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Trail Tender – Oregon!

August 31, 2013

Oregon – Wednesday, August 21

I had stayed in Ontario last night, just over the border from Idaho. It was dark when I arrived, so Tula and I did a little walking around town first thing in the morning to stretch our legs. This part of Oregon is very dry and sagebrushy. Then I wanted to start heading north toward the Columbia River, and along the way we stopped in Baker City. Baker City was another one of the gold rush towns in the area, and its valley also became home to some of the pioneers from the Oregon Trail, who were finally able to see what Oregon had to offer. Tula and I walked all through town, and one of the shops had a big Salvation Army “Back to School” supply drive collection bin in its front window, which caught my eye. Even though I’ve recently done several school supply donations, this is the time of year for it, and I’ve always liked shopping for school supplies! I went inside the store and asked what sorts of things they night need, and they gave me a list. I found the local dollar store and stocked up on pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, glue, scissors, erasers, pencil cases, felt-tip markers, and Kleenex. Then I took the bags back to the shop and put them in the bin. I’ve also walked by a number of old Sears and JCPenney department stores in these smaller towns- I’ve become so used to seeing them in malls that it’s easy to forget they were very popular stand-alone department stores before the days of malls. Lot of them are still in interesting old buildings.

My next stop for the day was a little outside of town at the Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center – I’ve seen so much of the Oregon Trail route that I need to learn a little bit about the end of the line. There was a wonderful visitor center with displays, exhibits and dioramas, and then I set off for a 5+ mile walk in the heat down to some wagon trail ruts, which were some of the best trail remnants I’ve seen yet. Over time the remaining trails have turned into little ravines – after thousands of iron rimmed wheels cut their paths in the land, Mother Nature has further deepened the ruts over time, making them seem deeper than they were originally. For me, it was amazing to walk down the side of the dry mountainside, and watch the flat, fertile, green valley open up, knowing I was seeing the same things pioneers were seeing 150 years ago. What a sight it must have been to the exhausted travelers! Some stayed right in the valley – and some continued a little farther into Oregon, but they had to deal either with another mountain range or the Columbia River before they could finally call a place home. I loved my visit there, and I wanted to make a donation – I’ve learned so much Oregon Trail history on my journey. I became a “Trail Tender” – the donation goes toward helping to take care of the remaining trails and education about the pioneers. I was really happy I stopped there. I got Tula out for a walk around the covered wagon area, and then we moved on.

We made our way up to the town of La Grande, and arrived just as a Wednesday evening farmer’s market was closing up, but I was able to buy a bag of kettle corn at a reduced price – I love fresh kettle corn! Then Tula and I walked another mile and a half in town, along a river and in a neighborhood and park. While we were walking through a neighborhood, I watched 2 deer (although they kind of looked like reindeer with the big velvety antlers) jump a fence right into someone’s back yards and lay down on the grass like some kind of pet! We walked until dusk and then called it a day.

So far I’ve discovered a couple things that are different about Oregon than most other states – they have no self-service gas stations (New Jersey is the only other state like that), and there is no sales tax on anything, which was kind of a nice surprise!


































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