Another late post due to not being in an area with Internet access. We’ve been boondocking lately and loving it, even though our postings have been delayed.
After six weeks, we finally gave up on the rain in the Pacific Northwest. We enjoyed our time on Whidbey Island and the San Juans area. And we had a good time in Oregon, particularly Winchester Bay and Newport on the Coast. But, except for a few sunny days here and there, it was incessant rain. We made it as far as Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, but it was a drive-thru as we headed east to Longview, Washington and then down Interstate 5 to the Columbia River Gorge (I84) and eastward.
About 10 days ago, we pulled out of Baker City, Oregon after three wonderful days there at Mt. View RV Park. This photo shows the office and store reflective of the Oregon Trail. The other out buildings, including the indoor spa as well as the laundry, showers and bathrooms were decorated with Oregon pioneer facades as well.
This is a beautiful area of eastern Oregon known for at least two things. One is the fact that the Oregon Trail passed through this valley, a portion of which is still visible adjacent to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which is built high above on Flagstaff Hill just to the east of town.
The other thing that Baker City is known for is gold. In 1861, gold was discovered about 8 miles southwest of town. Some pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail to Oregon City, “the promised land”, near what is now Portland, found themselves retracing their steps back to the Baker City area due to the lure of gold. As a result, many residents of Baker City and Baker County are descendants of the Oregon Trail pioneers.
Prior to arriving in Baker City, we made an overnight Walmart stop in Pendleton, Oregon. Pendleton is the site of the Pendleton Roundup, one of America’s oldest Rodeos. What makes the “Roundup” unique is that from its very beginning, it brought American cowboys and bronco busters together with local native American tribal members in a form of competition and celebration.
While in Pendleton, we visited the Pendleton Woolen Mills, taking the tour. Pendleton Woolen Mills has existed since the 1800s, and although they have moved their famous wool shirt manufacturing overseas, their beautiful blankets are still made in Pendleton.
Even though this building was built in 1909, after the original factory burned down, Pendleton Woolen Mills has existed for about 120 years
One cannot appreciate the patterns and colors used in the production of Pendleton products without actually seeing them in person. During our tour the Pendleton tour guide emphasized how proud Pendleton was of it close relationship over many decades with Native Americans and the company’s inspiration from native patterns.
Actually seeing the different machines used to produce a single blanket, you cannot help but think how far we have come since the days of weaving wool on looms by hand. Even looms, in their day, were considered to be a marvel. Although this particular machine will produce an actual blanket in a day, the entire process from sheep to finished good takes about 3 months.
After leaving Pendleton, we continued on our journey that will eventually take us to Moab, Utah. We stayed on Interstate 84 heading south and east. As is typical of a lot of our modern roadways that have literally become paved versions of historic and significant trails, at least parts of I84 generally follow the Oregon Trail. After leaving Baker City, Oregon, we were essentially back tracking where the early pioneers had come from.
The Interstate crossed places like Burnt River and Three Island Crossing, significant elements of the trail. The latter is significant because after attempting crossings elsewhere along the Snake River with disasterous results, a place was eventually found where the river was somewhat tamed due to three islands located in the otherwise wide channel. This made for a much easier crossing in shallower and slower moving water. Today, Three Island Crossing is a state park.
We spent two nights “camping” in Walmart parking lots; one in Mountain Home, Idaho, and another in Ogden, Utah. We don’t always get the best sleep at Walmarts, but they are free and are good for re-supply missions.
From Ogden, we headed east over and through a couple of mountain ranges, and then climbing up onto the vast plateau that includes on its western edge, Evanston, Wyoming, We finally jumped off the interstate at Ft. Bridger, which has been restored and is now a Wyoming State Park. Ft. Bridger was an important crossing point of the Oregon Trail, the Morman Trail, the California Trail and the famed Pony Express.
Heading south from Ft. Bridger on Highway 43 is a challenge for a 36 foot motorhome pulling a 4,000 lb. Jeep. Our destination for the day was Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Not having been there previously, we really did not know what to expect, but we soon found out that to see the “gorge”, one has to climb…and climb…and climb. Had we done a little research beforehand, we would have known to unhook the Jeep and drive the two vehicles separately. But we didn’t. We’re still learning.
We also didn’t know what to expect regarding campgrounds. We HAD researched knowing that we would be at Flaming Gorge’s southern end and had identified two possibilities for camping there. One was Lucerne Valley Marina down on the water just outside of Manila, Utah. The other, more desirable location was up on top of Flaming Gorge at Canyon Rim Campground.
Even though we were traveling late in the year, we were not sure whether there would be space in this small campground, AND it was getting very late in the day, violating one of our rules about trying to stop early in the day when traveling. And even though Flaming Gorge itself is open year-round, not all the campgrounds remain open. We passed a couple as we entered the “park”, and they were closed.
We need not have worried. With about 30 minutes of daylight remaining, we pulled into Canyon Rim Campground and found that we were the only ones there…and it was open. Having the pick of any of the sites, we chose #16 because it was located next to a clearing in the forest with wide open views of the distant ridge line. Within a short walking distance from our site, we could walk to the rim in several spots overlooking a significant portion of Flaming Gorge. Imagine a slightly smaller version of the Grand Canyon except this one is somewhat filled with water as a result of the damming of the Green River. That is Flaming Gorge. And even though there is a lake, it is still several thousand feet below the rim. Pretty spectacular. And we had it all to ourselves with perfect clear blue sky weather. Our next post will focus on our time spent in the area of Flaming Gorge.