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Summer Things To Do List No 1 in Joseph Oregon

Dennis and Janice Gillies enjoying a trip on the Joseph Railriders. All Aboard!

Dennis and Janice Gillies enjoying a trip on the Joseph Railriders. All Aboard!

 

Summer 2015 is upon us and the Joseph Branch Railriders is having a great season. This is one of the newest activities to do in Joseph, Oregon–ride the rails of the Joseph Branch between the towns of Joseph and Enterprise on specially made railrider vehicles. They’re kind of like side-by-side recumbent bicycles. Our guests Dennis and Janice took the 12-mile round trip ride on a railrider on a Saturday morning and came back beaming from the trip. They’re very active people and brought their kayaks to town for a spin around Wallowa Lake, but also wanted to be sure and ride the Railriders while they were visiting Joseph and Wallowa County. They reported that the route to Enterprise was really easy and they could coast a good part of the way (it is slightly downhill). The trip back from Enterprise to Joseph was a slight bit of a challenge (average 1.5% grade), but their railrider guide was there with a powered railrider vehicle to give them a push back into Joseph if they needed it.

For summer 2015, the Joseph Branch Railriders are open for tours Fridays through Mondays. You can walk up to their office at 304 North Main Street here in Joseph, Oregon, to make an appointment (just next to Red Horse Coffee Traders), or call in advance to make reservation arrangements. The tours start a 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. The phone is 541-910-0089 or 541-910-0891. You can bring your own bike helmets like Dennis and Janice did, or the office will supply you with some.

A photo from Dennis and Janice Gillies on the Joseph Railrider June 2015. The path leads through farmland and pastures of Wallowa County.

A photo from Dennis and Janice Gillies on the Joseph Railrider June 2015. The path leads through farmland and pastures of Wallowa County.

 

Janice commented over breakfast that a trip on the Joseph Branch Railriders was one of the best attractions she’s done for $20 per person.

On the Railrider website and on the Bicycling and Motorcycling page of the Bronze Antler B&B website you’ll find the Oregon Field Guide video about the Joseph Branch Railriders. It definitely looks like a lot of fun and we’ve had guests in varying degrees of fitness enjoy a trip on the rails.

If you’re wanting more of an all-day adventure, for 2015 the Joseph Branch Railriders is introducing an all-day trip from Minam (the place where Oregon Highway 82 crosses the confluence of the Minam River and Wallowa River) up to the town of Wallowa. Riders depart from Minam at 9 a.m. and must return to the same location by 4 p.m.  This journey is size limited to 12 guests and costs $45 per person. Part of the rail line journeys along the Wallowa River, then breaks into the open pastures and fields on the way to town. One of the appealing things about this route is that the ride along the Wallowa River is on the opposite side of the river from the automobile traffic on Highway 82. We’ve yet to have any guests take on this adventure and are looking forward to someone doing so and filling us in on the details at breakfast.

Hope to see you on the Joseph Branch Railriders soon, and thanks to Dennis and Janice for their photographs!

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway between Joseph Oregon and Hells Canyon 2015

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UPDATED ON June 29, 2015: It’s that time of year again when our bed and breakfast guests ask, “Is the road open between Joseph and Halfway?” The answer for Summer and Fall 2015 is both yes and no because there is road construction on a portion of the road. There is also a construction bypass that, as of June 10, 2015, is clear of snow and open for cars (not recommended for motorhomes). However, as of June 29th, this hypass is no longer absolutely necessary. Let’s break it down into smaller questions:

  • Can I get from Joseph to the Hells Canyon Overlook? Yes. The paved road is open and access isn’t affected by the construction on Forest Service Road 39.
  • When can I drive past the Hells Canyon Overlook and continue towards Copperfield/Oxbow and Halfway on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway? UPDATED INFORMATION: As of June 29 through October 15, 2015, the road will be open; however, travelers should expect up to one-hour delays. There is no longer a need to detour around the construction (see next question) unless you prefer a more scenic (and longer) gravel route.
  • What about the detour to avoid the construction zone? The detour is a well-maintained, 30 mile long, gravel road called Forest Service Road 66, and connects FSR 39 with the town of Halfway (located on OR Highway 86) via Baker County Road 999. Depending on what map you’re using, this road is also known as “Duck Creek Road”, “Fish Lake Road”, “Twin Lakes Road” or “Clear Creek Road” (no wonder people get lost in Oregon!) The road is suitable for vehicles pulling trailers, but not recommended for motorhomes.
  • When can I drive to Hat Point Lookout? The paved road from Joseph to Imnaha (OR Highway 350) connects to the 26-mile gravel Hat Point Road and neither one is affected by the construction. In 2015, the gravel road was freshly graded and our bed & breakfast guests have reported the road is in great condition. It is not recommended for motorcycles unless they are off-road bikes. However, the drive to Imnaha is paved and worth the trip to the Imnaha Tavern.
  • If I want to take a jetboat trip with Hells Canyon Adventures, will I be affected by the road construction? Perhaps, depending upon how you plan to get to the launch site at the Hells Canyon Dam. If you plan to travel from Joseph to the Hells Canyon Dam, then yes you will. If you plan to travel from Baker City, Oregon, or anywhere in Idaho, then you will not be affected.
  • Is there any gasoline along the way? No. The last gas stations are in Joseph and in Copperfield/Oxbow and in Halfway. Note that these are not 24-hour gas stations and, because they are in rural locations, close fairly early in the evenings.
  • Is there cellphone service along the way? Pretty much no.
  • Where can I see a map that explains all of this? The best map we’ve found is a two-page PDF file available from the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce. Please click on the link: Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce FSR39 map to view the map. It is oversized and probably won’t print properly on 8 1/2″ x 11″ (letter-sized) paper, but you can download it to your computer or digital device for easy reference.
  • Who can I call for more information? Monday through Friday during working hours, contact the Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Office at 541-426-5546 or Pine Field Office at 541-742-7511.

Up and Coming Lodging in Joseph Oregon

Jennings-Hotel_Hennes

Back in 2000 when we decided to open the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast in Joseph, Oregon, we were fortunate enough to purchase a home, remodel it, and get the doors open to guests within 9 months–all self-financed and ready to go. And we’ve kept improving our bed and breakfast over the 15 years we’ve been operating.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported about high-end hostels arriving in the United States. We think Joseph, Oregon, could be on the cutting edge of this movement, thanks to a forward-thinking individual who’s investing himself in our small town.

Now, an amitious entrepreneur has taken on the project of rehabilitating the old Jennings Hotel on Joseph’s Main Street and turning second floor apartments into a self-catering lodging property. Portland-based Greg Hennes is enlisting the help of modern designers and craftspeople to help him not just restore this hotel, but turn it into an exciting lodging with individually themed rooms, a sauna, and wall murals created by talented artists. We’ve toured his project and are thrilled he’s doing something so interesting with a landmark building in downtown Joseph. If you’ve stayed with us, you already know it as the location of Arrowhead Chocolates and La Laguna Mexican Restaurant on the ground floor.

But not everyone could take on a project of this magnitude without some assistance. Greg tells his story in a video on Kickstarter and he’s hoping to raise funds to get this remodel done sooner than later. He’s offering some unique appreciation gifts in addition to future lodging at the Jennings Hotel in exchange for financial support. Kickstarter wasn’t around when we were working on our Joseph Oregon lodging or we might’ve used it. If you’re interested helping restore in a piece of Eastern Oregon history, give his project a look see. And even if you don’t choose a night’s lodging at the Jennings Hotel, he’d most certainly appreciate the support and the awareness. Find out more on social media via #theJenningsHotel

In Good Company

 

  • Read reviews on TripAdvisor

What a nice surprise this morning!  I opened up the email and discovered that the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast, along with another Joseph Oregon bed and breakfast–Creekside Country Haven–and the 1910 Historic Enterprise House Bed and Breakfast in Enterprise Oregon, have all received the 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence!

(Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance. . . .)

Here’s a little bit of background about how TripAdvisor decides which lodging will receive this annual award (information from TripAdvisor): When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account reviews ratings.  Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, volume and recency of reviews. Additional criteria include a business’ tenure and popularity ranking on the site.

So, a big shout out to all the guests of Enterprise House, Creekside Country Haven, and the Bronze Antler B&B for taking the time to write a review about your stay.  Bill and I are humbled by your efforts and thrilled by the recognition.  And I’m sure that I speak for all three of our Wallowa County lodging properties when I say that we all appreciate it very much!

2014 Is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway Forest Road 39 open yet?

US Forest Service image of the Hells Canyon Scenic BywayIt seems like every year in May we hear variations on the same question:

Is the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road open yet?

Is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway open yet?

Is Forest Road 39 or FR39 or Highway 39 open yet?

For 2014, it’s going to be a little difficult to answer because there’s already major reconstruction of this beloved road going on and it will continue through October 2014.  Fortunately for us all, the Wallowa-Whitman Office of the US Forest Service has a page on their website with press releases on the road’s status.  You’ll find the latest information at this link.  If you have difficulty visualizing exactly where the construction is taking place and where the detour routes are, take a look at the map on this PDF file.

Here’s a synopsis from the May 1, 2014, press release:

Spring 2014: Construction work on the 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 has begun and this section of the road will be closed until June 15, which will begin the next phase of the construction, roadway excavation (see next bullet).
June 16, 2014 to June 30 2014: The 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 will be closed beginning at 8:00 am every Tuesday morning through 5:00 pm every Thursday evening 6/16/14 – 6/30/14. The road will be open at 5:01 pm every Thursday evening through 7:59 am every Tuesday morning for travel 6/16/14 – 6/30/14. However, it’s important to note that the road surface will be rough as it is still under construction during these open periods.
July 1, 2014 to October 15, 2014: Visitors can expect up to one hour delays on the 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 or use the detour. Construction activities will be on-going, so please drive responsibility through the construction zone (see detour route information below beginning July 1, 2014).

Detour Route Information: Forest Service Road (FSR) 66 will be available for use as the detour route depending on snow levels. FSR 66 begins at the junction of FSR 39 and FSR 66 (also referred to as Duck Creek, Fish Lake Road, Twin Lakes Road, or Clear Creek Road) and continues west then south before connecting with Baker County Road 999, just north of Halfway. The detour route is 30 miles in length and is a single-lane gravel road with turnouts. The route is suitable for vehicles with trailers; however it is not recommended for motor homes. Visitors should be aware that the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road and FSR 66 are often closed by snow from late October through late June, and are not passable by automobiles during this time period. Both FSR 66 and FSR 39 are snowmobile routes.

Bottom line:  If you’re planning to drive center section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway in 2014, you’ll need patience.  This is particularly important for guests going to/from Hells Canyon Adventures jetboats at the Hells Canyon Dam and for guests coming from Idaho on the back way.  If you’re a motorcyclist, watch the press releases.  Much of the detour route involves gravel roads.

Celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend in our Destination Art Town

Antique Swiss Rose Engine at Stewart Jones Designs on Main Street in Joseph OregonMother’s Day 2014 is just around the corner and the art galleries of Joseph Oregon are ready to host another fabulous event!  The 7th Annual Joseph Art Walk for Mother’s Day Weekend takes place on Saturday and Sunday, May 10 & 11, 2014.

The Art Walk hours are Saturday from 3 pm to 7 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm.  You’ll have opportunities to meet many of the artists who are represented by the galleries along Main Street, see artist demonstrations and new works of art, and all while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and refreshments at nine different locations around town.  Here are the participating galleries:

  • Aspen Grove Gallery
  • beecrowbee
  • Josephy Center for Arts & Culture
  • Kelly’s Gallery on Main
  • Norman Arts Gallery
  • Stewart Jones Designs
  • to Zion
  • Uptown Art
  • Valley Bronze Gallery

Questions?  Call Kelly Wick at Kelly’s Gallery on Main at (541) 432-3116. More information about our town, the galleries, restaurants and more at the Joseph Oregon website.

Worried about the weather in Eastern Oregon?  Don’t be.  Check Joseph Oregon Weather for the forecast.

Need Joseph Oregon lodging? Two upstairs guestrooms with attached private baths are available at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast.  And walking distance to all the action!  Click the Book Now button to see our rooms and availability.

A Tropical Mexico Connection via Sisters Oregon

Bill & I never tire of the conversations we have with our guests.  It’s a good portion of why we enjoy being innkeepers as much as we do–the genuine connections we can make with our guests enrich our lives and theirs too.  Take, for example, this little story:

It’s always slow in March in Joseph Oregon because the weather isn’t the best for outdoor activities, but a couple returning home to Sisters, Oregon, decides to spend the night with us on their way home.  As it turns out, TR and Jenny McCrystal own a restaurant in Sisters called Jen’s Garden.  It’s an “intimate cottage cuisine” setting with food inspired by the South of France with 5-course, 3-course, or a la carte menu choices.  We have a nice time talking about the restaurant, about Sisters, about Central Oregon, and all is fine.  I make a mental note that we will definitely plan for dinner at Jen’s Garden the next time we visit Sisters and to mention this same restaurant to other guests headed that way.

Tropical Mexico in Pomona California in 1972 as a small restaurant Over breakfast, somehow I mention my alma mater, Pomona College.  Often one or more guests will recognize Pomona College as one of the Claremont Colleges in Southern California, but I cannot remember when I heard a guest say, “Yes, and I was a student at Cal Poly Pomona.”  Turns out TR McCrystal was a Cal Poly hospitality program student studying restaurant and hotel operations.

But here’s where it gets even a little more odd.  Knowing that he’s a restaurateur, I added, “I’ll bet you never had dinner in Pomona at a little pink restaurant called Tropical Mexico.”  His eyes widened.  “Trop Mex!” he exclaims.  “Yes, a great place for college kids to go and the dishes–the mole, the menudo, everything I can remember–top notch.”

How serendipitous is this?  Here we are, the restaurant owner and the innkeeper, talking about a place each of us remembers from decades and lifetimes ago.  What we each remembered were sweet, college year memories.  As I started to write this blog post, I wondered if Tropical Mexico was really now just a memory; that it isn’t the hole-in-a-wall restaurant it used to be.  Surprisingly, it’s still there (and with a web presence). Tropical Mexico has changed and grown significantly from that little pink bungalow I remember from the late 1970s.  But TR and I made that connection across the years and across the miles.  

Will TR and Jenny remember us?  Probably.  Will I remember them?  Undoubtedly.  It’s these kinds of intimate happenings you probably won’t discover staying at a hotel–one of the beautiful little connections about the bed and breakfast experience.

What Will You Have on Fridays at Vali’s Alpine Restaurant?

Hungarian Hunters Platter at Valis Alpine Restaurant in Wallowa Lake Oregon with three juicy grilled sausages, Hungarian pickled cabbage salad and crispy garlic herb potatoes

Hungarian Hunters Platter

Vali’s Alpine Restaurant at Wallowa Lake will open soon for its 2014 season.  Just like 2013, Michael and Dionne Vali have decided to mix it up a bit in the kitchen and serve a variety of dinners on Friday nights.  But, only one entree per night just as always–don’t want to make the front end of the restaurant too liberal.  Michael’s mother, Maggie, controls the dining room with a (powderpuff) fist.  One entree per night, Wednesday through Sunday, and Friday nights rotate.  So plan accordingly!

And what’s on the Friday night menu this year?  How about Rosemary Lamb Chops with Corn Pudding and Asparagus (June 20th)?  Or a Hungarian Hunter;s Platter featuring Three Grilled Sausages, Hungarian Pickled Cabbage and Crispy Herbed Potatoes (July 4th)?  Or Summer Vegetable Lasagna with Garden Salad & Garlic Bread? You’ll find the entire list on the Friday night menu page of the website.

You’ll also find the menu for Wednesday through Sunday nights on the restaurant website.  Funny, we always know if it’s Thursday then it must be Chicken Paprikas with Spaetzle and Cucumber Salad.  Don’t even have to look anymore.

When we opened our bed and breakfast lodging near Wallowa Lake in 2001, we discovered that some guests actually booked their dinner reservations at Vali’s first and then looked for a place to stay.  Thanks to modern technology, you can now book your dinner reservations on-line at Vali’s (unless, of course, you want to get in some phone time with them which is perfectly fine).  And you can book your lodging reservations online with us (click the Book Now! button on the left side of the blog), so have both windows open as you coordinate your dinner with your room choices.

Looking forward to seeing you out  here near Wallowa Lake this summer!

CNN Travel Recognizes Hells Canyon

Jet Boat on Hells Canyon originally produced by Kyle Hill of the Lewiston Tribune

Jet Boat on Hells Canyon originally produced by Kyle Hill of the Lewiston Tribune

If you’re planning your spring and summer travel schedule, here’s a great article from CNN Travel about the tallest, deepest, longest, etc., record-setting places in the United States to visit.  Feature writer Helyn Trickey Bradley has come up with 10 superlative sights for US travel.  Two are in Oregon.  And one is right here in Wallowa County!  She writes:

The Grand Canyon in Arizona may be immense, boasting nearly 277 river miles in length, but for sheer depth, Hells Canyon in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho wins hands-down. . .read more from this article

Helyn suggests a trip to Hat Point Lookout, the highest point on the Oregon side where you can look down deep into Hells Canyon and see the rapids at the bottom.  We also know that you have a fine view of He Devil, the highest point of Hells Canyon on the Idaho side and the reason that Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in the US.  As one of the Seven Devil Mountains, you feel you can almost reach out and touch them when you’re up there.  We try to get up to Hat Point every now and then and have written some blog posts about it before.

The getting to Hat Point isn’t dangerous, but it is a bit more than some people bargain for.  From Joseph, the drive is 26 miles of pavement to to the little town of Imnaha, followed by 26 miles of dirt road to the Hat Point Lookout.  Ask a local and they’ll tell you the first 5 miles of that 26 mile dirt road can be a little unnerving, but once you’re through that it’s home free all the way to the lookout.  Of course, you’ll have to come back the same way you went.  Best to leave the low slung city car at home.

Might you need some local advice when planning this Eastern Oregon vacation trip?  Give us a call here at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast in Joseph.  We’re along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and are one of the closer Hells Canyon lodging locations for a trip to Hat Point.  And a resource for maps, guides, and other things to take along for your trip to Hells Canyon.  See you soon!

 

 

 

 

Wow! Travel Oregon and the Wallowas

Videos and other materials are just starting to roll out about the Seven Wonders of Oregon, a new campaign hosted by Travel Oregon to introduce some remarkable places in our gorgeous state.  The Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon and the surrounding area were lucky (and naturally) chosen to be one of those.  Here’s Travel Oregon’s video about the Wallowas.  She’s not named, but our friend Alice is the rider seen in the footage:

Great teaser footage for the town of Joseph Oregon too!  The featured brewery is our own Mutiny Brewing Company (great beer in a lovely summer outdoor setting looking at these same mountains).  Alice rides the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard (wonder if she fed the squirrels while she was there?).  And the vista shot at the end?  Looks to me like the Hat Point Overlook of Hells Canyon.

Blue Camas flowers in Spring on The Zumwalt Prairie of Wallowa County Eastern Oregon

Blue Camas flowers in Spring on the Zumwalt Prairie of Wallowa County Eastern Oregon

All this and a whole lot more that didn’t make the video.  If you need a little help with your trip planning, give us a call here at our Eastern Oregon Bed and Breakfast and we’ll be happy to help you out.

That’s what a teaser is all about–there’s just enough in the video to get your travel juices flowing.  Time to start planning for that summertime Eastern Oregon Vacation!