Kam Wah Chung: A Step Back in Time

The store inside Kam Wah Chung, John Day, OR 26October2018
The store inside Kam Wah Chung

Have you ever stepped inside a time capsule and discovered a place frozen in time? You have the opportunity to visit such a place if you stop at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. The small building, located two blocks north of Highway 26, was, at one time, bustling with activity. Kam Wah Chung, which translates to the “Golden Flower of Prosperity,” served as a dry goods store, herbalist shop, import business, house of worship, and boarding house. It also housed an informal library and post office.

Exterior of the building, John Day, OR 26October2018
Exterior of the building

A Tour Inside

     As you step into the dimly lit interior of the building, you get a feel for what life was like decades ago.

Products in the store John Day, OR 26October2018
Products in the store

Boxes and tins of everyday products line the shelves. Merchandise stocked at Kam Wah Chung appealed to both Chinese and American customers.

More products in the store John Day, OR 26October2018
More in the store

In the backroom, larger boxes of supplies fill the room.

The storage room and a small altar John Day, OR 26October2018
The storage room and a small altar

The apothecary is amazing!  Stacks of small neatly labeled boxes reach to the ceiling.

The apothecary at Kam Wah Chung John Day, OR 26October2018
The apothecary at Kam Wah Chung

They used many herbs in the practice of Chinese medicine, but also more exotic things like lizard feet, bat wings, and bear parts.  A small room across from the apothecary served as a place to treat patients.

Close up of the apothecary at Kam Wah Chung John Day, OR 26October2018
Close up of the apothecary at Kam Wah Chung

You step through a low doorway to get into the kitchen. The table and wood stove look ready to serve a hot meal.

The kitchen at Kam Wah Chung John Day, OR 26October2018
The kitchen
Close up of the kitchen at Kam Wah Chung John Day, OR 26October2018
Close up of the kitchen at Kam Wah Chung

An early version of a refrigerator cabinet sits in a corner.

Refrigerator cabinet John Day, Oregon 26October2018
Refrigerator cabinet

Religion was an important part of everyday life and small altars, with dried oranges and incense stick offerings, are tucked into various nooks.

Altar in the kitchen John Day, OR 26October2018
Altar in the kitchen
Visitor center display about importance of religion John Day, OR 26October2018
Visitor center display about importance of religion

Two sets of bunk beds are in the same room as the kitchen. Advertisements line the walls and undersides of the bunks, in case you might need to purchase a suit while staying there.

Advertisements lining the bunk beds John Day, OR 26October2018
Advertisements lining the bunk beds

As you pass through another door, you’ll enter a private bedroom. You can’t go upstairs, but additional boarding and living quarters are located there.

History of Kam Wah Chung

     The building was constructed in the 1860s as a trading post, and it was put under lease to the Kam Wah Chung Company in 1878. Ing Hay and Lung On, both originally from the Guangdong Province of China, formed a partnership and purchased the business in 1887. It served as a gathering place for Chinese immigrants who traveled to Oregon to work on railroad lines and in gold mines. In 1862, prospectors discovered gold in Canyon City, two miles south of John Day. In 1880, John Day was home to over 2,000 Chinese, the second largest Chinese community in Oregon and one of the largest in the U.S.

Front of the building John Day, OR 26October2018
Front of the building

Partners in business – Ing Hay and Lung On

Ing Hay, also known as “Doc Hay,” practiced herbal medicine and pulsology. Doc Hay lost his sight, but he claimed he could use his sensitive hands to identify ailments based on a patient’s pulse. Western medicine was in its infancy at that time and anyone could claim to be a doctor. Nearly half of patients treated by “quack” doctors died from infection. Ing Hay served both Chinese and non-Chinese patients and was a well-respected healer throughout the region. He was considered a “municipal treasure” after he used his herbal remedies to prevent the spread of illness during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

Ing Hay AKA 'Doc Hay' John Day, OR 26October2018
Ing Hay AKA ‘Doc Hay’

Lung On, also known as “Leon,” was a well-educated man fluent in both English and Chinese. He used his charisma and many skills in his work as a merchant, labor contractor, mediator, and translator. After the gold rush, he turned to other endeavors. Lung On started a mail-order clothing company and also had one of the first car dealerships and service stations east of the Cascades. He also dabbled in real estate and horse racing. Lung On was a successful businessman and he willed his $90,000 estate to Ing Hay. Both men continued living in the Kam Wah Chung building for nearly 60 years and were considered valued members of the community.

Lung On AKA 'Leon' John Day, OR 26October2018
Lung On AKA ‘Leon’
Visitor center display about how important Ing Hay and Lung On were to the community, John Day, OR 26October2018
Visitor center display about how important Ing Hay and Lung On were to the community

The Chinese Exclusion Act

     Though both had family in China, they never returned to their native country. One reason for this was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Increasing tensions between Chinese and resident laborers in a struggling economy led to a series of laws. The Act stated that Chinese could not become U.S. citizens or own land. Teachers, students, diplomats, and merchants were given limited rights, but weren’t always allowed back into the U.S. if they left the country. In John Day, Chinese could only live in a small neighborhood near Kam Wah Chung and it served as a refuge for them. More moved to John Day in 1885 when the Chinese neighborhood in Canyon City burned to the ground and they were not allowed to rebuild. It was a challenging environment for people of Chinese heritage and they felt safer living near each other.

Note the meat cleavers. Visitor center display about the isolation of Chinese in John Day, OR 26October2018
Note the meat cleavers – Visitor center display about the isolation of Chinese in Oregon

     Chinese could not own guns in Grant County so Ing Hay and Lung Ho kept meat cleavers at the ready to defend themselves. You can see evidence of how they were harassed by observing bullet holes in their metal-clad front door. The thin layer of metal didn’t stop any bullets, but it prevented fire from destroying the building.

Opening the Time Capsule

     Lung On passed away in 1940 and Ing Hay moved to a Portland nursing home in 1948. He passed away in 1952 and his nephew sold the building to the city of John Day. Ing Hay wanted the building to serve as a Chinese history museum, but that request was forgotten. The Kam Wah Chung building remained locked until 1967. When the doors were opened, everything inside was largely intact. Over 30,000 artifacts have been cataloged. The apothecary contained hundreds of herbs, some of which no longer exist in the wild. One of Doc Hay’s medical books may have been compiled 300-500 years ago by one of the founders of Chinese medicine. If the book is an original, it would be one of the few copies known to still exist.

The storage room at Kam Wah Chung, John Day, OR 26October2018
The storage room at Kam Wah Chung

Visiting Kam Wah Chung

       Kam Wah Chung was deeded to Oregon State Parks and Recreation in 1975 and leased to the city of John Day. It opened to the public in 1977. The state took over management of the site in 2004. The Friends of Kam Wah Chung help manage a small visitor center and store housed in a separate building.

Gift shop in the visitor center John Day, OR 26October2018
Gift shop in the visitor center

     Oregon State Parks and Recreation offers free 45-minute tours of the Kam Wah Chung site from May 1 to October 31. A guide must accompany visitors. The guides offer visitors a wealth of information and they obviously enjoy sharing their knowledge. Their talks are enhanced by informative recordings. The tours fill up fast so this year they are experimenting with making reservations in advance.

There are several exciting updates related to Kam Wah Chung. Plans are in the works for a larger visitor center that may include a “virtual reality” room that would simulate the interior of the building. Recent archaeological research at the site has revealed where the temple and other buildings may have once stood. In July, students can participate in an archaeology field school on the site as part of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Malheur National Forest, Southern Oregon Laboratory of Anthropology, and Kam Wah Chung are among those working on this project. The Discovery Channel is working on a documentary about Chinese traditional medicine and they have shot footage at Kam Wah Chung and several other locations. The program is expected to air in North America in the fall of 2019.

Visitors from around the world

    This site is an important destination for those interested in history. It is the best known example of an historical Chinese mercantile and herb store in the United States. Chinese scholars have expressed great interest in Kam Wah Chung and they visit the site regularly. As news stories related to discoveries at the site have spread throughout China, it has become a destination for Chinese tourists. People from all over the world visit Kam Wah Chung.

There has been a significant increase in the number of visitors from the Netherlands. Locations near Kam Wah Chung were featured in the highly popular Dutch reality program “Wie is de Mol?” which translates as “Who is the Mole?”

The dining table John Day, OR 26October2018
The dining table

  I am fortunate that this site is only about two hours away from Bend, Oregon, where I live. It’s a trip well worth taking.

Interesting facts…

Here are a few interesting facts about Kam Wah Chung:

  • More than 90 unopened bottles of bourbon whiskey were found under the floorboards and in the walls, stashed there during the Prohibition. Today they are valued at around $10,000 each. Several bottles mysteriously disappeared during various renovations.
  • Ing Hay’s great-grandnephew, Robert M. Wah, MD, served as president of the American Medical Association in 2015.  The call to work as a healer continues in this family.
  • $23,000 worth of uncashed checks were found under Ing Hay’s bed. They would be worth about $250,000 in today’s dollars. Some think he never cashed them because he knew his patients couldn’t afford to pay the bills.

To view a 2015 Emmy nominated documentary about Kam Wah Chung produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, see Oregon Experience – Kam Wah Chung. The personal stories recounted by people who knew Ing Hay and Lung On helps to bring the history of this remarkable place to life.

This is a reprint of a June 2019 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.

The Daily Spur – Tour

One Ringy Dingy…: Monochrome Monday

One Ringy Dingy switchboard, Burns, Oregon 12April2019

I saw this old switchboard at the Harney County Historical Museum in Burns, Oregon. I could imagine Ernestine sitting in front of it saying, “One ringy dingy…two ringy dingy. Is this the party to whom I am speaking?” Making calls is a little easier today.

Double O Ranch Sign: Monochrome Monday

Double-O-Ranch-13April2019

This interesting Double O Ranch sign is on part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. At one time this 17,000 acre ranch was privately owned by Bill Hanley. The U.S. Government purchased most of it in 1941 and added it to the refuge. The ranch was originally owned by Amos W. Riley and James A. Hardin. It was established in 1875 and was one of the first permanent pioneer settlements in Harney County.

River Ranch Barn – Seasoned by the Seasons: LAPC

River Ranch Barn 30March2018

The River Ranch Barn at Summer Lake Wildlife Area in eastern Oregon is weathered to perfection. Here are a few pictures of its exterior from a distance and close up. Winter Ridge rises majestically behind the barn.

River Ranch Barn roof 30March2018

The shakes of its roof line up in irregular and interesting patterns.

Barn roof close up 30March2018

Here are a couple pictures of an outbuilding next to the barn. The weathered barn wood has a variety of warm tones and a distinct personality all its own.

Outbuilding Close up  30March2018

This pale knotty eye watches the wildlife visiting this oasis in the desert with a look of approval.

Outbuilding Close up Siding 30March2018

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Worn & Weathered

Indoors at Fort Rock: LAPC

I’ve featured several outdoor photos taken in and around Fort Rock, but now you’ll get glimpses indoors at the Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum. Many of these historical buildings were moved here from nearby. The homes and businesses are furnished as they would have been in the early 1900s. This is a place where history truly comes alive.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

Marcus Garvey
Indoors at Fort Rock 2 20May2015
 General Store 20May2015
Fort Rock House 20May2015
Bedroom  20May2015
Fort Rock Kitchen 20May2015
Blacksmith 20May2015
 Dining Room 20May2015
School 20May2015
Fort Rock Church 20May2015

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – History

Asian New Year Celebration: Lots of Wow!

Asian New Year Celebration 3March2019
A blue lion ready to pounce

Last weekend we attended an Asian New Year Celebration, and the performances we watched were spectacular! This event brought together performances of music, Tai Chi, Parkour, aerial silks, and lion dancing. A local restaurant provided samples of Asian cuisine. There was also a silent auction.

The Chinese New Year started on February 5th and it’s the Year of the Earth Pig. In other years the Pig is associated with Wood, Fire, Metal, or Water. The Pig occupies the last position of the Chinese Zodiac. It symbolizes “carefree fun, good fortune, and wealth” according to Your Chinese Astrology.

Performances at Asian New Year Celebration

Lion Dancers

The celebration featured the lion dance at the beginning and end of this event. The two lions of White Lotus Dragon and Lion Dancers danced to the pounding rhythms. Kids in the audience at this event loved when they got to follow the lions out of the auditorium at the end of the celebration. Be sure to watch the video at the end of this post for an up close look at a lion dancing in the audience.

Lion dances are a traditional dance in China and other Asian countries. They have been around for millennia. In the past, the dance was used to scare away evil spirits. But lion dances were also performed to bring joy, prosperity, and good fortune to events such as celebrating a new year. Dancers emulate the movements of lions in colorful costumes.

Tai Chi

Oregon Tai Chi Wushu gave performances in large and small groups. They balanced the calm and graceful movements of the larger groups with the fast-paced action of smaller groups. One performance had a modern twist with dueling electric guitars. Watch that video below, near the end of this post. The local group includes participants of all ages, even those as young as four years old.

In the past, martial arts were essential for protection in times of war in China. As that need decreased, they recognized the lasting health benefits of this training. Tai Chi is referred to as “meditation in motion.”

Parkour Celebration 10 3March2019
Parkour Celebration 3March2019

Parkour

Members of Abstract in Motion did a lighter-than-air performance of Parkour. Merriam-Webster defines Parkour as “the sport of traversing environmental obstacles by running, climbing, or leaping rapidly and efficiently.” This activity was developed in France in the 1980s. It’s kind of like the moves seen in The Matrix movies without the use of special effects. The performers leaped and flipped and moved in ways that made me wonder if they were mere mortals.

aiko Drumming Asian New Year Celebration 7 3March2019
aiko Drumming Celebration 7 3March2019
aiko Drumming Celebration 7 3March2019

Taiko Drumming

One of the most memorable performances for me at the Asian New Year Celebration was the Taiko drumming of the Portland Taiko group. This group “blends the tradition of Japanese taiko drumming with a sense of Asian American identity, creativity, and empowerment.” Watch the videos to see the sense of joy this group emulates.

Taiko percussion instruments were in use in Japan 2,000 years ago. It’s thought taiko drums were used in communication or religious rituals. They resemble instruments found in China and Korea and may have come to Japanese culture from as far away as India. The idea to play together in Kumi-daiko (a taiko ensemble) was created in the 1950s. Drums range in size from small snare drum-sized up to as large as a wine barrel.

Aerial silks Asian New Year Celebration 15 3March2019

Aerial Silks

Outside the auditorium, Silks Rising gave an aerial silks demonstration. A long piece of silky fabric hung from an open pyramid-shaped structure. A young girl climbed, spun, and dropped on the long piece of fabric in a kind of aerial ballet. I can see why these performances are called “aerial contortion.” Cirque du Soleil invented this art form in 1995.

Until next year’s Asian New Year Celebration…

This celebration packed a lot into two hours. Some performances were slow, quiet, and graceful; others were fast, loud, and full of raw emotion. There was something for everyone here. It’s the 12th year of the Asian New Year Celebration—a fundraiser for Bend Senior High School’s Life Skills Program.

Hope you enjoy watching the videos!

FOWC – Watch

High Desert Voices Newsletter – March 2019

I’m sharing the March issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter. It’s a newsletter for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I help out with the newsletter and I’m particularly proud of this issue.

High Desert Museum newsletter, High Desert Museum entrance

This issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter includes a History event – 19th Century Making & Mending; Art – a new exhibit by Native American artist, Rick Bartow; Nature – a fact sheet on white sturgeon; People – a profile of our Communication Director; and Recreation – a trail through the colorful Blue Basin. There’s a little more related to updates for the different areas of the Museum and kudos, for work well done.

Enjoy the newsletter! To see more, go to Volunteer Newsletters.

2018 Favorite Photos: LAPC

It’s always hard to pick favorite photos at the end of the year. Here are several representing nature, history, and culture. Enjoy and have a great New Year!

Favorite Photos – Nature

Favorite Photos – History

Favorite Photos – Culture

Maybe my most favorite photo from 2018…

Green worlds beneath me. Aquatic plants at Yellowstone National Park, WY 2June2018

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Photographic review of 2018

The Story Who Came to Visit: RDP

Last month, The Darkness of Hills, The Lightness of Wings came to visit me for 25 days. Yes, that was a long visit. She spoke a little bit to me each day until she was 50,129 words long.

Story in Painted Hills, Oregon 14 26October2018

I started her as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. That’s short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s a commitment I wasn’t sure I could make, but I did it.

I knew I wanted the story to take place in the late 1800s and I wanted to include a Chinese girl who moves to Oregon to work with her grandfather. He’s a doctor and she knows how to make herbal cures. That’s all I knew when I started writing.

I found my inspirations to build a story from several sources.

Story Kam Wah Chung  in John Day, Oregon 26October2018

To help create my main character, we visited the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. This amazing place was an apothecary in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s like a time capsule from the time period I wanted to focus on.

One of the medicines the main character uses is called Tiger Balm. This pain reliever, invented in China,  has been around since 1870 and its scent is calming yet spicy. I have a jar of it and used it when I got in a terrible bicycle accident years ago. Its unique scent reminds me of healing.

Story Ring Billed Gull MalheurNWR 2018

If it’s a story written by me, of course it includes animals. I thought back to a ring-billed gull I nursed back to health at Malheur NWR. I was there for four weeks as part of a 12-week immersive ornithology class. The seagull in my story is the narrator; a first person secondary character narrator. Am I crazy? Here’s an excerpt:

“So who am I watching from above? I have wings but I’m no angel. In fact, I’m a seagull and what happened that day changed my life. Here is the story of dark hills and light wings. Yes, my wings are a part of this tale, but on that day they weren’t so light. This tale starts with me but it has been passed down beak by beak.”

Story Magpie Drawing 2007

There’s also a magpie character in my story and I thought I’d write about a magpie and another animal. I considered using a badger since they live near magpies in my high desert home. I did a little research and found out I had made the right choice.

Huān 獾 is the Chinese word for badger. It sounds just like huān 欢, The Chinese word for ‘joyous, happy, pleased’ according to Chinasage. Magpies in flight are often portrayed with badgers and this represents happiness both in heaven and on earth. A picture of a perched magpie represents a wish for future happiness. This was a happy coincidence for me that I tried to weave into the story.

Story in Painted Hills 26October2018

We visited the Painted Hills, near John Day, for further inspiration. That setting added a touch of magic to my tale. The hills have a way of communicating with the main character in my story that only she can understand.

I used a little of this and that to build this story. The first draft is complete but the hard work of editing and rewriting has just begun.  Lots of hours to go.

I signed up to read from my book for five minutes at an event in Bend, Oregon in January. Yesterday I worked on editing four pages to present to the public. How long could that take? Much longer than you might think! I’ll let you know how it goes in January. Stay tuned…

Ragtag Daily Prompt – Build

Native American Women, Their Art, and the Photographs of Edward S. Curtis Exhibit

Mother and child - Apsaroka by Edward S. Curtis

Mother and child – Apsaroka by Edward S. Curtis

The Photographs of Edward S. Curtis in the By Her Hand Exhibit

This exhibition features portraits of Native women by photographer Edward S. Curtis from the collection of Christopher G. Cardozo. Curtis took the featured photographs over a 30-year period as part of a project to document Native American’s lifestyle and culture in a time of change. Curtis traveled across North America from 1900 to 1930 photographing over 80 tribes.

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos , High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon October 2018

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon

Edward S. Curtis worked out of a studio in Seattle, Washington and received financial support from J. P. Morgan. Curtis collected information about the lives of each tribe through photographs, writings, and audio recordings. With the help of Native translators, he assembled a 20-volume set titled The North American Indian. Curtis intended to publish 500 copies but due to a series of financial and personal setbacks, only about 272 were printed. Ninety percent of the original sets are owned by institutions, including the High Desert Museum.

Hupa Female Shaman by Edward S. Curtis

Hupa Female Shaman – by Edward S. Curtis

The portraits in this exhibit have a beautiful yet haunting quality to them. The labor-intensive photogravure process Curtis used allowed him to create subtle variations in tone and focus. Curtis insisted on using only the highest quality materials and he experimented with a variety of techniques. In 2015 there was a city-wide celebration of Curtis’ work in Bend. Dawn Boone, of the A6 studio, gave a lecture on the photographs. She made an observation that one of the women portrayed seemed to be “softening back into the earth right before our eyes.”

On the Beach - Chinook by Edward S. Curtis

On the Beach – Chinook by Edward S. Curtis

Native American author Louise Erdrich has an interesting perspective on the women represented in Edward S. Curtis’ photographs. She said, “Women’s work is celebrated in Curtis’ photographs–women grind corn, bake bread, make clay vessels, doctor each other, pick berries, haul wood and water, gather reeds, dig clams. These images of women working are among my favorites, for they are more practical then elegiac, yet entirely harmonious, and they are often the most sensual of Curtis’ works.”

By Her Hand 8

While Curtis’ ambitious project documented the tribes, it was not without controversy. He often staged portraits. Sometimes he mixed up artifacts and traditions between tribes. He referred to Native Americans as a “vanishing race.” Native peoples were losing their rights and their lands but many did successfully adapt to Western society.

By Her Hand 6.jpg

There was a revival of interest in Curtis’ work beginning in the 1970s.  He was an exceptional photographer, and he documented many facets of Native American life that no longer exist. Museums across the country feature major exhibitions of his work. Original printings of The North American Indian bring extraordinary prices at auction.

Historical and Contemporary Art from the Museum’s Collection

This new exhibit also includes basketry, beadwork, and leatherwork created by Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau. Intricate beadwork adorns bags, a cradleboard, and clothing. There are examples of different styles of basketry in this exhibit. Featured contemporary Native artists include Pat Courtney Gold, Roberta Kirk, and Kelli Palmer. Kelli Palmer often designs baskets based on photographs from the past—including those of Edward S. Curtis.

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, baskets, and beadwork, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, baskets, and beadwork, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon

Native American cultures passed techniques for creating basketry and beadwork down through generations. Many items were utilitarian, but the makers included symbols and patterns in artistic ways. Contemporary artists may include materials such as commercial string and yarn in traditional and newly created patterns.

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, baskets, and beadwork, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, baskets, and beadwork, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon

In the early 20th century, Native people were forced to live on reservations. Many lost their language, ways of life, and skills such as basket making. Children were sent to boarding schools and weren’t allowed to learn things associated with their cultural identity. Columbia Plateau people have been working to bring back the knowledge of cultural traditions. As new generations learn the traditions and art forms of their ancestors, they will ensure the culture portrayed in Curtis’ photographs survives. Pat Courtney Gold notes that basket making is not only artistic; it is an expression of and central to the revitalization of her culture.

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, baskets, and beadwork, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 

By Her Hand Exhibit of Edward S. Curtis Photos, baskets, and beadwork, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon

This exhibit will be on display at the High Desert Museum through January 20, 2019. For more about Edward S. Curtis, see a series of articles I wrote here.

Close ups of images are from this source:

Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis’s “The North American Indian,” 2003.
http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/site_curtis/

This is a reprint of a November 2018 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.

 

Looking up at Fort Rock: LAPC

Looking up while looking back

Fort Rock Look Up 20May2015

These images from Fort Rock, Oregon focus on looking up. In this photo you see what a town from the early 1900’s may have looked like. Buildings were moved to this site to create the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. Each building is decorated with artifacts so it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time.

Fort Rock Look Up 9June2016

Pioneers were promised rich and fertile land. That was not the reality in this arid high desert. Many settlers moved away after unsuccessfully trying to cultivate the land.

Fort Rock, Oregon

Yet some stayed and learned to love the land. In this photo a sage thrasher perches on a shovel next to a re-created pioneer garden. Listen to the thrasher’s beautiful song here.

Fort Rock Look Up 4 10June2016

Fort Rock is a prominent land feature that settlers looked forward to seeing. Some pioneers who settled there cannot imagine living anywhere else. The ever-changing skies make even those of us there for a short visit look up in wonder.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Look Up

Ascent: Climbing Explored Exhibit

Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Sometimes you may have looked up at rock climbers on Smith Rock (near Terrebonne , Oregon) and wondered what drives them in their quest to reach the top. This new exhibit helps answer that question. Ascent: Climbing Explored, looks at the history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. What began as scientific exploration, grew into an activity people take part in for sheer joy of the experience.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a journal entry from John Muir. Muir taught people about conserving wild places through his eloquent writings. In another section of the exhibit, the artwork of Thomas Moran is featured. The paintings he created of Yellowstone in 1871 helped to establish the world’s first national park. The artwork and writings of early explorers were the “social media” of their day. Artist Sarah Uhl, also featured in this exhibit, presents landscape art that is a continuation of themes first presented by 19th century artists. James Lavadour, of the Walla Walla tribe, did the bold bright paintings of mountains near the exhibit entrance. His paintings, and the clean lines of the exhibit, bring a modern look to the displays.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

A bit of history related to climbing

Many of the objects displayed in Ascent are on loan from the Mazamas. The Mazamas climbing club was founded in 1894 in Portland. William Gladstone Steel was one of the driving forces of the organization.  From the start, they have played an active role in conservation. The Mazamas club was also ahead of the times in allowing women to enroll as full members. As Steel said, “No climb is complete without them.”

One item featured in the exhibit belongs to the company founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard.  In 1970, Chouinard purchased pre-made Rugby shirts and affixed his brand name onto them. You can see one of these shirts near the van scene. He later had great success with Patagonia, the company he created.

There are two large display cases that show historical and current gear used in mountain climbing. Some equipment has changed little, while other items, such as footwear and climbing rope, have changed radically. One of the most significant changes was in the materials used in shoes. Since the 1980s, they have become significantly lighter.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Different techniques of climbing

Climbers and mountaineers are always looking for new ways to see the mountains. In the 1920s, methods to reach the summit included using metal spikes, known as pitons, into the rock. One of the hands-on displays shows protective gear climbers use to anchor themselves to the rocks. While pitons  and other equipment help make the sport safer, some prefer to “clean climb” without hammering things into the surface they climb over. The bolts cause damage to the rock from repeated placement and removal.

In the 1970s, climbers lives revolved around climbing. They preferred to free climb, using only their hands and feet. We called these athletic climbers “rock jocks” when I was in college. Climbers were often referred to as “dirtbags”. Dirtbags often lived in vans, such as the one in the exhibit, and some experimented with drugs.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The drive towards ascent

Climbers are driven to reach summits despite the risks. As one climber quoted in the exhibit said, “It breathes life into me.” Climbers climb for many reasons. The physical and mental challenges are just a part of the experience.

Certain locations, such as Yosemite and Smith Rock, are particularly challenging and draw in climbers from all over the world.  The Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) rates the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest level. By the 1950s, this scale was further refined with the addition of decimal points and letters.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The first ascent of Smith Rock was made in 1935 by Central Oregon resident Johnny Bissell. In the 1950s, national attention came to Smith Rock after Madras residents Jack Watts, and brothers Jim and Jerry Ramsey, established climbing lines on the peak. A 650-acre state park was created at Smith Rock in 1960 to conserve the site. Though many considered the various routes “climbed out” by the late 1970s, Alan Watts, Jack Watts’ son, started developing top down routes. At the time, they were considered the hardest routes in the world with a YDS of 5.14a. One of Watts’ routes was featured in 1986 on the cover of Mountain, an influential climbing magazine, and climbers soon flocked to Smith Rock.

Rock climbers come in all shapes and sizes and one display features information on adaptive climbing. Climber Mark Wellman was the first paraplegic to summit El Capitan at Yosemite. Gear has been modified over the years to meet the needs of climbers’ specific needs.

The next generations to ascend

Ascent6 15May2018A large climbing wall for kids is a popular part of the Ascent exhibit. The wall is for future rock climbers between the ages of 5-12. The kids I saw were thrilled to climb up the blue wall studded with colorful hand- and footholds. It was almost as if they were climbing for the sheer joy of the experience.

 

This is a reprint of a July 2018 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.

This exhibit at the High Desert Museum runs from April 28 – September 9, 2018

 

Log Cabin Scene: Tuesday Photo Challenge

Cabin scene from the past

Log cabin scene in Torrey, Utah 5May2018Here’s a cabin scene in Torrey, Utah. It looks as though this old building could tell many interesting stories. Lots of drama in those walls…

Tuesday Photo Challenge at Dutch Goes the Photo! – Scene

Visiting the ghost of a town – Shaniko, Oregon

Stopping at Shaniko

Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018I visited the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon this spring. The town is right on U.S. Route 97 and I’ve driven by it many times but didn’t really know much about it. The 1910 census showed its population at its peak level of 600 people. By 1911, the population plummeted. It’s called a ghost town today but according to the 2010 census, 36 people still call it home. They originally named the town Cross Hollows.

The first thing I wanted to know was where the current name came from. In 1867 Oregon received a grant to build a military road from The Dalles to Fort Boise, Idaho. They discovered gold in Canyon City and thousands of miners relied on small towns nearby for supplies. Settlers traveled to areas that had previously been hard to access.  They grabbed up large parcels of land under the Homestead Act of 1862. One of the settlers was August Scherneckau, and he established a post office in the area. Members of the local Wasco tribe pronounced his name SHAN-i-koh, and the name stuck. As someone with an unusual name, I can relate to that!

Shaniko Hotel, Oregon 16May2018

Shaniko Hotel

Boom to bust

By 1900, Shaniko was the center of production of wool, wheat, cattle, and sheep in eastern Oregon. The Columbia Southern Railway rail line, originating from Biggs Junction 55 miles to the north, reached Shaniko in 1900 and they shipped products from here throughout the region. Incoming supplies included farm equipment, building materials, fence posts, and coal and wood fuel. In 1901 it was one of the largest shipping centers in the world.

Shaniko Stagecoach Station, Oregon 16May2018

Shaniko Stagecoach Station

The soil was not good for farming but it worked well for cattle and sheep. Shaniko was known as the “Wool Capital of the World.” It marketed 4 million pounds of wool in 1901. In 1903 the Moody Warehouse Company recorded sales totaling over a million dollars in a single day!

In 1911 the Oregon Trunk Railroad, created by railroad magnates Edward Harriman and James J. Hill, began operating. It linked Portland to Bend and fewer trains traveled on the route to Shaniko. Business in Shaniko began to decline. Fires destroyed much of the business district in 1911. The Interstate Commerce Commission stopped rail service to Shaniko in 1943.

Shaniko door, Oregon 16May2018

One of the many interesting doors in Shaniko

Shaniko’s recent past

The Shaniko Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Buildings include the Shaniko Hotel (designated in 1979), the Sage Museum, Shaniko School, City Hall and Jail, Wedding Chapel, and the Wool Warehouse.

If you visit, look for some of the interesting old doors like the one above. There’s another one on my post The Watcher Within.

Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018

Colorful signs posted around town tell the history of Shaniko

Oregon businessman Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. purchased the hotel and a few businesses in 2000. He planned to renovate historic buildings and develop new properties. However, in 2008 there was a dispute related to access to water to serve the hotel and café. He closed those businesses, tried to sell them for $3.2 Million, and later decided they were no longer for sale (as of 2016).

Shaniko Museum, Oregon 16May2018

Shaniko Museum

Life goes on in Shaniko…

New About page on Bend Branches

About page story

About page pronghorn sage 31May2018

Yes, that pronghorn is kind of bossy, but I hope you’ll take a minute to look at my “new and improved” About page. Thanks for visiting!

Bend Branches About page

The Watcher Within: Thursday Doors

Doors with eyes

I took this picture on a trip to the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon and didn’t notice the watcher within until I edited the photo. I thought it was something inside but realized later it was a reflection of the Shaniko Hotel across the street. It looked like some alien creature out of a Star Wars movie watching me. I found some interesting doors in Shaniko but apparently they were keeping an eye on me.

The Watcher Within doors at Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018

Thursday Doors

 

All-time Favorites: WPC

The theme for the very last Weekly Photo Challenge was All-time Favorites. I’m late getting these up because my computer was in the shop and I was traveling. So without further ado…

North American River Otter 24Sept2016

North American river otter

All-time Favorite Critters

I have a lot of photos of animals so it’s hard to choose favorites but here goes. Here’s a handful for you.

All-time Favorite Landscapes & plants

This was even harder to narrow down! Here’s another handful.

All-time Favorite History Photos

And here’s a dash of history for good measure. Hope you enjoy them!

Final Weekly Photo Challenge – All-Time Favorites

Circling Steens Mountain Tour

Up with the birds for a Steens Mountain tour

On April 6, I was up bright and early for a birdwatching trip that would encircle Steens Mountain in a single day. Being a bit of an introvert, I wasn’t sure I wanted to partake in a tour like this one. The Steens Mountain tour was one of 22 tours available for nature enthusiasts at the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. The festival, which started in 1981, takes advantage of the annual spring bird migration in the Harney Basin. More than 300 species of birds use this area annually.

Steens mountain tour, geese beneath a stormy sky 6April2018

A land full of drama

At 6:00 am, participants in the Circle the Steens Mountain & Alvord Desert tour met at Burns High School. The weather was not cooperating for the 200-mile trip. A big storm system was blowing in. Twelve hours and 76 bird species later, we returned to the high school. Though we didn’t see any rare birds, we did see a lot, considering the weather conditions. Our views were framed by the dramatic landscapes of Harney County. The pale colored sands of the Alvord Desert stood out in contrast to the dark stormy skies. Steens Mountain provided beautiful panoramas from many different angles. We also had great views of pronghorn and deer.

Steens mountain tour, pronghorn buck eastern Oregon 6April2018

 Steens mountain tour, views of the east side of Steens Mountain, Oregon 6April2018We traveled east of Steens Mountain, south to Fields, then north along the west side of the mountain. Our tour guides, Joan Suther and Rick Hall, worked for the Bureau of Land Management locally for many years. The first brief stop was to look at burrowing owls. The small owls were seen braving the wind on this tour and the one I was on the next day. Flocks of snow geese and Ross’ geese were in fields nearby. Our next stop, at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, was much longer.

Steens mountain tour, burrowing owls eastern Oregon 6April2018Visits to places wet and wild

Crystal Crane Hot Springs is a resort with a large hot spring-heated pond and a recently created cold water pond for wildlife. We checked out the wildlife in both ponds. I’m not sure if the people visiting the hot spring appreciated a bunch of people walking nearby with cameras and binoculars.

Steens mountain tour, black-necked stilt in eastern Oregon 6April2018Waterfowl seen here, and at other ponds and lakes on this tour, included swans (tundra and trumpeter), northern shovelers, cinnamon teals, redheads, common mergansers, and American coots. Western grebes were starting to do a little mating behavior but we didn’t get to see them do their unique walking-on-water display. American avocets and black-necked stilts gracefully waded through shallow water. Killdeer were seen and heard as they tried to make sure we didn’t get too close to their nests.

Raptor rapture

We saw quite a few raptors on the Steens Mountain tour. Northern harriers drifted over marshy areas. Bald and golden eagles hunted near fields. Swainson’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, and rough-legged hawks perched on pivot irrigation systems looking for prey. American kestrels perched on power lines watching all the birdwatchers driving by. On the field trip I was on the next day, we saw a ferruginous hawk peeking out of a nest in a lone juniper tree. This tree is one of their favorites for nesting, but last year ravens took it over.

Steens mountain tour, ferruginous hawk nest eastern Oregon 6April2018Small but significant

Songbirds sought shelter from the weather but luckily we saw several species. It was a little early to see some of the shrubsteppe-dependent songbirds, but western meadowlarks and sage thrashers perched high singing their bright songs. Yellow-headed blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and marsh wrens sung in marshy areas. The descending call of the canyon wren was heard near rocky buttes.  Say’s phoebes were seen perching briefly then flying out to do a little fly catching.

Steens mountain tour, western meadowlark eastern Oregon 6April2018Dining at an iconic location

We stopped for lunch at the Fields Station Cafe, at the southern end of Steens Mountain. The isolated small town of Fields is famous for the burgers and shakes it serves at the cafe. We ordered ahead for our large group. I didn’t know if I would partake in slurping down one of the giant milkshakes but ended up splitting one. I think I was able to finish one-quarter of a coffee milkshake. It was just enough to give me a much needed infusion of caffeine. After lunch, we crossed the highway to a grove of trees. A great horned owl, perched in the cottonwoods, eyed us warily.

Steens mountain tour, great horned owl eastern Oregon 6April2018Home on the range

Steens mountain tour, cowboy eastern Oregon 6April2018Wranglers were out on horseback herding cattle on the west side and east side of Steens Mountain. Harney County is 10,226 square miles in size. It is the largest county in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States. Yet with a population of only 7,200 people, it somehow still has a small town feel. One of our guides recognized a cowboy working the range many miles from Burns, where we started our tour.

This was a long, but good, day in Harney County. Our guides knew the country well and helped us spot wildlife. They also told us some of the interesting history related to the area. They pointed out to us what makes this country so special and that’s what made the Steens Mountain tour great.

Steens mountain tour, old cabin eastern Oregon 6April2018

Daily prompt – Partake

Yellowstone Favorite Places: WPC

I have so many Yellowstone favorite places it’s hard to choose. Here’s a collection of photos of things that make the park special. I start this post with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt who was known as the “conservation president.”

“The only way that the people as a whole can secure to themselves and their children the enjoyment in perpetuity of what the Yellowstone Park has to give is by assuming the ownership in the name of the nation and by jealously safeguarding and preserving the scenery, the forests, and the wild creatures.”

Theodore Roosevelt, April 24, 1903 at the laying of the cornerstone of Gateway to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Favorite Places Mammoth Hot Springs 2017Yellowstone National Park, with its larger-than-life landscapes, dramatically changing weather conditions, amazing menagerie of wildlife, variety of plant life, and geology in action, is one of my favorite places. It also has a rich history as the world’s first national park.

A park is born

Evidence shows ancient peoples lived in Yellowstone Country 11,000 years ago. European Americans began exploring the lands in the early 1800’s. Teams of explorers brought back tales of wonder of this unique environment. Their work was supported by images created by artists Thomas Moran and Henry W. Elliot and photographer William Henry Jackson.  The park was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Additional protections for the park and its wildlife were instituted in 1894 when congress passed the National Park Protection Act – now known as the Lacey Act.

President Theodore Roosevelt had a love of the land and he was instrumental in making sure many natural areas were preserved. His quote above reflects the importance of preserving wild places so that all may enjoy them “in perpetuity.”

Landscapes – large and small

Here are photos of some special landscapes.

And more of spectacular hot springs and other features.

And don’t forget to notice the tiny landscapes beneath your feet.

Wildlife

And of course the wildlife.

Visitors

Yellowstone National Park gets visitors from all over the world. 4,116,524 people visited in 2017.