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Beyond the beer: What to do and eat, and where to stay in the Wallowas

Beyond the beer: What to do and eat, and where to stay in the Wallowas
Kim Metlen explains the complexities of using a human-powered on the tracks. (Kirk Jones)

Multitasking is a way of life in the Wallowas. Even local poets double as fly-fishing guides, and, yes, beer drinkers do get outside too. Here are a few standout attractions:

Joseph Branch Railriders: Kim Metlen, who used to own a bike shop in La Grande, Ore., has launched an unlikely retirement business: "Cyclists" pedal open-top, four-wheeled rail cars on tracks of an inactive branch of the Wallowa Union Railroad. It's one of only two (legal) railriding sites in the U.S. 304 N. Main St., Joseph; (541) 910-0089, www.jbrailriders.com

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Hells Canyon: No roads cross a hundred-mile stretch of the Oregon/Idaho line northeast of the Wallowa Mountains because Hells Canyon is in the way. It looks like a green Grand Canyon guarding the Snake River. One great target is the Buckhorn Viewpoint, near good hikes, which can be reached on a three- to four-hour loop from Joseph. Boat trips offer views from below, including music-themed trips from Winding Waters River Expeditions. 204 E. Wallowa Ave., Joseph; (877) 426-7238, www.windingwatersrafting.com

Hikes: Good, often steep, hikes begin at stunning Wallowa Lake south of Joseph. Locals are particularly fond of the nearby Hurricane Creek Trail, away from most of the summer tourist hordes. For trail maps and conditions (many open in June), drop by the U.S. Forest Service's Wallowa Mountains office, (201 E. 2nd St., Joseph; (541) 426-5546, www.fs.usda.gov/wallowa-whitman/

Visiting northeastern Oregon

If you go

THE BEST WAY TO NORTHEASTERN OREGON

From LAX, United and Delta offer nonstop flights to Boise, Idaho, and Delta, Alaska, US Airways, United and Southwest offer connecting service (change of planes). Restricted round-trip fares from $284, including fees and taxes.

The nearest major airport is in Boise, about two hours' drive southeast of Baker City. Another option is to fly into Portland, Ore., an almost four-hour drive west of Baker City or six hours west of Joseph.

WHERE TO STAY

Geiser Grand Hotel, 1996 Main St., Baker City; [888] 434-7374, www.geisergrand.com. The Geiser Grand, built in 1889, oozes Victorian grace, with a stained-glass ceiling high above the lobby restaurant and sprawling rooms. Doubles from $109.

Historic Union Hotel, 326 N. Main St., Union; [541] 562-1200, www.thehistoricunionhotel.com. A bit off the beer trail, the Union is even more of a time warp than the Geiser. The best of the mix-and-match 15 rooms is the cowboy-themed Huffman Suite, with a sitting room and kitchenette for $119. Doubles from $89.

Bronze Antler B&B, 309 S. Main St., Joseph; [541] 432-0230, www.bronzeantler.com. This is the finest option in town, with four Western-themed rooms. Doubles from $145 May-October, $99 November-April.

WHERE TO EAT

Lostine Tavern, 125 Oregon Route 82, Lostine; [541] 569-2246, www.lostine-tavern.com. In a restored tavern that dates to 1900, the Wallowas' first farm-to-table restaurant is a welcome addition for its seasonal menu, superb salads and cozy historic atmosphere. Lostine is a 20-minute drive from Joseph. Sandwiches and burgers $7.95 to $12.95, dinner entrees $12.95 to $19.95.

Lone Pine, 1825 Main St., Baker City; [541] 523-1805. The Lone Pine, opened by a Portlander in 2014, serves great breakfasts and lunches, with a self-service turntable to spin records in a century-old storefront location. It's a couple of miles from Interstate 84. Sandwiches and salads from $10.

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TO LEARN MORE

Eastern Oregon Visitor's Assn., www.VisitEasternOregon.com

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