This is Oregon? Holy Moly! The diversity of landscapes that we have seen already in Oregon have confused us all into thinking that we are in another state; and at times on another planet. Today as we came through several national forests lush with evergreens of every kind. We climbed to 5,200 feet and then descended to plains where cattle grazed and hay bales were stacked. The most amazing part of the day, however, was the desert landscape we encountered after the town of John Day. As we drove out of John Day through the valley, Debbie told me that we would soon encounter the landing sites for aliens! The belief is, she continued, that when the aliens came the first time they cut a swath out of the rocks resulting in a canyon. We never did see the landing sites prepared for the return of the aliens, but we did go through the canyon with enormous towering red cliffs and rocks of every color above and around us.
Varieties of evergreens
The canyon where the alien’s ship cut through the rock
Driving out of Baker City this morning we took one of Oregon’s scenic byways and followed the route of the old Sumpter Railway through first the Wallowa National Forest and then the Malheur National Forest. Up and over Tipton Summit and then we came to Dixie Summit where the historical site for the Sumpter Valley Railroad is located. Stagecoach was the only way over these rugged mountain passes until logging began in 1862. Building a railway over the mountain passes was the only way to get the ponderosa pines to the mill in Baker City. Covering the 80 miles from Prairie City to Baker City, the Sumpter Railway carried logs, livestock, people and other freight across the mountains. At the historical site on Dixie Summit there was a loop trail that took us through forests of ponderosa pine and other evergreens to see part of the old railway that crossed the mountain. Automobiles decreased the need for railway passage and by 1933 business was significantly decreased. By 1947 the railway was abandoned and parts of the track taken up. My mother’s father was a station master for the Southern Railway near Greensboro, NC and many of her brothers worked for the railway as well. Seeing these pieces of abandoned rails today increased my nostalgia for our rail system in the US. When I lived in Indiana, a group of us took the train to Albuquerque to do a short term mission to the Navajo reservation. The fun of traveling with friends, eating in the dining car, and being lulled to sleep by the sway of the train; these are the joys I experienced traveling by train. Somedays as we travel now, I look at all the cars, which look like little boxes on wheels, and we are so separate from each other in our little boxes. Of course in our car we have our own little community, dining car at times and sleeping is pretty easy too; now if we could just find a way to stand up and walk around! We do stop every two hours for that but still, it’s not the train!
Sumpter Valley Railway vs Conestoga Wagon!
Today we are leaving Redmond to travel to Crater Lake! I’m excited…