Tag Archives: Imnaha_river

Hat Point, another Spring trip into Hells Canyon

A “must see” place in the Northwest, Hat Point lies opposite the Seven Devils mountains of Idaho, high above the Snake River.  The mountains and the river form the deepest canyon in the United States.  The road to the top is a sinuous gravel road, with the stretch of acrophobic drop offs. But the views are spectacular, and make the driving challenge more than worthwhile.

The road crosses the Imnaha river and climbs quickly to a canyon overlook filled with wildflowers and basalt layered cliffs. Then, as one climbs and curves higher, the view moves from the south to the east, and the deeper Hells Canyon and the Seven Devils come into view.
Usually snow blocks the road until late June.  With this year’s drought, however, Bob Coulter and I were able to make the trip in mid May. The wildflower progression was just starting, and we enjoyed the yellow glacier lilies, as well as the mountain goats that had not yet dispersed to parts unknown.

Imnaha river overlook on road to Hat Point
Imnaha river overlook on road to Hat Point
Balsam root and Imnaha canyon
Glacier lilies, Seven Devils Mts near Hat Point, Hells Canyon
Mountain blue bird
Mountain goats close to the Hat Point fire lookout
Enjoying the view
Inmate river canyon, Hells_Canyon_NRA

The lower Imnaha River canyon country

Formed high in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of northeast Oregon, the wild and scenic Imnaha River flows seventy three miles along a fault line that parallels the Snake River. In the lower river canyon, massive Columbia River basalt lava flows rise spectacularly above the river.  It is some of the most remote country in Oregon, yet hard working cattle ranchers make a living there.  A narrow dirt road, whose clay base makes it treacherous in wet weather, snakes high above the river. It is not a road for the acrophobic. Meg and I drove down there on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, making many stops simply to bask in the vastness of the land and our own insignificance.

Speak to us, Lord

I deeply enjoy reading the short homilies that Thomas á Kempis wrote seven hundred years ago in “The Imitation of Christ.” Each page is richly filled with wisdom for people of any age, culture, belief, status or position

“With the prophet Samuel, I humbly and earnestly plead, ‘speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’ Do not let Moses speak to me or any of the prophets, but rather you speak, Lord God, the inspirer and giver of light to all the prophets. You alone, without them, can instruct me perfectly. They without you can be of no benefit to me.
“They indeed speak the words, but they cannot give the Spirit. They speak most beautifully, but if you are silent, they cannot kindle the heart.
“They teach the letter, but you open the meaning; they bring forth mysteries, but you open the true understanding of their signs. They declare the commandments, but you enable us to obey them. They show the way, but you give the strength to walk in it. They work from outside, but you instruct and enlighten within the heart.
“They water, but you give the increase. They cry aloud in words, but you give understanding of the words that are heard.”
Wallowa Mts above the Imnaha River Canyon

Traveling to Hat Point in Hells Canyon

Last week I posted pictures from my hike down into Hells Canyon from Hat Point.  However, like a picture book, there are two sides to the views found on this trip. The rugged road begins in the the town of Imnaha and reaches a knife edge drop-off before the first overlook into the middle portion of the Imnaha river.  The Imnaha river is the second longest in Wallowa County, and its ruggedness rivals that of the Snake river in Hells Canyon. At the same time the sculpted layers of the Imnaha canyon draw one’s eyes downward, the snow covered Wallowa mountains draw them upwards.  The contrast is jarring, yet it is softened by the beautiful wildflowers that seem to divide these two worlds. This location is one of those rare places that allow the heart, mind, and soul to hang onto radical contrasts.

Light eternal

Several weeks of rain culminated last Saturday (June 9th) with Meg and me “enjoying” a picnic in the rain at Morgan Lake, normally a beautiful flower filled location within fifteen minutes of La Grande.  I had promised Meg the weather would clear and we would see a rainbow, but the drizzle never let up. Sunday, however, the weather cleared, the sun shone, and the blue sky was filled with white, puffy clouds.

As we drove into the remote Zumwalt country, I felt as though my eyes had never seen this kind of light.  The weeks of rain had dulled my senses and memory. Light was new and glorious. Since then I have thought about our transition from earthly life to eternal life.  We live with occasional intimations of Heaven, but those moments are dulled by all the material aspects of the life we live. We “sort of/kind of” know what life after life will be like.  Yet as I think of how surprised and grateful I was for this week’s sunshine–a phenomenon I already know–how much more surprising and praiseworthy will be our life after death.  “In your light we see light.”  That can only happen when we are in the Presence of our Creator.

Zumwalt Road looking toward the Wallowa Mts.

Lower Imnaha River canyons from Buckhorn Springs overlook

Joyful surprise

On Saturday, I participated in the annual Christmas Market at our local conference center. I have participated since 2003 and sell a variety of my photographic products. Toward the end of the day, a young mother and her five year son came by my display.  The boy could barely see above the table, but he saw a picture I had taken of a dolly varden fish jumping up a rapid.  He held in longingly, hoping his mother would buy it.  However, the fifteen dollar price was more than she wanted to spend.  So, I told she could have it for a dollar. When she paid, and the boy knew it was his, his joyful surprise of a hope fulfilled was an absolute delight to be swept into. He will never remember me, but I do hope he remembers this moment and passes it on to others when he is an adult. And I also hope that he, like each of us, will have  more opportunities to be “surprised by joy.”

Certainly, that is one of the messages of the Christmas season: to be surprised by the wonders of joy and love and to share with “even the least of these.”