Drives: NORTH END LOOP

Drives: NORTH END LOOP

For a true backcountry road trip, head north from Enterprise on Highway 3. Soon you'll see the Stangel Buffalo Ranch. If you're lucky, some of the herd will be visible from the road.

Then you'll find yourself enjoying several zillion board-feet of timber as you traverse the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. At the 30-mile point, pull off at the Joseph Canyon Lookout. If you can ignore the other visitors momentarily, you can almost imagine seeing the ancient Nez Perce tribes down in a canyon spending time hunting and preparing for winter.

Four miles further is the RimRock Inn, a remote restaurant with authentic teepee lodging (www.rimrockrestaurant.com). Just past there, turn left at the Flora-Troy road.

Suddenly, you'll find yourself transported onto backroads used primarily by the few hardy locals who still live in the northern end of Wallowa County.

In three miles, you'll reach the nearly deserted town of Flora, once home to several hundred and where the 1915-era schoolhouse has been restored as a showpiece of the area's agricultural history. On Saturday, June 5, it will host Flora School Days, a reenactment of the pioneer life. For information: (floraschool@tds.net).

This also is the home of a singular barn-bed-and-breakfast, the North End Crossing (www.northendcrossing.com).

Just past the town, its cemetery is worth a quick tour, with graves dating back to the 19th century.

In another four miles, the pavement ends. The dirt and gravel road may be windy and steep in spots, but it affords some of the most scenic views in the region. The deep gorge known as the Grande Ronde Valley seems close enough to touch, and you'll marvel at a round barn, one of the few standing in the area.

Keep an eye out for wildlife, including wild turkeys, bald eagles, deer, elk and bears.

Seven miles later, you'll cross the Grande Ronde River. Turn left on Grande Ronde River Road to reach the small town of Troy, which is near the Washington border.

Camping, RVing, fishing and hunting are the mainstays of this little community, where life is centered around a one-room school and the Shilo Troy Resort, a combination café, bar, self-service laundry, bathhouse and place to buy hunting and fishing licenses (www.troyresort.com). This is a convenient stop for lunch, with homemade pies and milkshakes among the menu's high points.

A quarter-mile past the Grande Ronde bridge, bear left at the fork in the road. The next 37 miles of road will take you past quaint farms and through wooded areas with little traffic until you reach Highway 82.

Turn left to reach your starting point in Enterprise. You'll drive through Wallowa and Lostine, where it's worth a stop to shop at Wallowa4U, M. Crow & Co. (www.mcrowcompany.com), June's Local Market and nearby shops.

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