Oregon, from west to east James C...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

January 21, 2001

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Oregon, from west to east

James C. Cawood Jr.

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Unlike the pioneers on the Oregon Trail, we decided this summer to do Oregon from west to east.

Viewing the rocks in the Pacific from our small motel room in Bandon, my wife and 8-year-old granddaughter realized on their first trip to the Pacific that it's a far cry from Atlantic beaches. The high that July day was 63 degrees.

After heading up the coast to Florence in my quest to see all the museums in the country -- I'm at 93 percent -- we went inland across the coastal range to the college town of Eugene (the university had the best art museum seen on our trip). Then we continued across the Cascades by a perilous mountain route to the town of Bend, a haven for tourists, before embarking into the high desert.

The desert itself is not so sandy as it is devoid of trees, and it stretches 70 miles to the town of Burns, passing only an occasional oasis like Riley, which has the same sign welcoming you and wishing you goodbye. Taking a route north through Canyon City and John Day, we finally arrived in Baker City.

We had made our reservations at a perfectly good Best Western. But when we went downtown, we realized we had erred.

We went to dinner at the Geiser Grand Hotel and learned that it had reopened about two years ago for lodging. Built in 1889, it boasted the third elevator west of the Mississippi. It closed in 1968, and was almost demolished for a parking lot. After a $7 million restoration, it reopened in 1998. We ate in the Palm Court, looking up at an oval balustrade of cast iron and Honduran mahogany, and what is said to be the largest stained-glass ceiling in the Northwest.

The food was so good, and artfully served, we returned for breakfast before viewing the local historical society museum, the museum 10 miles north in tiny Hanes, and the magnificent Eastern Oregon Museum five miles out of town, which celebrates the great movement west in 1846 with marvelous artifacts and exhibits. One of the many museums dedicated to the Oregon Trail, it should not be missed.

The museum brought home again that the excursion we had made in two days was about a monthlong trek for the pioneers along the Columbia River to the promised land of Oregon City and the coast, most of it done on foot.

James C. Cawood Jr. lives in West River.

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