The Terrifying Tram as well as some Grand Ronde Clouds

They say that visiting Wallowa Lake isn’t complete without taking a ride up to the top of Mt. Howard, 8000 plus feet above sea level, reachable, at least for wimps like me, only by the Wallowa Lake Tramway. The tram rises 3700 vertical feet, and the ride takes 15 (sweaty) minutes in a gondola car, pulled by stout cables which make grinding sounds and bouncing jolts as it goes over the 25 towers that support the cables.

I’m sure Jer got some wonderful photos. I’m sure he’s delighted that he made the ride, although he’s terrified of heights and his shirt underarms were wet to the waist by the time we arrived. The fact that the tram car tilted down toward the valley as we rode  up, due to a difference in weight in its two passengers, may have contributed to the sweaty ride he experienced.

I’m also sure that it didn’t help any when I, who was seated with my back to the receding valley, decided that looking at the oncoming hillside was rather boring and I should change sides. Jer said, as I stood up and the tram started swaying side to side, “JUNE. SIT DOWN.” Actually, if you know Jer you know he said it in smaller caps, but caps, nevertheless.

All that said, he was happy to have made the ride. I, on the other hand, discovered when I got out, that my knees were not very solid under me and that I wanted to stay far away from the edge of the mountain. Jer bounded off down a  trail to get a really good photograph of the valley. I sat near the restaurant/ tram station and watched the ground squirrels beg from the tourists.

However, I was able to take a photo of the valley, including Lake Wallowa, Joseph, and Enterprise from my park bench, if I hung onto the back of as I gazed out into the void.

Wallowa Lake was formed by glaciers which dropped debris in their advances and retreats, debris that appears as the treed hillside to the left of the lake and the grassy rise on the right. If you look closely at the right side of the lake, you can see the highway the leads around with the lake to the resort area and the tramway.

I also  was brave enough to turn my back to the abyss and photograph the big bowls of Mt Howard above the tram stop.

The colors of the rocks were delicious and (sort of) distracted me from thinking about having to ride back down.

Jer returned, we had a good lunch at the Alpine Grill, said to be Oregon’s highest restaurant, and, having no return option except walking down, I bravely got back into the gondola. But I will never dare tease Jer about his fear of heights again. He was cheerfully estimating the number of feet we would fall if the cable gave way at any given point, while I was white  knuckling the center pole of the car and working on not hyperventilating.

The truth is, I like taking photos of high things from the ground. When we left the area, we got to return through the Grand Ronde Valley (named because the mountains circle the valley, not because the river is so grand). There I took a photograph that pleased me  without reminding me of my weak knees. This desire to stay on the ground was a  new revelation to me. I’ve decided some self-deceptions are quite good ones and shouldn’t be challenged.Here’s some wonderful light through storm clouds in the Grand Ronde Valley, the photo of which was taken with my feet firmly on the valley floor. –June

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3 Responses to The Terrifying Tram as well as some Grand Ronde Clouds

  1. June says:

    Sheila,

    I had no idea that I would have this reaction — maybe I was just in deep denial. I even flew with my dad in light planes, although I do remember the serious sinking feeling I always got when the plane turned a corner (not the right phrase, but you get my meaning). This time, I said, no more denial. I’ve had the tram experience, and at my age, I don’t need another.

    Carla, I’m glad you have enjoyed the travelogue. I loved this corner of Oregon and am glad we live close enough to return. In fact, the tourist director of Pendleton wrote me a note, saying we should return when things were nice and quiet:-) I said we would, for sure.

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  2. Sheila says:

    Oh, June, you reminded me of my drive up to the top of Schweitzer when I was out here deciding if this was where I wanted to live. Having grown up driving these mountain roads, I never thought twice about doing it…until I got up high enough that I could see out over the trees at how very high up I was. Oh, yeah, I have this thing about heights, why do I always forget? And just why are there no guardrails??? By keeping eyes on the road, I made it to the top, found a place to turn around, and told myself that I may as well look at the view as long as I’d driven up here. I slowly turned my head, could see how straight up and down the drop-off was at the edge of the road, looked out over mountains and lakes, said to myself, yes, very nice view, realized I was leaning away from the edge as if that would keep the car from rolling off, glued my eyes back to the road and white knuckled my way back down to a safe height! Never got out of the car or took a picture! It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a gondola, but I do remember not liking the swaying and bumping. Last time was with my dad, who was not to be denied exposing me and hubby to the experience followed by dinner at the top, and a part of me was grateful it was after dark so I couldn’t see how far off the ground we were. Jer, I do so sympathize!

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  3. Carla says:

    Thank you, thank you for the travel log from the Wallowa’s and then the Grande Ronde Valley. The pictures and narrative are wonderful and evoke some wonderful memories for me.

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