Hells Canyon in the Spring: Friday Flowers

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is tucked into the northeastern corner of Oregon and the western edge of Idaho. We visited Hells Canyon in the spring last year. At the overlook, the meadows were carpeted in wildflowers. Perfect timing for pictures!

Hells Canyon view to the east 4 June 2019
View to the east

Many different types of flowers were in full bloom.

Wildflower meadow at Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
Meadow full of wildlfowers

We had great weather to take in the panoramic view. The Snake River winds through this canyon nearly 8,000 feet below the canyon rim. Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, is almost 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon.

View to southeast at Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
View to the southeast

Whitestem frasera plants grew in dense clumps sprinkled with pale purple flowers.

Whitestem frasera, Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
Whitestem frasera

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was created in 1975. It encompasses 652,488 acres. There are nearly 2,900 miles of trails in this recreation area.

View to the south at Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
View to the south

The dramatic landscape was formed by volcanic activity hundreds of millions of years ago followed by collisions of tectonic plates. The mountains eroded over time. A series of lava flows sculpted them into the mountains we see today.

Purple larkspur flowers bordered the trail. I have a different native variety growing on my desert property near Bend, Oregon. One of my favorite plants!

Larkspur in the foreground, Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
Larkspur in the foreground

A gallery of Hells Canyon wildflowers

Here’s a gallery of some of the other wildflowers I saw that day. I had never seen these varieties of balsamroot or clematis flowers anywhere before. Wonderful sights to see!

The Hells Canyon Creek Visitor Center is located below Hells Canyon Dam. It is open seasonally and was not yet open when we visited.

You can see Seven Devils Mountain peeking out in this view to the north.

View to the north, Hells Canyon Overlook, Oregon 4 June 2019
View to the north

Hells Canyon Overlook is located 45 miles east of Joseph, Oregon, where we stayed. Check road conditions ahead of time because there can be snow in this high elevation area. It takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to get there from Joseph since you drive on twisting, turning Forest Service roads. The drive is well worth it!

Irish Stew & Brew: One Word Sunday Challenge

Irish Stew & Brew at the Quays in Galway, Galway County, Ireland 2March2020

A traditional Irish stew & brew at The Quays Bar and Music Hall in Galway, County Galway, Ireland. This stew, accompanied by a Guinness, is a local specialty served at this restaurant.

Wherever you are on this St Patrick’s Day, treasure the things that matter to you the most.

Here’s to your roof,
may it be well thatched
And here’s to all
under it –
May they be
well matched.

Irish Toast

Travel with Intent: One Word Sunday – Specialty

Glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland

She unfurled her gossamer wings and searched for a far away land, greener than green. After a journey of many miles, she caught glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland. When she landed in a lush green pasture, a part of her remembered…

Glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland, Newgrange Monument, 29February2020
Newgrange Monument, County Meath, Ireland

Though I usually keep my travels within driving distance, I just returned from a 10-day trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland with my daughter. After losing my brother and father within months of each other, I felt an urge to visit the land of my ancestors.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim, United Kingdom
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim, United Kingdom

We drove about 1,600 miles and I took lots of photos. I will be sprinkling glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland into my blog occasionally. Enjoy the scenery!

Glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland, the Dark Hedges, United Kingdom
The Dark Hedges featured in Game of Thrones, County Antrim, United Kingdom

A sweet spot: The Foxtail Bakeshop

We recently visited a newish bakery for a cup of coffee and a sweet. This sweet spot has a good variety of sweets and beautiful artwork.

Check out this large mural full of flora and fauna. Find out more about the six artists that helped create the artwork in this space here.

Sweet spot. Foxtail Bakeshop, Bend, Oregon. February 2020

The front counter has bold black and white tilework.

Foxtail Bakeshop counter. February 2020

Even the storage areas are painted. I loved the fox peeking out and the figurine on the top.

Foxtail Bakeshop painting. February

Even the light fixtures are works of art. Can you see what the railing in the loft is made from? Rolling pins!

Intricate light and rolling pin railing. Foxtail Bakeshop February

Here’s the view from outside. This bakery is located in the Box Factory area of Bend.

In the early 1900s, there was a box making factory here. Now this sweet spot, restaurants, a cider manufacturer, a make-your-own-beer business, an exercise studio, a tourism company, and stores fill the building.

Sweet spot. Foxtail Bakeshop.  Bend Oregon February 2020

Cave Spring Trail in Utah: LAPC

Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

If you decide to walk the short Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, you will be rewarded with unique encounters with history and nature.

Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

The 0.6 mile loop trail takes you past a narrow cowboy camp tucked under a rock ledge. Camps like these were in use from the late 1800s to 1975. The Scorup-Sommerville Cattle Company managed as many as 10,000 cattle in this region. Cowboys lived a life on the range and artifacts from their outdoor camp remain at this site.

Cowboy camp at trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

This site was prized due to the fact that a spring existed here. Rainwater percolated through the sandstone over this site and carved out alcoves.

Sites such as these hosted cowboys in the recent past, but Native Americans lived here thousands of years before them. Their rock art can be seen in parts of the cave. The spring is considered a sacred place to descendants of these people.

Cave Spring in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

If you follow the trail farther, you’ll come to two narrow ladders that take you up to a slickrock sandstone plateau.

Ladder on Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

Follow the rock cairns marking the trail…

Rock cairns marking the trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

to get stunning 360-degree views of the Canyonlands.

Scenic view from Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017
Scenic view from Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

The trail drops down into another narrow alcove and continues to the parking area. Cave Spring Trail isn’t long, but it packs a lot into a short distance.

Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

I was especially impressed by the many interesting formations in the rock along this trail. Cave Spring Trail, and the nearby AMAZING petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock, made this one of our favorite stops on our trip to Utah’s National Parks.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Narrow

Secret Blue Views: Two short stories

Did you know there are secret rooms at McMenamins Old St Francis in Bend? Here are pictures of two of the blacklight rooms with their secret blue views.

You can’t get into to the rooms through a traditional door. You have to find special panels in the hallway and push them in just the right spot.

The secret blue views inspired me to write microfiction stories related to each room.

Story 1

On the night of the harvest moon, trees in a hidden forest create plump blue and red fruit. Jackrabbits venture into the forest, searching for the red fruit. They nibble on their magic and dance until the sun rises and the fruit disappears.

Story 2

I am lost in a deep blue forest. Hanging crystals appear to light the way, so I follow them, turning to the left and right. I can’t find my way. Slumping against a tree trunk, I turn my gaze towards the sky. Then I notice it—a heart of branches leading to the true path. I am found.

Autumn walk in Bend: LAPC – Finding something red

An autumn walk in Bend, Oregon 8October2019

A beautiful October walk along the Mill A Loop Trail in Bend, Oregon. The rising sun’s rays highlight gold and red fall foliage. The sunlight was hitting the trees just right on this autumn walk.

An American flag flies from one of the Old Mill smokestacks. Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) renovated the 28,000-square-foot former lumber mill and opened a retail store there in 2005. They retained much of the building’s historic charm and it’s one of Bend’s iconic landmarks.

The Lens-Artist Photo Challenge (LAPC) today is Find Something Red.

Noticing the lines in a scene: LAPC

When I travel, I think about photographing what I see by noticing the lines. Your eye wants to follow where they lead you. Here a few leading lines from northern Oregon.

Noticing the lines on the way to Hood River, Oregon 10October2019
Fall foliage along Oregon Route 35
Passing by Mt Hood, Oregon 11October2019
Passing by Mt Hood
Looking west towards the Bridge of the Gods, Oregon 11October2019
Looking west towards the Bridge of the Gods
The stairway leading to Multnomah Falls, Oregon 10October2019
The stairway leading to Multnomah Falls

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Leading Lines

Pub Art at Silver Moon Brewing

This pub art at Silver Moon Brewing captures many of the iconic landmarks of Bend, Oregon. Artist Natalie Fletcher included Smith Rock in the background flanked by the Painted Hills on the left and Mt Bachelor on the right. The Deschutes River winds through the scene.

Can you see the source of the river? An overflowing glass of beer of course. Little Lava Lake is the “real” source and it’s a great place for kayaking.

This mural shows the Les Schwab Amphitheater on the left. It’s packed with people attending one of our many outdoor events.

Phil’s Trail is in the left forefront. It’s a favorite of mountain bikers.

You can see a red bird sculpture in a roundabout on the right. It’s known as the “Flaming Chicken.” Many of our roundabouts contain artwork. There’s another piece of roundabout art in the mural just to the left of the bridge. It’s a graceful sculpture made from old kayaks.

In the right forefront you can see the Tower Theater. This small venue has been lovingly restored. On the marquee the featured film is “The Beer Fairies.” There is a tiny fairy hidden on the right side of the mural.

This pub art at Silver Moon captures many of the things that make this place great. The beer there is good too.

Silver Moon’s sense of humor is reflected in parts of this mural and also on their website. Here’s a quote from the site:

Best pub this side of the Milky Way!

Someone, probably

Sunflowers & Stagecoaches at the Steens

Sunflowers & stagecoaches? You may be wondering how those two things go together.

Last August we explored the Steens Mountain area by car. Did you know you can drive all the way around this 50-mile long mountain and to its 9,700-foot peak at certain times of the year? The views from up there are breathtaking!

Common sunflower

The following pictures are from the dirt road on the east side of Steens Mountain. Common sunflowers, Helianthus annus L., were in full bloom along the road.

Sunflowers & stagecoaches at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019

As their name implies, common sunflowers are common throughout the conterminous United States and in parts of Canada and Mexico. Sunflowers have been introduced in other parts of North America and throughout the world. They occur in a wide variety of habitats including prairies, roadsides, near railroad right-of-ways, savannas, and forest edges.

Sunflowers at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019

These leggy plants grow 1.5 to 8+ feet tall and bloom from July through October. Their iconic flowers actually have two kinds of flowers. The yellow “ray” flowers look like petals but each is an individual flower. The “disc” flowers, at the center of the brown head, are usually small. If you magnified your view of the center of the flower, you would see that each of these disc flowers had five petals. The alternate leaves, and the main stem are covered in coarse hair.

Common sunflowers at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019

The value of sunflowers

Sunflowers are valuable to both wildlife and people. The seeds are sought out by many species of birds. Do you have sunflower seeds from the cultivated variety of sunflower in your bird feeder? If you do, you know how much birds and other wildlife enjoy eating them.

Now on to how this plant is used by humans. Wow! Where do I start?

You have probably munched on sunflower seeds, but did you know the yellow flowers are also edible? They make a colorful addition to a salad.

Historical uses

In July of 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled along the Missouri River in Montana and recorded these observations on sunflowers.

The sunflower is in bloom [NB: Copy for Dr. Barton ] and abundant in the river bottoms. The Indians of the Missouri particularly those who do not cultivate maze make great uce of the seed of this plant for bread, or use it in thickening their soope.    they most commonly first parch the seed and then pound them between two smooth stones untill they reduce it to a fine meal.    to this they sometimes mearly add a portion of water and drink it in that state, or add a sufficient quantity of marrow grease to reduce it to the consistency of common dough and eate it in that manner.    the last composition I think much best and have eat it in that state heartily and think it a pallateable dish.

There are many medicinal uses of this annual plant. Flowers were used for heart problems and in treating burns. Roots were used in treating blisters and snakebites. Native Americans made a leaf tea to treat lung ailments and high fevers. A poultice was applied to snake and spider bites. Seeds were used as diuretics and to help heal coughing.

Some current uses

In addition to the historical usages, sunflowers are used in creating dyes, soap, cattle and chicken feed, and a fine silky fiber, similar to hemp. Sunflower oil is widely consumed in both North America and Europe.

Fun Fact: Some Native Americans believed sunflowers were a symbol of courage. Warriors would carry sunflowers cakes with them into battle. Hunters would sprinkle themselves with sunflower powder to keep their spirits up.

Sunflowers & stagecoach stop

So now you know more about sunflowers, but why is this post called Sunflowers & Stagecoaches? While taking pictures of the sunflowers, I remembered to look for an old stagecoach stop I had seen on a Circling Steens Mountain birding field trip. Ah ha! Found it. See the dark spots in the middle of this photo? Those are the remnants of a stagecoach stop.

Sunflowers & stagecoaches at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019

Here’s a closer look. The crumbling rock walls are all that’s left of this stop.

Stagecoach stop at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019

Stagecoach travel

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, stagecoach routes crisscrossed the West. On the more heavily traveled routes there were stops every 25 miles or so. Why that distance? That’s about how far a team of horses pulling wagons full of goods and passengers could travel. Their progress was slow due to difficult terrain and weather that could quickly change from scorching heat to bone-chilling cold.

Some of these stations were just for changing horse teams while others had accommodations available for travelers. The stops in Fields and Frenchglen offered more options for weary travelers. One stop near the one pictured above charged 25 cents for overnight lodging and meals. The charge for the care of each horse was an additional 25 cents.

Travel along these stagecoach routes was not fast. For example, the east-west route from Ontario, Oregon to Burns, Oregon took approximately 40 hours. Today that 130-mile route takes 2 hours 12 minutes. But imagine all the sights those early travelers must have seen on those slow journeys…

Stories within the layers of stone: LAPC

Sometimes I look at layered rock formations and imagine stories within the layers.

This formation at Fort Rock looks like the giant prow of a ship bursting through the cliffs.

Stories within the layers, Fort Rock 10 June 2016

A closer look shows where the water levels were before the ship drained the basin.

Rock formation at Fort Rock, Oregon 10 June 2016

This jumbled formation at Malheur NWR looks like it was made by a giant who was in a hurry.

Rock formation at Malheur NWR, Oregon 8April2016

But a closer look reveals the perfect spot for great horned owls to raise their young and protect the land.

Stories within the layers at Malheur NWR, Oregon 8April2016

This Painted Hills formation looks like an immense shark swimming through the hills causing a commotion.

Painted Hills, Oregon 25October2018

A closer look shows some of the magical green stones left in its wake.

Painted Hills, Oregon 25October2018

There are stories within the layers that you can learn if you just pause to look and listen.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Layered

Magnificent Mural: A Photo a Week Challenge – Signs

Magnificent mural in The Dalles, Oregon October 2019

We recently saw this magnificent mural in the downtown area of The Dalles, Oregon. Isn’t it fantastic! This is The Valley Gorge Hub by Blaine Fontana. Blaine and Jeremy Nichols used hundreds of cans of spray paint to create this mural in 2018. Toma Villa consulted on this project. He is a colleague of Fontana’s and an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation.

This building has murals painted on the north, south, and east sides. You can see a small sign for Kung Fu classes on the left side of the building.

This Valley Gorge project is one of many planned to bring together the communities near the Columbia River Gorge. They plan to “build a more inclusive mecca for creativity, culture, outdoor recreation, and opportunities for new and existing businesses.”

Blaine created another magnificent mural in The Dalles as a part of the Oregon Mural Trail. This project is funding seven large murals in seven small Oregon towns located throughout the state.

The Dalles has an amazing collection of murals. The Dalles Mural Society has more information on them.

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week Challenge – Signs

Furry & Feathered Frame Fillers: LAPC

I decided to feature some furry & feathered frame fillers for this week’s lens-artists photo challenge. The challenge is Filling the Frame. Here are some photos I took at Yellowstone National Park.

This high-flying eagle is in a small museum near Fishing Bridge. It looked so real swooping over our heads.

furry & feathered, Bald eagle, Yellowstone National Park

We saw this pronghorn buck near Mammoth Hot Springs. Most people drove right past him. You have to learn to look for pieces that don’t quite fit into the landscape puzzle to spot wildlife.

Pronghorn buck reclining, Yellowstone National Park

This killdeer almost looks like a museum mount but we saw it near Dragon’s Cauldron defending its territory.

furry & feathered, killdeer at Yellowstone National Park

This coyote was in the museum at Mammoth Hot Springs. It was an interesting mount. Lots of action.

Coyote mount , Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

This raven kept an eye on me when I hiked to Morning Glory Geyser — one of my favorite places in Yellowstone. This raven and a companion had just taken a bath in the hot spring in the background.

Raven near Morning Glory, Yellowstone National Park

This gray wolf rested in the sun at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. Visitors get up close looks at native wildlife and learn what to do to preserve it for future generations.

Furry & feathered, Gray wolf at Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, Montana

Even if you don’t have a giant telephoto lens, there are great opportunities to capture furry & feathered frame fillers at Yellowstone.

Revisiting Steens Mountain: LAPC

On a recent trip revisiting Steens Mountain, I thought back on what this place looked like decades before. When I got home, I browsed my photos and realized several pictures I took on this trip were taken in nearly the exact same spot.

Places seem to me to have some kind of memory, in that they activate memory in those who look at them.

W. G. Sebald

Some places call you back to them. While revisiting Steens Mountain this summer, I realized it is one of those places for me.

Here are a few “then” and “now” pictures I took of the Steens.

East Rim Steens Mountain Oregon
Then: From the East Rim with the Alvord Desert in the background
Revisiting Steens Mountain, Oregon
Now: From the East rim with the Alvord Desert in the background
Driving east from Hart Mountain, Oregon
Then: The road east to Steens Mountain, Oregon
Revisiting Steens Mountain
Now: The road east to Steens Mountain
Kiger Gorge, Steens Mountain, Oregon
Then: Kiger Gorge
Kiger Gorge, Oregon 28August2019
Now: Kiger Gorge

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Pick a Place

In this land…Oregon countryside : LAPC

In this land near Diamond, Oregon 29August2019
Near Diamond, Oregon

In this land, Nature weaves colorful tapestries into the earth and sky

Pronghorn buck, Hart Mountain
Pronghorn buck, Hart Mountain

And creates havens for its creatures to pause and rest

In this land, Alvord Desert, Oregon 28 August 2019
Alvord Desert

In this land, pale sandy deserts settle in some basins

Warner Valley, Oregon 27 August 2019
Warner Valley

While water collects in others

In this land, Hart Mountain, Oregon from the west 27 August 2019
Hart Mountain viewed from the west

In this land, mountains tilt and rise above sagebrush plains

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019
Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

Where glacial sculptors carve them into works of art

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Countryside/ Small towns

Oregon Trail – Baker City: Visiting History

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Covered wagon encampment

On the Oregon Trail

     “We’re almost there,” Pa said. He pointed towards a low sagebrush-covered hill. “It’s just over that rise.”

     “How many times have you said that, Pa?” I said to myself. I shaded my eyes and looked at the dismal landscape. Dusty sagebrush and clumps of dry grass for as far as I could see.

Covered wagon, Baker City 24October2018
Covered wagon and rabbitbrush in bloom

     The year is 1853 and my name is Lizzie. My family is heading west along the Oregon Trail. It’s not a trail so I don’t know why they call it that. Some people call it Emigrant Road, but I don’t think that’s right either. It’s a rough meandering pathway to a new life, that’s what it is. That’s why so many of us are making this journey, no matter what the cost.

     We have traveled nearly 1,600 miles so far. On a good day we make 20 miles but on most days we travel 10-15. It’s been five months since we left Missouri.

     We came here because of the promise of free land. If Pa was a single man, he could claim 320 acres; since he’s married, he and Ma can claim 640 acres. Was it worth it? I sure hope so. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think this is “The Land of Milk and Honey” that everyone said it was.

Oregon Trail map by Ezra Meeker
The Old Oregon Trail map by Ezra Meeker 1907

History of Trail

     Many of the nearly half a million emigrants that migrated to the Oregon Country in the years 1840-1870 could have written this account. In the nineteenth century, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Spain claimed parts of this region. Each country eventually gave up its claims. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended the joint occupancy with the British and set new boundaries for Oregon. As a result of this action, the U.S. government encouraged settlement of the newly acquired land.

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.

Painting by Albert Bierstadt of the Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail by Albert Bierstadt 1869

For many of the settlers, the Willamette Valley was the final destination. To read about another wagon route, located near Sisters, Oregon, see my post Santiam Wagon Road.

Display on settlers early years in Oregon, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Display on settlers’ early years in Oregon

     In 1861, they discovered gold in the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon. The gold rush brought even more people to the state. Miners established mining camps in several locations. In 1894, gold was discovered on Flagstaff Hill and a mine was built there. By 1897, three quarters of Oregon’s gold—worth millions in today’s dollars—came from Baker County. One nugget weighed seven pounds!

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

     The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, located atop Flagstaff Hill east of Baker City, introduces visitors to this fascinating era in American history. Exhibits at the Interpretive Center focus on different aspects of the journey west, including the experiences of pioneers and native peoples.

Part of the Oregon Trail, Oregon Trail Interpretive Center 24October2018
Part of the Oregon Trail

     Approximately 300 miles of the Oregon Trail still exist. Much of the 2,170 mile trail has disappeared because of erosion and development. When traveling on a dirt road, motorized vehicles create two distinct ruts. In contrast to that, wagons pulled by teams of animals create a trench-like swale, or wide depression. Hooves pack down the middle of the road. At the Interpretive Center, you can hike or drive to areas where you can view actual remnants of the trail.

Display on wagons and teams, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Display on wagons and teams

Covered wagons – Inside and Out

     Covered wagons are a prominent part of the Interpretive Center, both inside and outside. Teams of oxen, mules, or horses pulled the wagons. Mule teams cost the most to buy. Though mules could be stubborn, they had remarkable endurance and surefootedness.

Mule team pulling a wagon, Oregon Trail Interpretive Center 24October2018
Mule team pulling a wagon

     Wagon makers often painted wagons blue, with red wheels and undercarriage.  The wheels shrank and separated in the heat so the wagon trains went through creeks and rivers to soak them back to size. The emigrants sometimes painted the canvas covers with oil paint for waterproofing.

     Every inch of space was used in the wagons. For example, false floors and pockets sewn into the canvases held extra supplies in the interior. They strapped other supplies to the outside or carried them in saddle bags. However, many of the supplies were abandoned along the way because of excess weight. Many wagons went without brakes since this too would add weight. They slowed wagons going downhill with rough locks, wheel shoes, or a tree tied to the wheels.

     Emigrants used the wagons for sick rooms, birthing rooms, and shelter from storms.  Most did not travel inside the wagons on the trail. The rough roads led to a bone-wrenching ride, so the emigrants walked alongside their wagons. When the landscape allowed it, wagons traveled abreast to avoid each other’s dust.

A typical camp along the Trail, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
A typical camp along the Trail

Life and Death on the Trail

     If several wagons were traveling together, they often formed a circle at the end of the day’s travel. The area inside the wagon circle served as a corral for livestock. Exhausted travelers slept in tents and bedrolls outside of the circle. The day started when the sun rose. After breakfast and gathering of the livestock, the caravan would travel for five to six hours. The travelers had limited food supplies so meals might include such delicacies as Velvet Tail Rattlesnake, Blue Beaver Tail Soup, and Cricket Mush.

     Sometimes the wagon trains camped at noontime resting spots, but most of the time they pressed onward for several more hours.  Women and children collected firewood and men hunted for game along the way. As evening approached, they would encircle the wagons again. Evenings were a time for chores, such as repairing wagons and mending clothing, but also a time to tell stories, sing, and dance.

     Quarrels along the trail were common due to events like wagons getting stuck in the mud or runaway livestock. They took thousands of livestock animals on the trail for the settlers. The emigrants lost many because of predators, disease, and accidents.

     Many emigrants died on this perilous journey. Some called the trail a “two thousand mile long graveyard.” One estimate suggests there were 10-15 graves per mile from Missouri to Oregon.  Provisions gave out and hired hands abandoned their employers. The weak and the sick gave up hope. Cholera caused death within hours and it took the lives of many on the trail. Crossing rivers was one of the most dangerous parts of the journey. Records show that ten percent of the travelers perished.

Sharing the Trail

     Emigrants shared the Oregon Trail with trappers, traders, and native people. The Umatilla, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Nez Perce, and other tribes lived in the area near the Interpretive Center. As emigrants displaced local people, conflicts such as the Cayuse War of 1847 arose. The old ways of living off the land and using it for hunting and vision quests had passed. It forced Native Americans to deal with sweeping changes.

Oxen team pulling a wagon
Oxen team pulling a wagon

     Both emigrants and natives learned to engage in the business of trading. Native people traded horses, local game, and salmon for cattle, beads, clothing, powder, and lead. Emigrants learned to differentiate the tribes by their clothing, hairstyles, beadwork, and basketry. Communication often consisted of hand signals and a few common words.

Visiting the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

     After decades of planning, the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center opened in 1992 to commemorate this period of history. The 23,000-square foot building sits atop Flagstaff Hill where visitors get a panoramic view of the surrounding territory. The Interpretive Center includes exhibits, a theater, a café, and a gift store. There are living history interpretive talks, lectures, and special events throughout the year. Regular demonstrations include topics such as flint knapping, Dutch oven cooking, blacksmithing, and black powder firearms. For more information see this brochure.

Exhibit inside the Interpretive Center, Baker City 24October2018
Exhibit inside the Interpretive Center

     A network of trails leads you to living history encampments and to ruts left by wagons passing along the trail. You may catch glimpses of eagles flying overhead or pronghorn browsing in the sagebrush. In the spring and summer, wildflowers such as lupine, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups splash the desert with color. Visitors can take part in regular guided nature hikes. 

The white arrow points to the Trail location, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
The white arrow points to the Trail location
A closer view of the Trail, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
A closer view of the Trail

     Flagstaff Hill marked where the Great American Desert ended on the journey west. For the emigrants that made it this far, the lush vegetation and abundant game near the hill amazed them. This site symbolized all they had worked so hard for and many returned to the site years later. The Interpretive Center presents the tragedies encountered along the trail, and the joy many felt when they reached their destination.

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Entrance sign

Tiny Tin Pan Theater

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.

Tin Pan Theater in Bend, Oregon, 24July2019

Get there early because seats fill up fast. You can enjoy some popcorn and drinks while you’re waiting–including some local brews.

The bar, Bend, Oregon 24July2019

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.

Tin Pan Theater, Bend, Oregon 24July2019

As BendFilm Executive Director Todd Looby noted, “Anyone who has entered the Tin Pan Theater immediately falls in love with the space.”

Entrance in Tin Pan alley, Bend, Oregon 24July2019

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.

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum

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.

Gorge Discovery Center, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

Wouldn’t you like to have a river winding across your floor like this one in the entry hall?

Gorge Discovery Center dugout canoe, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

How about a cedar dugout canoe? Some were up to 50 feet in length.

Map of Discovery Center area, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

Columbia Mammoth, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

Creatures from the Ice Age

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.

Dire wolf display, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

From cultures that date back >10,000 years ago

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.

Native Americans fishing in the Columbia River, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

Lewis & Clark’s travels

Several displays referred to the explorations of Lewis and Clark.

Lewis & Clark display, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

They passed through the Gorge traveling west in October of 1805 and on their way back home in April of 1806.

Lewis & Clark display, Gorge Discovery Center, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

Butterfly collection, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

Settling into Wasco County

Mock up a pioneer town, Gorge Discovery Center,The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

Thousands of settlers soon made their way to Oregon and towns sprung up to support them.

The right saddle

Saddles from the George Lawrence Co., The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

Businesses catering to the settler’s needs prospered. Those are some nice saddles!

The Chinese in mid- to late-1800s Oregon

The railroad expanded into Oregon. Chinese immigrants helped construct railways and worked in the gold mines. They brought elements of their culture with them.

Mock up of Chew Kee & Co. store, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

Though some of their customs and products, such as fireworks, were appreciated by the largely European American residents, Chinese often encountered prejudice.

Chinatown excavation project, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

Chinatown excavation project artifacts, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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.

Gorge Discovery Center. Etc…

There were a couple things we didn’t see on this visit.

  • The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center put a lot of time into restoring native habitat on the 54-acre campus. There is a short nature walk with interpretive markers around the buildings.
  • They have a Raptor Interpretive Program that uses live falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls. They have presentations for visitors on days that vary with the season.
Outside the Gorge Discovery Center, The Dalles, Oregon 16October2017

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: LAPC

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.

Birds of the shore in Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
Harney County basin flood irrigation. Sandhill cranes collecting around the water.

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.

Sandhill crane, Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
Sandhill crane

Shorebirds

I love seeing delicate long-legged beauties such as black-necked stilts and American avocets.

Black-necked stilt, Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
Black-necked stilt
American avocet, Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
American avocet

If you’re lucky, you may even see a Wilson’s snipe. Yes, they really do exist.

Wilson's snipe, Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
Wilson’s snipe

Flood irrigation creates temporary ponds and lakes with miles and miles of shoreline.

Harney County basin, Oregon 7April2016
Harney County basin

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.

Birds of the shore, Long-billed curlew, Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
Long-billed curlew

Waterfowl

Thousands of Ross’ and snow geese congregate in this area.

Ross' and snow geese, Harney County, Oregon 7April2016
Ross’ and snow geese

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.

Canvasback ducks and redhead ducks, Harney County, Oregon 12April2019
Redhead and canvasback ducks

You may see elegant swans as well. Trumpeter and tundra swans have been seen here.

Birds of the shore, Trumpeter swan, Summer Lake, Oregon 1November2017
Trumpeter swan

Special finds

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.

Birds of the shore, American bittern, Harney County, Oregon 8April2016
American bittern

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Seascapes and/or lakeshore

Raptors in Eastern Oregon

Birds of Prey Tour

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.

Raptors in Malheur National Forest, American kestrel 13April2019
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.

Rocky Mountain Elk, Harney County, Oregon 13April2019
Rocky Mountain Elk

Raptors were common and we saw many of them perched on fenceposts and telephone poles.

Raptors field trip, Swainson's hawk, Harney County, Oregon 13April2019
Swainson’s hawk
Ferruginous hawk, Harney County, Oregon 13April2019
Ferruginous hawk

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.

Raptors, Bald eagles perched on pivot irrigation system, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Bald eagles perched on pivot irrigation system
Swainson's hawk grabbing some fast food, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Swainson’s hawk grabbing some fast food

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.

Turkey vulture, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture eating ground squirrel, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Turkey vulture eating ground squirrel

We were lucky to see a prairie falcon, the only one we spotted that day.

Raptors, Prairie falcon, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Prairie falcon

Mule deer were common. This herd had 30+ deer.

Herd of mule deer, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Herd of mule 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.

Three mule deer in the back ground & two burrowing owls in the foreground, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Three mule deer in the back ground & two burrowing owls in the foreground
Raptors, Burrowing owl, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Burrowing owl

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 .

Raptors Pocket Guide

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…

Clouds in my sky: LAPC

I can be jubilant one moment and pensive the next, and a cloud could go by and make that happen.

Bob Dylan

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.

Steens Mountain 1May2017
A flock of clouds over Steens Mountain
Winter Walks Art Station 9March2019
Light winter clouds over the Art Station
Unusual Clouds in my sky in Bend, Oregon 18October2017
A brilliant sunrise of clouds in my sky from home
The Road To...Fort Rock, Oregon 10June2017
Puffy white clouds over Fort Rock
Blue Basin Bridge, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018
Storm clouds moving in over the Blue Basin trail
Many moods of clouds in my sky over my muse - Juniper Sunset 29August2016
A fiery sunset of the clouds in my sky over my juniper muse

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

Finding serenity in a kayak: LAPC

I always have a way of finding serenity when I’m in a kayak.

Majestic mountains can surround you in a gentle hug.

Finding serenity at Wallowa Lake, Oregon 4 June2019
Wallowa Lake

You can pause and reflect on your life.

Reflections at Clear Lake, Oregon 30August2016
Reflections at Clear Lake

Wild animals will welcome you to their landscape.

Finding serenity, Mule deer at Three Creek Lake, Oregon 24September2017
Mule deer at Three Creek Lake

You see things from a totally different perspective.

Mt Bachelor from Hosmer Lake 9August2016
Mt Bachelor from Hosmer Lake

And if you pay close attention, Nature will point the way.

Reflection at Little Lava Lake, Oregon 28September2017
Reflections at Little Lava Lake

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Serenity

Nature Walks with Llamas

Llamas in eastern Oregon 13April2019
My guy, Marty McFly

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).

First Hike

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.

Close up of Marty McFly 13April2019
My, what big eyes you have

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.

Pack llamas getting ready to head out 13April2019
Getting ready to head out
Pack llamas ready to hit the trail
Time to hit the trail

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.

Movin' on down the road 13April2019
Movin’ on down the road

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.

Barn swallow 13April2019
Barn swallows were having a little lunch too

Second Hike

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.

Manzanita waiting to go on the trail 3May2019
“Hi, I’m Manzanita!”

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.

Cattle & horses, eastern Oregon 3May2019
The local livestock was keeping an eye on us

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 .

Llamas from behind 3May2019
The end of the trail is near

Favorite Rocks in Oregon: LAPC

Oregon rocks come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Here are a few of my favorite rocks.

Craggy cliffs circling wonder

Blue Pool 14September2016
Blue Pool

Sculptures shaped by the sea

Favorite Rocks, Pacific City, Oregon 21June2018
Pacific City

Lined with layers of lichens

Favorite Rocks Lichens, Tumalo Creek, Oregon 9April2017
Tumalo Creek

Sharpness bordered by softness

Favorite Rocks Obsidian, Glass Buttes, Oregon 1May2018
Glass Buttes

Painted with pictographs in the past

Lizard pictograph, Harney County, Oregon 11April2019
Harney County

Clustered in concentrations of color

Favorite Rocks Painted Hills, Oregon 26October2019
Painted Hills

Rounded by rambling rivers

Favorite Rocks Metolius River, Oregon 24June2016
Metolius River

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge – Favorite Things

Wild Oregon-Steens to the Sea: LAPC

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