Wallowa Lake/Oregon Country

July 9-12, 1978

Beautiful Wallowa Lake in scenic northeastern Oregon was the destination of the Obsidians who left Eugene early Sunday morning, July 9th. Dr. Ewart Baldwin, U of O Professor of Geology and former Obsidian President, was our geologic narrator and provided us with information from his vast store of knowledge. Don Moorehead was our capable bus driver.

Short stops included those at Multnomah Falls to enjoy its beauty; Tree House at Hood River to sample its famous apple juice; Celilo (where the falls used to be) to eat our picnic lunch; John Day Dam to visit the fish viewing room; and Emigrant Springs State Park with its Oregon Trail display. At 6:30 p.m. we reached rustic Wallowa Lake Lodge in a torrential downpour.

Monday morning was foggy and the High Wallowas gondola lift to Mt. Howard not operating, so we drove to Joseph to visit the Wallowa County Museum that features both Nez Perce Indian and pioneer history. From there to Imnaha (the land ruled over by Imna, a sub chief) with its colorful buildings. Bob Wiggins, Wallowa Lake Lodge, accompanied us and related local history. On the return trip stops were made on the Imnaha grade to observe a bed of ash that had been wind blown from Mt. Mazama when it erupted, and at the north end of Wallowa Lake to visit the grave of Old Chief Joseph. During this trip, Al Smith, our able historian, gave us information pertaining to the region, the Nez Perce, the two Chief Josephs, and the pioneer settlers.

By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining, the tram operating and we had a fascinating ride up Mt. Howard (8200'). Most of the group took short hikes to various overlooks (Royal Purple Overlook was one) and enjoyed the wonderful view of mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa valley. After the tram ride, Bill Eaton led a small group to the falls in the Wallowa River near the Boy Scout Camp. Upon return to the Lodge we greeted our intrepid hikers, Lin Trombley and Karen Seidel, who had made the strenuous hike to Aneroid Lake. They were the first Wallowa Lake Lodge guests to accomplish the feat this summer. In the evening we relaxed in the lobby of the Lodge and Bob Wiggins showed an interesting color film on the Wallowa country.

Tuesday morning we reluctantly left Wallowa Lake. Our first stop was Hot Lake Resort, once known as the “Mayo clinic of the West,” that is being renovated as a health center and spa. The old X-ray, surgical, medical and dental equipment will form the nucleus of some museum. We were given a pre-opening guided tour by the management.

A few miles south was the community of Union, settled in 1862 during the civil War and named for patriotic reasons. We drove slowly past the beautiful Victorian buildings and yearned to have time to visit them.

In Baker (named for Edward Dickinson Baker, elected U.S. Senator from Oregon in 1860) we lunched at the Kopper Kitchen followed by a visit to the United States National Bank to see the fabulous collection of native gold. We continued west up the Powder River, past Phillips Reservoir (formed by Mason Dam) to the ghost town of Sumpter, settled during the early days of the Civil War and named for Fort Sumter (spelling differs), South Carolina. Here we had a guided tour of an old gold dredge. Motel accommodations in John Day were at Dreamers Lodge and Little Mac’s Motel as neither had space to house the entire group. Wednesday morning tour of Canyon City (gold mining town of 1862 and county seat of Grant County) included visits to the Herman and Eliza Oliver Historical Museum, and St. Thomas Episcopal Church. This charming church, built 1876-77, was restored as a bicentennial project. Carol Rose opened the church for us and gave us an inspiring tour of the building and grounds. We also looked in the windows of the Joaquin Miller cabin in which he and his family lived for several years after leaving Eugene in 1863; and the Greenhorn jail that had been moved from an old mining town near Baker.

In John Day we visited Kan Wah Chung Museum that has served as a general store, Chinese temple, and office of an herbal doctor (Ing Hay) when a large Chinese population lived in this area during gold pining days.

Geological stops were made near Mt. Vernon and the Picture Gorge along the John Day River, before going to the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Here a memorial has been erected to Thomas Condon, distinguished geologist and scientist, pioneer minister of The Dalles and former member of the U of O faculty, who discovered many fossils in this area. The James Cant ranch has been acquired as park headquarters. We relaxed and ate our lunch under the trees before a guided tour of the house and grounds. A huge old barn stored intriguing farming equipment. A short drive north took us to the Foree Beds (another fossil site) and then it was time to hurry hone by way of Sisters (dinner stop), Santiam Pass, Clear Lake and McKenzie Highway. As we drove past Carmen Smith and other EWEB operations, Bill Eaton gave us information about then.

We reached Eugene about 9:00 p.m. after four wonderful days viewing some of Oregon’s amazing geological formations, flora and fauna, historical sites and buildings that gave us a greater awareness of the vast natural resources of this state and of the people who lived or settled here.

Our thanks to Ewart Baldwin, Al Smith, Mary Douglass Stovall, Bill Eaton, Ray Cavagnaro and others who provided us with the information that made the trip so interesting and enjoyable.

On the trip were: Lois & Perry Baker, Ewart Baldwin, Ingrid Carmichael, Buck & Grace Carter, Jane Durnell, Bill Eaton, Pat Gerretsen, Irene Flynn, Jane Hilt, Bob Holmquist, Virginia Horton, Art & Lillian Johnson, Margaret Markley, Susan & Frances Newsom, Ruth Nichols, Pat & Janice Pattison, Russell & Hazel Peck, Karen Seidel, A1 Smith, Grace Smith, Cliff & Hazel Stalsberg, Betty Mae Stamm, Lin Trombley, Paula Vehrs & Ruth Williams.


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