Return to Joseph, OR.

By admin on July 25, 2011

After fitting a new engine to Tango Charlie and suffering a couple of weeks of pretty awful weather on the Pacific Northwest coast we were in need of a flying trip somewhere. The new engine was requiring some long trips at high power so that its new components, and most importantly the piston rings, were broken-in correctly. We decided that a return trip to Joseph was in order as it was a great place we wanted to see more of and was a reasonable distance away, taking around 3 hours flying time to get there.

The early morning at Florence was bright and clear, no mist, fog or wind….summer had apparently arrived! The internet weather systems predicted we would have a reasonable tailwind for the majority of the trip, especially as we would be flying at altitude. By having to use high engine power I was expecting a 130 knot groundspeed but at the expense of a higher fuel consumption. The plan was to fly past the Sisters Mountains and refuel at Bend Airport, this would ensure more than enough fuel for the longer leg over to Joseph even if we encountered a headwind.


Morning mist on the Coast Range.

As we crossed the Coast Range there were only the odd spots of early morning mist and even the Willamette Valley had holes in its usual early morning cloud cover. Eugene was reporting the cloud broken at 400ft, but this was much better than the full overcast we usually encounter and was very welcome just in case we developed a ‘technical issue’.


Fern Ridge Reservoir through broken cloud, just to the west of Eugene Airport.

We started the long climb to 9,000ft (my preferred Cascade crossing altitude) and almost instantly began to benefit from the predicted tailwind, the going would hopefully be smooth until we had to descend to land at Bend. The engine was sounding good and its temperatures were looking excellent. It is never an ideal situation to run a new engine in over such unwelcoming terrain but after reaching our cruise altitude we had quite a number of options if the worst did happen.


Conjunction of The Husband, Belknap Crater, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and Mount Adams.

The Cascades were bright and clear with very little haze and cloud to ruin the view. The heavy snow that had fallen in the Winter and Spring was still evident on all of the large mountains, and even some of the lower plateaus, ridges, and peaks still had good coverings. It was nearly August but the air temperatures were deceptive, at 9,000ft I’d guess it was less than freezing!


The Rock Mesa lava flow, which sits at the bottom of the west side of South Sister. The Husband, a 7,362 feet mountain peak can be seen behind.


Broken Top, which sits slightly to the east of the Sister Mountains.


Broken Top, Middle Sister and North Sister.


All of the three Sisters Mountains, picture was taken from the south east. You can see one of the lava flows at the bottom of South Sister.

After passing to the south of the Sisters we descended to Bend Airport, as expected the flight suddenly became rough as we passed through the mechanical turbulance generated by the tailwind passing over the ridges that were now behind us. The air temperature became a lot milder but was still way cooler than we thought it would be. This cool air would make our flight over the high desert a lot more comfortable but would undoubtably mean some chilly nights in our tent!

After parking up at the Professional Air self serve pumps (much cheaper than receiving a refuelling service from the FBO!) and a few minutes of pressing buttons and turning switches on and off I finally gave up and asked some of the line service guys for help. They instructed me on how to use the switches and dials but after a second unsuccessful attempt they came down off the fuel tanks to show me first hand. They finally worked out that the whole self serve system was faulty and offered to refuel our tanks for us free of charge, we accepted! We paid in the FBO office which is a very comfortable facility with leather chairs, the usual free coffee and cookies, and even courtesy popcorn! A highly recommended stopping point for anyone flying through the area.


Receiving service from Professional Air at Bend. Receiving a refuelling service is a rare event for us.


Professional Air FBO at Bend.

By the time we were airborne again a scattered layer of clouds was forming at around 8,000ft so we climbed to get above it. Flying lower we were suffering from mechanical turbulance and light mountain wave from our tailwind, flying above the clouds layer the flight was much more comfortable and as the miles went by we gradually climbed with the cloud as it rose with the terrain.

I’ve said it before but the high desert areas of Oregon are really interesting places to fly over and are among my favourite areas in the USA. The terrain is remote and constantly changing, and there is always something you haven’t noticed before. Steep rock cliffs, rolling hillsides, winding rivers, natural forest, isolated homesteads and open prairie, here are just a few pictures giving an idea on how varied these areas can be.







When you approach Joseph from the west you have to negotiate the imposing Wallowa Mountains that tower over the town. We were planning on climbing over the range at 12/13,000ft for pictures and then descending to land on the east side, however, like last year the winds were far too strong to contemplate this. Lenticular clouds were being produced by the mountains (a sign of very strong winds) and our tailwind had now climbed to nearly 30 knots, too strong to fly any nearer the terrain than we really had to. We opted a crossing of the range at its northern end where it consists of a number of lowish (but still 7,000ft AMSL (above mean sea level)) ridges. The turbulance on the lee side of the ridges made for an uncomfortable descent, and the flight following the east side of the range down towards Joseph was equally as rough. The approach to runway 33 is always a fun piece of flying as you head towards rising terrain on the downwind and the views are fantastic.


Maule landing on runway 33 at Joseph.

After landing we prepared to walk the short 1 mile distance into town for something to eat at the Outlaw Restaurant & Saloon, which we can highly recommend. Suddenly a guy we met last year turned up in his excellent Bellanca Scout, complete with huge tundra tires, greeted us and offered us a lift into town in his pickup….this is exactly what happened last year when we arrived! If you are reading this Brad, thanks again for your hospitality.


Parked up at Joseph and our new slightly larger 2011 tent.

Over the next few days we visited the Wallowa Lake State Park using the cheap and convenient shuttle bus that runs between there and the town of Enterprise, and also went on a rafting/kayak trip organised with Paul at Winding Waters, which we can also highly recommend.


Wallowa Lake State Park.

The Winding Waters trip consisted of a full days boating down the Grande Ronde river in kayaks or on rafts and is a great way of seeing some fantastic scenery. We stopped for lunch by the side of the river and saw loads of wildlife including bald eagles, deer, mink and king fishers. Due to the high melting snow water levels there were some reasonable rapids for us beginner types to enjoy and some of the rougher sections were pretty challenging. Winding Waters also offer longer and more advanced trips down the Snake River and is definately something we will consider doing next year.


Kayaking down the Grande Ronde River.

On our return trip to Florence we decided to drop into Mulino Airport (which is located at the northeast corner of the Willamette Valley) for the night, and routed past Olallie Butte to the north of Mount Jefferson.


East side of Olallie Butte


Olallie Butte with Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the background.

From Wikipedia….Olallie Butte is a steep-sided shield volcano in the Cascade Range of northern Oregon. It is the largest volcano and highest point in the 50-mile (80 km) distance between Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson, Oregon’s two highest peaks. Ice Age glaciers carved two large cirques into the northeast and southeast flanks of the mountain exposing magma which hardened in the volcano’s conduits to form the numerous spectacular rock pinnacles now found in the higher parts of the cirques. The summit of Olallie Butte is located on the border between Marion County and Jefferson County. The highest point in Wasco County is located at about 6,280 feet (1,910 m) in the northeast cirque. Olallie Butte overlooks the Olallie Scenic Area to the south which includes Olallie Lake. The term Olallie is Chinook Jargon for berry which are abundant in the area.

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