVers. We turned around and soon stumbled upon Hurricane Creek campground and decided that since we would only be here for one night, and needed to do some repairs, that it would suffice. Much to our delight, the campground was almost deserted, and had many nice sites along the water. We fixed the door, and fell asleep listening to the gurgle of the creek.
In the morning we buttoned up the Argosy, loaded up the Franks, and headed out to see Wallowa lake and do a short hike at Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, and the gravesite of Chief Joseph. Afterward, we cruised around the lakeshore and checked out the town of Joseph. The town is famous not only for the jaw dropping views and barns, but also its annual Chief Joseph Days Rodeo! We stopped at a great little breakfast cafe in town and then set out to our next destination, Palouse Falls, Washington.