From Pre-history to the Oregon Trail

We departed the fossil and prehistoric era and having explored some Gold Rush times with the Kam Wah Chang Museum. All along much of our route, we had been following the Oregon Trail and reading some of the historical markers. So, we chose to cross I-84 and follow SR 86 to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. SR 86 is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.

The center sits up on a rise and from 86 one can see a rough circle of covered wagons. A really big facility the lobby opens right on to the Oregon Trail. As we walked past two ‘men’ with a mud stuck cart, a covered wagon with a family walking beside it on our right and Native Americans looking over the wagon train. Are those things called dioramas? Well, these were life sized and realistic. Traveling in these primitive homes on wheels did not look like fun at all! Children walked barefoot over the grasses and rocks, women had shoes infrequently and most of the men had boots on.

BLM Flickr Photo Site

The wagons themselves – Praire Schooners – were small and could be made water tight. They shouldn’t be confused with Conestoga wagons – the Semi tractor trailers of their day, often pulled by huge teams of oxen or mules and used for transporting freight.

The trail winds through different conditions: there is a display of a night scene that changed with the direction of the ‘firelight’; hanging from the ceilings were snippets from the many diaries women kept of their journey; a scene portrayed deaths along the trail and the shallow graves quickly dug as the travelers moved on; even a wagon we could look into to see the belongings considered essential. At a certain point along the trail people began getting rid of their treasures as feed and water ran low and their animals reached exhaustion; chests, spinning wheels, barrels…


Researchers debunked some of the myths perpetuated by Hollywood about the Oregon Trail and it’s travelers. A fan of western movies as a child, I was surprised to learn that attacks by Native Americans were rare and that many people died of disease (cholera), lack of water or starvation. Between 20 and 30,000 people took to the trail and as many as 1 in 10 died before reaching Oregon. Another myth was that there was one Oregon Trail route – there were several choices people had to make as they encountered rivers, rocky outcroppings and other challenges. How about this? We might picture all the wagons rolling along in each other’s tracks – in reality most of the time, the wagons spread out and came together only when necessary.

Not many miles away from the more populated trails, were the Mormon travelers. Due to discrimination and persecution they kept to their own trail and chose their own route – though it often mirrored the Oregon Trail.

Great experience – one of the trails they offer let us walk right in some wagon ruts (damaged by disrespectful people stepping on their edges, btw).

We moved on that day and made time to Boise, ID. We camped at Hi Valley RV Park, a very large commercial park. For RVer readers who decide to stop in there WARNING! their driveway has a huge curb cut for drainage and your vehicle/s will drop down and pop out of a gully! It was a peasant enough stay, however.

In Boise we made our way to the World Center for Birds of Prey. Run by the Peregrine Fund, this small Center offers an exhibit of Condors and some very unusual other birds of prey. We observed the birds indoors and went out to a small amphitheater to watch the professionals fly some of the birds. They flew right over our heads, landed on posts near the watchers and generally performed some acrobatics – considering what species they were. First up was a Great Horned Owl. This bird was massive – almost 2 feet tall! He made a majestic sight as he silently glided overhead. We watched the Aplomado Falcon, Harrises Hawk and an American Kestrel.

World Center for Birds of Prey

We recommend the center for birders and raptor banders and lovers – everyone in the crowd was enchanted – so it’s worth a stop.

Of course, we got a bunch of shopping taken care of – walmart manages to stock just enough RV supplies that that we walked in and out with TP and tank enzymes. I do have to say, that walmart was the most surreal of any we’ve been in! We try to shop local stores with large Organic produce and product supplies – even the occasional farmers market works out.

The weather was rapidly changing and the mercury was dropping! We decided to head over to Bellevue, ID to see my friend, Nan Riley. It has been a long time since we were in fourth grade together!





Going back in time… way back

I have a confession. My grandpa Tom took my sister, Diana, and me to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA in 1956, 57, 58, 59… I’ve returned there many times and gone to Orlando. You have to know, I was 6 the first time I went to Disneyland. The experience left an indelible mark on me; particularly the Frontierland Railroad. There were rocks of all colors above and around the train, sometimes they were hoodoos and sometimes the top rock wobbled around as we went under it. The train went through a canyon and there was an old mine tunnel.

Well, we’ve been traveling through the very country that might have inspired the artists and creatives who helped Walt Disney imagine that train ride. I haven’t seen any wobbling rocks above the RV but darn near everything else Disney threw at me, I have seen and gawped at over in the last couple of weeks.

Cove Palisades was the first of several gorges we would encounter and we were impressed by it’s walls that towered hundreds of feet above the lake. But…

We took off down Hwy 26 – a short drive to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Painted Hills Unit where we parked the RV, ate lunch, unhooked the car and drove up to the Painted Hills. While we were at the little Visitors Center, Barb was able to help some folks from Holland diagnose the problem they had with their rental RV slide (fuse). She didn’t have the fix, but told them they could switch fuses until they could get to an auto parts store. Go Techie!


It would be hard to describe the colors of the low hills to you, luckily we got a lot of photos. The rock was porous, mounded in bands of color and seemed terribly vulnerable to a good rain storm. Colors ranged from rusty (Iron oxide) red to lavender. It was almost too colorful to be real. We hiked several of the trails and made our way back to hook up and try for a campsite down the road.

And… landed at Clyde Holliday State Park on the John Day River. This is a small campground – 35 sites or so; first come first served. We pulled in at about 3:45 and by 5 it was full. They had overflow parking (built in anticipation of the eclipse) and almost every night those side by side parking spaces had a few rigs stay over (think truck stop style). Clyde Holliday is a really pretty park with a long walking trail along the water. But mostly it’s a great place to jump from to have more of the fossil and museum experience!

First order of business for the next day was to go to the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and the incredible museum there. These are fossil beds, not the land of dinosaurs. Archeologists and geologists have found thousands of mammal specimens. You walk through depictions of the various geologic ages and specimens are used to give structure to the animals of each age. They did talk some about how forensic paleontologists fill in the creature from bits of bone, a burning question you will have to go there to get answered!

Let me give you some teasers: The Haystack Valley Assemblage (Asmb), Turtle Cove Asmb, Kimberly Asmb, Clarno Nut Beds and more! Each of these are an era millions of years ago. You must go to this strange and wonderful place.


We also took the really nice Blue Basin trail. It was a 1.5 mi trail up into a Blue Basin (really blue, really). It took us about 4 hours because you-know-who was birding and photographing the birds. I decided I never need fear getting tired hiking with Barb, I usually end up spending a fair amount of time standing around or leaning on a rock. Great easy walk and some good birds but the blue rock stole the show.

Next day we went into John Day to check out the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site. This place is a treasure and quite a story. In the 1880’s two Chinese immigrants bought an old building – perhaps it was once a trading post, this is the Oregon Trail after all.

Their names were Ing Hay and Lung On. They converted it into a very successful business; not only a store for both the Chinese and White communities but an apothecary. Ing Hay was a talented healer who used the science of pulses and his deep knowledge of and collection of Chinese herbs. He was known as Doc Hay and healed both the Chinese and White folks within almost 50 miles. Lung On was a canny businessman who became a Mason, opened the first car dealership in the area, read and wrote letters for the Chinese community (before the gold rush became a waddle). Lung On died in 1940 and was given a Masons funeral.

This is the cool thing. The place was closed up by Doc Hay and his nephew in 1948 after he broke his hip and had to go to Portland to get healed (where he died, ahem, in 1952). Both men are buried in John Day.

Sometime in the 1960’s the building was set to be razed. A member of the historical society was there and suggested they just open the door to see what’s inside. The place was virtually untouched from the time Doc Hay sealed it shut. Some small damage from kids seeking firecrackers and from time took some restoration and the place is now set up as it was when Doc Hay left it behind. It includes the over 500 herbs and many documents, books and writings that preceded the Cultural Revolution. Chinese scholars have examined the contents of the museum and pronounced it the most complete and intact place of it’s kind in the world & they’re still trying to figure out what all the herbs are!

I am including some pictures, but please, if you get a chance, try to get out Hwy 26 to go to the Interpretive Center and Museum. It’s worth every second you will spend there and some. Ranger led tours start at the top of the hour.

It’s been too long!

We left you when we headed north to Oakland, CA. Then we got lost in a time warp that lasted until the 24th of Sept! Whoa! That’s some time warp.

Oakland: We worked, played and visited friends, Susan and Robin our chosen family. WE saw Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor!!!! Went to a play, great food was consumed and basked in the love and joy of being with together and having adult conversations (me). We stayed at Anthony Chabot Regional Park – amazing park with few hook-ups and a two week limit. It sits on kind of a ridge above Lake Chabot and the Bay (they have turkeys). Really pretty spot the tree pics are of a tree on the narrow road up from Oakland, I fell in love with this tree. And if I need dental work in the future, I know where to go in Berkeley! We also had an amazing day out at the beach and dinner at Sir and Star out in Olema. Tough to enjoy the food though… we talked Workspace Business the whole time.


Humboldt County: Visited favorite old places in Eureka and Arcata. Boy, time has done Eureka no favors – at least until you get to old town. We ate at Humboldt Bay Provisions and were welcomed by the amazing Charity Frietas who also manages both the Provisions and the Humboldt Bay Social Club Lobby Bar over on Samoa, a place that welcomes all LGBTQ and friends for good fun and family inclusion. Samoa on the other hand is thriving, as you can see. Arcata seemed little changed but for being more hip and less hippy. If you need to receive an important document, have it printed, notarized, scanned back to the sender you can do no wrong by showing up at PostHaste at 600 F Street in Arcata. These folks do it all and the shop has a very cool vibe (read hippy, from this hippy-chick’s point of view).

We stayed at Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park (see photo out front window of the RV – we snuggled up to a redwood tree that was almost as wide as the RV!) Do not plan to go here if your rig is over 28’ – the park roads are thin and wiggly and the spaces small. They have terrific trails on the other side of the creek. You walk up through old forest – not first growth, there’s not much of that around anymore.

North-ing toward Portland. We chose to continue up 101. A word here: LANDSLIDES! These guys took a chunky hunk of a lane of roadway off down steep cliffs. There were a bunch of super nerve-less folks repairing said voids in the hiway, to our gratitude and admiration. There are not just a few, there are gobs of these things all up into Oregon as well. If you drive it… be prepared for some waits and watch for bicycles, for crying out loud.

Leaving California on good OLD 101, we passed all those corny places our parents took us to and we may have taken our kids. You know… Paul Bunyan’s statue at the Trees of Mystery, Mystery Hill, etc.

Oregon: We camped with the super-friendly folks at Harris Beach State Park, just over the border in Oregon. Walking the boulder strewn beach, watching dogs dive into the surf for sticks, birding Bird Rock, just off shore, were treats of the days we spent there. Also, sunshine. It was warm & salt breezy in the days and cool at night. Great sites with plenty of vegetal fence between them. Some were on the bluffs overlooking the sea. We were a tad jealous, but so happy to be beaching that we quickly recovered.

We met some amazing folks who volunteer with the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife at Harris Beach. Keith and Brenda told us all about their jobs and helped us spot some great birds. They were kind enough to put us in contact with folks who would train and set us up as volunteers – the best job on the planet: talking to people about birds and showing off the scenery.

Then on the way up the coast to our next stop, we took a side road to Shore Acres SP (as recommended by Brenda and Keith) to meet other Fish and Wildlife Volunteers who shared the rocky ‘bay’ that is home to four species of seal and sea lion; Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals, Stellar Sea Lions and the California Sea Lion. This is the only place folks can see all of these wonderful animals. Easily spotted Elephant Seals were gigantic – 5000 lb-ish lolling on the beach and floating belly up in the water. The Stellar Sea Lions are gorgeous red-gold colors and weighing in at around 2000 lb. are only smaller than Walrus and Elephant Seals, unfortunately these beautiful creatures are declining rapidly. All four species were swimming, laying around on the rocks, playing with each other, hanging out on the beach and generally providing entertainment for those of us up on the cliffs who had binoculars. Great Spot! On the way there… on the same detour… was a gorgeous Botanical Garden! We took a quick tour to see the mums and the Japanese Garden.

Next stop was a wild ride past more landslides up to Jessie M. Honeyman SP, before Florence and after Dunes City. Yes, dunes. Miles and miles of sand dunes that are used by ATV folk on their wild rides. Honeyman SP isn’t right on the sea – it’s behind a wide swath of dunes. We took Rudy, the cat, for a walk up into the dunes and he was not impressed at all with the biggest cat potty in his universe. He just wanted to go back to his camp spot where there was an 8 year old boy who reminded him of Max, our neighbor in Daphne. This park is deep in forest and the sites are lovely. There was a large contingent of folks who were trailering from antique to modern Ford Bronco’s. Tricked out and tidied up they were so much fun to see.

From Florence we headed inland and up to Portland. We parked at our son Morgan’ s place and settled in for a great visit with Sarah, his wife, and Sylus Jack and Ryder True – our grandsons.

We took Sylus camping at nearby Champoeg SP (pronounced shampoo-ey). There was once a town there but it was swiped off the face of the planet by an epic flood in 1861. In it’s day Champoeg rivaled Portland as a transportation and business hub on the Willamet River. This park had miles of bike trails and great playgrounds so we had a blast there. Sylus can sure ride his bike! He’s only six and managed an almost 5 mile ride over hill and dale to a nearby town where we visited the store cum museum.

Fires. Portland was awash in ash and smoke for days. Fires at Eagle Creek and up the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge fire was started by a bunch of teenagers who thought it was hilarious (for one of them) to toss fireworks off a cliff into the dry brush and forest below. A horrible, horrible choice for which I hope these young people bear a consequence as severe as the fire they set – they need to spend years cleaning up the damage and replanting. I’m stepping off my soap box now.

Most of our time was spent in everyday tasks and enjoying the family and their friends. We all got invited by Sarah’s friend Sarah Van de Pas to her folks place to watch the eclipse. We were there three days with a whole group of great folks. On The Day, we walked a couple blocks to a community park, plopped down our chairs and watched the eclipse with the community – no more than 30 people or so. The predicted traffic never materialized, there were no crazy people on the road – in fact, there weren’t many folks on the roads at all. It was calm, cool (when it went dark it did get cold) and collective.

There was the Great Cod Taco Event, The Ash-Fall-Looks-like-Snow Week or so, The Choking Smoke Time, Baseball with Sylus, Park Times.


And then Diana, my sister came & we had lots of fun. We took Sylus to Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. This is the home of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. We went up on the flight deck and sat in the cockpit. I didn’t hear the guide say “No Touching” I touched, Diana fake touched and Sylus was a perfect gent!

When our down-the- street neighbor Myra texted us that folks were missing us, my friend Max texted using his mom’s phone “When are you coming back?” and my friend Nan from over Boise way needed dates for our visit to her, we realized it was time to hit the road again. It was so hard to leave our loving family and their sweet dog Izzy.

And, the day before we left, our granddaughter was born! Verona Trew Calhoun joined us air breathers at 7 # 3 oz and 21.5” tall. She is so pretty! Mama Erin and Daddy Gabe are completely over the moon with their creation. So… that added another incentive to invoke our parting from Sylus, Ryder, Sarah & Morgan and Sarah’s mom Lynda.

We did it though. Yesterday we made our way south east around Mt. Hood and down Hwy 26 to Cove Palisades SP. After being in the city for a good while, this trip was like driving through a painting all done in greens and golds.

Here in the park it is so silent Barb says her ears ache. We’re camped on a high desert butte. The other campground in the park is about 5 miles down a steep road, across a narrow bridge with a tight-turn approach, and onto an island in Lake Billy Chinook. The steep part is a carving into the Palisade – a 10-12 million year old gorge “The Deschutes Formation”. Exposed layers of rimrock basalt over tall square looking formations that stand like columns or dance curving in linear washes up from the water. Hundreds of feet high, the cliffs are topped by flat butte with pines and juniper trees, sage brush and desert flowers. There is an island “embraced by the arms of the Crooked River and Deschutes River of Lake Billy Chinook” [wiki said it best]. We went over to see a petryglyph and to hike awhile. They’re closing the upper campground to fix broken water mains and I imagine that winter will close the lower campground at some point here. Over the rim – from the top – we took this shot of perhaps, Mt. Jefferson? Do you see the Indian’s head? Loved the petroglyph we hiked to see as well. Just an amazing place!