Monday, August 20, 2018
RANGELAND, SMOKE, HISTORY – AND ENGAGING ROADS
notes from an eastern Oregon road trip – part 1
Annually, my long-time buddy from Washington state and I, from California, meet in the middle for a couple-o-day ride somewhere in between. Our wives follow in a chase car.
Our 2018 destination would be Wallowa Lake in northeastern Oregon near Hells Canyon. Here are some photos of the journey north…
Dunsmuir, California is my traditional first night stop, not because the accommodations are spectacular, but dinner at Café Maddalena is. Unexpectedly, the French Cuisine rivals anything pretty much anywhere. I enjoyed the line-caught cod on a bed of sautéed chard, oranges and heirloom tomatoes with a sip or two of French Sauvignon Blanc. Then there was the cake…
Outside, a Union Pacific freight gave one echoing blast on its air horn, signifying it was stopping on the mainline. I know this because I drove a locomotive once – and I do mean once.
Dunsmuir is the crew-change spot on the historic California and Oregon line.
The old roundtable still exists. Not sure whether it’s operable under the weight of the huge powerplants running the rails these days.
North out of Weed on US 97 is the painfully beautiful tribute to Siskiyou County’s military service personnel. Inspired by Vietnam era Hilt, CA native “Ace” Cozzalio, a series of stark metal sculptures represent the many and varied circumstances we ask our young people to endure for us.
The HLZ or Hot Landing Zone is particularly gripping as it depicts the selfless efforts of one chopper pilot (Ace) as he attempts rescue of the crew of another.
I didn’t intend to mislead my fourth graders forty years ago when I told them that Modoc chief Captain Jack had been executed at Fort Bidwell for his part in the assassination of General Canby - the only US Cavalry General killed in an Indian war (you can look it up) - during the Modoc War.
Stopping at Fort Klamath (north of K-Falls on OR 33) for a bathroom break, the docent kindly corrects my mis-information and points me to Jack’s final resting place. He relates that Jack and three colleagues were dispatched on the same day, but that two others received last-minute reprieves.
Six graves were dug; only four were utilized. Fascinating. I resolve that county parks are not places one should simply fly right past.
Any tour up this way must include a trip around the rim of Crater Lake.
This day, even at elevation, hazy-air residue from fires both to the north and south, cloud the view.
Meeting up with riding buddy in Bend, OR and following a wonderful repast at Barrio, a delightful tapa restaurant - - we headed east and north toward Wallowa County. Eschewing a portion of US 20, we found a pastoral route through the little berg of Alfalfa that leads to an engaging ride on OR 27 past Prineville Reservoir.
It’s nice to find those roads that are marked by thinner lines on the map!
Another thin-lined road takes us to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds.
A mile-plus of graded gravel leads us to this view point and an explanation placard.
John Day, Oregon has little to acquit itself. Heck! John Day, an early 1800s fur trapper who was murdered up on a tributary of the Columbia, was never even in the area. The tributary – and now the town – bear his name. Other than being pretty much half way between wherever we were and wherever we’re going, we probably wouldn’t have stopped.
We overnighted there on an evening when the Grant County (named for US Grant prior to his involvement in the Civil War) rodeo was in town…
… and caught some early morning sunlight in the belfry of the local 1890s era church.
Curiously, some of the history recounted on the sign outside this historic structure has been "redacted."
Somewhere along US 26 stands the remnants of a lumbering community frozen in arrested decay.
We dismount for a hike down the road that splits the fenced-off derelicts and meet up with an area sourdough in the cab of his aging Chevy pickup.
“You mind if we walk down your road?” we asked. “Why, hell no!” he replies and then spends the next twenty minutes regaling us with the history of the area, adding, "Mine’s the place with the new roof to protect my stuff. I roofed the old jail, too.”
We suspect he crafted this cautionary sign as well.
Also out that way is the thriving little berg of Sumpter where the Sumpter Valley Railroad runs tourist trains and, this weekend, a hodgepodge group of Portland area motorcycle enthusiasts gathered to camp, enjoy the varied roads, eat, drink and dance because, as one participant put it, “the town’s too small to have much in the way of law enforcement. We do behave,” he added, “because we don’t want to get disinvited next year.”
In the clutch of motorcycles, I spot the spittin’ image of my old Moto Guzzi Breva and feel pangs of fond remembrance.
East of Baker City, we pause for a visit to the Oregon Trail Museum, a beautiful BLM facility perched atop rolling hills that typify the endless miles of arid west through which pioneers traveled 150 years ago.
Indoor and outdoor displays are captivating and deserve more time than we allowed.
A writer for Rider magazine, years ago offered that “the only thing better than a 500-mile day is two 250-mile days.” With so much to see and so many interesting people to meet, the 750-mile journey through eastern Oregon to Wallowa County divided into three days supported the writer’s point.
We could have enjoyed an entire week.
Next: A few days in the shadow of Chief Joseph…
Church of the Open Road Press