On the Oregon Trail
History of Trail
Sensationalized accounts of the “Promised Land” caused the single largest voluntary migration in America. Artists such as Albert Bierstadt presented glamorized versions of the journey along the Trail.
Sensationalized accounts of the “Promised Land” caused the single largest voluntary migration in America. Artists such as Albert Bierstadt presented glamorized versions of the journey along the Trail.
You can find the Tin Pan Theater tucked away in an alley in downtown Bend, Oregon. If you didn’t know it was there, you could walk right past it.
This tiny theater only has 28 seats. You might not see the next Avengers movie there, but you will see some great movies. Indie films like The Nightingale, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice, and Maiden. They also feature foreign films.
Get there early because seats fill up fast. You can enjoy some popcorn and drinks while you’re waiting–including some local brews.
This theater received good news recently. BendFilm purchased the property in May 2019. The BendFilm Festival takes place in October and films can be viewed at this theater and several other locations. This festival was recently recognized by MovieMaker Magazine as being one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the world.
As BendFilm Executive Director Todd Looby noted, “Anyone who has entered the Tin Pan Theater immediately falls in love with the space.”
Be sure to look at the artwork in the alley just across from the theater. Tin Pan Alley Art features a variety of techniques and media. Bend has some amazing art and culture tucked away in its nooks and crannies.
We stumbled upon the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in northern Oregon one autumn day . The Center opened in 1997 but we had never been there.
Wouldn’t you like to have a river winding across your floor like this one in the entry hall?
How about a cedar dugout canoe? Some were up to 50 feet in length.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum is in The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Built in the 1900s, this road was the first scenic highway in the U.S. The highway winds through areas with forests, rocky cliffs, and dramatic waterfalls. We were planning to visit Multnomah Falls that day, but it was inaccessible due to a fire.
So we ended up here and a Columbian mammoth trumpeted with joy when he saw us. We stayed out of the way of his 16-foot long tusks. We found another interesting critter close by.
Did you know that there were once dire wolves in Oregon? Me neither. They were the largest canid to have lived, weighing as much as 150 pounds. Sometimes creatures portrayed in stories, such as Game of Thrones, actually existed.
Next we walked into a gallery of Native American artifacts. This center features artifacts from Wasco, Northern Paiute, and Warm Springs tribes.
Beadwork and basketry always impresses me. It would take so much patience to create something like that, something I don’t always have.
In another part of the center, the practice of fishing the Columbia River off of wooden platforms is highlighted. Native Americans fished this river for thousands of years but the runs of salmon have decreased dramatically due to dams and warming water temperatures.
Several displays referred to the explorations of Lewis and Clark.
They passed through the Gorge traveling west in October of 1805 and on their way back home in April of 1806.
Members of the Lewis and Clark party traded with the natives for needed supplies and information on routes. See those strings of beads hanging from the display? Beads had great value as an item to trade at the time.
Naturalists were eager to explore this new land and this display shows some of the winged wonders they encountered. That’s a lot of butterflies!
As the United States expanded its territories in the 1840s and 1850s, more settlers moved toward the West. Lt. John C. Frémont explored the Oregon Trail, camping at The Dalles in 1843. The Army helped map potential wagon routes through Oregon.
Thousands of settlers soon made their way to Oregon and towns sprung up to support them.
Businesses catering to the settler’s needs prospered. Those are some nice saddles!
The railroad expanded into Oregon. Chinese immigrants helped construct railways and worked in the gold mines. They brought elements of their culture with them.
Though some of their customs and products, such as fireworks, were appreciated by the largely European American residents, Chinese often encountered prejudice.
This exhibit detailed archaeological work on the Chinatown site that once existed in The Dalles. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, it was more difficult for them to stay in the United States. Most moved away from The Dalles by the late 1920s.
For some history about Chinese in John Day, Oregon, about 200 miles to the south, read Kam Wah Chung: A Step Back in Time.
Excavations at Chinatown have uncovered many artifacts and evidence of past floods and fires. In 2013, this site was listed among Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places.
There were a couple things we didn’t see on this visit.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center was a nice place for an unplanned stop. Lots to see and do there. We were there in October and there weren’t many other visitors. The fall leaves outside the building greeted us in bright shades of gold.
There’s a great fountain just outside the front door. I leave you with the calming sounds of its waters.
Birds of the shore are common in the spring in parts of eastern Oregon. Why? Because flood irrigation is one of the main methods used to water the crops. As the snow melts off surrounding mountains, it collects in rivers and reaches the lower elevations.
It is released in controlled amounts in the Harney Basin, where 320 bird species congregate. This ancient method of irrigation benefits the rancher and the birdwatcher.
Birds such as sandhill cranes take advantage of all of that water. You can see flocks of them in the photo above and a single bird below.
I love seeing delicate long-legged beauties such as black-necked stilts and American avocets.
If you’re lucky, you may even see a Wilson’s snipe. Yes, they really do exist.
Flood irrigation creates temporary ponds and lakes with miles and miles of shoreline.
I saw quite a few long-billed curlew this spring. I was dive-bombed by one once when I was too close to her nest. That bill is dangerous looking! It can measure more than eight and a half inches in length.
Thousands of Ross’ and snow geese congregate in this area.
Waterfowl are common in the ponds and lakes. Here is a raft of ducks. This image is a little blurry but I included it to show the difference between canvasbacks and redhead ducks. The pair on the far left are redheads. See how the plumage is more gray? There are lots of opportunities to get clear views of many species.
You may see elegant swans as well. Trumpeter and tundra swans have been seen here.
You will be amazed when you spot unique birds of the shore, such as this American bittern. Keep your binoculars handy when traveling through this country in the spring and you will be rewarded.
Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Seascapes and/or lakeshore
I saw plenty of raptors on a Birds of Prey tour in the wide-open country of Harney County, Oregon last April. We ventured briefly into the Malheur National Forest in search of eagles. Though we didn’t see any eagles, we did get a nice view of an American kestrel.
We saw immature and mature bald eagles later that day. It’s always exciting to see them.
Some of the wildlife out there was keeping an eye on us. This herd of elk on a distant ridge top watched us for a while.
Raptors were common and we saw many of them perched on fenceposts and telephone poles.
Ground squirrels hang out in the irrigated fields and the birds of prey congregate there to find an easy meal. They like to perch on the pivot irrigation systems.
Turkey vultures also enjoy some nice fresh ground squirrel. This one was close to the road and we had a great view of it having a little snack.
We were lucky to see a prairie falcon, the only one we spotted that day.
Mule deer were common. This herd had 30+ deer.
We stopped in another spot to take pictures of deer then noticed something else in the foreground. Two burrowing owls! Can you find both of them in the photo with the deer? That was my favorite observation of the day.
This tour was part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Our guides that day were Ben Cate, from the High Desert Partnership, and Melanie Finch, wildlife technician with the U.S. Forest Service .
Though I know certain species well, I’m no expert when it comes to identifying raptors. I rely on helpful tour guides and field guides. I have field guide books and the iBird Pro app, but this handy fold out pocket guide is really helpful.
This guide includes silhouettes, identifying markings, and different color morphs. It was a dark spring day on this trip and the silhouettes page helped make identifying birds easier.
We saw quite a few raptors so it was a successful seven-hour field trip. Until next year…
I can be jubilant one moment and pensive the next, and a cloud could go by and make that happen.
Here are few clouds in my sky from the last year’s worth of Lens-Artists Photo Challenges. These pictures were taken in Eastern and Central Oregon, my favorite country. Enjoy their many moods.
Special thanks to Patti, Amy, Tina, and Ann-Christine for hosting the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge for one year! Many of us eagerly await the weekly challenge and look forward to seeing all the entries.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A country that’s special to you
I always have a way of finding serenity when I’m in a kayak.
Majestic mountains can surround you in a gentle hug.
You can pause and reflect on your life.
Wild animals will welcome you to their landscape.
You see things from a totally different perspective.
And if you pay close attention, Nature will point the way.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Serenity
This spring I tried something new by going on two nature walks with llamas. The first hike was part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival in eastern Oregon. The second hike, just north of Burns, Oregon, was to help a llama get certification for the Pack Llama Trial Association (PLTA).
On the first 4-mile hike, my llama was Marty McFly, AKA “The Professor.” He was not the most dominant llama there, but he was considered to be the smartest. He was always on the lookout. Llamas have large eyes, much like pronghorns, so they can spot predators.
If you go on a hike with pack llamas, they can carry all of your gear. Well, at least 60 pounds of gear. You have to weigh each pack so that they are about even on both sides.
On both of the hikes I went on, I worked with llamas from the Burns Llama Trailblazers group. They have llamas that are trained in packing, cart pulling, and livestock guarding. They train the llamas to do packing from a very young age by having them carry miniature packs.
So what’s it like walking with a pack llama? Kind of like walking with a very big and inquisitive dog. These highly-trained animals keep a loose lead and they’re very sure footed. Though some are more spirited than others, they have an overall gentle nature.
We stopped for lunch at a small lake and tied off our animals. My llama had been quiet the whole trip, but once we stopped he became more vocal. I thought he sounded like Chewbacca from Star Wars. The reason he was complaining was because he wanted to keep going. Llamas can walk many miles in a single day.
On the second hike I went on this spring, we traveled three miles. My llama that day was a young female named Manzanita. She was going for Basic Pack Llama Certification. She had to walk a three-mile course with 250-500 feet elevation gain. The llamas in this level carry 10% of their body weight.
We would encounter five different obstacles. These would include walking through tight places, moving up/over/across obstacles, and walking at least ten feet down a flowing creek. Did you know llamas often have a fear of water? Neither did I.
Manzanita did fine and passed all of the tests with flying colors. There are four levels of PLTA certification. At the highest level, the llamas walk on a 10-mile course with 2,500-3,000 feet elevation gain. There are 20 obstacles. The animals carry 25% of their body weight.
I was happy doing the shorter hike. My llama companions had a good walk and so did I.
If you are interested in helping out with pack trials, they can always use more volunteers to lead the llamas so contact the Pack Llama Trial Association .
Oregon rocks come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Here are a few of my favorite rocks.
Craggy cliffs circling wonder
Sculptures shaped by the sea
Lined with layers of lichens
Sharpness bordered by softness
Painted with pictographs in the past
Clustered in concentrations of color
Rounded by rambling rivers
Lens-Artist Photo Challenge – Favorite Things
There are many wild Oregon places and this post highlights just a few of them. The ever changing skies can make familiar landscapes look completely different. Here are some portraits of Oregon’s wild places.
Oregon is an inspiration. Whether you come to it, or are born to it, you become entranced by our state’s beauty, the opportunity she affords, and the independent spirit of her citizens.Tom McCall, former governor of Oregon
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Wild
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.
As you step into the dimly lit interior of the building, you get a feel for what life was like decades ago.
Boxes and tins of everyday products line the shelves. Merchandise stocked at Kam Wah Chung appealed to both Chinese and American customers.
In the backroom, larger boxes of supplies fill the room.
The apothecary is amazing! Stacks of small neatly labeled boxes reach to the ceiling.
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.
You step through a low doorway to get into the kitchen. The table and wood stove look ready to serve a hot meal.
An early version of a refrigerator cabinet sits in a corner.
Religion was an important part of everyday life and small altars, with dried oranges and incense stick offerings, are tucked into various nooks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
Here are a few interesting facts about Kam Wah Chung:
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
The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Here are pictures that feature several of the elements that I took at Yellowstone National Park.
The five pictures above of Yellowstone elements each include wood, water, fire, and earth. In this case, the fire is below the surface. This area sits inside a giant caldera and geysers and hot springs are common in the park. Steam rises over these thermal features.
You may be wondering where the element of “metal” is in these photos. In the photo below, I was using our metal car as a blind to take pictures of the bison and accidentally took a picture of myself holding my metal camera. 😀
Hope you enjoy my interpretation of this challenge!
Lens- Artists Photo Challenge – Five Elements
This bench awaits you at the end of the Blue Basin Island in Time Trail at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Eastern Oregon. When you sit there, you are surrounded by an amphitheater of greenish blue stone highlighted by hills of red volcanic soil. It’s a dramatic, and impressive, landscape.
Here is a 360-degree view of what I saw at the end of the Island in Time Trail.
Last June we happened to be in Tillamook, Oregon the day the new Tillamook Creamery visitor center opened.
They have 1.3 million visitors a year and the new 38,500 square foot facility is a welcome addition. The original visitor center opened in 1949. We visited that much smaller center years ago.
Yes, you can still watch them making delicious cheese and get samples, but there’s a lot more there now.
The new displays are interactive and informative.
I loved the layout of some of these displays. Crisp, bold, and bright. They are works of art.
Tillamook County Creamery Association creates the products you find in stores today. This co-op was formed in 1909 and there are almost 100 families in it now.
They have a big store with everything from clothing to specialty dairy products.
If that’s not enough, they also have a dining area with several options. You can get ice cream, yogurt with toppings, and a range of other choices. These include everything from tempura battered cheese curds (huh?) to mac and cheese, pizza, sandwiches, and a few breakfast items. I was pleasantly surprised to see the food at the center featured in a funny article in Food and Wine.
If you have the time, this is a stop worth making.
I did this easy hike on the Blue Basin trail in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument last October. I felt like a stranger in a strange land on this trail through blue-green badlands.
The trailhead is 14 miles northwest of Dayville, Oregon. This trail is in the Sheep Rock Unit of the monument. The Island in Time trail is a 1.3 mile long out and back trail with an elevation gain of 200 feet. The Blue Basin Overlook trail also starts here. It’s a 3.25 mile trail with a 760 foot elevation gain. There are several other trails nearby.
The unique blue-green colors of the rock formations in Blue Basin are stunning. They range from a pale dinner mint green to a darker, bluer green. The blue-green and tan claystones and siltstones are part of the John Day formation. There were multiple eruptions of Cascade Mountain volcanoes 29 million years ago. The ashfall formed the blue-green layers of this basin. Celandonite and clinoptilolite give these formations their green color.
You’ll see impressive tiered layers of rock bordering the trail. At the end of the trail, an amphitheater of colorful stone will surround you. I had the place all to myself on my hike. Rotate your way around this photo sphere to see what I saw.
I also noticed the smaller landscapes on this trail. Here are a few of those scenes.
You will see several fossil replicas covered with protective plastic bubbles along the trail. They removed the actual fossils to protect them from the elements. Over 2,000 species of plant and animal fossils have been identified in the vicinity.
Here’s a map of the Blue Basin. Please note the warnings associated with this trail. In the warmer months of the year, you may see rattlesnakes. In October, I saw none. Blue Basin experiences high temperatures in the summer months so be prepared.
There are 13 metal grate bridges on this trail. The sign says dogs may refuse to cross and you may have to carry them. My dog would not cross the first bridge. Sorry, but I couldn’t imagine carrying a 60+ pound dog over 13 bridges. She waited patiently in the car on that cool day.
Don’t miss the amazing Thomas Condon Paleontology Center while you’re here. The displays impress me and I’m always excited to see paleontologists hard at work in the viewing area. I often wonder what new treasures they will uncover in their daily work.
Here are some curving roads to various scenic destinations in Oregon. When you’re driving down the road you never know what sights you’ll see just around the bend.
What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Curves.
These photos are of our National Park travels within 1,000 miles of our home. We are lucky to live so close to so much beauty.
I tried to consider what was in the foreground as well as the background in these shots.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – My Travels
See more of my park photos at Utah National Parks: Trees & Rocks
The Tin Pan Alley Art “gallery” is located in a short alleyway in downtown Bend, Oregon. The alley features large pieces of art created with a variety of media. Some are 2-dimensional while others are more sculptural. Do you have a favorite among these wonderful pieces of art?
This collection is part of a public art initiative that supports local arts and culture. It takes our outdoor lifestyle into consideration. Another example of outdoor art is featured in many of Bend’s roundabouts.
This is The Visitor by artist Carol Sternkopf. This is a mixed media piece that combines photography, vinyl, paint, twigs, wood, metal, and salvaged home decor. Nature and animals were important in Carol’s childhood. She incorporates them into her art. She hopes viewers think about the “larger story within the magnificent blue owl’s eyes” in this piece.
Here’s a picture of the whole collection. We like to go to the Lone Pine Coffee Shop in this alley. It’s small, but it’s our favorite. The owner takes the craft of creating the best cup of coffee very seriously.
This is Love Lost, Love Found by artist Bill Hoppe. This colorful metal work represents the artist’s interpretation of an 11th Century Indian manuscript. The many pieces of this sculpture were created by hundreds of community members. This was part of a community engagement goal set forth by the Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild.
This is Tomas’ Riddle by artist Judy Campbell. This piece is created from steel, wood, and lights. Judy was inspired by infinitely repeating patterns, or fractals. In this piece she sought to bring the “abstract concepts such as love, mystery, and infinity into the earthly plane.”
This is Ride with Me by artist Jeff Remiker. The mountain culture, especially biking, is a big part of Bend. Jeff was inspired by a childhood love of bike riding. He incorporated wood and metal work into this rustic piece. Viewers can interact with this piece by putting things into the bike basket.
This is an untitled piece by artist Andrew Wachs. This piece was inspired by basalt rock formations that can be found throughout Central Oregon. The artwork represents a close-up perspective of a vertical overhang. Andrew works with metal and wood design in his studio, Weld Design Studio.