The Cowboy Way
by Kasey Cordell
By any measure, northeastern Oregon is a rugged place. The Wallowa Mountains rise out of a vast, sun-scorched emptiness like the teeth of a great white shark snapping the sky. This is Louis L’Amour’s Wild West, live. City slickers needn’t worry, though—the comforts of great wine, coffee, and bookstores await as well.
Hamley & Co
If you can’t find the perfect pair of cowboy boots here, you never will. Established in 1883, this Western haberdashery has a back wall lined with at least a hundred different varieties of shitkickers. Old Gringos, decorated Italian leather Justins, you name it. Mosey to the back of the store and see where the real cowboy work gets done—in the saddle shop where famed saddle-makers Duff and Bill Severe got their start.
30 SE Court, Pendleton; 541-278-1100; hamley.com
Joe & Sugars Café
A favorite of La Grande locals, this tiny café uses beans roasted by longtime La Grande resident Al
McCloud (who once owned the café) and offers caffeine fiends at least three different varieties each day. The Joe & Sugar Blend is nice and smooth, but if you really want to sink the spurs into your brain, opt for the Colombian Roast. Just don’t hold us accountable for any speeding tickets.
1119 Adams Ave, La Grande; 541-975-5282
RimRock Inn Restaurant
When you arrive for dinner at the RimRock Inn, you might think you’ve reached the edge of the world. A hundred yards from the restaurant’s back porch, the earth drops away, plummeting into Joseph Canyon. Farther east, the scorched landscape crinkles into countless coulees before taking a final plunge into Hells Canyon. Such ruggedness is best tempered with a delicate Willamette Valley pinot and a tender steak prepared by chef Otto Nielson. And for breakfast? A sunrise that paints the canyon pink, purple, and orange. Just reserve one of the three tepees along the canyon’s edge.
(Open May through mid-October) 83471 Lewiston Hwy, Enterprise; 541-828-7769; rimrockrestaurant.com
Stop into the Bookloft for a healthy collection of volumes full of local history and lore—especially about Oregon’s Nez Perce tribe. The shop is a fraction of the size of Powell’s Books, but it has all the heart. You might even stumble upon a reading during the Fishtrap literary festival (fishtrap.org) in July and February. Plus, there are dynamite pastries from Joseph’s Wild Flour Bakery. Try the Goldie, a delicious kind of albino brownie.
107 E Main St, Enterprise; 541-426-3351; bookloftoregon.com
Earth & Vine
This spacious store specializes in smaller labels, like a white merlot from the Gilstrap Brothers vineyard in nearby Cove. Owner Mary Ellen Stevenson is a Baker City native who’s happy to tell you not only what gives the Gilstrap Brothers Rio Grande Rhonde its light, fruity taste (the Kuhlman Foch grapes, a French hybrid that’s taken a shine to Eastern Oregon’s arid climate), but also where to replace those blue jeans you just tore a hole in (hint: try the feed store on the way out of town).
2001 Washington Ave, Baker City; 541-523-1687
This splendiferous hike is so well hidden that a few folks in the local ranger’s office hadn’t even heard of it. About 30 miles northeast of Baker City, the easy 1.5-mile out-and-back jaunt ends atop a 420-foot-tall volcanic plug. From your perch, smack in the middle of a mile-wide bowl, the Wallowas and the Blue Mountains rule the skyline. Don’t forget the self-timing camera for your summit shot: chances are, you’ll have the crater to yourself.
La Grande Ranger District; 541-963-7186