The towns of Enterprise and Joseph Oregon are small and charming — and during our two days there, Jer and I spent very little time in either.
For me, the best hike we took was at the north end of Wallowa lake, at the relatively new (1999) Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site.
It’s a lovely spot, centered around a small pond with the Wallowa mountains standing guard in the distance. It had small knolls to wander around, with autumnal grasses and stands of trees to relax into.
We also checked out Chief Joseph the Elder’s (Tu-eka-kas’s) grave site. He was the father of the more famous leader of the exiled group. Tu-eka-kas converted to Christianity when missionaries came to the Nez Perce region, but when he was betrayed by the whites who took over his land, he tore up his Bible and returned to the Wallowa Valley to die. His remains are memorialized by a stone pillar, which was laden with tributes to him, everything from feathers tied to the small tree that sheltered it to flowers and a fresh tomato.
After our meditative walk, we drove on to the much touristed Wallowa Lake. There, in the Wallowa River, I saw my first spawning salmon, the kokanee, once ocean-going, now landlocked. The most visible and photogenic ones I saw were the males, bright red, with enormous hooked jaws. I must have taken 50 random photos of various groups of them, moving upstream through the fast moving, rippling water. This might be the best photo, although I’ve saved at least 10 more.
Although our northeast Oregon adventures took place last weekend, our next road adventures south toward Arizona have not been so picturesque. So I can continue to show the Wallowa region, with photos from our tram experience. Looking at those photos still gives me a bit of frisson. But I loved it, of course. –June
Here’s the text of the sign from the little park, the Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site, that gave us so much pleasure.
Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site: Welcome
Iwetemlaykin is Nez Perce for “at the edge of the lake.” It is pronounced ee-weh-TEMM-lye-kinn and the Nez Perce spelling is ‘Iwete-mlaykin. This site is part of the ancestral homeland of the Nimipuu (Nez Perce) and is considered sacred land. As you enjoy this special place, please be respectful. Take a moment to reflect n the importance of this land to the people who have lived here since time immemorial.
The map on the sign includes both the trail and the site of the Old Chief Joseph Gravesite (a National Park Service site) a little ways along the road toward the lake.
For the brochure of the park, you can download a pdf file from this site.