Sunday, October 10, 2010

Off the Beaten Path - Part 1

Every so often we like to explore, and perhaps take a turn off the highway and see where a road takes us. Sometimes it's by myself, in conjunction with a business trip somewhere in the Pacific Northwest...or anywhere for that matter. This time Beth and Frankie came with me when wanderlust struck, and we drove east on Interstate 84 towards The Dalles, then south on Highway 197 (or the "The Dalles California Highway" as it used to be called). The photo above is that highway as it climbs out of the Columbia River Gorge and into the central Oregon plateau, winding through wheatfields and orchards.

Along Highway 197 are numerous reminders of the past, such as this old overgrown cemetery. Many of the gravestones date before the 20th century...reminders of those who joined the Great Migration of the late 1800's and settled in this area. Mount Hood can be seen in the distance.

Wheatfields are not complete without the equipment necessary to harvest the grain, such as this combine parked in the middel of a field.
About a half hour south of The Dalles is a little community called Tygh Valley, where we turned eastward on Highway 216, or the Shearer's Bridge Road. I believe the name "Shearer's" came from the sheep that this area was noted for, in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century.

Shearer's Falls is one of the larger waterfalls on the Deschutes River, which eventually feeds into the Columbia and thus is part of the salmon's migratory path. It is also one of the last places where Native Americans can still dip their nets in the same manner as they have done for centuries. I sat here for hours, waiting to capture a salmon jumping into the falls...but alas I had the same luck capturing one on camera as I had with a rod and reel.

After Shearer's Falls we crossed the Deschutes River and continued east. The view is typical...sagebrush, weathered fenceposts, winding roads and high voltage transmission lines. Thousands of megawatts of power travel through these lines from the dams on the Columbia to the homes and businesses of Southern California.

Highway 216 then turned into a secondary road, which after a few apprehensive miles finally intercepted Highway 97, which happens to be a major north-south trucking route between Canada and Mexico. Along the way are small towns, some of which are abandoned like this gas station.

The pump above showed a price of 66 1/2 cents a gallon, so it has probably been some time since any fuel actually flowed through the hose. The station is in the town of Kent.

A little further south is the town of Shaniko, which was founded in the late 1800's as a center for wool harvest, production and shipping. Up to a few years ago it wasn't much more than a ghost town until the hotel (built in 1900) was restored and reopened. Unfortunately the hotel is now closed and for sale signs were seen in the windows. Above is the boardwalk on two sides of the hotel.

Buildings aren't the only old thing one finds at Shaniko. There were several old cars slowly rusting away while grass grows around and into them.

A small barn held several old horse-drawn wagons, though the dry environment has taken a toll on the wooden construction.

Shaniko barn and fire truck.

The old Shaniko Hotel, a grand lady of the region that still looks good despite her age. I'm sure the walls have some wonderful and interesting stories.

Daylight left us shortly after this stop, and we made our way back to Portland, via a delicious dinner at the Hood River Hotel...and regrettably had left my camera in the car at that point.

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