Swiss-Bavarian Alpenfest, Joseph OR
OR Route 82 is a 70 mi state highway from La Grande to Joseph. Also called the Wallowa Lake Hwy, a part of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, it appears to have an identity crisis as it takes its turns through the towns along the way. Thus, some of the street addresses of places on this highway might disguise their location on the road.
My best laid plans for this trip went a bit awry, but things worked out alright in the end. I made it to the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce in Enterprise OR before it closed at 5pm, en route to Joseph. That was a very good chance to gather info on places I wanted to go (or at least to reference), and to ask questions.
Coming into Joseph OR from the North on Hwy 82, which becomes Main St in Joseph
Dinner at La Laguna Mexican Restaurant
After unloading at my lodgings, I went searching for a place to eat north of the Lodge. The Blythe Cricket was already closed for the day. The sunset reminded me of a previous trip when I had taken too long to decide where to eat so that the place I wanted to go was closed. I chose to eat at La Laguna Mexican Restaurant, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. It was a great choice. I noted quite a number of tables on the outside, and the employee said they had about 10 others beside, indicating just how popular the place is in summer.
Mt Joseph Lodge, Joseph OR
Mt Joseph Lodge has a rustic charm that draws you in, and I would have enjoyed it greatly but for a few drawbacks for a person in a wheelchair. Although there's a handy handicapped parking space right in front on Main St, the wheelchair entrance is on Alder St around the corner. I was glad the parking spot there was paved with enough room for my ramp to deploy, and the gravel on the other side of the pavement had enough vegetation so that I could manage not to get stuck or spin out. The room with the roll-in shower is nearly clear around the pleasant veranda (except for what I assume were temporarily stored appliances). It was a beautiful room with many nice features. But, the roll-in shower didn't have a bench, and the shelf was much too high for me to reach. I found a stool at Joseph Hardware that was perfect for my need. The space between the bed and the wall was hardly wide enough for my 24" wheelchair, and the bed was very high, without a helpful bedside table to assist my ascent. No staff on site, and I could not get a response from a phone call.
Oregon's Alpenfest, Joseph OR
Sometime the Alpenfest is held at the rodeo grounds, but in 2022 that was needed as a base to fight fires in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. I was thankful the air was not full of smoke! The festival was moved to the Community Center. I went there for breakfast and to check out the craft booths before lots of people came, then went to explore the town of Joseph. It's only about 14 blocks from end to end, easily traversed by walking or wheeling--that is, when they are finished with the sidewalk renovations in progress when I was there. Still, I could roll most of the way up and down Main. I returned to the festival for the afternoon program and lunch. I was there before the crowds, which suited me.
For more about Swiss & Swiss-American culture, yodeling, the accordion, and such, scroll to the end of this post.
Exploring Joseph OR
The town of Joseph started out with names memorializing the lake, but in 1880 changed its name to memorialize Chief Joseph of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce tribe, the original inhabitants of the area. Each summer the rodeo and related events held there is called Chief Joseph Days. The town doesn't have any historic Swiss or Bavarian ties, but the area is known as Little Switzerland because of the Wallowa (quite spectacular) mountains.
Joseph OR, north to south--highlights, mainly traveling down Main Street, cross streets noted below
Iwetemlaykin, Old Chief Joseph Gravesite, and Wallowa Lake
Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site--south edge of Joseph, Hwy 351
From the brochure, it looks like maybe the best way for persons in wheelchairs might be to access from the south end of Main St (don't turn when the main road becomes 8th).
Old Chief Joseph Gravesite & Cemetery, Nez Perce National Historical Park--Hwy 351 just south of Joseph OR
This was the father of the famous Chief Joseph.
Wallowa County Park--north end of Wallowa Lake, about a mile or so south of Joseph OR, Hwy 351
This is an exceptional view of both the lake and the Wallowa Mountains.
Wallowa Lake along Hwy 351 south of Joseph OR
Wallowa Lake State Park--6 mi south of Joseph OR, 77 mi (over an hour and a half) from La Grande
Wallowa Lake Community--right next to Wallowa Lake State Park, 6 mi south of Joseph OR
Tourist activities to keep family, friends, and/or sweethearts engaged for days in this little community, such as mini golf, go-karts, tram up the mountain, hiking, picnic places, camping, cabins, resorts, hotels, restaurants, gift shops . . . Little Alps State Park, a day-use area is at the end of the road (not far).
Eagle’s View Inn & Suites--1200 Highland Avenue, Enterprise, OR 97828
What exceptional views of the Wallowa mountains from this hotel! How appropriately named, for both the bird's soaring perspective, and the Eagle Cap Wilderness in prospect. What great prospects of having a relaxed and easy stay with such easy access to my bed. I called it an early night to rest my weary self.
Directions: At the top of the hill west of town, turn north off Hwy 82 on Highland Ave. It's west of the Baptist Church and the Enterprise welcome sign. Make a right where you see the stop sign; the FS ranger station is further north up the Highland Ave hill. The exterior of the hotel itself is sort of non-descript and I didn't see a sign reassuring me I was in the right place, but it's the only hotel-looking building there.
Around town, Enterprise OR
Hwy 82 literally turns into River St as it enters Enterprise from the southeast. The skate/basketball/baseball park is before that curve comes, Moonshine Glass Art is just at the curve, but it doesn't look that easy to get to. When I was there it looked the best way for a handicapped person would be to pull into the Dollar Stretcher Groceries (where you can get parking lot where you can access a ramped sidewalk. From the map it looks like you can get to the Glass Art place from S River St, to the left coming 'round that bend, before you actually see the Moonshine Glass Art.
More around Enterprise OR, and vicinity
I had read that one could fish in Marr Pond, but I had a difficult time trying to find public access to it. My best advice is to continue south on SW Depot or SW 2nd St to SW Thorpes Lane. Go west on SW Thorpes past Montclair St. You'll get glimpses of the pond, and at the west end of the pond around an old industrial building you might be able to get to the pond.
SW Depot makes a T with Fish Hatchery Lane, and the fish hatchery (dating back to 1939) is not far to the west and well-worth visiting. It has more than one entrance, and each has its own interest. A deer crossed the road as I drove out that way, but I couldn't get my camera out in time to get a good photo.
Not much further west, where Fish Hatchery Lane meets Powers Rd, take a short left, then right again onto Homan Lane, if you want to go out to see Sunrise Iron, on Sunrise Rd off Homan Lane. It's a little bit of a drive on gravel road, but so interesting. Call ahead about touring. Beautiful views of field & farm & mountains.
Back in town, Enterprise OR
Traveling west on North St, which becomes part of Hwy 82, is El Bajio Mexican Restaurant, Ace Hardware, Chevron, the Post Office, Elks Lodge, Wilderness Inn Motel (which has handicapped accommodations if you get there before they are gone), La Laguna Mexican Restaurant, Heavenlys burger place, a car wash, etc. North St makes a bend by Safeway before heading uphill out of town. Across from Safeway are a Chinese restaurant, TW Bronze (on Golf Course Rd), and about a block further on Golf Course Rd is Parks Bronze. Naturally, there's a golf course not too far up Golf Course Rd.
Towns 'Tween Enterprise & La Grande OR--along Hwy 82
Lostine OR--10 mi northwest of Enterprise on Hwy 82; about 60 mi from La Grande
Hwy 82 becomes State St in Lostine, a village with a few interesting landmarks, and south on Lostine River Road (dirt/gravel) are fairly minimalist campgrounds and trailheads. Names I saw on the map: Lostine Reservoir (Mountain View Rd off Lostine River Rd), Canyon Forest Camp, Lostine River Interpretive Trailhead and Williamson Campground (11 mi south of town), Walla Walla Forest Camp, Irondyke Forest Camp, Bowman-Francis Lake Trailhead, Turkey Flat Forest Camp and not far Arrow Forest Camp & nearby picnic area, Shady Campground & nearby Maxwell Lake Trailhead, and at last Two Pan Campground & Trailhead--for which you can search on the internet.
Wallowa OR--18 mi (about 20 min) northwest of Enterprise OR, on Hwy 82
Hwy 82 becomes 1st Street in Wallowa. Much construction caused some difficulty getting around Wallowa when I was there early Oct 2022, which will bring welcome improvements when they are finished. I was anxious to tour the Nez Perce Visitor Center, but it was "temporarily" closed even during posted hours--I suppose still relating to COVID cautions. Right where Hwy 82 becomes 1st St on the east end of town (at Ellen St), 1st St goes further east separate from the highway, and then as it crosses the Wallowa River it changes to Whiskey Creek Rd. At the west end of town Hwy 82 separates from 1st St at Douglas. Otherwise, the captioned photos below I think are self-explanatory.
The Canyon between Wallowa & Elgin, including Minam
Wallowa to Minam is 13 mi through the canyon. Minam to Elgin is another 13 miles. The Minam River joins Wallowa River at Minam OR. Minam Store, which offers various recreational supplies and services, is closed on Mondays. See their website below. Just across the river is the Minam State Recreation Area, with its boat launch just off Hwy 82, and its campground 2 mi up the Wallowa River on a not-so-wide gravel canyon road.
Elgin OR--20 mi northeast of La Grande OR, on Hwy 82
When Hwy 82 comes into Elgin from the east it converts to Albany St, then turns south, becoming S 8th Ave. Because I was just driving through, I didn't see Tom McDowel/Elgin Community Park (on both sides of Elgin Community Center & Pool, 260 N 10th St, Elgin, OR 97827).
Imbler OR--13 mi northeast of La Grande OR, on Hwy 82
Hwy 82 turns south into Ruckman Ave in Imbler OR. It's a tiny community with the Grande Ronde River winding slowly nearby in largely farming Union County.
La Grande Exxon, exit 261 off I-84--about 260 mi, 4 hours from Portland OR
This is the exit for Hwy 82, so it was very convenient to get gas both going and coming home. The staff member who kindly pumped my gas was so friendly and thoughtful he washed my windshield without being asked. He even fetched a Subway sandwich made to order for me (I keep a note about which sandwich/ingredients I like). There's a Best Western, a Super 8, and a Sandman Inn nearby, beside McDonald's & Wendy's, and Local Harvest Eatery & Pub (pizza). Shopping is also close, at La Grande Town Center, 2212 Island Ave #3949, La Grande, OR 97850 .
For more about La Grande OR, see
Swiss Culture in the US and Switzerland
Music at Alpenfest included yodeling and accordions, which reminded me of clips from "The Sound of Music" and Disney's "Snow White". Cowboys used to yodel, too. Ironically, the overture to Rossini's opera "William Tell" is the familiar "Lone Ranger" theme, so much a part of American culture.
For a brief intro to the dancing, scroll down to Tirolean Dancers at:
Books & Movies with Swiss subjects & authors
Famous Swiss writers: philosopher Rousseau, Nobel prize poet Spitteler . . .
Swiss stories: William Tell, Swiss Family Robinson, Heidi, Moni the Goat Boy . . .
Some Swiss colonies in the US, and Swiss Americans
About Switzerland & Germany
Cantons of Switzerland
I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.