Canada 15, 13th July 2006

I forgot a photo. The area around the viewpoint over Hell's Canyon was smothered with wild flowers.

Below is part of the original Oregon Trail. Modern day vehicles leave 2 parallel ruts. But on these pioneer trails the animals - oxen, mules, horses, or a mixture of all three - that were pulling the wagons flattened the ground too, so they left a shallow flat bottom trench, the width of the wagon wheels.

Most of the pioneers passed here in August or September. They couldn't leave earlier than May, the ground was too wet, and if they left much later they had the winter at the end of the trip. At around 20,000 people per year, say 5,000 wagons, there would be more than 100 wagons per day at peak periods. That's one every 10 minutes or so, although they would generally travel in groups. Oh, to remark on a myth. Unlike may films we have seen, the groups put their wagons in a circle each night to corral their animals not to protect against the Indians, who were generally friendly, and willing to trade. And the Indian's prices were much more reasonable than the prices charged for supplies at the forts along the way. I read one piece of information which quoted a researcher saying that he had not been able to find even one account where Indians had circled a wagon circle. He said they were much too intelligent to do a stupid thing like that!

There's a museum in Baker City. And what a museum! There are exhibits of almost everything you could imagine, arranged exquisitely

There is display after display like the one above, and then again, displays not all like that one.

There are mountain cats leaping on deer, there is fire equipment, there is agricultural stuff. I just can't name it all. There is a rock and minerals collection, they say to rival any in the USA, the Smithsonian offered $500,000 for it years ago. I was there almost 4 hours. In my travels I have seen lots and lots of small town museums but I have to give Baker City the top. Its the best I've seen. If you are in the area, go.

After Baker City there was more water.

Plus a lake.

At Sumpter there was a dredge. It floats on a pond of it's own creation, digging out material which it then sorts in a search for gold and spews out the unwanted material at the back (left on the picture) as tailings. It loads 25 buckets a minute, each bucket holding a ton of earth, swinging itself left and right on cables attached to the ground in front, gradually getting deeper until it reaches bedrock, then it hauls itself forward about 10 ft and starts again. 3,000 gallons of water a minute were needed to wash out the gold. The whole of the bottom of the valley here is filled with piles of gravel, what earth that was on top is now on the bottom, the stones that were on the bottom are now on top. Little grows, a few trees are there, there are ponds in the tailings which are beneficial to some wild life but that's about it.

I checked email and some company walked past.

I found a small road in the national forest and parked for the night.

Next day started with woods.

Then mountains.

I went to a museum at Prairie City. Another Oh Wow! I'm going to have to categorise my best museum stakes. Baker City museum was better, but Baker City has 10,000 inhabitants. Prairie City has 1,000 inhabitants. For a real small town museum the DeWitt museum in Prairie City has to take my top point. It was superb.

So what's with Oregon? How come they are so good at museums? Maybe they have nothing better to do? (In case anyone misunderstands, that's a joke!)

I talked briefly about family trees with the lady in the museum. Now I am quite pleased that I can trace my direct ancestors to a marriage in 1701 and that I have about 1500 people on my family tree. She can trace back to 2 ancestors who came over with William the Conqueror (1066), her ancestors came to the US in the 1600's, and she has 7,500 people on her tree.............So hey you Barker family tree specialists who are on my list there is room for improvement yet.

Now another first. The most fascinating museum I have been to. 2 Chinese immigrants bought the lease of their house in 1888 and stayed there until their death in the late 1940's. One was a very successful Chinese herbal doctor, the other a merchant and translator. They also held a car sales franchise and ran an estate agency. They were both popular and well thought of locally. So here were 500 herbs used for the remedies which apparently worked. There was also found, after their death, $23,000 in uncashed cheques dated between 1901 and 1929. That's like $2 million at today's numbers. Why? The people who know the answer are dead. Even the people who wrote the uncashed cheques have left no information. Did they not need the money? Did they think it was like money in the bank?

There used to be lots of Chinese here. But because in general only men were allowed to leave China, and because these Chinese did not marry westerners, they have disappeared. Both above 2 Chinese were married before they left China and had children there, they sent money, but never went back. They lived in the rooms here, upstairs was planned but only used as storage. For some reason photos are not permitted inside so here is outside with the guide.

I called in at the Interpretative centre and then I just had time to visit the Grant County Museum. That makes 4 museums in one day. I guess that's a record, for me anyway.

I drove a few miles off my route towards a National Forest and found a quiet spot for the night. Next to a small stream............

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in the USA

Continue to Canada 16

Return to start page