Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hurricane Creek Campground, Wallowa Lake and Hells Canyon

When we moved to Oregon it took us five+ days to drive from Chicago Land to our new home in Newberg. By the time we entered Oregon from the Idaho border we were OVER the road trip.  And then we saw the Wallowa Mountain range in the distance.  I was instantly captivated and made a mental note to come back "soon" to explore them.

"Soon" was eight years, but last weekend we packed six people, two dogs, and camping gear into the Sequoia (with no trailer) for five days in Enterprise, Oregon.  The car was so packed out it was ridiculous, but we all had enough space to breathe and not suffocate, so it was all good.

We spent the first two nights at the Wilderness Inn in Enterprise while Curt worked an all day meeting.  The Wilderness Inn was clean with all the basic amenities, let us bring our dogs, and had a very friendly and helpful staff.  I'd stay there again.

We camped at Hurricane Creek campground the last two nights.  It cost a whopping $6 per night, but didn't have any potable water and no place for trailers to turn around.  (Good thing we didn't bring the trailer!).  We snagged Campsite #1 - the best of the thirteen campsites in my opinion.  It was in the farthest corner of the campground, right on the creek with woods surrounding it. We couldn't see or hear our neighbors and we got to fall asleep to the sound of the creek rushing by and towering pines surrounding our tent.  It was our own piece of paradise.

I was playing Toy Blast on my phone and Grant busted me with this photo.

The great thing about Hurricane Creek campground is that it feels very remote but it's only a handful of miles in each direction to get to Enterprise or Joseph.  We went into town each day to refill our giant water jug and buy junk food. Talk about the best of both worlds.

The Hurricane Creek trailhead is 2.2 miles from the campground.  The kids and I did a short hike to Falls Creek waterfall one day and played in the creek.  The following day we took the whole family back to the trailhead and hiked out to the Slick Rock area.  Total hiking mileage including the trip out to the waterfall was just a little over six miles.  It was one of the most beautiful hiking trails I've ever been on.

The trail was very steep in parts

The official Joseph Oregon website has this to say about the trail.

"The trailhead at Hurricane Creek offers a fairly gradual way into the Eagle Cap and has majestic mountain views within the first mile that only get better the farther you hike.  It follows along the creek to open meadows where mountain goats are often spotted along the ridges above.  After two meadows, the canyon narrows and climbs high over Hurricane Creek along cliffs that overlook pools and waterfalls (keep a leash handy for your dog and watch your kids). " 

One night we got invited to a BBQ and barn dance at the Big Blue Barn in the farmland outside of Joseph.  We ate at tables set up in the field and then went to the second floor of the barn where a live band and a square dance caller provided entertainment for the evening.  The instructor used Grant as her partner for one of the song.  According to him, "it was the most awkward 15 minutes of my life." LOL! The girls LOVED the dancing and giggled their way through several dances.  People not dancing sat on hay bales to watch.  It was a truly unique experience.

Wallowa Lake did not disappoint.  I had heard about how awesome it is for years so I was prepared to be underwhelmed, but it was magnificent.  One day we swam at the Wallowa State Park beach.  The following day we swam on the other side of the lake at Wallowa Lake County Park.  It was refreshing way to cool off on a hot day.

We wanted to see Hells Canyon so we took one day to drive to the Buckhorn Lookout.  Buckhorn Lookout is in the absolute middle of nowhere.  We drove THIRTY miles on a gravel road to get there and in those thirty miles we might have seen a handful of ranches, a few weathered barns, and miles and miles and miles of the Zumwalt Prairie.  The vast openness and lack of human presence was hard to wrap our heads around.

Buckhorn Lookout has such a clear panoramic view of Hells Canyon that the lookout shelter didn't have to be elevated.  It sits right on the ground, but is no longer in use.  We ate lunch at the lone picnic table and of course snapped a ton of photos.  The girls, dogs and Curt didn't want to hike, so Grant and I took the Sequoia 1.5 miles to the hiking trailhead.  We descended into the canyon 2.6 miles to an overlook with the first glimpse of the Snake River.  There was no sign of human life anywhere.  Not a single hiker on the trail aside from the two of us, and there is no cell coverage.  It was very isolating, but it in a peaceful way.  We ran down to our turnaround and then labored up the very steep ascent back to the car.  It was an epic adventure with my son who is turning into a man before my eyes.

In all authenticity, there were parts of this trip that were awful.  Six people and two dogs crammed into tiny spaces with no room to escape from each other can be a nightmare.  But six people and two dogs crammed into tiny spaces with no room to escape from each other can also be one of life's greatest gifts.  In spite of some low moments, we all came home feeling so grateful to be a part of this imperfect, messy, beautiful family.  Thank you Jesus for this life.

I can't wait to come back and explore more the next time Curt has business in this area.