Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oregon -- Part 2 The Barlow Road

When I started planning this trip, I purchased a book of photographs taken along the Oregon Trail. I've followed that book, and seen many of the things photographed, and even photographed some of them myself.  When I was looking through the book, one picture caught my eye, and became the ultimate goal for the trip -- find that spot and photograph it myself. That spot was on the Barlow Road. 
                    Not the photo of the Barlow Road, but one of the photos in the book

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  When the emigrants finally reached the Columbia River at the Dalles, the early ones had no choice but to build rafts and float down the Columbia River to what is now Vancouver, WA. Doesn't that sound like fun?  I can imagine getting on a raft and floating on the river. Sounds romantic, and fun! But they had to put their wagon, livestock, everything they owned, and themselves on that raft. There were many rapids in the river, the current was very swift, and it was deep. The raft was under water with all the weight on it, and many rafts were lost, along with everything on them. 

                                   The Columbia River, a little East of the Dalles

After a  few years of rafting, a pair of enterprising men decided to find another route. They scouted, and built a road that went south around Mount Hood then up to Oregon City. Of course they charged a toll for using this road, but most people paid it, rather than risk the Columbia (one statistic I read said that 75% of the people used the Barlow Road). 

I started early in the morning, and my first view of Mt. Hood was just spectacular. 

The first part of the trail was on very long, muddy, dirt roads, and I feared getting really stuck, so I kept to paved roads that occasionally crossed the trail. The best part started at what is called Barlow Crest. It's the top of a mountain pass, and several trails cross here. One of them is the Pacific Crest Trail (many of you have read the book about the woman who walked it -- can't remember what it is called...) but the Barlow Road also crosses here.  It didn't look quite like I expected -- it was more like a wide hiking trail, or an ATV trail.  The trees closed over it leaving not much room for a wagon -- at least not for our version of a wagon. 
                                                       Barlow Road to the East
                                                               Pacific Crest Trail as it crosses

                                                          Barlow Road to the West

As you go down the mountain, there are a few other places where you can walk along the trail. One is called the Pioneer Woman's Grave. It is a pile of stones now, but under it, a woman's remains were found quite a few years ago. The grave was rebuilt, and now people come to see it, and to place items on it.  I was amazed at the things I saw there -- a sand dollar, lots of coins, tin medals, special stones, a little doll, a bird -- almost anything you could imagine. 

Across the road was another section of the road. 

But there was one photo I wanted to capture for myself more than any other, and that I had a very hard time doing. It was the section called Laurel Hill.  The road that leads to Laurel Hill is Rt. 26, and a 5 mile section of it is under construction right now, the section I wanted. Traffic was one lane only, with flaggers guiding traffic.  There was a good description in my guide book about how to find this part, but the construction folks had covered the signs. I drove down, then up, then down again before I found where it was, but by the time I found it, it was too late to take pictures. I vowed to come back the next day.  It rained the next day -- hard!  But I went back, and had to drive it 3 more times to find it again!  But I found it, pulled way off to the side in the middle of construction, and sat in my car for a while wondering if I was doing the right thing. But, 2 years in the planning, 7000 miles in the car, by darn I was going to see this place!  Off I went, up the stone staircase, to the abandoned paved road at the top. As I walked along, I wasn't sure how far it would be to the place I wanted to photograph, but it ended up being only about 50 yards along. I quickly took my photos, hustled down those steps, and there was a construction person at the bottom on her radio trying to figure out what to do about my car. I got in, and took off very quickly, with a sincere apology!  But I got what I wanted!!
Can you believed that they got wagons down this hill?  I was stunned....
                                                The top half of Laurel Hill
                                                    The bottom half of Laurel Hill

                     Construction on rt. 26. The spot I wanted was just to the right. 

At last I had seen everything I wanted to see -- well almost. One more stop.  The museum at the end of the trail!

I had done it.  It took 24 days and by that time I had gone over 5000 miles. Worth it?  Absolutely.  I really loved this trip, especially having a goal like I did.  I hope you enjoyed this small description of the journey.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Oregon, Part 1

Driving through Eastern Oregon was a bit of a surprise. I have driven through Oregon following much of the same route that I'm following on this trip, but on previous trips I was in a hurry to get to Seattle, and was focusing on the road and my audio book. This time, I turned off the audio book and concentrated on where I was and what I was seeing. One of my goals for this trip was to stay off Interstate highways, to go through the towns at a slower speed and really look at what was there. But much of this part of the Oregon Trail is Interstate highway; they built the highway right on top of the trail (although they leveled it out a whole lot -- which I plan to talk about in a later post). 

After Farewell Bend, the landscape becomes a lot more dry and hilly.  Although there was a river running through the valley (the Owyhee) and there were crops planted in the flat lowlands, there were dusty hills all around.  The trail meanders through this country, and then all of a sudden it starts to get green, and it climbs. Up we go up another set of mountains to Baker City. This is a smallish town, first settled during the westward migration, but it started to boom when gold was discovered there in the late 1800's. 

When I arrived, I had just crossed a time zone so I had an extra hour.  One of the first buildings I saw was the Baker City Historical Museum, open 1-4, and it was only 3:10!  I had time to see this today.  At least I thought I did, until one of the docents, who was very knowledgable, and very excited about her position, started telling me ALL about the museum. By the time she finished, I had 25 minutes left! One of the features of the museum is called the Rock room; it is the accumulated collection of rocks by two sisters who grew up in Baker City. It's a great collection, and one of the best parts of it is the Carnelian collection. These are cut and polished rock slices that look like landscapes or modern art, but the rocks occur naturally and slicing them reveals the designs. 

The other great collection in the museum is one of vehicles of all sorts -- from covered wagons to horse drawn school busses to stage coaches to mining cars and more. 

When I came out of the museum, it was pouring with rain, and I was hungry; in fact, I was craving pizza. I knew I couldn't cook, and luckily there was a Pizza Hut in town that was still serving the lunch special (personal pizza, salad and a drink for $8).  How could I resist?

The next morning I went to the other great museum in Baker City, the National Historic Oregon Trail   Interpretive Center. This museum has it all -- a great setting high on a hill with nothing else around, great exhibits of life on the trail, costumes, vignettes of common events, and knowledgable rangers. Besides, since I have a National Parks Senior Pass, it was free! You could even see a section of the trail winding around the hill just out the window of the museum. 

After leaving there, I continued up that mountain and down through Ladd Canyon. The uphill was hard, but the downhill was downright frightening, especially if you are in a wagon!  But it all opened into a beautiful valley called the La Grande valley.  There were several parks with monuments or other memorials to the Westward emigration.  The first of these was Pioneer Park, a small city park with a playground and a number of pillars along a path. At first I thought these pillars would have plaques on them with information about the park, or the pioneers, but instead they had artistic panels on them that seemed to be either natural stone or hand-painted tiles. They were unusual, and quite beautiful. 

The second park was really just a pullout on the highway, but there was a log cabin next to it that the romantic in me could imagine as the cabin of an emigrant who came into the valley and said enough, built a log cabin, and surrounded it with yellow rose bushes. The roses were blooming, and the sight was just lovely. 

From here, I drove up to Washington to visit with some friends who had moved from Albuquerque to Walla Walla, and we had a very pleasant evening of wine tasting, visiting, and then sightseeing the following morning. 

On my way back to Oregon for the last couple of days of the trip, I got my first view of the Columbia River, and a more majestic river I have never seen.  As one New Mexico friend commented, "It sure puts our Rio Grande to shame."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Rest of Idaho and into Oregon

It's hard to believe as I sit here in Mt. Hood Oregon, that I've actually completed the Oregon Trail, but my blogging has suffered from too much to see, and too many people to meet and chat with. But I'll try to catch you up a little, because this part of the trip was just as exciting and thought provoking as all the rest of it has been. 

After the last blog, I spent a very rainy night in Twin Falls catching up on grocery shopping, laundry, and car care. I did get to see Shoshone Falls, and had a very nice conversation with the man at the entrance kiosk. I guess that's what happens when it's raining hard and it's early in the morning -- nobody to talk to!! He also let me know that my National Parks Senior Pass would get me into the park free -- that was worth a bit of conversation, I think!  It's a beautiful place, and had it been a nicer day, I would have done a bit more walking around, but as it was, I left there soaked, and happy, with a few nice photos. 

From there I was off to a few more sites that were not too far away. Thousand Springs is a little town where they stopped to see all the little waterfalls on the cliff across the river. It looked like the whole place had sprung a leak!  Or a bunch of leaks..... 

A bit further on are the Hagerman Fossil Beds, a national landmark through which the emigrants traveled. Here there is a section about 3 miles long of original trail that has been preserved, with several  pulloffs and lookouts that allow you to see most of the section. The first part is near the Snake River, and from the lookout you can see both the river and the trail. That is, if you can stand up!  The wind was fierce that day, as bad as the worst of the spring winds I've known in Albuquerque, and it was cold. But seeing the trail and the river close by was fascinating.  On a nicer day, it might have been fun to hike that section of the trail, but that wind made it impossible for me. A bit further along the road was another pullout where you could see as the trail came up a big hill. 

My next stop was at Three Island Crossing.  This was a place where they had to ford the Snake River, and the best way to do it was to cross at a place where there were three islands, kind of like stepping stones, in the river. Except that there was a long expanse of water between each of the islands. They have a very nice interpretive center there where I spent quite a bit of time, then crossed the river (on a bridge, not across the ford!!) and saw the route from the other side. It's amazng to me that most of the pioneers didn't know how to swim, and several people drowned on each of these difficult crossings. Wagons would tip over in the current, oxen and cattle would occasionally get part way across then turn around and go back. It sometimes took several days to get a whole wagon train across a ford. 

As I drove to Boise, my next stop, there was a site just before the town called Bonneville Point. It's high on the mesa, with nothing but sagebrush around (and no other cars that day, either), but again there was a nice section of trail ruts. From here there was a great view of the Boise Valley with the Boise River running through it. 

Boise itself was a surprise to me, there is a long section of trail on the cliffs above the town.  Imagine traveling along those cliffs and wondering how you could get down to water. The cliffs are steep, and are on both sides of the river. In the 1860's engineers cut a road in the cliff that was quite a marvel at the time. It is called the Kelton Ramp, and just heads off the cliff, wagon width, down to the river below. Today it is a walking path and I saw several people walk along the pedestrian trail on the top and head down the ramp. 

I spent a very nice morning in Boise, then back on the trail to a place called Farewell Bend. They had been following the Snake River for many miles, but the Snake curved back to the northeast, so this was the place that they bid that river farewell.

 There is a very nice park there, with a campground that looked like a good place to spend the night, but it was way to early to camp for the night, besides, in just a few miles the time would change and I'd gain another hour!  So on to Baker City, but that's a subject for the next installment. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Meandering Through Idaho

     It took a lot longer to see everything I wanted to see in Idaho -- I thought maybe 3 days, but ended up taking almost 5 days.  Idaho is rich in Oregon Trail sites, and some of them are quite wonderful.  My first night was spent in Bear Lake State Park, just as you come into Idaho from Wyoming. It was a lovely campground, right on the lake, and my site backed up to the lake itself. It was fun watching the sun go down while sitting at my picnic table. 

Up the next morning bright and early to see the museum in Montpelier. They were having a quilt show there!  The museum was OK, but the quilts were fun to see. The road out of the valley was hilly (big, big hills) with trail sections clearly visible on them.  It was pretty amazing!

                                                 Museum in Montpelier ID

                 You can see the trail coming down from just to the upper right of center.

Then it was on to Soda Springs, where there are springs coming out of the ground with carbonated water. The sign there said it was OK to drink, so I tried just a little sip.  It was tasty, but I didn't drink much!  

After lunch at the park, it was back on the road. I have been able, for the most part, to avoid Interstate highways, but in a few places, it's the only way to get there. The next stop was Pocatello, and a replica of Ft. Hall. It was raining cats and dogs, and the fort was closed for the season.  Bummer.  Onward....
        American Falls was next on the list and now I was following the Snake River.  As an aside, that's one of the fun things about this trip -- how the trail goes from one river to the next, sometimes without much of a break!  Although at other times they have a long way to go to get to the next river. Not sure what they did then. 
      American Falls was fun to see -- there were very large fish jumping in the river, and near the falls, there was a gathering of birds. I'm not sure what they are, because I didn't bring my bird book, but they have pelican-like beaks.  It will be interesting to look them up when I get home There were also a few snow geese there.
                                                    Birds at American Falls

     The last stop of the day was my campsite for the night, Massacre Falls. Although there was not a lot of Indian hostility toward the emigrants, one of those instances took place near here. The campground is only reachable from the Interstate, but the way it is situated down the hill a ways, there isn't a lot of highway noise. I think I got the best site in the whole campground when it comes to view. It was amazing!!

     Enough for tonight.   I'll leave you with some great trail remnant photos. 

                                                     Milner ruts, Burley, ID

Friday, May 15, 2015

Through Wyoming and Into Idaho

The most beautiful campsite I have stayed in on this trip was near Lander Wyoming. It's called Sinks Canyon State Park, and it was snowy and cold, but incredibly beautiful. One of my requirements for a campsite is that it be level.  It's really hard to sleep when you head is lower than your feet, or vice versa. I've ended up curled in a ball at the bottom of the bed at times, not fun!!

    Wyoming's segment of the Oregon Trail is varied -- some of it is mountainous, like the first part through Gurnsey, but then it kind of flattens out, although you are gaining elevation for the first half. It's just so gradual that you don't really noticed it (although if I were an ox pulling a wagon, I think I would notice it!!). 
     Gurnsey had the most impressive ruts so far. The wagons had to go over a section of limestone rock and they wore ruts in that rock that were up to 5 feet deep. I walked in those ruts, and tried to imagine what that must have been like. A day or two later, I was talking about those ruts to someone at a museum, and they remarked that not only did they have to go ove the ruts, somebody had to knock down the area between the ruts or the wagons would get high-centered.  That really made me think -- who might have done that, and for the whole length of those ruts (which isn't short -- probably more than 1/4 mile). What a massive job! 

     One of the major landmarks in this first half of Wyoming is a huge rock -- probably 150 to 200 feet high, and who knows how big around -- called Independence Rock. The pioneers tried to be here by the 4th of July, and if they were, they could be pretty sure that they would get through the rest of the trip before snows cut off the passes. Many of them climbed to the top and carved their names on the rock.  I didn't climb it but there were a few names I saw carved lower down. I can imagine celebrating Independence Day at Independence Rock! But the last half of the journey was yet to come, and this was the much harder half.  

     A little further on was South Pass -- the pass through the mountains that was gentle enough to make this journey possible. As passes go, it wasn't much.  Just a climb to the top of a gentle hill, then a huge vista ahead of you that seemed fairly gentle.  It wasn't though-- there were little valleys, and small gorges that just seemed to disappear in the distance. On the way down the pass, the road took me past creeks that tumbled down over rocks, making pools in some places. I could just imagine early trappers running trap lines along those creeks, and there were even a few beaver mounds in the middle of some of the pools. Sadly, there were no pullouts where I could stop to get a photo.   

     After South Pass, I decided to take one of the "shortcuts" -- the so-called Lander Road. This road was the only section of the trail that was improved by the Federal Government. They built the Lander Road to make the journey easier, and much of it is still navigable, although it is a dirt road, and i've learned my lesson about dirt roads and Lizzie!  She really doesn't like them much, especially after it has rained.  I took that road for two reasons -- first just to see it, and second because a quilt shop that purchases Magic Triangles in bulk from me was just another 20 miles beyond the end of the Lander Road. What an opportunity to stop in there and thank them for all those orders!  They were surprised to see me -- after all, Pinedale is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and how did a quilt designer end up just "being in town?"   

From there, it was back to the trail, and on to Ft. Bridger, named after the famous mountain man, Jim Bridger. It was a beautiful setting, with birch trees all around, a river running nearby, and lush green fields everywhere you looked. These were cultivated fields, but during that time, there was lots of grass for grazing. They had a very nice museum, and a nice place for a picnic lunch.  Then it was back on the trail and into the mountains!  And that's where I'll end for this time. And the photos of that spot are on my iPhone and I can't post them....sorry!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Food on the Road

Have you wondered how I take care of the food and eating issues on the road? Here's a short description of how it all happens. First of all, I like to eat fresh every day, and I can hardly stand fast food. Besides I really like to cook (and to eat, in case you haven't been able to tell!). 

ON grocery day last week, I decided to take some pictures and show you. My rule of thumb is that I only ever buy 4 days worth of meat, because that's as long as I trust it to be edible in a cooler. I also replace the ice every day so it always stays cold. I don't usually buy lettuce, but I buy lots of other veggies that I can eat either raw with dip or cooked in a stir fry or just grilled.  Breakfast is always eggs, usually with chopped onions, mushrooms and spinach (love starting the day with veggies!).  So here is the most recent haul. 
It starts with cutting up all the vegetables, like the red pepper, and the celery and onions in the small container, so that they are ready to use. Then everything goes into one of 4 Rubbermaid containers, according to what it is. There is one container for meat, one for lunch stuff, and two for vegetables. Eggs come out of the cardboard carton and into a plastic one; have you ever seen what happens when those cardboard cartons get wet?  Scrambled egg all over the bottom of the cooler!
They all fit in the cooler, with a place for everything and everything in it's place. That way I know where to find stuff that I need. 
                                                  There's even room for ice!!

This particular night it was a little chilly and I was hungry for comfort food, and for me, that's spaghetti.  I had bought Italian sausage, and I had onions,mushrooms and tomato sauce, so I made some on the camp stove -- not a lot, just enough for 2 nights.  Well, 3 nights as it turns out.  I still have two to eat, and I hope they will still be good when I'm ready! I also broke the salad rule that night -- I craved a salad so bought a little bit of lettuce and had a good one!
                                           Spaghetti sauce on the camp stove!

                              Almost time for dinner!
That's how I do it on the road!  Of course, for the past 3 nights I've been in a hotel because it snowed in Wyoming, and I may have to throw out some of the food, but it's been so very cold that maybe it will still be edible.  I hope so!!  Tomorrow I'm back on the road, heading for Independence Rock, just below the middle of Wyoming. It will be warming up, and I'm hoping for no more nights in hotels!  That's not what this trip is about...... 


Those early emigrants across the Oregon Trail had guidebooks -- there was a photo of the cover of one of them in the museum I saw yesterday. Not much like the guidebooks I'm following. 


These old guidebooks all described, and sometimes had drawings, of landmarks that they would see along the way. It's been fun to read about, see photos of, and then actually see these landmarks for myself. They are mostly visible from a long distance, perhaps several days or a week's travel away.  They are at most an hour or two on my path.  The first major one was called Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock.  They are in an unsettled area that seems like wild prairie, although I did see a few houses some distance off. 

From these landmarks to one that is a little more famous, Chimney Rock, it was only about an hour drive. That one was also in the middle of nowhere, with a pair of delightful docents in the museum there. 

But the more surprising thing about Chimney Rock was the sign as you started up the sidewalk to the museum. 
Rattlesnakes?!! Oh, no, I thought, it's too cold for them to be out. But the docent informed me that several had been seen in the last week. So you bet I watched my step and stayed on the path!

Another hour or two down the road was Scotts Bluff, a huge uplift in the earth alongside the North Platte River.  I have been following that river since Ft. Kearney NE, and will only finally leave it tomorrow in Casper Wyoming. A road goes to the top of the bluff, providing a spectacular view on a clear day.  From here you can see all the way to Chimney Rock.  

                                              View from the top of the bluff

Thsi was a rest stop for me -- time to do laundry and shop for groceries, then find a campground for the night. It amazes me now to think that I saw all 3 of these landmarks up close and personal in one day, when I'm sure it took the emigrants at least a week and maybe more to get from the first one to the last. 

The going from here on was not going to be quite so easy as crossing the prairie -- we are about to get into the Rocky Mountains. But that's another blog entry!