Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015-26 Hood River to Bend to Prairie Oregon


near John Day Oregon

Bend Oregon
Mitchell Oregon
John Day Oregon
Prairie Oregon

Campground:  River Rim Rv, Crooked River Ranch Or.  $15.50 PPA rate.  Full hookups, 50amp.  2 night max stay with Passport America.  Regular rate $25.  Basic park, nothing fancy. Sites are close together and appear haphazard at first glance.

Campground:  Depot Rv park, Prairie Oregon.  $18.00.   30amp full hookups.  Nice City park, mostly pull-thru sites with grass and some trees between sites.  Picnic tables.  No over-the-air TV.  Excellent Verizon 4G signal.

The sun is finally back out again.  The air is fresh and crisp.  The constant sounds of traffic on busy hwy 86 and continuous rumble of trains going by add to the feeling that I need to get out there too.  So my last day along the Columbia Gorge included a nice hike along a section of the historic Columbia River Highway.  Much of it is closed to vehicle traffic with the newer and modern hwy 86 taking it’s place.  Fortunately for hikers and sightseers, many of the old sections of the highway have been restored for walking and biking.  I took a section from Viento State Park to Starvation Creek.  It’s completely paved making for a very pleasant walk.  Having lived in flat Florida for so many years I also appreciated that the trail even though going up a hill and down the other side it was the gentlest of inclines being only around a 2% gradual grade.  By my estimate anyway.  Imagining what it must have been like to travel this narrow highway back in the 1913-22 when it was first completed.  It was planned as the first scenic highway in the U.S.  Though they say it was a two lane road, I can only imagine the need to pull off as oncoming Model T’s tried to pass on by.  The old road is higher up on the steep sloping gorge as it winds it’s way above the river.  And would often go through tunnels carved through the mountains.
Starvation creek trail, on the original 1st scenic highway in the U.S.

At Starvation Creek I was able to see a waterfalls and read about the history of the area.  Seems that back in December 1884, just before Christmas, the train got stuck here, running into a 25 foot snow drift.  When word got out to civilization, locals came to the rescue on foot and on skis, bring food and provisions.  Remembering back then the only route along the Columbia River was the railroad, there was no road at that time.  Passengers were paid $3 a day to shovel snow.  Three weeks later, they finally arrived in Portland.  A tired and weary group of passengers that would not soon forget the Christmas of 1884.  And though the area is called Starvation Creek, no passengers starved to death.

view of Columbia River from Starvation Creek

the train back in 1884

Distance Traveled:  125 miles

Mount Hood

and what's around the bend.... Bend Oregon

one of three bridges over Crooked River

Since I arrived in the Redmond and Bend Oregon area, I thought I would have a bit more time to explore the area.  As it turns out, the campground I’m staying at only permits PPA discount campers 2 nights.  I’ve checked on other campgrounds in the area and most are in the $38-$49 range.  I did find a couple other PPA campgrounds south of Bend, but one added an 8% tax plus an additional $3-5.00 “service fee”.  Bringing the cost up quite a bit.  Oh well.

Checked out the visitor center in Bend.  Not much help.  Told her, I’m interested in just about what ever you have in the area which apparently was too general for her and she was unable to come up with much of anything.  Guess I’ll have to start making a list of things I’m interested in to help them figure things out.

Bend Oregon

from top of a mountain in Bend Oregon

The Old Mill section of town

with restaurants and shops

a walking bridge leading to both side of the river

new homes/condo's going up along the riverfront

walking tunnel to the Old Mill section of Bend Oregon

I did try to check out the closest water falls, but it was closed… due to road repairs.  In Bend I drove up to their scenic overlook mountains right in town… surprised to see so many hikers, hiking up the circular road to the top.  Then it was back into town to explore a nice water front biking and walking trail down near the Old Mill District.  Once a booming logging and lumber area.  The original building that housed the power plant and it’s three tall smoke stacks remains at the center of this “new” shopping and dining area.  Also saw lots of new attached homes/condos being built along the river front.  Bend has a population of about 80,000 and appears to be a thriving community.  Kayakers and stand on top surf board paddlers on the river.

Distance Traveled:  153 miles
Prairie Oregon

Well goodness, I’ve been cussed out twice today.  The first was as I headed on out this morning with the camper in tow.  My GPS took me on a couple of very rural roads, through nice irrigated farm lands with wonderful outcroppings of lava Rock formations and behind them rounded mountains.  The road was pretty narrow with no shoulders to speak of and very quick drop offs, so I was careful not to get off the pavement.  Going only the speed limit and perhaps a bit slower around some curves, a small older white car, all four cylinders revved up as it passed me.  The guy gave me the middle finger salute a couple of times.  Rather aggressively I might add.  Yikkes.

Then when I checked my messages on my phone later on, I had a rude message from the last place I camped at.  Asking why I put my trash bag at the entrance to their park?  Well, obviously I couldn’t find their dumpster.  The gal also informed me that trash cans were lined up along the park office wall.  Hmmm, I never saw them obviously or I would have used one of them.  A couple messages later, yes, she sent more than one…. Her last missive said “hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back again.  We will put up a sign indicating where the trash cans are located”… Ohhkayyyyy.
Mitchell Oregon, pop. 90

the general store, built in the 1880's

Oh well, I’ve noticed that over the past couple of days, some folks on the eastern side of the mountain range here in Oregon are not a happy bunch.  Along my travel route today I stopped in the small town of Mitchell.  They had a massive forest fire along hwy 26 which was closed down for several weeks.  Two older women were having coffee in the general store and were complaining about the Forest Rangers, the firefighters and just about anyone else that had a connection to the government.  Seems one families house burnt down in last years fires and the county would not permit them to rebuild on their land.  The Forest Rangers have put restrictions on who can help in putting out a forest fire.  The store clerk said years ago when the forests were thinned out by the lumber companies, if a fire started, they would stop work and take all their heavy equipment to the fire locations and put out the fire themselves along with help from the locals.  Now the forests are left to grow wild with lots of underbrush creating more fuel for lightning fires and such.  No logging is done in the area anymore.

Prairie Oregon, Pop. 900
across from the Depot campsite

In Prairie, people have farm animals in town, pretty cool

I’ve arrived in Prairie Oregon on the edge of the high desert.  Up until a week or so back they were covered in black smoke coming from nearby fires.  The firemen were able to stop the fires from reaching town and pretty much put out the fires.  This is one very grateful town.  It’s hunting season and along with the absence of hunters and tourists, this town has had two years of bad luck.  I did see a few hunters in town having lunch.  Deer season just ended and Elk hunting is under way but the fires have slowed down most of the hunting season here.  The next couple days should be interesting with temperatures going from 95-98 during the day down to 41 at night before moderating by Sunday.

John Day Oregon
Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage site

John Day, another small town with less than 2,000 population.  The downtown is active with most all of the shops occupied.  No empty store fronts here.  I ate at the Squeeze-In Café for breakfast where the waitress has a booming voice and talks to the whole room at once.  What fun.  And then I headed onto the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage site.  What a gem of a historical site.  The building that has been preserved was the home to Doc Hay and Lung On who migrated from China and ended up here during the gold rush years of the 1840’s.  A large Chinese population moved in, taking over spent out gold claims trying to make a buck.  Doc Hay started an medicinal herbal practice, first serving only the Chinese community, but eventually serving the white population after being accepted by them in the early 1900’s.  Lung On was the entrepreneur,  running a general store catering to the Chinese workers, mainly men, as there were U.S. Government laws prohibiting females and children entry to the U.S.  They both became prosperous and respected men of the community.  The store and home to both men is called Kam Wah Chung was almost by accident preserved.  After Lung On died, a well respected man of the community having started the first auto dealership east of the Cascades.  Doc Hay survived another 10 years before breaking a hip and went to a nursing home for rehabilitation in 1948 in Portland.  Everyone expected him to return and his place was locked up… he died in 1952 and no one entered the premises until nearly 30 years later.  The City of John Day was building a new park and activities center in the vicinity of the old shop.  They wondered who owned the building and eventually discovered they did.  Dah.  After opening it up, they realized that it contained a wealth of historical information and eventually turned it over to the State of Oregon for an historical park.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage site
the interior untouched for over 30 years

everything in it's original location

the large herb collection used to treat patients

Being able to tour the building where it has basically been untouched (since 1948), I’m able to walk back in time and experience an authentic piece of Americana.  Of Chinese immigrants making it against many hardships, including having their first settlement in the area burned down.  Moving on, persevering, and finally being accepted by the community.  What an educational experience in life’s twists and turns.  What a story, what an experience.  One I will not soon forget.

the store in the back of the building, with a Chinese Shrine

tobacco and whiskey were big sellers

The Doctor's writing desk

I met my neighbors here at the campground.  They are refugees from the fires in the nearby mountains.  Their home survived but has water damage and the dropping of the red fire retardant on their home.  Their neighbors home did not survive and much of the surrounding forest is now a charred burned out forest.  They feel fortunate that their home is still standing.  In the meantime they are staying in their older motor home with three small/medium sized dogs and two cats.  The wife said they knew living in the forest could result in fires and have been preparing for such an event for quite some time.  Their diligence has paid off.

Prairie Oregon

smoke from the forest fires
lots more photos on PICASA

so much more to explore in the area, haven't even touched on the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument... oh well, next time.....

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