Spring Opening SOON at the Lodge!!

The Lodge is almost ready to open it's door for the year!

The Lodge is almost ready to open it's door for the year!

In only two weeks, on April 28th, Wallowa Lake Lodge will open its doors to guests.  But already, a number of long-time summer guests are arriving. A tour of the Lodge’s spacious grounds this week found them setting up their homes, and making family plans.

Northern Flickers are considering taking a room in one of the big snags in the Lodge's wetlands.

Northern Flickers are considering taking a room in one of the big snags in the Lodge's wetlands.

 

Three Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) -- large brown-speckled migratory woodpeckers that dine mostly on ants and beetles and live for about 9 years-- raced from tree to tree above the wetlands. Threesomes are problematic, whether bird or beast. In this case, two males vied for the attention of a single female.  The aerial acrobatics-- fast and at times furious—centered around a Douglas Fir snag with many inviting holes for nesting.  I’m not sure which suitor prevailed.  But we can expect to see a new brood of Flickers come late May—which is good, because this native woodpecker’s population has declined by almost 50% since 1966, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker/lifehistory

A Steller's Jay perches atop one of the Lodge's cabins.

A Steller's Jay perches atop one of the Lodge's cabins.

Steller’s Jays (Cyanocitta stelleri), a mostly summer resident at the Lodge, explored the cabins and lodge grounds, staking out summer territory. A bold, inquisitive and intelligent bird, they are close cousins of crows (Corvidae), with an iridescent blue body and attention-grabbing black crest of feathers on their heads.  Like crows, Steller’s Jays prosper where there are humans. They frequent campgrounds (Think Wallowa Lake State Park….) picnic areas, as well as the Lodge and its cabins. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Stellers_Jay/lifehistory

 

Meanwhile, at Wallowa Lake Lodge, http://wallowalakelodge.com/ the staff continues updates, improvements, and planning for the 2017 season.

David Earley staffs the front desk. His connections to the Lodge go back several generations.

David Earley staffs the front desk. His connections to the Lodge go back several generations.

At the front desk, David Earley serves future guests the old-fashioned way--by phone and in person -- and has also mastered the Lodge’s new, 21st Century, computer reservation system.  Dave has deep roots in the community and at the Lodge. He is a fourth-generation Wallowa County resident. His heritage includes a great-grandmother who was a member of the Imnaha Band, Nez Perce. And both his grandfather—a packer and rancher—and grandmother are pictured in a late 1920’s Lodge photo of his grandfather's pack-string in front of the Lodge. “I love this place,” Dave said. “It’s my home.” You can meet him, and learn more about Lodge history almost any day at the Lodge’s front desk.

June Newburn has stepped into the job of Hotel Manager.

June Newburn has stepped into the job of Hotel Manager.

This year, June Newburn has stepped into the Hotel Manager position. June began working the Lodge’s front desk in 2009.  With long experience in management and administration, and a reverence for customer service, June is the perfect person to lead the Lodge’s hotel staff.  “I’m here to ensure the comfort of our guests,” she said, “and to make sure every fine detail is taken care of.”

Tom Clevenger is the new Facilities Engineer.

Tom Clevenger is the new Facilities Engineer.

Tom Clevenger, the Facilities Engineer, occupies a new position created to keep the Lodge’s physical plant running smoothly.  His background includes building inspection, contracting, and 20 years as a fire-fighter.  Today, he is a volunteer with the Joseph Fire Department. Tom will make repairs, keep electrical, plumbing, and other systems updated, and help plan for the future. This spring he’s upgraded and installed new floors in the kitchen’s freezer and cold room, renovated some fire-extinguisher and plumbing systems, and, with June’s husband, Keith, is building a small storage building that will keep firewood for the cabins dry year-round.  “I’m a real proponent of ‘Let’s fix it right the first time,” he said.

David Earley's grandfather stands in the middle of the pack train, while his grandmother watches on the right.

David Earley's grandfather stands in the middle of the pack train, while his grandmother watches on the right.

The Steller’s Jays, Flickers, and other denizens of the Lodge grounds probably won’t need Tom’s services as they set up Spring housekeeping (Though he isn’t averse to putting up a bird house or bat box or two.) They won’t be taking advantage of the Lodge’s state-of-the art reservation system, or even its old-fashioned phone-in service. But they’ll be here to greet you, along with deer, red-tailed hawks, and eagles, David, June, and Tom, when the Lodge opens April 28th.

 

Spring Comes to the Lodge

For 2017, Wallowa Lake Lodge will get some updates and improvements,

For 2017, Wallowa Lake Lodge will get some updates and improvements,

It’s been a long cold winter.  But with spring just around the corner, historic Wallowa Lake Lodge’s new owners are preparing enthusiastically for their Friday, April 28th opening—one of the earliest opening dates in the Lodge’s century-long history.  

This year brings a revitalized staff and improved amenities.  The Lodge has a new General Manager, Jeri Riggs, who has logged more than 20 years in hotel management in the Portland area. June Newsome, a veteran of 10 years at the Lodge front deskand operations returns as Hotel Manager.

Mosses celebrate the wet and cool conditions of early Spring.

Mosses celebrate the wet and cool conditions of early Spring.

Soon, the restaurant will boast a new chef and a menu that features local, farm to table specials. These are among many updates that the Lodge’s new owners plan for their first season.

The Lodge’s grounds are also on the brink of their spring opening.  Yesterday I spent a captivating hour prowling the Lodge’s 10 acres of meadows, stream-banks, and wetlands–-often on hands and knees--in search of the first blooms. But like the Lodge itself, Nature was still making ambitious plans, and is not quite ready to open. 

There are subtle signs of a great and glorious future out there. Moss, fungi and lichen, welcome harbingers of warmer weather, color the early spring landscape. Under a hand lens or macro camera lens, their hues and patterns are exquisite. Spring is the season when they strut their stuff.

After recent rains, exuberant branching fruticose lichens flaunt gaudy green branches, dispersing spores before summer heat sets in. Witch’s Hair dangles from tree limbs, and staghorn lichens sprout from tree trunks. Mosses are exuberant.

Look closely and you’ll find bright orange-yellow bulges that look like a gob of half-dissolvedjelly-beans emerging from winter gray. (in picture!)  These are edible fungi known as jelly fungus --  more specifically, Orange Witches Butter, (Dacrymyces palmatus).  They grow on dead conifer logs and trunks, providing food for newly-awakened hibernating mammals, which in turn will feed hawks and eagles. 

Orange Witches Butter is an early Spring fungus that grows on conifer wood.

Orange Witches Butter is an early Spring fungus that grows on conifer wood.

The frilly dark orange buttons are a fungus (Cheilymenia stercorea) that I found in the Lodge’s wetlands. It’s a deer-scat specialist, growing on a late-fall or winter “deposit”.  Dubbed an “eyelash” fungus, the delicate “hairs” around their rounded edges help hold moisture on the fruiting surface.

(Cheilymenia stercorea) specializes in growing on Mule Deer scat.  

(Cheilymenia stercorea) specializes in growing on Mule Deer scat.

 

The advent of spring is more than riotous fungi and lichen. Leaves emerge, elderberries begin to bud, and willows celebrate with “pussy-willow” softness. Farther away, at the edge of the lake, the bald eagles tend their massive nest, keeping their eggs warm during cold spring nights.

In less than a month, flowers will be blooming, leaves will mature , and green will rule the Lodge’s grounds.  The eagles will have a new brood to rear.

Even better, the newly-improved, century-old Lodge will be open.  Come celebrate spring with us on opening day, Friday, April 28th and beyond.  Try our new local farm to table specials, enjoy the updated lobby and spacious deck. Book a room and relax in the Lodge’s peaceful surroundings. Visit us at http://wallowalakelodge.com/. The eagles, spring flowers, and the Lodge’s friendly, knowledgeable staff are waiting to welcome you.

Welcome to the Wallowa Lake Lodge Blog!

First, welcome to the Wallowa Lake Lodge blog!  We want to keep you in the loop about the new things happening at the Lodge, and in Wallowa County.  We'll write about Lodge events, of course, but there's a lot going on up here in The County.  We want to share it with you in pictures and words, so you can be part of our Lodge community.

The lodge in early February.

The lodge in early February.

It's the middle of winter here. And what a winter! The temperature tonight is twelve degrees—warm by comparison with the 10-below zero of a week ago. Wallowa Lake's thick cover of ice allows folks to hike out hundreds of feet from shore. No ice-skating yet.  But some dedicated people have been ice-fishing.  Two feet of fluffy white swaddles the Lodge's lawn. And the fountain is a blue mountain of ice, almost 20 feet tall.

Quiet settles in at the head of the lake this time of year. Businesses are dormant. Visitors are rare. Even the deer have vanished.  Long nights offer time for contemplation.  Here in Chief Joseph Mountain's shadow, days are especially short.

But all is not gloom. It's mating season for great horned owls. Their soft night-time calls filter through the fir and pines, reminding us that new life and spring are not that far away. The bald eagles are also having romantic thoughts. We are looking forward to their mating flights in early February.

Wallowa Lake Lodge is planning new things, too.  The new computer-based registration system arrived! Until now, Lodge registrations were made—and kept—in the same way—and on the same file-cards, in the same file-drawers—that they had been for the past 94 years.  Now this almost-century-old hotel is moving into the 21st century, at least in one respect.  We are still old-fashioned in many others, from providing a warm welcome to our guests, to ensuring their comfort throughout their stay.

We hope you visit our blog often. And us, too.