“Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful.“
We set out to traverse the state of Oregon through the lens of the four elements, making stops at countless beautiful places alongside our talented storyteller friends, Jules Davies and Chelsea Parrett. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty. Stay tuned to Downstream because over the next few weeks, we will be unraveling this marvelous adventure – element by element.
Our first stop was on the Deschutes River, a tributary that starts near La Pine, Oregon and runs 252 miles north to meet with the Columbia River. One of the most beautiful, rugged and desolate rivers in the country, the Deschutes is a corner of serenity and more recently has become world renowned as a recreational hub for whitewater rafting and flyfishing.
The Deschutes River wilderness has a tone to it, it’s earthy brown color and full-bodied hills seamlessly twist and wind as you drive side-by-side with the river. The dust that engulfs your feet as you walk, the sun beating down on your skin, the humming sound of the insects in tune with the river; it’s a humbling place that makes you feel small. In that feeling, we found ourselves admiring the work of the river, how it had formed and shaped such an intricate and beautiful canyon into the earth, a give and take of two elements earth and water colliding and flowing together. This steady strength felt very much of the Earth.
Favorite Campsite: Beavertail Campground
Located 9.8 miles from Maupin down a gravel road, Beavertail is a primitive campground that offers 17 sites, a bathroom, and a sometimes working water pump, but most importantly it has incredible views of both the river and a large canyon surrounding you from all sides.
Tips and things to do:
- Camp somewhere open for the best morning views.
- Take a guided whitewater tour from an outfitter in Maupin.
- Go flyfishing!
- Don’t forget to try ice cream in downtown Maupin.
The next leg on our trip through the Oregon element of Earth is tucked in the Wallowa Mountains. Joseph, OR is about as far northeast as the state goes and is referred to as the “Switzerland of America”. With peaks towering more than 10,000 feet over clear blue lakes and picturesque cattle fields, this place quickly leaves you with a taste of nostalgia. One of Oregon’s best kept secrets is Hells Canyon, where the Snake River has carved a gorge that is 1,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon! With epic views, calm lakes, snow capped mountains and a handful of small towns where everyone seems to know each other, this is truly a slice of rural heaven.
Best Place to Stay: The Jennings Hotel
One individual who saw the immense beauty and opportunity in Wallowa County was our friend Greg Hennes. After years of contemplating his departure from Portland, OR to make Joseph his new home, Greg hatched a plan that would as he puts it “ send him inexorably down the path of accidental hotelier” after purchasing the 1910 Jennings Hotel on Main Street. Through the powers of hard work, good taste, and a social media phenomenon via Kickstarter and Instagram Greg has turned this once fallen hotel/apartment complex into a design driven community space for those seeking the solitude and gratitude of such a beautiful landscape. The Jennings Hotel features thoughtfully curated rooms filled with light and character. The minimal designs and tall ceilings allow space for you breathe, while the communal kitchen/library can often be found filled with laughter and conversation as hotel guests come and go. One of our favorite amenities at The Jennings was the sauna, which acts as a social binding agent for those who care to löyly together, and on our first night we managed to squeeze 7 friends into a space most comfortably fitting 4.
Löyly: Finnish word that describes the sensation of enveloping heat and steam in a sauna.
Things to do in Joseph:
- Try a salmon shaped chocolate from Arrowhead Chocolates.
- Breakfast at Old Town Cafe on Main Street.
- Take a hike! Check out Wallowa Lake.
- Pick your own herbs at Lina Jane’s Farmstand on the 6Ranch.
- Visit M.Crow Company & General Store just a few minutes away.