The Wallowa Country is the ancestral home for decendants
now living on the Umatilla, Nez Perce and Colveville Indian Reservations.
When ancestors lived here, people from many tribes came to this area
to gather food, trade and camp.
-- Quotation on plaque at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland
Our campground in Wallowa, Oregon, was right next door to the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland Project. The Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center, Inc. was chartered in 1995, and purchased a 160 acre site adjacent to the City of Wallowa in September 1997. In Spring 2000, the adjoining 160 acre parcel was purchased, for a total of 320 acres, which is now called the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland. On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, we decided to pay a second visit by hiking the Homeland trail.
In addition to an Interpretive Center, Long House and Dance Arbor, there is a 4-1/2 mile interpretive trail which takes you up a steep basalt cliff to the top of Tick Hill. Our destination loomed ahead of us:
The trail was easy to find. Dave points the way:
The trail starts easy enough by meandering along an old ranch road:
The trail soon begins to switch back and forth across the face of the basalt. We gained over 672 feet of elevation.
This interpretive sign reminded us that we should probably stop and drink our water.
While it felt like we were truly climbing a mountain, we were merely ascending a very high plateau. Much of eastern Washington and Oregon are part of the Columbia Plateau. This area was covered by numerous lava flows -- some of which were thousands of feet thick. The lava has since been covered with grasslands, savannas and shurbs. We felt this particular shrub of thistles was very photogenic:
With all the snow and rain this season, the wildflowers are beginning to bloom.
From high atop Tick Hill, we looked down on the circular dance arbor in the Homeland. Our RV park is to the upper left of the dance hall. If you look carefully, you can see Buster patiently waiting for us to return from our trek.
A hogan shaped gazebo sits at the top of Tick Hill. It has a commanding view of the Lostine and Wallowa Valleys, which are sacred to the Nez Perce:
Another plaque at the gazebo reads:
This land, as far as your eyes can see, is a home.
Witness its splendor, magnificence, majesty.
Consider living here thousands of years
and being forced to leave this land’s abundance and the bones of your loved ones.
Envision an elder who has never been here,
yet she knows this place because she has heard about it for generations.
This elder has never been here before, but she understands why this place is sacred to generations:
If you would like to see what we saw, click the link to take in the video of view from tick hill. (Our esteemed viewers have teased our videographer about his bouncy videos; this one bounces, too, but in this case, it was the wind. There's always an excuse.) The video took in the gazebo, this informal memorial, and the panoramic view of the valley:
Further on, we saw a plaque with the following legend --
All who lie here fulfill the promise.
We are born of our mother.
Our physical remains return to her when we die.
All living beings experience this great law.
Once laid to rest, the remains should be left along.
This is also a law.
-- explaining the ground around this memorial:
From the edge of Tick Hill, a large light fixture stands guard of Wallowa. During the Easter Season the lights are turned on in a shape of a cross. During Christmas, the lights form a five point star. The town doesn't see this view, but it certainly sees the display at night:
We realized that we were walking near a hallowed burying ground, and we attended carefully this wisdom:
Promise to remember.
You must never forget.
Always honor those who have gone before you.
There are many whose remains are in scattered places.
On prairies, trails, mountains, lakes and canyons, they died in distance places.
All longed to rest alongside their brethren and ancestors in this valley.
During our hike, we met only one other hiker. He warned us that it would get a little soggy in the draw between the hills. Lucky for us, someone laid out these old fence posts:
What goes up must come down. After crossing the top of the plateau, we began a series of switchbacks taking us back and forth across the face of the hill (that's tiny David in the middle of the photo):
On our way down, we got a glimpse of the Wallowa River:
Before long, we were back on the old ranch road and began a leisurely walk back to the trailhead.
As we completed our hike, we found one last interpretive sign. Wait -- this looks more like a first sign than a last sign. Do you think we hiked the trail backwards?
This hike was our last outing in Wallowa. Tomorrow we move onto Spokane, Washington.
Until our next blog encounter, stay thirsty my friends.