Day 1, Monday, July 24, 2017
I headed down to Portland the day before we departed on our road trip, and spent Sunday evening sorting out last minute packing details and spending time with my nieces and nephew.
Monday morning, we were up and at ’em. The first order of business, after showers and breakfast, was to “Tetris” the minivan. Six people in a minivan, with all our stuff and camping gear is a tight squeeze! It took some doing, and a healthy bit of discarding to get everything in the van! We got on the road a little later than anticipated, but at 9 am, we pulled out of the driveway and soon we were traveling on Interstate 84 along The Columbia River Gorge. Lunch was ham sandwiches, cucumbers, tomatoes and Doritos at the Boardman Rest Area, and it was windy, so we had to make sure to hold our stuff down!
After piling back into the car, we made good time, and our next stop was in Baker City, Oregon, at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The site is part of the National Parks System, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, so my annual pass served as our admission fee.
The center has an outdoor exhibit with several covered wagons, some original to the Oregon Trail time period, and some replicas. The kids were able to climb into the wagons and see what it would be like to ride in a covered wagon. They had fun, and seeing the different wagons was pretty neat.
Inside the Center, we had time to look through the exhibits, which covered the experience of the pioneers traveling the trail, the items they brought with them, and the reasons why families made the decision to travel West to the Oregon Territory. The Center also had an exhibit on gold mining, as many pioneers came west to try their luck at gold mining in the region. Outside, visitors can view the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine Stamp Mill.
I decided to do the Junior Ranger Program which included finding the answers to questions throughout the center’s exhibits. Some of them were hard – I think I forgot all that stuff I studied in school! I did manage to complete my book before it was time to go, and I got my first Junior Ranger Badge! Yes, I really am a nerd, in case you didn’t already know that. My nieces and nephew didn’t want to finish theirs, but I think they were totally jealous when they saw my badge…
As we were talking to the Ranger, we learned that the freeway was closed further down the road due to a chemical spill. Would we be able to get to the campground before nightfall? Luckily, we got word right as we were wrapping up that the road had reopened. Yay! We piled back into the van after taking a short trail back to stretch our legs once home and get one last view of the covered wagons.
A little less than an hour more of driving, and finally we got to our destination for the night – Farewell Bend State Recreation Area, which is right along the Oregon/Idaho border, along the Snake River. We got our tents set up – it was still windy but it was hot!! We had a huge field almost entirely to ourselves – and the restroom was just right across the field. We had dinner and went for a walk to explore the riverbank.
The Park is another Oregon Trail site, because after following the Snake River for 330 miles, Oregon Trail pioneers rested above the bend in the river here. It was here that they said farewell to the Snake River and continued their journey. Nearby is the location where the Snake River Shoshone Indians battled with pioneer travelers in 1860.
There were several people fishing from the boat launch dock, a few feet away from a several dead fish rotting along the banks of the river. I am pretty sure that even if I had a fishing pole, I wouldn’t want to fish so close to dead fish – YUCK! I’ll spare you the photos of that – here’s a cute bunny instead…
The sunset was spectacular that evening, and it was too windy to have a fire, so as is the case with camping, we turned in when the darkness hit. I lay on top of my sleeping bag in the heat of the evening, pondering life before falling asleep to the sound of the breeze…
Distance for the Day: 5 hours, 37 minutes; 355 miles
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center: $8.00 adults, $4.50 seniors, free for youth ages 15 and under. A free carload with a National Parks Pass.
Farewell Bend State Recreation Area: $18 for a tent site