ENJOYING OUR LAND
To me, what is so wonderful about Wallowa County is that there are as many different ways to enjoy her as there are people.
Last week, on a drizzly misty day, I was driving to La Grande. When I got to Minam, there were cows walking the railroad track downriver. Cowboys in yellow slickers and working dogs were easing the mothers and their calves along the rails, their bellows joining the song of the river echoing up the canyon walls.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around the spectacle of a cattle drive on a rail line. Yet it made sense, for the Excursion Train wasn’t running that day. That short route gave access to the open slope where, over a hundred years ago, pioneers climbed with their wagons and stock over the top of Smith Mountain. From there, they could see miles of the verdant grass of Wallowa Valley which became their livelihood and remains such today for many growers. I felt like I was watching history, still in the making.
I was standing alongside the now high and swift Wallowa River, photographing the cattle on the other side, when two rubber rafts drifted quickly by.
The next morning when I opened my curtain, a student pilot was flying out of Joseph Airport. Later that day I was driving on a back road in the county, enjoying the new growth of hay fields, and I passed some bicyclists. That evening I went for a short hike by the Wallowa River and stepped over the evidence of horseback trail riders ahead of me.
At the Sports Corral I joined a line to obtain hunting and fishing licenses. The main topic of conversations among my girlfriends are what stage of planting their gardens are in.
Two friends and I snatched an afternoon up on the Divide, just to see the wildflowers. The landscape up on top blanketed with wildflowers with snow-peaked mountains not too far away is astounding.
R. V.’s coming through Joseph are becoming more numerous now, headed for campgrounds located throughout the county. Boats kick up wakes on the glass smooth lake while families picnic alongside the water which provides sustenance for us all.
I remember in my junior high history class, that the attraction of the land that was to become the United States of America was the vast array of natural resources stretching from shore to shore. To have so much within one country governed by its own people makes us the richest place of all.
As a young girl in Girl Scouts, I enjoyed the catchy rendition of “This Land is Your Land” we sang around the campfire, though I didn’t understand the significance of the lyrics originally penned by Woody Guthrie 13 years before I was born.
Wallowa County is a microcosm of how this land is shared and enjoyed, as Guthrie well wrote, “This land was made for you and me.”
Originally published May 25, 2016 in the La Grande Observer newspaper. Reprinted with permission.