After a bummer of a day off yesterday, I was certainly ready to hit the road again. It was a cloudy, cool day, as seen in this photo, but no bad weather other than wind in the immediate future. It was a very interesting grey day all the way to Baker City, Oregon. Our destination tonight is outside of La Grande, Oregon where my second cousin and his wife have a small homestead.
Another scenic day in the western United States. Again, the highway route was along the old Oregon Trail tying me back into 'Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey'. The wagoneers found this calm route between the mountains along the Snake River. When some departed west for Oregon, as we are doing, a camp was set up to be called Farewell Bend. This is now a state recreation area http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_7.php .
The modern highway 84 leaves the Snake River (above) at Farewell Bend and soon follows what is now the smooth river canyon floor of the Burnt River until Durkee. I say smooth now, because in the time of the pioneers, it was dry and wretched to traverse. Very odd how desert like this landscape is, even along a river (below). Our next stop however was Baker City for lunch. In 2003 when I traveled the west with my Great Uncle Andy, we roamed all over this area because he and his family spent a great deal of time here working in mines. One of his brothers, great uncle Kayo, later settled in Halfway and Pendleton. Presently we are off to see Kayo’s sons Mike and Buck (Buck has also lived in Alaska).
When I was here with Uncle Andy, we visited Cornucopia, Halfway, Hell’s Canyon, Baker City, Pendleton, and Walla Walla. In Baker City we spent an afternoon in the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center http://www.blm.gov/or/oregontrail/ . Ken and I will not be visiting today, but I encourage anyone interested in putting a visual image on the life and travel style of the wagon train folks to stop at this center . The structure and design of the museum would be interesting to architects, the interpretive displays are life size, the environmental location is stunning (of course that was not by choice) and there are actual wagon paths still visible on walking trails.
Today it is much easier to get a meal on the Oregon Trail than back in the 1840’s. We selected the Oregon Trail Restaurant for lunch (what else?!) Every once-in-a-while Ken has a hankering for a big piece of meat and we sure found one here. He had the skillet steak with home fries and was not disappointed. All I remember about my sandwich was meat and cheese, no veggies at all-really, about what I expected. The service was warm and friendly and that counts for a lot! Plus, there were taxidermy fish of all shapes and sizes on the wall so we could get familiar with a new set.
We parked on the street very close to the Baker City crossing of the Powder River. This river was another chosen route for Americans making the westward journey. It was also a water source that even my Great Uncle mentioned using while living in the nearby mining towns. Baker is a stalwart of a town, it was a major crossing point for the wagon trains, then a huge center for gold mining, and after the miners left it stayed important by becoming the county seat. There are a lot of good museums here if one is traveling for education or ‘curious.'
Since this is my third major visit to Oregon, I have gotten lots of mileage out of the book 'Oregon for the Curious' by Ralph Friedman, the 1972 edition. I purchased it at a used bookstore in Pendleton on my first trip. The book provides good descriptions of points of interest on most major and minor roads. There are also names of museums, cities, and recreational sites. The most interesting to me are general geological and geographical notes with reference to historic events. I performed a cursory search on the internet for a current version, and it appears the author has written another book instead, “In Search of Western Oregon.”