After our near poetic stop in Weston, our trek continued towards the Blue Mountains, to Jubilee Lake, specifically. Friends of mine had recommended that we go, and the unusually warm day was perfect for a lake excursion. Jubilee Lake is a lake within the Umatilla National Park in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. With campgrounds, trails, and a beautiful lake surrounded by pristine forest, we were excited to dip our feet into the water and just be with nature. Taking the Weston-Elgin Highway from Weston to the lake, you’ll spend about an hour driving (or about 35 miles) through the Blue Mountains and the Umatilla National Park to get to the lake. Be prepared for stunning landscapes, with a few solitary cabins dotting either side of the highway on your way up. I kept thinking how insane Winters must be up there.
At the top, there is a viewing area, were you can park and take in the majestic north-facing vista of Oregon. We recommend that you stop and soak it all in. When we did the drive, we were surprised by the high snowbanks on either side of the road. In fact, the viewing area was covered with snow, which is probably why we were the only ones there.
Once we got our picturesque fix, we went on our way along the highway – a continuous undulation of peaks and dips all the while surrounded by forest. Unfortunately, the turn onto the road for the lake was closed off, as packed snow made it impossible to pass through. Darn. So we continued on anyways until we descended into the town of Elgin, Oregon (Pop. 1,654). Many of these small towns, I imagine, have roots in the lumber industry, being so close to so many trees and all. Like the other small towns we had passed through, the town perimeter of Elgin is tiny – you can drive through the town in a jiffy . Rather than stopping to check the town out, we went on our way towards La Grande, the largest place we would visit on this day, on Highway 82.
Highway 82 (also called the Wallowa Lake Highway) is a lovely drive, with sweeping vistas on either side of the road. We stopped a couple of times to take pictures. The highway cuts through the sparsely populated Grand Rhonde Valley, with Imbler (Pop. 295) being the first small town you’ll encounter. From Imbler, it’s about a 12 miles to get to La Grande. With all the driving that we had done, we decided that a coffee break was in order. La Grande was the perfect place to take a break. After experiencing several small towns already, it was a treat to discover that there was a Starbucks in La Grande (the Starbucks app came through). So with our windows down and our Spotify roadtrip playlist playing, we made our way to La Grande for a quick respite from our “small towns” adventures.
- A Weekend of Small Towns: Milton-Freewater and Weston, Oregon
- A Weekend of Small Towns: Dixie and Waitsburg, Washington