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.



  1. I love your persistence Sally! Great photos: Laurel Hill truly is something. So glad we got to experience this adventure vicariously through you.

  2. Found your blog looking for ideas on privacy while car camping. Read the whole thing, and love all your adventures! My goal is to, one day, be able to make trips like yours. For now I go on weekend jaunts, learning along the way. You're an inspiration!