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On the road

Baker City

The Geiser Grand, Baker City

Blue Mountains

Imnaha River Inn B&B

Imnaha tavern

Boardman on the Columbia

Eastern Oregon

www.eova.com and www.traveloregon.com

It’s all about sun and wide-open spaces. Cowboy country, high deserts, a river gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon, the largest geologic continental fault, amazing painted hills, glass mountains, volcanoes, true wilderness and one of the deepest lakes in the World. Did I mention 300 days of sun? Oregon? Yes, Oregon. Eastern, that is. Fair Warning: Yes, sun, but shining on winter ice and snow — check roads before you go www.tripcheck.com and call ahead to lodging & restaurants. Summertime mosquitoes!


The area is divided into three parts:

Boardman, Pendleton, Hell’s Canyon & Wallowa Lake, .

Central click here
Sisters, Metolius River, Camp Sherman, Bend, Summer Lake.

Southeast click here
Crater Lake, Klamath Falls, Steens Mountains




was a bustling railroad shipping center 1900-1911, dubbed the “Wool Capital of the World.” Boom turned to bust and by the 1950s and 60s the town looked and felt like a true ghost town. As children, we’d sometimes go to Sunday dinner at the hotel with Uncle Bill and Aunt Daisy joining local ranchers they knew. Uncle Bill was sort of famous in these parts (Wamic, Tygh Valley, Maupin) since anyone who wasn’t ranching pretty much worked for Cody Logging Company.

Long tables, linen clad, were laden family-style with heaping platters of steak, mashed potatoes and (canned) string beans. Hot just-out-of-the-oven dinner rolls and berry or peach cobbler for dessert. My cousin Butch and I would sneak upstairs and wander through the creepy dark hallways, peeking in empty rooms until creaking floorboards, cool breezes from nowhere and doors suddenly slammed shut would send us careening back down the stairs.

Prairie winds howled across the sheep ravaged barren landscape, swirling dust through a town of abandoned buildings. Wizened old ranch hands sat chewing tobacco on the wide hotel verandahs waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. For decades.

New energy has revived old buildings creating an Old West Ghost Town. Once forlorn buildings now house antiques, gifts, souvenirs, and an ice cream shop. Alas, as of this 2009 summer, the hotel is once again empty. For Sale.

The romantic may yearn for the old authentic Shaniko and all its ghosts, but then, where would you find a really good hand-dipped milkshake?

Boardman, almost the last stop on the Columbia River in Oregon, has long been a welcome spot to refuel and grab a burger between long stretches of unpopulated I-84, but it also has a nice park and marina on the riverfront with a playground, picnic and swimming areas, dock and boat ramp. It’s also close to some of the best roadside summer produce stands at Irrigon and just a hop across the river to Washington’s famous Columbia Basin www.columbiavalleywine.comand Walla Walla wineries www.wallawallawineries.com

[ARCHIVES: The Road to Somewhere Else (Umatilla)]

home of Pendleton Woolen Mills and the Pendleton Round Up rodeo. Oregon Trail emigrants of the 1840s settled here after crossing the Blue Mountains. Atop the steep grade of Cabbage Hill are pioneer landmarks Emigrant Springs and Deadman’s Pass (Oh, that hill! Treacherous still in winter; trucker’s nightmare. [ARCHIVES: Weather Thou Goest]
It’s home to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Nation (Wallowa, Umatilla and Cayuse Tribes).

Cove & Union
Imnaha is the last spec of civilization in this corner of northeast Oregon. The Imnaha River Canyon flanks the Snake River and Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area, where you have literally reached road’s end. If you like remote locations where deer, elk and big horn sheep play, get thee hither. Watch as the rising sun lights up the canyon rims, then spreads down the ravines, illuminating this spectacular place as though painting the landscape to life.

[ARCHIVES: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou and Kids, Dogs & Rattlesnake Skins: Counting Blessings]

Baker City
www.visitbaker.com was once the bustling hub of surrounding gold mining enterprises in the late1800s. Nestled between the Blue Mountains to the west and the Wallowas to the east, Baker claims to have the second largest collection of National Historic Register homes and buildings in Oregon (after Portland). You can explore surrounding gold-mining towns of Sumpter, Sparta, and ghost town Granite or spend a day at the not-to-be-missed Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Besides the area’s rich heritage, there’s plenty of outdoor recreation, including easy access to the Snake River’s Hell’s Canyon. Winter sports are in high gear at Anthony Lakes, and in winter, you’ll never forget the elk feeding.

[ARCHIVES: The Long Way Home]

Geiser Grand Rooms and suites are spacious with 14’ ceilings and have the same attention to detail highlighting original elegance. Antique furnishings and ten-foot tall windows, adorned with silk damask drapes remind one of more gracious times. It’s easy walking from the hotel to Main Street shops and cafes, or a brisk jaunt along the Powder River will take you to the splendid Baker County Library where floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the river and city park. Christmas and New Year's holidays are especially inviting, with the hotel festooned in Victoriana and the town decorated and festive until mid-January. [ARCHIVES: At the Geiser Grand]

may be best known for changing its name to Half.com for the year 2000 as an advertising campaign for a Pennsylvania retailer in exchange for school computers and economic development. Lewis L. McArthur, author of Oregon Geographic Names, notes that a 1935 Baker City newspaper article may cite the true origin of the name: Halfway post office, established in 1887, was midway between Pine and Cornucopia. There. Now, run for your map.

(OK, Halfway is northeast of Baker City near the Snake River /Idaho border.)

Wallowa Lake
Built in the 1920s, 80-passenger ferries transported passengers across the lake to the Wallowa Lake Lodge resort. Now you can drive the six miles from the town of Joseph along the stunning icy blue mountain lake. The lodge has been restored replicating original furnishings and rooms. The large lobby has sofas and chairs for reading, relaxing, watching the lake through the many-paned windows or gazing at the fire in the stone fireplace. Cabins built in the 1950s retain their rustic mountain cabin feel with knotty pine interiors and stone fireplaces.

Three major hiking trails lead into the Eagle Cap Wilderness area. For a short-cut, you don’t have to hike up, but can take the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of the mountain and get a 360-degree panoramic view of the Wallowa Mountains and surrounding wilderness.

eat EAT

C&D Drive-In off I-84 toward the river — milkshakes, burgers and bakery goods. River Lodge & Grill www.riverlodgeandgrill.com family dining & lounge; riverfront views.

Como’s Italian Café
39 SE Court Ave. join the locals at this tiny downtown corner café for milkshakes, pizza, soups, salads.

Baker City
On Main Street downtown Baker City Café terrific lunches — soups, salads, gourmet pizza, sandwiches, Italian sodas and baked goodies; Mad Matilda’s Coffee House and Modern Mercantile www.madmatildas.com, Wi-Fi hub & hang-out coffeehouse, lunches, baked goods, beer & wine. Fun, eclectic stuff; Barley Brown’s Brew Pub www.barleybrowns.com; Geiser Grill dining room & 1889 Saloon at the Geiser Grand Hotel www.geisergrand.com. Two locations for El Erradero good Mexican food 541.523.2327, a railroad caboose near I-84 freeway exit & downtown on Broadway. Inland Café on 10th Street, join ranchers and locals for good old-fashioned home-cookin' hearty breakfasts all day (huge pancakes & home baked cinnamon rolls) lunch too.

stay STAY

Riverfront Lodge Hotel www.riverfrontlodgehotel.com Oregon’s only waterfront lodging on the Columbia River east of The Dalles. Interior makes a stab at being a lodge with a stripped log staircase and a massive two-story stone fireplace, but what lodge has marble tiled floors? Motel-style rooms with splendid river views. Golf course and paved walking paths meander along the river, with benches and imaginative public art.

Baker City
Geiser Grand Hotel www.geisergrand.com. Built in 1889 gold rush days, Barbara and Dwight Sidway resurrected the hotel in the 1990s. Extravagant details have been painstakingly restored including woodworking, crystal chandeliers, and the original Palm Court Restaurant with its huge mahogany columns and stained glass ceiling. Some room views overlooking town & mountains.
[ARCHIVES: At the Geiser Grand]

Pine Valley Lodge www.pvlodge.com. Rustic. Fantastic. Bizarre. Wonderfully eclectic compound of historic structures in cowboy country with eccentric furnishings from second-hand pieces and antiques, to artistic creations in lively colors.

Wallowa Lake Lodge www.wallowalake.com Historic 1920s lakeside lodge and cabins in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Fair Warning: Lodge and restaurant open weekends and holidays only October 15th - Memorial Day. Cabins open year round. Some rooms & cabins have lake views. Breakfast and dinner served in the lodge.

Imnaha River Inn Bed and Breakfast www.imnahariverinn.com. Nick and Sandy Vidan invite you to share their “rustic log cabin.” This handsome hand-hewn 7,000 square foot log lodge is hardly a rustic cabin. They’ve built it themselves, so be certain to check out all the splendid details from antler rack chandeliers to the distinctive staircase. Stunning canyon views. [ARCHIVES: Kids, Dogs & Rattlesnake Skins: Counting Blessings]

play PLAY

Explore the back roads! [ARCHIVES: The Long Way Home, Weather Thou Goest and Kids, Dogs & Rattlesnake Skins: Counting Blessings]

All American Road Hell’s Canyon (deeper than the Grand Canyon) but limited viewing www.hellscanyonbyway.com or National Scenic Byway www.byways.org; Baker City & Vicinity www.visitbaker.com and www.wallowacountychamber.com.

Outdoor recreation: Deschutes white water rafting www.deschutesriver.com Maupin. Snake River whitewater rafting www.hellscanyonadventures.com, skiing at Anthony Lakeswww.anthonylakes.com; hiking, backpacking Eagle Cap Wilderness www.eaglecapwilderness.com and Wallowa Whitman National Forest
Breathtaking (literally) views on the mountain top tramway ride up; hike down www.wallowalaketramway.com.

Trains: Eagle Cap Train, a 63-mile trip linking Elgin, Wallowa, Enterprise and Joseph www.eaglecaptrain.com; historic narrow gauge railroad www.svry.com in Sumpter.

History: Shaniko www.shaniko.com a revamped ghost town. Tamástslikt Cultural Institute & Casino east of Pendleton highlights the rich history of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Nation (Wallowa, Umatilla and Cayuse Tribes). Pendleton Underground Tours www.pendletonundergroundtours.org. Pioneer life on the Oregon Trail near Baker City at the not-to-be-missed National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center www.blm.gov/or/oregontrail; Baker City www.BakerHeritageMuseum.com; www.historicbakercity.com; www.historicbakercity.com; Sumpter www.historicsumpter.com gold rush (revived) ghost town and take a trip up the mountain to Granite a mining town forgotten.

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