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The Observer paper 04/29/16

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Home arrow Wallowa Life

Praying for loved ones of fallen Arizona hot shot crew

This past week one of the fellows I met on the Institute of Journalism and Natural Resources journey around Montana kept us updated on the temperatures at his home in Phoenix, which were to rise to 118 degrees.

Hiking an Eastern Oregon gem

The North Fork John Day trail never strays far from its namesake river. The wilderness trail is lined with wildflowers. (Lisa Britton/WesCom News Service)

The North Fork of John Day offers trails for hikers of all skill levels 

If you relish the poetic silence of the forest primeval, the North Fork John Day trail might disappoint, and perhaps even annoy, you.

There’s plenty of forest, to be sure.

The road beckons: Off to Big Sky Country

I’ve loved to travel since before my memory began recording my personal history. My mother says when I was a toddler all she had to do was jingle her car keys and I’d come running like a Pavlovian-trained dog. 

Trekking the Zumwalt

Panels are used to inform hikers about the trail and things to look for along the routes. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

Open vistas, wildlife draw hikers to grassland preserve near Enterprise 

The Zumwalt Prairie is bursting with spring wildflowers and bumble bees under azure skies dotted with cotton ball clouds.

The 33,000-acre preserve surrounded by working ranchland is a testament to both the natural ecosystem of the prairie and its ability to sustain creatures as large as elk, as small as insects, and the interconnected web of flora and fauna.

Finding moments of traffic Zen

I’ve always been a big fan of back roads/streets and making my own routes. Hurricane Creek Road from Enterprise to Joseph (and in reverse) has become a favorite route where the distraction of summer traffic is avoided.

Wallowa Lake kokanee numbers on the rise

 WALLOWA LAKE — Wallowa Lake has gained a reputation in recent years for state- and world-record size kokanee.

Eastern Oregonís backcountry

Looking south from the Elkhorn Crest Trail west of Baker City, snow still blocks large sections of this high-elevation trail, but lower trails in the Elkhorns, Wallowa and Blue Mountains are snow-free, although few have been maintained this spring. (Lisa Britton/WesCom News Service)

Many low-elevation trails are accessible this time of year for hikers 

The good news, if you like to hike, is that snow has already melted off at least the lower sections of most mountain trails in Northeastern Oregon.

Local archers compete at nationals

Tim Dyer of Moscow, Idaho, draws his bow back at the Grande Ronde Bowmenís range on Mt. Emily Sunday. The GRB hosted an International Bowhunting Organization world qualifier. (Submitted photo)

REDDING, Calif. — Three local men competed at the National Field Archery Association’s national shoot recently and found some success.

Hiking the Elkhorns

Plant enthusiasts will have a chance to explore high elevations when the Native Plant Society of Oregon has its annual meetings in July. (Gene Yates photo)

Native Plant Society plans busy weekend for those willing to hit the trails of Eastern Oregon’s local mountains 

There is a lot to draw people into the mountains of Eastern Oregon.

Clay swims, bikes, runs to Oregon Trail title

WOLF CREEK RESERVOIR — Dominic Clay has been trying to beat Michael Rushton for the past three years, and last Saturday, Clay finally crossed the finish line before Rushton.

Clay won the Oregon Trail Sprint Triathlon at Wolf Creek Reservoir, finishing in a time of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 53.1 seconds. 

Watchers flock to Ladd Marsh

Lola Smith of La Grande gets a few pointers from birdathon volunteer helper Pat Kennedy on where to look to spot a bird Saturday morning at a viewing area along Foothill Road south of La Grande. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

The eighth annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival had a record number of watchers last weekend. 

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist at Ladd Marsh, Cathy Nowak, there were 361 registered participants at the three-day event.

That is up from the 350 the festival had last year.

“We were hoping for that many,” Nowak said. “We expected to do a little better than last year.”

River runs wild


Chris Bohnenkamp and Jon Fregulia jet boat through the Whirlpool Rapids on the Niagara River recently. They became the first people to successfully make it to the base of the Niagara Falls. (Courtesy photo)

Local jet boaters take on Niagara River Gorge

Class 6 rapids, border patrol agents and an all-time first for jet boaters was how Chris Bohnenkamp and Jon Fregulia were introduced to Niagara Falls.

Ticket to ride

Emilie Montgomery-Jones (left) and Scilla Coe, both of La Grande, ride along with a cattle drive on the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway Saturday east of Baker City. (Brad Mosher/The Observer)

Cyclists discover great outdoors on 134-mile ride through backcountry

It wasn’t the long uphill climb to the summit on Highway 203 Saturday that impressed most of the three dozen riders in the annual Grande Ronde Spring Ride.

Catfish rule derby again

Carson Everton (above, left) had the winning catch at the Morgan Lake Fish Derby last Saturday. Everton landed a 1-pound, 12.3-ounce catfish. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)

by Casey Kellas/The Observer

MORGAN LAKE — Those Morgan Lake catfish sure don’t miss many meals.

Angling for a win

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocked Morgan Lake with 1,000 trout this week along with an additonal 250 trophy trout. The Morgan Lake fishing derby has three age groups: 6 and younger, 7-10 and 11-16.

Morgan Lake kicks off spring with fishing derby 

by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer 

MORGAN LAKE — Local youths who are looking to jumpstart spring will have an opportunity Saturday as the annual La Grande Optimist Club/Bi-Mart Morgan Lake Fishing Derby returns for another year.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The age groups are once again 6 and younger, 7 to 10 and 11-16. 

Boat acquisition disorder

Ben Hayes is building a modified Grand Canyon dory boat ó itís two feet shorter than the standard size, perfect for the Salmon, Grande Ronde and Deschutes rivers. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

Wallowa County man has deep love for acquiring boats

by KATY NESBITT / The Observer 

JOSEPH — A Wallowa County man suffers from an ailment known to a few beleaguered  souls. Ben Hayes has “boat acquisition disorder” and there may be no cure.

There are a variety of acquisition disorders, but acquiring boats takes up a lot of room.

Opening a new home


Paul Arentsen works on Winding Waters Raftingís new boathouse in Joseph on the Imnaha Highway. The retail shop opens May 1, and the grand opening is May 18. Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

Winding Waters Rafting opens new storefront in Joseph 

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

A new storefront opens May 1 in Joseph giving a long-established business a new home base.

This winter, Winding Waters Rafting bought a Quonset hut on the Imnaha Highway. The crew has spent the last several months hunting up everything from French doors to barn wood to renovate the inside.

Spring turkeys abound


Rain or shine, tom turkeys are courting mates in the Northeast Oregon woods. Many have left wintering haunts and are moving to spring nesting areas. Many of these birds will move up to 15 miles on this spring migration. Oregonís general spring turkey season begins on April 15 and runs to May 31. Jim Ward photo

Hunters can expect plenty of opportunities to bag a turkey this spring season 

by Casey Kellas/The Observer

April is right around the corner, and with that comes the spring turkey hunting season.

This year’s spring hunt figures to be a good one, helped by the mild winter and the warm weather the area has seen recently.

Cycling the Figure-8 Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway

by Trish Yerges/For The Observer

Adventure cyclists are registering now to participate in a leisurely ride on a 134-mile figure-8 route newly designated as the “Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway.”

The bicycling event begins in La Grande at Riverside Park on May 4 and takes its riders on back country roads through Union County to Baker City where they will stay the night before making the second leg of the trip back to La Grande on May 5. The route will take them along the historic Oregon Trail and through some of the most beautiful pastoral country and panoramic mountain views that Eastern Oregon has to offer.

Meeting set for land owners, managers

by Casey Kellas/The Observer

Do you own or manage land in Union County or Wallowa County?

If so, mark April 6th on your calendar.

That’s the day that Steve West of Steve’s Outdoor Adventures based in La Grande, is holding an important open-forum meeting to discuss how to improve habitat that attracts and holds more elk and deer in desired areas on your property, how to reduce elk and deer damage to agriculture and how to improve the health of elk and deer in the area.

“We have a wildlife issue in the valley,” West said.

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