Deserts and Rivers: Day 9 of the Oregon Trails

Columbia River Gorge (click for slideshow)

Columbia River Gorge (click for slideshow)

I woke up in Bend and grabbed the continental breakfast at the hotel before scooting south to the Museum of the High Desert right after it opened for the day.  The outside featured exhibits and artwork, including some impressive dueling elk and a mare and foal constructed of barbed wire.

Inside, the first exhibit I saw was about quilts from the 1800s.  I’ve never been much of one for quilts, but I did like three on display that featured the mariner’s compass, oak leaf, and Whig rose designs.

The museum had dioramas and western town storefronts reminiscent of Oklahoma City’s Cowboy Hall of Fame.  I was almost grateful the banning of flash photography kept those pictures from coming out, as I would have wondered if they were taken in Oregon or Oklahoma, save for the Asian shop.

But the visit picked up when I joined a nature walk with an enthusiastic volunteer docent who was formerly a topographer for the defense department and moved to Bend from St. Louis in the past year.  Her presentation was pretty basic but charming.  I was grateful it was basic, since I made the mistake of telling her, in a conversation before the tour began, that I was certified to teach botany but couldn’t identify most plants.  She put me on the spot several times on the tour about botanical terms and the like, but I pulled off the hat trick and managed to dredge them up.  I barely passed the botany teaching certification test twenty years ago and I’ve never taught anything but physics, but my sap was up and I didn’t embarrass myself.  Well, at least not more than usual.

She made me smell various plants and showed me how to distinguish ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees.  And thankfully she set me straight on one common confusion – the monument has some chipmunks, but it also has golden-mantled ground squirrels that look just like chipmunks except they’re missing the stripes on their heads and are a tad larger.  Sure enough, those “chipmunks” I encountered yesterday at Lava Butte were in fact golden-mantled ground squirrels.  Now don’t you feel better knowing that?  I did.

The museum had an otter (asleep), a scorpion (hiding), lizards and fish (boring), and I was beginning to feel like I was at the Oklahoma City Zoo when it gets really hot and all of the animals flee to their houses and sleep out of sight.  But then I went to their live animal show where we saw a badger dig his way out of a sand pit, a porcupine slowly climb a model tree/bush, a red-tailed hawk and a barn owl.  That’s more like it!

A group of somewhat elderly musicians began performing in the museum lobby, and it frankly didn’t hurt that several toddlers were banging away at rattles and the like down front.  I think some of the musicians had their hearing aids turned off to preserve their dignity.  But it did lend a jovial atmosphere as the museum became more crowded with families.

I drove back into Bend, locating the trendy new Old Mill district.  New because all of the stores and restaurants were recently constructed.  Old because the site was once the location of some large sawmills along the Deschutes River.  I was envious of the folks I saw floating down the river in their tubes or even paddling upriver while standing on a kayak.  It would be great if we could do that on the Caney in Bartlesville.  And get a free mud bath while we’re at it.

I had a delicious Alaskan silver salmon with salad, rice pilaf, and vegetables at Anthony’s.  Only later did I realize that the restaurant is part of the same chain that has served me wonderful Copper River salmon up in Tacoma in the past.

Then I drove north, passing Mount Jefferson and winding my way down and then up out of the rugged Deschutes River valley.  I drove around the southeastern flank of Mount Hood to a viewpoint I had not visited in 2006, the Jonsrud in the town of Sandy.  I took a snapshot of the mountain and the Sandy River and then a close-up of Mount Hood since it blended somewhat with cloud and sky.

I was happy to discover the viewpoint was on a quiet cross-country road that I suspect was once one of the narrow old-time highways.  It led right to the historic Columbia River Highway, the wonderful road built in the 1910s along the south bank of the Columbia River Gorge and which I enjoyed back in 2006.  I knew I wanted to navigate that quiet, slow, delightful old road in lieu of Interstate 84 toward The Dalles.

This time I did not stop off to photograph the many waterfalls, but did take in several viewpoints I missed last time.  I found Women’s Forum Park provided a great long-distance shot of the Vista House and panorama of the Columbia.  I took the time to stop off at Vista House again and enjoy the, er, vista.

I exited the large surviving western part of the old Highway onto I-84, but this time I took a later turnoff onto the remaining eastern part (some of the Highway was destroyed to build I-84).  There I wound my way around at the Rowena viewpoint, which offered impressive views of the town of Lyle down below, the Columbia, and a plateau where an immense flood long ago scoured the northern side down to bedrock.

The old Highway led me straight down into The Dalles, where Yelp led me to the Baldwin Saloon downtown.  The exterior was nothing special, the booths looked a bit cheap, and the menu was pricey.  Ah, but my prime rib dinner was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and I loved how above my head up on a platform an elderly lady was playing old standards on a big old upright piano.  It was a great way to end the day.

Now I’ve spent a few hours posting all of this and today’s slideshow to the web from my Motel 6 room, and I need to hit the sack.  Tomorrow I dash back down the Columbia to Eagle Creek, which I did not visit in 2006.  There I’ll take a final hike, a 12-mile round-trip journey, before I drive back into Portland.

[Next post: Eagle Creek: Day 10 of the Oregon Trails]

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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2 Responses to Deserts and Rivers: Day 9 of the Oregon Trails

  1. Pingback: Oregon Trails 2009 Post Summary « MEADOR.ORG ~ The virtual world of Granger Meador

  2. Pingback: Lava Tubes, Cinder Cones, and Sisters: Day 8 of the Oregon Trails « MEADOR.ORG ~ The virtual world of Granger Meador

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