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
Steens Mountain 1May2017
Steens Mountain
Wild Oregon - the Painted Hills 26October2018
Painted Hills
Hart Mountain October 1984
Hart Mountain
Smith Rock, Oregon 10February2016
Smith Rock
The Sisters from McKenzie Pass, wild Oregon 1August2016
The Sisters from McKenzie Pass
Crater Lake, wild Oregon 12October2014
Crater Lake
Mt Hood 14October2017
Mt Hood
Metolius River, Oregon 4June2016
Metolius River
Haystack Rock, Pacific City, Oregon 21June2018
Haystack Rock

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Wild

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

Yellowstone Elements: LAPC

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.

Yellowstone Elements -Morning Glory Hot Spring, Upper Geyser Basin 30May2018
Morning Glory Hot Spring, Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone NP - Firehole River, Midway Geyser Basin 5June2015
Firehole River, Midway Geyser Basin
Yellowstone Elements - Near Blood Geyser, Artists' Paintpots 2June2018
Near Blood Geyser, Artists’ Paintpots
Yellowstone NP - Emerald Pool, Black Sand Basin 2June2018
Emerald Pool, Black Sand Basin
Bison at Churning Caldron, Mud Volcano 5June2015
Bison at Churning Caldron, Mud Volcano

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!

Siobhan in the Lamar Valley 31May2018
Siobhan in the Lamar Valley

Lens- Artists Photo Challenge – Five Elements

Blue Basin Bench: Pull up a Seat

Blue Basin bench at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

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.

Pull Up a Seat Photo Challenge

Feeling Cheesy? Visit Tillamook Creamery

Sculpture at Tillamook Creamery 12 20June2018

Last June we happened to be in Tillamook, Oregon the day the new Tillamook Creamery visitor center opened.

Tillamook Creamery Visitor Center 20June2018

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.

Store at Tillamook Creamery 11 20June2018

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.

Blue Basin Trail – Island in Time

Green scenes on Blue Basin trail

Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018
An otherworldly landscape in Blue Basin

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.  

Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018
A bench along the trail

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.

Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018
Colorful contrasts

The geologic history

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.

A shallow creek of green-tinted water

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.

Blue Basin Lower Trail

I also noticed the smaller landscapes on this trail. Here are a few of those scenes.

Fossil and facts on Blue Basin trail

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.

Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018

Cat-like Nimravids. These cats ranged in size from bobcat-sized to tiger size.
Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018

Oreodonts. This sheep-sized mammal was once as common as deer are today.
Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018

Tortoise. This tortoise is like species living today.
A cracked shell may have caused its death.

Map and a word about dogs

Blue Basin map, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018
Map of Blue Basin and 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.

Blue Basin hike, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon 26October2018
My dog liked this nearby trail better. No bridges!

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.  

Amazing paleontology center

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.

The Road To… Oregon: LAPC

The curving road

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.

Tennessee Williams

The Road To...Fort Rock, Oregon  10June2017
The road to… Fort Rock
The Road To... Mt Hood, Oregon 15October2017
The road to… Mt Hood
The Road To...Hart Mountain, Oregon  2November2017
The road to… Hart Mountain
The Road To... Mt Bachelor, Oregon 29September2017
The road to… Mt Bachelor
The Road To...Steens Mountain, Oregon  5April2018
The road to… Steens Mountain

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Curves.

National Park Travels: LAPC

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.

National Park Travels - Yellowstone, Wyoming 30May2018
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
National Park Travels - Arches, Utah  2May2017
Arches National Park, Utah
National Park Travels - Canyonlands, Utah  4May2017
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
National Park Travels - Capitol Reef, Utah  5May2017
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
National Park Travels - Bryce Canyon 6May2017
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
National Park Travels - Zion 6May2017
Zion National Park, Utah
National Park Travels - Great Basin 6May2017
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
National Park Travels - Crater Lake 12October2014
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – My Travels

See more of my park photos at Utah National Parks: Trees & Rocks

Tin Pan Alley Art in Bend

Seven artists featured in Tin Pan Alley

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.

Mixed media

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018

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.

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018

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.

Metal and wood

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018

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.

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018

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.”

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018

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.

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018

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.

Photographs and paintings

Tin Pan Alley Art  in Bend, Oregon  22December2018