First stop: Hamley & Co, a haberdashery for cowboys. Or people who want to look the part. Despite the hundred or so boots lining the back walls, I came up empty in my quest to replace the cheap, completely broken-down roughouts I bought in Colorado four years ago. Dad, however, struck gold in the coffee mug department, finding mugs with oh-so-desirable “mandles,” or man handles. (“So you can get more than just one finger in the damn thing.”)
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No, those are not my boots. Those (and the socks) come with the Davis Brothers room when you stay at the Historic Union Hotel. Each room is themed—ours in recognition of the cattle-ranching Davis brothers, who lived at the hotel most of their lives and whose inheritance hinged on the condition that they never marry. The best thing about this room was the shower, a bizarre wood-paneled affair with two showerheads and enough room for a small cocktail party.
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Now that’s a tram. The Wallowa Lake Tram’s 15-minute ride floats you up 3,700 vertical feet to the top of Mount Howard in a four-foot plastic bubble suspended on a 1.25-inch steel string. At the top, 2.5 miles of trail lead to panoramas of the “Swiss Alps of Oregon” and Hells Canyon to the east. Fat tire fiends can explore even more if they even send their bikes up on special tram cars. Acrophobes can find some liquid courage for the descent in a pint of Terminal Gravity IPA at the Summit Grill—just don’t dwell on the name.
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That’s Idaho. Or the start of it at Hells Canyon.
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Me, a moderate acrophobe, on the ride down, looking markedly calmer than I remember feeling. Must have been the beer.
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Our home for the night: a tepee on the edge of Joseph Canyon at the Rimrock Inn. (Note: Nighttime wanderings, especially those following a wine-laden meal at the restaurant, are not recommended here.) This place—50 miles from anything and breathtakingly beautiful in its emptiness—was my favorite part of the trip, hands down.
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Inside our digs. That’s dad’s flashlight/skull-crushing device on the left. Helpful for handling unfriendly critters.
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Chef Otto Nielson, who was kind enough to open the kitchen for us on his day off, with his son, Braydon. And yes, that’s my notebook in the foreground, next to the pint of Terminal Gravity ESG. Drinking on the job again.
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Sunrise over Joseph Canyon. Or at least the part I saw. The sun was not moving quickly enough to suit my still-pinot-saturated self, so I went back to bed for an hour, confident the orb would find its way into the sky without my assistance.
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The 202-degree hot springs at Hot Lake Mineral Springs, purportedly the hottest in the world.
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One of David Manuel’s impressive bronze sculptures at Hot Lake.
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Dad wearing his “I-paid-$9-for-this” face. Taken during the Hot Lake Mineral Springs tour, outside what was one of Oregon’s first trading posts on the Hot Lake Mineral Springs tour. The 20-minute infomercial about Hot Lake’s restoration that made up the second half of the tour—and that included at least three “limited-time offers” for buying windows and bricks bearing your name—did not improve his expression. The jalapeño IPA he had at Barley Brown’s Brewpub in Baker City a few hours later sure did, though.