The Oregon Trail

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May 30th 2006
Published: June 1st 2006
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This was my weekend trip to Oregon to revisit my "roots" - if you will. For those of you who aren’t aware, I was born in Oregon in the town of Bend which is located just about smack-dab in the center of the State. My dad was the pastor of a church out there at the time, and after he and my mom were married, they lived there for a few years, had me, and then decided to return to the East Coast. I was but 6 months old then and, until this weekend, I had never been back. (Well, that’s not entirely true I suppose…if you want to get technical, I DID take a train from Philadelphia to Seattle on my way to Alaska when I moved there and the train route took us through a piece of Oregon - but it’s not as if we stopped and visited or saw much aside from the trees).

Anyway, so in something of an extended summary:

I flew out Friday after work to Portland landing in the rain, spent the night in an airport hotel, and then made the drive to Bend on Saturday morning. The drive was really cool and mostly through the Oregonian desert which isn't anything like the prairies of Kansas or other desert-like ideas I've had.

So Bend was just so adorable! They call it Oregon's Aspen and I can see why... Not quite so dramatic in the scenery as Aspen, but still quite lovely. The downtown area is very quaint - mom & pop shops all over and little art galleries and things. Not a whole lot to it, overall... The town has more than doubled since my parents lived there, but that makes it a town with a population of only a little over 70,000 which is still quite small by my city-girl standard. Apparently the name of the town was originally "Farewell Bend" as it was the last stopping point before the pioneers would head up over the mountains. Then at some point the Postmaster decided that the name was too long and so it was shortened to just "Bend".

After parking, I went and had lunch at the Pine Tavern which has a giant pine tree growing up through the center of the building (hence the name). The food was great, and the people are just so stinking nice I didn't know what to do with myself (which seems to be true of Oregon overall as I found the same thing in Portland). I won't go on about the food except to say that the Death By Chocolate cake I had for dessert was positively the most amazing chocolate concoction I've had to date...and I'm not exaggerating for dramatic effect either. Mouth-watering and will probably take me several years to burn it off.

When I was quite done (and full), I went and walked around downtown for a bit before getting back in the car and setting out to find my parents' old haunts (which mainly consisted of where they lived and where the church was). I found the church pretty quickly, as well as the house where my dad rented an apartment when he first moved there, and where he and my mom first lived after they got married. The church has since moved it's meeting location so the old building has been painted very serene earth tones and turned into a spa (whatever). The house where their apartment was is still there and in pretty good shape (looks as though it's been renovated recently). The driveway, I was informed, is where my dad proposed to my mom.

Satisfying my curiosity there, I began driving around to find the house my parents moved to around 1972 and where I was first taken after I was born. I managed to find it again without too much trouble (ah, the joy of small towns) and was...well...slightly disturbed by what the woman who lives there now has done to it.

The house itself was originally owned by the church so my parents lived there for free. After they moved out, the next pastor moved in for a couple of years before it was sold to another couple who lived there until just two years ago when it was sold to the current owner, a nice-but-odd woman named Lois. I have come to the conclusion that Lois is either a very daring decorator who is ahead of her time, or is just plain color blind. She has painted the outside of the house to be reminiscent of a piñata - bright yellow color with bright blue trim (I managed to get just the tiniest picture of the front over the monstrosity of a fence that she has put up around
Crater Lake LodgeCrater Lake LodgeCrater Lake Lodge

The porch on the back of the lodge - must be great for sitting and viewing the lake in the summer...
it...and the best thing I can say about the fence is at least it hides the house). The inside (yes, I went inside) looks like the piñata threw up. The same color walls are inside as out and garnished with bright orange trim and I believe I saw the blue from the outside also repeated as well as some bright, putrid greens and pinks. Unbelievably foul - really. However, I was tempted to stick around after sunset…just to see if it glows in the dark.

Before my trip, I had gotten in touch with the current pastor of my dad's old church who had set up for me to stay with a member of the church while I was in Bend which was great because it saved me a hotel cost, etc. - not to mention food. Her name was Sheila and she was just a doll. Shortly after I got to her house and she settled me in, we went over to a friend of hers place where they were barbequing salmon (yum). So we had a nice dinner with wine and dessert before I collapsed into bed.

Sunday morning I got up late and putzed around
Crater Lake PanoramaCrater Lake PanoramaCrater Lake Panorama

Sorry this is so small, but I did a panoramic shot of the lake.
the house before meeting Sheila at the church (she had gone ahead of me to Sunday School). I got to meet a good handful of people who remembered my parents which was neat in a way since these people remembered my parents only as a newly-wed couple in their mid-20s. Sort of weird to think of my parents in that context, y'know? One woman in particular remembered their "little baby" (aka me) and about my dad said, "Oh yes, I remember your father! He was very tall...and very handsome". These were all very old people now (at least 75+ I would guess).

We had lunch w/the current pastor, his wife, and another couple from the church at Sheila’s after the service (fresh halibut - I seriously ate more fish on this trip than I have eaten in one weekend ever) and then I finally took off around 3:00 to head down to Crater Lake for the night.

I arrived around 6:00 at the Crater Lake Lodge and checked into my lake-view room to be met with nothing but clouds and snow out my window. I was told that they'd had nothing but for the last 4 days or so which concerned me a little, but I was praying for good weather and so had hope for Monday.

The Crater Lake Lodge sits on the rim of Crater Lake and is the only “in-park” lodging there…well, I should say the only in-park lodging with indoor plumbing since you’re welcome to camp at any number of campgrounds in the park. The lodge itself was fully renovated in 1995 and still carries a fairly “new” feel to it which I’m sure is partly due to the fact that it’s only open for about half the year. In fact, this was the first weekend it was open for the new season. My room was fairly small which I think is probably representative of most of them. Mine even had the sink in the room itself since the bathroom could barely house the tub and toilet. Given that the rooms were small and had no TVs or other modern entertainment devices, people were forced to actually socialize downstairs. On my way up to bed around 11, there were still loads of people in the “common” area reading, playing cards, or just talking by the fire. The so-called "fire", I might add, at first looked very impressive to me in its goregous man-sized, stone fireplace. Closer examination, however, revealed that it was a gas fireplace and therefore the logs sitting to the side were only for show. I'm sure that a gas fire must be far more cost-efficient and certainly takes less maintenance, but I have to say that it really lacks something in terms of that normal fire "feel" - no scent of burning wood or sparks flying up from collapsing glowing embers... The other guests I discussed this with also agreed that it really was somewhat disappointing.

When I finally settled into bed, I could see the stars out my window which was encouraging, and in the morning when I woke around 4:30am, I checked out the window to see the most gorgeous sunrise just starting to color a crystal clear sky! It was really breathtaking. I got up (because who could sleep through that?) and began taking pictures. I took loads of them, both of the sunrise and after, and then headed inside to warm up before breakfast. I started talking to this couple who was also sitting by the man-sized fireplace and we discussed where we were from, what we were doing, and the fantastic sunrise we experienced that morning. The woman (Kathy) also told me of how she had turned around to face the hotel to have her picture taken only to look up at one of the windows where a man stood naked doing...shall we say, an "unsavory thing". Not exactly the image I wanted to have in my head just before breakfast, but at least I didn't actually see it firsthand.

I finally tore myself away from the awesome view and the beautiful (if not somewhat The-Shining-like) hotel and began what turned into a driving tour of western Oregon.

I started out around 10:00 and drove from Crater Lake down to Medford then up to Eugene, over to Florence, and then up the coast from there to Tillamook before cutting back over to Portland. The Oregon coast was really unexpected, and probably not unlike parts of the California coast. My mom likened it to Maine which, well, I guess it is, but Oregon is more beautiful than what I've seen of Maine (and granted, I haven't seen much - only the part you and I drove the spring I was up there before you had Abby...and I don't remember seeing sea lions that day). The whole drive took over 11 hours in total and I think covered roughly 600 miles. It was a long, long drive but well worth it.

When I arrived back in Portland last night, the weather had cleared up there as well and I could see both Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helens with alarming clarity. They rose up from the horizon like ghosts - a lot like Denali used to look from Anchorage, or Rainer from Seattle.

I returned the rental car, took a shuttle to the hotel, and was asleep by 10:30 or so. Tuesday morning I got up around 5, had some breakfast, and was back over to the airport for my flight at 7:45am and was back home by 8:00pm.

So, although clearly packed with thrilling activity and some death-defying driving maneuvers, it was a great weekend overall. Now next time I go back, I won’t feel so much in the need to go everywhere, but can focus on just a week of hiking & camping with maybe some fishing thrown in…and perhaps try to get a glimpse of the painted desert.

Oh, and just as a footnote for any who don’t already know this (which is probably anyone reading from the East Coast), it’s pronounced Ory-GUN and NOT Ory-GONE. Just so we’re clear. 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Crater Lake LodgeCrater Lake Lodge
Crater Lake Lodge

The back of the lodge that faces the lake.
Crater Lake BirdCrater Lake Bird
Crater Lake Bird

There were a bunch of these birds flying around and I tried to get a couple of pictures. This one came out the best.
The Oregon CoastThe Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast

This is a close-up of the lighthouse from the previous picture.

1st June 2006

You were practically in the neighborhood!
Nice to read all about exploring your roots. I'm about to do the same, taking a trip to Michigan to see where my dad was born and meet some 2nd cousins I've discovered over the Internet. Bend looks beautiful and how special to visit the very places your parents lived as a young married couple. I so disappointed not to see the house and all the yucky colors...I kept scrolling and hoping. Ha ha... guess you wanted to forget it, huh?
2nd June 2006

Glad you enjoyed my home state!
Hey Deb, sounds like you had a nice little adventure cruising some of the highlights of Oregon. Lovely Crater Lake pics! By the way, thanks for helping to spread the word on how to pronounce the state name - we natives appreciate it! I grew up visiting cousins in Bend periodically, and also popped over there across the Cascades (not the Rockies as shown on your map!) for several outdoor adventures during college, and I completely understand and agree with your high esteem of the area. Maybe some spring we should go ski at Bachelor then explore the canyon country and painted hills, eh? Thanks for keeping us all posted on your adventures!
2nd June 2006

Thanks so much for pointing out that map error, Shauna! I should have noticed it myself, but clearly didn't...of course I didn't actually MAKE the map, just the route line. Anyway, I went back and took out the mountain label. Thanks again!

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