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Is It Smoky In Joseph Oregon?

Updated Aug 31, 2015: The 2015 fire season is upon us in the Pacific Northwest. Here in Joseph, Oregon, that often means that we’re hosting someone else’s smoke. And our upcoming guests are frequently calling with the question, “Is it smoky in Joseph, Oregon?” Well, here’s our take on it plus the web links we use regularly to assess the fire, smoke and traffic conditions:

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Southern view toward Chief Joseph Mountain in the Wallowa Mountains in Northeastern Oregon as seen by the Joseph Oregon Weather webcam

Though we can look out the window and see for ourselves, we usually direct our guests to the Joseph Oregon Weather website. The site owner has two webcams trained on the Wallowa Mountains (to the south and to the west), plus a page with the 5-day weather forecast. He pulls some of his data from the National Weather Service Pendleton Oregon station, but there’s also a lot more to read on this comprehensive site.

In terms of actual fire activity, we refer to the Blue Mountain Fire Information site with current information about any fires in NE Oregon or SE Washington, or to the Inciweb website for detailed information about fires that could be causing smoke in our area (also a great source for fire information throughout the United States).

In terms of air quality, the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has a wonderful air quality index (AQI) map that’ll give you an idea not only of our local air quality, but what you might experience on your way to Joseph, Oregon.

If the question includes road closures or smoky driving conditions, we refer to the Oregon Department of Transportation TripCheck website. Here, you’ll find comprehensive information on driving conditions, road cameras, road closures, etc.
And if you still have questions that might affect your Joseph Oregon vacation, you’re always welcome to give us a call at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast at (541) 432-0230. Safe travels!

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 August 19, 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 now “YES!”” The US Forest Service reports that the construction is nearly complete with only shoulder work remaining on the southern 12 miles of FSR39. There are no more construction delays on the center section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway (also known as Forest Service Road 39 or the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road).

Thank you for your patience during the 2014-2015 construction periods. Now it’s time to get out on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and enjoy the road!

As you’re planning your trip, do remember these important tips:

  • 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.
  • 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. Visit the Forest Service website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/wallowa-whitman/home

Up and Coming Lodging in Joseph Oregon

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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