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!
area is divided into three parts:
Boardman, Pendleton, Hell’s Canyon & Wallowa
Sisters, Metolius River, Camp Sherman, Bend,
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
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
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.
Brother, Where Art Thou and Kids,
Dogs & Rattlesnake Skins: Counting Blessings]
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
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.)
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
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.
Italian Café 39 SE Court Ave. join the locals at this
tiny downtown corner café for milkshakes, pizza, soups, salads.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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;
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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