Posts Tagged With: Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail: Day 9 – America’s Birthday

What better way to start America Day than with coffee in your cup and bacon and eggs in your belly. 
After breakfast a snafu thwarted our plans of hanging around a pool and barbecuing all day long. Instead we did a little research (asked the neighbors), packed up the cars with beach food, drink, and floatation devices, and headed about 40 miles west of Yakima on Highway 12. We were looking for a place to cool ourselves from the sweltering triple digit heat of Yakima by planting ourselves on Rimrock Lake. Rimrock is notorious for having steep rocky slopes and limited swimming spots but the neighbors gave us some tips about where to go.
They must have shared the same advice with everybody else in the Yakima Valley because every nook and cranny of lake access was full. We continued to drive Tieton Rd around the lake and eventually found a forest service road that from the GPS looked like it could reach the lake. We put the Pathfinder in 4WD and headed down the road…but it got narrower, steeper, and more rutted as we went until it because impassible. We turned around defeated. 

As we got back to the main road and were just about to head back and give up I spotted another lake (and forrest service road) on the GPS just down the road a bit. We decided to give it a try and to our surprise found ourselves at a nearly deserted Clear Lake where we were able to escape the heat of Yakima (temperature was about 93 at 3000 feet of elevation) and the crowds.

We spent our afternoon swimming, grilling and eating hot dogs, and catching a little sun before headed back to Yakima to grill up dinner for Julie’s extended family.      

We spent our evening making ribs, corn on the cob, grilled asparagus, and potato salad. It was hot outside but with some sprinklers on we were able to cool it enough to enjoy Julie’s mother’s green thumbed yard and decorate for the occasion.


After dinner we did some had some safe and sane fun with glow sticks in lieu of sparklers in the front yard after sunset. 

 Happy Birthday America! USA! Nothing makes you appreciate your freedom more than another Great American Road Trip and the 4th of July is a fitting way to draw another adventure to a close.

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Oregon Trail: Day 8 – Land of Wine and Cherries

Walla Walla is only an hour from Pendleton. We had preselected a few wineries to go to (there are hundreds to choose from) but hoped the few we had selected wouldn’t entirely bore the girls.
The first was Amavi which we had selected randomly for the view. We knew nothing of their wines but really enjoyed their Syrah and Cab and bought a few bottles.   

The second was Sleight of Hand Cellars which we had chosen for its vinyl collection…thinking the girls could choose albums to play while we were there, and they did (Clara played The Head and the Heart). As well as their alternative/rock aesthetic as they profess to be “Punk Rock Wines for Punk Rock Minds”. 
We really enjoyed their wines, as well as their graphic labels and clever t-shirts (which we bought a few of – as well as a few bottles of wine).

 Last, on the way out of town was L’ecole #41 which is a winery we’ve enjoyed for years but never had an opportunity to visit. These are great wines although these small winemakers of Amavi and Sleight of Hand can certainly hold their own against them.

 For lunch we stopped in Walla Walla at a little place called Cugini Italian Import Foods based on the Yelp reviews we saw on it: 4.5 stars with hundreds of reviews. We had to check it out. We never would have found this place (located in a rural residential neighborhood) on our own. Nor would we have been likely to randomly pull in on our own as the exterior isn’t necessarily enticing. But the food (very slowly prepared – our lunch took 90 minutes) was as Clara put it “It tastes like Italy”. Tawny’s burrata with house salami and eggplant tapenade was moan inducing. My “Godfather” panini with soppressata was worth killing for. A cucumber and tomato salad tossed in their homemade pesto accompanied it. And each sandwich came with complementary spumoni afterwards. 
With our bellies full we drove on towards to meet our long time friend (and Clara’s Fairy Godmother) Julie in Prosser where her brother Jimmy is working at the Zirkle Fruit Company. He is currently processing and packing cherries and invited us to a tour of the packing plant. It was really fascinating to see all the engineering and care that is taken to get cherries from tree to table. 

I was surprised how many quality control stations there are repeatedly checking the size, firmness, and color of the cherries. These are premium cherries most of which are headed to markets in Korea, Australia, and Japan. 

At 109 degrees we drove on towards Yakima stopping briefly in Zillah, WA to see the famous Tea Pot gas station. And then noticed the Church of God building nearby. Its the Church of God, Zillah, WA. Get it?


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Oregon Trail: Day 7 – Pendleton Underground

It was a shorter drive from La Grande to Pendleton than anticipated so we rolled into the Wildhorse Casino and RV Resort well before check-in time. We had reserved this place on a lark, because they have a big cineplex and figured we could pawn the kids off on a movie and do a little gambling. We got a shady spot next to the cutest little custom trailer and set up our camp. 

After settling we headed into town to tour the famous and long lived Pendleton Woolen Mills Unfortunately we arrived just after their 11am tour started and the next tour wasn’t for a few hours. We decided to shop the store instead and found ourselves the new owners of an heirloom Pendleton wool blanket.   


We had made reservations for a one-o-clock tour of the Pendleton Underground which we had heard about when we were on the tour of Kam Wah Chung Cultural Heritage Site in John Day. But before the tour we stopped for a quick lunch at local brewery.

We arrived for our tour just a few minutes late and it was already underway. It was excruciatingly hot out – about 107 degrees. The tour highlighted about 70 years of history under the town of Pendleton, from card rooms, bars, and opium dens, to Chinese laundries, jails, butcher shops, and ice cream parlors. It also included a tour of one of Pendleton’s many brothels. Unfortunately much of the tour wasn’t air conditioned and while the history was interesting it was also painfully hot and a bit long (90 minutes). But by and large we learned a lot about the Pendleton Underground (much of it built by the Chinese who were unable to get work in the mines.

 The history of the brothels and the beloved Madam Stella Darby (who ran brothels in Pendelton from 1928-1967) was interesting. She ran what were called the Cozy Rooms which was a transitional and safer form of prostitution. The Madam also ran a regular brothel but as her girls wanted to get out of the business she’d transition them to the Cozy Rooms where they could still make money seeing clients but in a safer environment. She’d help to teach the girls in the after hours (basic education and business accumen) aand match them with husbands so they could leave the business.  There’s a bronze of her outside the building.


After the tour we headed to the Pendleton Aquatic Center which had a few water slides and pools where we could cool ourselves before heading back to the Wildhorse Casino RV Park to make dinner. Even after cooling ourselves down the camp site was registering 108 in the shade.

After dinner the girls did watch a movie (but in the trailer with the AC on) which allowed us to go lose some money at the casino and catch a funnier than expected comedy show before retiring for the night.

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Oregon Trail: Day 6 – Joseph and Wallowa

In hindsight we shouldn’t have taken a day trip to Joseph and Wallowa Lake from La Grande, we should have gone to the area to stay for a day or two. The drive in and around the area is beautiful.

We knew it would be a long day so we got an early start and stopped at the electic coffee shop – The Blue Banana of Losine, Oregon for a morning pick-me-up. 

 Before hitting the road again we stopped into a fastidiously organized antique store where you found yourself afraid to buy anything over concern of breaking up the collection. But we did find a McCoy vase there for our own collection.  


Around noon we pulled into Joseph, Oregon. This was once a logging town tucked into the Wallowa Moutains, that reinvented itself as an arts community and outfitter of the gateway to Hell’s Canyon. When many of the mills were closed in the 1980s the community rallied around a few bronze foundry’s where local artists have lined the streets with incredible bronze sculptures, the most impressive of which is the imposing statue of Chief Joseph who is buried nearby.   



  After wandering the street of town and having lunch at a local brewery we headed to the south end of Wallowa Lake to the Mt Howard Tramway which would carry us over 5000 feet above the valley below to 8100 feet with sweeping views of the Wallowa Mountains, Wallowa Lake, and to the East Hell’s Canyon.

There was plenty of wildlife in the area. A young buck crossed our trail. The chipmunks were irresistible, and the ground squirrels privately plentiful.  






  Even at 8100+ feet it was still hot. So we headed for a great swim in the lake below before visiting Chief Joseph’s gravesite and a quick visit to Stein Distillery and a tasting which resulted in a bottle of their  small batch  5 Year Straight Rye  Whiskey (which I’m enjoying as I post this) — Winner of the 2015 San Francisco  World Spirits Competition (Double Gold). Then we made the long drive back to La Grande where we took in Disney/Pixar’s latest film – Inside Out. Review? Loved it!


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Oregon Trail: Day 5 – Finding Pilcher Creek Resevoir

We didn’t have far to drive with the trailer today so took a leisurly morning of blueberry pancakes before hitting the road. We drove up highway 30 through Haines in search of Pilcher Creek Resevoir. We had come across mention of it on but the instructions for finding it were vague. Today was cooler (95 degrees) but a dip in cool mountain lake still sounded refreshing.

In Haines we decided to follow Anthony Lakes Road (Elkhorn Scenic Byway) towards the mountains where we believed the resevoir to be. The road was a pastoral beauty of gentle curves across a lush green valley full of happy cows and derelict barns. But was we started to assend into the forest it didn’t seem we were on the right track. We had to travel some distance before we could find a place to turn ourselves around.

We doubled back towards North Powder and on the way spotted a sign for Pilcher Creek Rd.  We followed a quilted patchwork of an old reassembled road for a few miles until it turned to gravel. It brought back memories of hauling our trailer up to the ghost town of Bourne a few days back. As the road wore on we became disillusioned – where was this lake? Nothing showed on the GPS. There was no cell service and finally the road had Dead End sign ahead. We had given up and were looking for a place to turn ourselves and the trailer around when a car came up through a thicket covered side road. I flagged them down and asked some young teens if they knew where the lake was. “That’s where we’re headed” said the passenger. “Your are welcome to follow us”. They assured us if we took the thicket covered side road down a steep embankment there’d be a place for us to turn around. 

They were correct. We found a grassy field at the bottom of the hill and were able to turn ourselves and double back yet again following the crumbs of dust left behind by the teens speeding along the gravel road. 

A few more miles of turns an twists on back roads (we never would have found this place on our own) and we found ourself at a near deserted resevoir where we swam and had a picnic lunch. 

     The lake was a perfect temperature. And the scenery, nestled in the mountains was breathtaking.  We  had a little wildlife entertainment as well – saving a dragon fly from drowning and watching an osprey being scolded by birds half his size. 



After lunch we headed towards La Grande. The gravel road at the top of hill giving a stunning view of the valey below, a view these happy cows enjoyed daily..


We made our way to Eagle Hot Lake RV Park between Union and La Grande. There’s a hot spring here so the air had a faint sulfur smell when the wind blew just right. Butted up against a hill on one side and a wetland on the other the spot is going to be lovely in a few years when the trees they’ve planted grow enough to provide shade. Although it was 5-10 degrees cooler today than in previous days there was no cloud cover or shade to be had at our campsite.

We decided to head to town for dinner instead of trying to cook and eat outside in this heat. We found an old school steakhouse called Ten Depot where we had a nice dinner of Eastern Oregon Beef. 

We returned to our site just as the sun was setting and had time to walk out into the marshland preserve to watch it set as the full moon rose over the hill behind our camper and the watched Venus and Jupiter form a “superstar” in the night sky. Unfortunately the marshland nearby made the mosquitos quite unbearable to be outside so we retired early and tended to our bites before bed.


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