Rainier

Date of visit: April 17, 2011
Population: 1,895 (2010 Census)

Rainier is the only spot where Oregon drivers can cross the Columbia River via bridge for 45 miles in either direction. The bridge was designed by Joseph Baermann Strauss, the engineer who designed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It was the longest and highest cantilever bridge in the country at that time. It was built with more than 12,000 tons of steel and is 8,192 feet long. When the bridge was opened in 1930, it opened as a toll bridge, but the toll was removed in 1965 when the bridge was paid off.

It was originally known as the Longview Bridge (Longview is the town on the Washington side of the bridge.) But in 1980 the bridge was rededicated as the Lewis and Clark Bridge in honor of the two explorers who paddled down the river 175 years before. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

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The Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Columbia River

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A mural on a downtown building

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The main drag on A Street

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The main drag on B Street / Highway 30

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A pretty blue house on the hill. On a clear day I bet they have a nice view of Mt. Rainier, for which the town is named.

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John Diblee House, built in 1855

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The Masonic Lodge

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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

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City Hall (and library too; the entrance is around the side of the building)

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The Cornerstone Cafe (I had already eaten lunch; otherwise I would have tried this place out)

Map of Rainier

Oregon Towns Project

Clatskanie

Date of visit: April 17, 2011
Population: 1,737 (2010 Census)

White settlers arrived in the Clatskanie area in 1852, a post office was established in 1871, and incorporation came in 1891. (The town was named after the river, by the way, which was named after the Tlatskanai Indians.) But what most people don’t realize is that decades earlier the very first white settlement in the northwest was established very near here. In 1810 the Winship brothers, Abiel, Jonathan, and Nathan, and their men sailed the Albatross up the Columbia River. On June 4 they landed on the tip of land opposite Crims (or Grims) Island which they named Oak Point and immediately set to work building a fortress right next to the river. But on June 7 a heavy rain fell and the river rose, flooding the site of the partially-built fort. The men tore down the structure and floated the logs downstream about a quarter mile to a new location, where they started building again.

However, the Chinooks and Klatskanais in the area got wind of this new operation and were none too happy about it. If the white men established a trading post this far up river, they would steal business from the natives. They made their displeasure known to the white men, and Captain Nathan Winship prudently decided that they had better leave. He knew that they could use force against the natives to get their way, but he also knew that once the ship left the men who stayed behind at the fort would never be able to defend themselves if the Native Americans decided to attack. So on June 12 they packed up ship and sailed back down the river. The settlement had lasted less than two weeks.

105 years after that first Winship settlement, Clatskanie became accessible by road when Highway 30 was completed in 1915. According to an Oregonian article about the opening celebration of the highway, more than 100 cars were purchased by residents in the area in the months prior to the highway opening. The new route to the coast was a boon for businesses in the town. One proprietor quoted in the article said her business had increased five-fold thanks to the highway.

Welcome to Clatskanie

Flippin CastleThe Flippin Castle, built between 1898 and 1900 by Thomas J. Flippin

Most important building in townThe public library

A bookish place

A wonderful and charming book shelter in the park near the library

The Bike Inn
This charming-looking building is The Bike Inn. It’s designed for Highway 30 cyclists seeking a place to crash for the night.

Lewis and Clark

A very cool wood carving of Lewis & Clark canoeing through a tree

Benson House

The Benson house, built by Simon Benson for his son Amos in 1903

Map of Clatskanie

Oregon Towns Project

Vernonia

Date of visit: October 31, 2010
Population: 2151 (2010 Census)

Vernonia was established in the 1870s when hardy pioneers came to the area, cleared the old growth, and started farming. But it wasn’t until the 1920s that the town really started booming. A railroad line from Portland was finished in 1922, connecting Vernonia to the outside world. The Oregon-American Lumber Mill was finished two years later and loggers set to work cutting down the vast swaths of forests near Vernonia. The mill caused such a population boom that the town became known as the “Biggest Little City in Oregon.” From 1920 to 1928, the population increased ten-fold to 1,500. The mill company had to build homes for managers and mill workers with families to alleviate the sudden housing shortage in town. The boom years also brought a new newspaper, the Vernonia Eagle, in 1922 and an airport in 1935, which had a two-day opening celebration and an Airport Dedication Queen.

By 1957 the mill had processed 2.5-billion board feet of lumber. But all the big old-growth had been cut down and the mill had to close. Now there is almost no evidence left of the mill. The planing mill was deliberately burnt to the ground, a scene featured in the 1959 movie Ring of Fire. One of the old mill buildings still remains, sitting roofless down by the lake. Trees grow from the dirt floor, their branches spreading out above the tops of the walls. The mill office became the Vernonia Pioneer Museum, which is chock full of cool old artifacts from Vernonia’s past. The rail line south to Banks is gone, converted to a 20-mile-long paved path that is popular with cyclists. The rail line east to Portland is also gone, converted to a logging road by Crown Zellerbach in 1943. That road has been purchased by Columbia County and is slowly being converted into the Crown Zellerbach Trail.

Although it’s days as a logging town are gone, Vernonia has become a quiet bedroom community for the nearby city of Portland.

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The Vernonia Pioneer Museum

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Bigleaf maples along the banks of Rock Creek, which periodically causes disastrous floods in Vernonia

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One of the many charming buildings in the downtown area

Shay Park
Shay Park is home to one of the Shay locomotives that was once used by the Oregon-American mill

Vernonia Lake
The former mill pond is now Vernonia Lake. At the right side of the photo you can see the last remaining mill building with a colorful tree poking up where the roof should be.

Map of Vernonia

Oregon Towns Project

Long Beach Weekend

About a month ago, a photographer friend of mine invited me to a girls’ weekend at her family’s house in Long Beach, Washington. Even though I didn’t know most of the girls – a situation that five years ago would have had be immediately hitting the “not coming” button (I am an introvert by nature, and it’s something I have to constantly fight) – I figured “What the heck, why not. You only live once.” And, as I knew I would, I had a great time. I got to know some previous photographer friends better and I got to meet some fun new girls (and a happy popcorn-loving French Bulldog named Miles). Here are some photos from the weekend. (As you can tell, I was in the mood for B&W this weekend.)

Awaiting spring

Beautiful bridge

North Head Lighthouse

Miles

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

A million little branches

Lone tree

A fine day

Lake Oswego

Date of visit: October 29, 2010
Population: 36,755 (2000 Census)

These days, Lake Oswego is known as a well-to-do suburb of Portland, full of expensive homes and manicured lawns. But many people don’t know about Lake Oswego’s humble beginnings. The town started out in 1850 as Oswego, named after a town of the same name in New York. In 1865 the Oregon Iron Company started producing pig iron with the ore mined from Oswego’s hills. The smelter they used is still standing in George Rogers Park today (see photo below). The pig iron produced in Oswego was used for railcar wheels, water pipes, and structural elements in Portland’s many cast-iron buildings (downtown Portland has the section largest collection of cast-iron-fronted buildings in the country; New York City’s Soho district has the largest).

The iron business went belly-up in the late 1800s, but in the early 1900s developers started promoting the town as a great place to raise a family, and the Lake Oswego we know today started to take form. The lake had strictly been used as a source of power during the iron days, but it started to become a site for swimming and recreation. As more and more homes popped up along the shoreline, the lake was eventually closed off to people without lakefront property. In 1960 when it merged with the nearby community of Lake Grove, the name of the town was changed to Lake Oswego (although, confusingly enough, the lake itself is called Oswego Lake).

Welcome to Lake Oswego

Old furnace
The old iron furnace, at what is now George Rogers Park

Dormers
One of the many fine houses along the lake

Oswego Lake
Oswego Lake during a draw-down, when they empty the lake for dock maintenance

Brown House
The historic Brown House, built in 1885

Conway House
The historic Conway House, built in the 1890s

Antiques
An antique shop in downtown

Lakeview Village
Upscale shops in downtown

The place of yummy pastries
St. Honore, a bakery with many yummy things

View Map

Oregon Towns Project

Florence

Date of visit: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Population: 9,580 (2000 Census)

Florence is known for its charming Old Town area, as well as the nearby Heceta Head Lighthouse, probably the most photographed lighthouse on Oregon’s coast. But Florence is also famous for being the site of the exploding whale.

The reporter who reported on the whale was a 23-year-old named Paul Linnman. In 2003 he wrote a book about the experience called The Exploding Whale (And Other Remarkable Stories from the Evening News). On November 12, 1970, he had been a reporter for KATU for several years when he and cameraman Doug Brazil were given an assignment to cover the disposal of a dead whale that had washed up on the beach near Florence. The Oregon State Highway Division was going to blow the thing up with dynamite. The whale stunk to high heaven and definitely needed to be disposed of. For whatever reason, officials decided that explosives were the best way to go.

It didn’t quite work. To sum it up from the news story (in what is quite possibly the best quote ever uttered in a newscast): “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.” Paul Linnman says in his book, “If anything ever gave me the sense of what it might be like to be in combat and under fire, it was the day Doug Brazil and I ran in terror to escape the blubber shrapnel.” I’m sure it was plenty terrifying to experience that, but because of the incident, we now have a highly amusing news story that we can watch over and over again. The video has gone viral thanks to the internet, and Dave Barry even wrote a column about it once. And now, enjoy:

Here are my photos from Florence:

Weather vane

Weather Vane

Florence Old Town

Old Town

Mo's

Mo’s

Over the Siuslaw

Siuslaw River Bridge

Waterfront Depot

Waterfront Depot

BridgewaterBridgewater

Roses on a picket fenceRoses on a Picket Fence

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Oregon Towns Project

Mapleton

Date of visit: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Population: 918 (2000 Census)

The quiet little town of Mapleton sits on the banks of the Siuslaw River about 15 miles inland from the coast. The general consensus is that the town is so named because of the abundance of bigleaf maples in the area. And there are indeed a lot of these lovely trees, which turn a lovely golden color in the fall. Unfortunately, many of the leaves had already fallen during my visit, but I still got a taste of the autumn show.

Oregonians remember the recent floods of 1996. There was a lot of rainfall and flooding 31 years earlier too. Mapleton was still recovering from flooding in December (which left up to three feet of water in some stores), when at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 28, 1965, a wall of mud and debris flowed down off nearby Neely Mountain. It flowed across the railroad tracks and the highway and clogged up a 400 yard stretch of Main Street.

It was pretty slow-moving – one witness said it moved as fast as a man could walk – so injuries were light. In fact, only one injury was reported: that of the postmistress, who was swept out a side door of the post office (which ended up being destroyed by the landslide). At least 15 cars were “tossed aside” by the slide as it swept through town, according to an article in the Oregonian the next day. Two feet of mud stood in Merle Beck’s store. They eventually got the mess cleaned up, of course, and now 45 years later there is no evidence of the slide whatsoever.

From the Mapleton LibraryView from the Mapleton Library

Frank's PlaceFrank’s Place

Cool architectureCool architecture

Maple rowMaple row

Public DockPublic Dock

Siuslaw RiverSiuslaw River

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Oregon Towns Project

Every town in Oregon

When you’re on a road trip, just trying to get from point A to point B, do you ever drive by all those freeway exits denoting one small town after another and wonder what you’d find there? Or driving down a state highway you see a sign pointing down a side road that says Jefferson – 10 miles, but you never take that side road because Jefferson isn’t on the way to anywhere you need to go.

Well, I’ve decided I’m going to visit these little places that people always pass by. I’m going to visit every town in Oregon, big or small. It will probably take me many years – Oregon is 98,466 square miles and has about 450 towns, depending on which source you consult. I’ll take at least one photo in each place and learn at least one interesting thing about each place. I’ll write about my experiences here on my blog.

It’ll take me awhile, but I think this will be fun and I’ll get to learn a lot about my home state!

Oregon Towns Project

Trekking with the Wallowa Llamas in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

When Greg won the 2006 Oregon Wild photo contest, one of his prizes was a gift certificate for a three-day, two-night trip with the Wallowa Llamas. So we redeemed that gift certificate on July 18 and went on an awesome trip into the beautiful Eagle Cap Wilderness. The whole set of pictures is here.

We started out on Friday at the llama ranch just north of Halfway. Seven llamas got loaded into the back of an old school bus (bwahahahaha!). We humans rode up front.

We were supposed to start at the Summit Point trailhead and hike up to either Pine Lakes or Crater Lake. But the trail went into higher mountain territory where there was still snow, so we started at the Boulder Park trailhead and hiked into Eagle Meadows instead, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise since I’m still not in the best of shape after being laid up with a broken foot all of May and June.

After the hour and 45 minute drive up and down Forest Service roads, we arrived at the trailhead. The llamas were unloaded, saddled up, and laden with heavy packs. (We humans just carried day packs…woo hoo!)

Besides me and Greg, there were four other guests in our group, in addition to our tour guide, Raz, and his assistant Lisa. Raz and Lisa brought up the (distant) lead with the llamas while the rest of us hiked on ahead to our lunch spot. The scenery was instantly spectacular. This is the meadow we crossed just before reaching our lunch spot 2.5 miles from the trailhead.

We ate a delicious lunch (all the food was provided on this trip) by Eagle Creek. Raz has these two wooden cook boxes that when put on the ground side by side served as a nice flat preparation area, with the utensils and supplies inside within easy reach. Our feast of a lunch consisted of bagels, bread, salami, cheese, homemade red pepper spread, fresh veggies, and delicious cherries from their orchard!

After lunch, we had to cross Copper Creek, which had no bridge. I chose to wade rather than risk falling off one of the logs spanning the creek. The creek was wide, but only ankle deep. Shortly after crossing the creek, we could see Copper Creek Falls crashing down a cliff.

Greg bushwhacked over there when we hiked out on Sunday and although it was too sunny for a photograph, he got a video of the falls. Pretty impressive.

This is Bench Canyon Falls, which splashed down right by the trail.

In the late afternoon, after hiking 4.4 miles from the trailhead (and gaining about 1,300′) we arrived at beautiful Eagle Meadows. It stretches a lot further than this picture conveys. Eagle Creek runs through it. What an idyllic setting!

After Raz, Lisa, and the llamas arrived, some of us helped Raz lead the individual llamas to grazing ground. You take their lead rope and they follow you around without question. They’re quite curious. They grazed a little distance from camp and whenever we were out peeing or collecting firewood or taking pictures, they would watch us intently.

We set up tents while Raz and Lisa started on dinner. In addition to a stove, they had an oven setup which was pretty nifty, allowing Raz to heat up the meals that his wife had cooked and frozen for us a few days before. We had fresh veggies with ranch and blue cheese dip, merlot and chardonnay, raging bull chicken over quinoa, homemade Scottish oat bread, plus banana bread for dessert and a post-dinner drink of tea or hot chocolate.

We were all feeling pretty tired, so by the time dinner was done and cleaned up, we were ready to turn in. The days are long this time of year, so it was still a little light out when we went to bed. I slept better than I did when I went backpacking last summer. I stayed warm, for one thing, despite the fact that we woke up to frost in the morning. I woke up in the middle of the night and stuck my head out of the tent to see the stars, but it was just past the full moon, which made the sky too bright to see all the stars I might have. Still, there were a lot, and the bright moon illuminated the mountains and meadow all around us. It was VERY cool!

Morning dawned bright and beautiful and despite the overnight frost it warmed up very quickly as the sun came over the mountains.

After a breakfast of fresh cantaloupe plus Swedish pancakes and coffee and tea, Greg and I wandered the meadow taking pictures while Raz and Lisa moved the llamas to fresh grass. The scenery was stunning and vast. I wished I’d had a wide-angle lens! Next time. This is stitched from two shots.

We all set off on a day hike up to Eagle Lake, the source of Eagle Creek. It was 2.9 miles away and 1,300 feet above us. The scenery along the way was fantastic. Here is the group hiking toward Needle Point.

We saw lots of different wildflowers, including more penstemon than I’ve ever seen in my life.

We stopped about halfway up and Raz made us lunch, which included fresh veggies, gouda cheese, brie cheese, crackers, slices of baguette, and kippered herring. For dessert we had homemade ginger cookies plus apple slices with gjetost, a Norwegian goat cheese that made a pretty good pairing with the apples. One of the best trail lunches I’ve ever had!

Being out of shape and picking my way carefully up the rocky trail, I found the going tougher than I normally would. It was also pretty hot, well into the 80s, and the stunted trees provided little or no shade. But the scenery kept me motivated.

Beautiful Eagle Lake was a welcome sight. At 7,500 feet, it still had large patches of snow on and around it. Not surprising, considering the winter we had this year. The water was VERY cold! I was hot and could have used a refreshing toe-dip, but I refrained. Lisa, however, dove into the icy water not once but twice! Brrrrrr!

There was heather growing along one side of the lake. I sat on the shoreline surrounded by it and admired the lovely view. Damn, the Wallowas are gorgeous!

The hike back down was just as hard as going up because of the rocky trail. I was paranoid about my foot and where I put it, so it took a lot of concentration to watch where and how I walked. I stumbled a few times, but made it back down okay. Back at the meadow, Greg and I washed up at the creek while dinner was being prepared. Ah….so refreshing. The creek ran along the edge of the meadow near our tent and made for pleasant background noise while we slept at night.

My hunger overcame my general dislike for lasagna and I ate some at dinner that night. That was after having eaten quite a few crackers with sundried tomato pesto and cream cheese. As if that weren’t enough, we had salad with pomegranate vinaigrette (YUMMY!) and garlic bread, plus apricot bread for dessert. I will never eat this good in the backcountry again!

During dinner we saw a deer in our camp nearby. She seemed wary, but definitely not frightened of us. We would see her again periodically throughout the evening and next morning. She passed within 20 feet of me when I was back in the trees peeing. I spoke softly to her so as not to startle her. She looked at me and decided she didn’t like being that close and walked (not ran) away.

No frost Sunday morning, but it did sprinkle a few times in the early morning. But it didn’t last and once the sun was up it warmed up even faster than it had the morning before. After a breakfast of Mexican grits, muffins, and oranges, we packed up and headed out.

Whereas the llamas had been half an hour behind us on the hike in, they were about 15 minutes behind us on the first leg out. So after crossing Copper Creek, waiting for Greg to come back from his waterfall expedition, I was able to get a shot of the llamas in action, fording the creek. They are very sure-footed, not giving a second (or even a first!) glace to where they’re setting their feet.

Back at the trailhead, the llamas were loaded in the bus and we set off back towards Halfway, where I had a delicious shower that night at the hotel. Oh those post-backcountry showers are so wonderful.

All in all, we had a wonderful time! Our group wasn’t too big (they can be as big as ten guests) and they were fun people to talk with. Raz and Lisa were awesome leaders and cooks and they handled pretty much everything having to do with the llamas. They seem to be gentle patient creatures. The only troublemaker was three-year-old McNash. It was his first time doing this and he gave poor Lisa a hard time. He wouldn’t walk with the other string of llamas and Lisa had to lead him by himself. Even then he gave her some trouble. Here he is getting saddled up at the beginning:

We didn’t see many other people. Over the course of our three days, we saw a few people with horses, a few hikers, and a few backpackers, probably a dozen people total the whole weekend. The scenery was stunning, the food was awesome, and the llamas carried all our stuff! This is the way to go! I was enchanted with the Wallowas after my visit last year, and I remain enchanted. Greg and I both want to go back again. And again. There are a lot of trails to hike, lakes to see, and mountains to gaze at.