What's Tony Thinking

Go East, Old Man


Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as, “Go West, Young Man!,” does it?

Nevertheless, we head east today. East to Wallowa County in Northeastern Oregon. As readers of this column know it is the site of a family cabin, now hosting its fifth generation of the family. In six more years, this humble dwelling will be 100 years old.

Wallowa County was one of 31 Oregon Counties to “open up,” last week. There has been only one reported case of COVID-19 in the County, and that one not fatal. County Commissioners have been pushing Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, a Democrat, to open since at least May 1. Meanwhile, some County residents are pushing the idea of succeeding from Oregon and joining Idaho, presumably to socially (and politically) distance themselves from Oregon’s blue belt, running from Portland to Eugene on the west side.

This is pretty much an annual trip for us, also known as “opening-up.” The idea is to get the water and power turned on, to check to see what has broken or fallen into disrepair over the winter, to clean things up inside and out, and make ready for summer guests. Will there be any guests this year? Hard to say.

Social distancing is a way of life in Wallowa County, which at 3,500 + square miles is bigger than 15 nations and several states. The population is just over 7,000, which means that population density is 2 people per square mile. Of course, people aren’t spaced out that way. But still, open spaces aplenty, including Eagle Cap Wilderness Area and the Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area.

For those of you who don’t know, but may be interested Wallowa County is literally in the farthest northeast corner of Oregon. Its eastern edge is defined by the Snake River, which runs at the bottom of North America’s deepest canyon, Hell’s Canyon. On the other side, it is Idaho. The state highway into the County, the only way in or out, ends about 1 mile south of our cabin. We generally go through La Grande, turning east there.

We will be interested to see how things are in “the County,” as folks speak of it. Many of the small businesses depend on the tourist/ visitor season, which is pretty short as it is. Our understanding is that businesses are open, but with restrictions, which we assume include masks and social distancing recommended. We’re taking enough food that we shouldn’t have to go to the store, although I expect the Safeway in Enterprise would appreciate the business.

So I am sure you’ll be getting a report from our travels and from what things look like in one of the rural counties of the Northwest that is now “open.”

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