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Monday, January 16, 2012

Ghost Town Road Trip

I have been wanting for ages to take a road trip through Oregon to visit ghost towns. I really love old abandoned things. Abandoned house on the side of the road? If it's unlocked, I wanna be in it (or if there's a me-sized hole to crawl through). Underground city tour in Seattle? Pretty Awesome. So 100+ year old abandoned towns? Basically the best thing ever. Oregon has lots of old lumber and mining towns that are now dead* and empty*.  Since Pat's into history and also because I kinda like him, we took this trip together. We each took a 3 day weekend so that we wouldn't have to rush through the trip. I mapped out a route to take us through 9 ghost towns. They were Bridal Veil, Ortley, Boyd, Friend, Shaniko, Antelope, Granite, Sumpter, and Bourne. We also went through Kent, which is a ghost town and there were a ton of old abandoned things on the side of the road.
Pat and I went shopping for this adventure the morning before leaving. Tuna is one of our staple meals since it's a meat that I'll eat (/ love too much to give up. It's a serious weakness) and because he can put barbeque sauce in it. However, since we were already packed up/on our way and hadn't brought the various accoutrements for tuna (him: bbq sauce and/or cajun spices. me: mayo and pickles) we explored the world of pre-made tuna salad. I went for tbe Bumble Bee standard tuna salad. (Click that link. WHY is it available on amazon?!) The ingredients were mayo, carrots, celery, and a lot of not pronounceable stabilizers.  Pat got adventurous and chose lemon pepper tuna and thai chili tuna. I can't even find a link to post for these. I was really nervous about buying premade tuna salad. Not for normal reasons of the fact that it's, well, premade tuna salad- but because I'm pretty set in my tuna salad ways. Always tuna in water. Always mayo and pickles. Sometimes pickle juice and/or mustard. Sometimes celery/onions.  Once upon a time this post was about a ghost town road trip.
Our first town was Bridal Veil which is near Multnomah Falls.  We managed to find the tiny little post office which used to be I believe a tool shed of sorts for the Mill that the town was built around. This post office is teeny tiny and there's one lady in there with her dog. I failed to take a picture of the adorable post office but I found this one on the google.

The only reason this little bitty post office is still surviving is because women love to have their wedding invitations sent through here to get the post mark.

We asked the nice lady to direct us to the cemetery because as I think has been mentioned previously, I love me a cemetery. This particular cemetery was very depressing. I know most people find them depressing anyway but this was mostly children who, according to one of my ghost town websites, died from smallpox and diphtheria outbreaks. It was very pretty, despite the dead babies.

After Bridal Veil, we headed to Ortley, which was one that I was really excited about. The story goes that some folks decided they were going to build this European style apple growing community in the Gorge. But whoops, the wind kills your trees on one side and its too dry in the summer. So they built up this whole town before they realized they were totally screwed. You can read a little more here.  But guess what, some jerk bought the property and put up a "no trespassing" sign.

Pat apparently has some kind of issue with trespassing on private property. He wouldn't let me hop that dinky little chain across the road. I'm really upset that someone bought a ghost town and then closed it off. 
If I bought a sweet-ass failed apple growing town I would at least leave the road to it open. Sheesh.
We continued on to Boyd. There wasn't much but a cool old bridge, a big building that I think was a grain silo, and some little shacks I couldn't get to. There was one really neat looking building but someone had parked their motor home next to it. This would become a pattern. 
Another pattern is Pat's problem with trespassing. He didn't want to walk down to the big building with me but I went by myself and kept thinking I was hearing things inside so I asked him to come with me. He was completely stressed out the whole time but he did come along. 

From Boyd we went on to Friend. Fun fact about Friend is that there is a family that bought the land, who have been on the land since it was a real town. We were driving up and on our right is the "Friend Store" which was an awesome old store front full of junk that I would have LOVED to dig through. However, right in front of us are 3 generations of men working on a tractor. Uh, awkward. So we get out to let the dogs pee and I walked up to the old man to ask him if this was "Friend" and he informed me that he grew up here and owns the land now. The other two men were his son and grandson. The store is full of his collection of old junk. This is adorable but I feel pretty uncomfortable taking pictures/poking around their home so we put the dogs back in the car and continue down the road. Since I didn't take photos, here again is one that I found on the google.

We kept driving and came upon the old Friend schoolhouse. We stopped to take a look. I checked the door and it wasn't locked so I went in. It was basically the cutest thing ever. Its been turned into a community center and they covered the walls with chalk boards. There's still an old piano in there, as well. This was my favorite part of our trip. We sat on the porch of the schoolhouse and ate lunch and let the dogs run around.

Friend was our last stop for day one. I had made a plan for us to stay at Hunt Park, which shares its space with the Wasco County fair grounds. It is the only place to camp for miles. We were a little creeped out and went looking for somewhere else to camp but that just didn't exist. So, we camped next to the track at the fairgrounds. This was our view.

In the morning, because we hadn't paid our fee yet (and honestly were hoping to just skip out of there without putting money in the little envelope) the campground steward or whatever they are called came over to see us. Joey of course tried to eat him. He asked us what we were doing out there and we told him about our road trip. He rattled off all the ghost towns nearby, the people on their preservation committees, etc. Apparently when you live in the middle of nowhere you know everyone else that lives in the middle of nowhere, even if they are miles and miles away. He also told us the history of the Tygh Valley, which is where we were at the time. According to our friend, Tygh means peace and all the Indian tribes used to go there once a year and while they were there they would all be under a truce for the time they were in the valley. The google hasn't verified this yet, but I liked his story. 

The next morning we went to Shaniko which is probably the most famous ghost town in Oregon. It was restored and revitalized as a tourist destination some years ago but someone recently bought the town, got into a dispute with the county about water, and closed all the buildings up. Apparently only jerks buy ghost towns. There was still a lot to see. My favorite was probably the old jail cells. My phone doesn't have flash and so I didn't take any photos that turned out. There was also a little old saloon I tried so hard to find a way to sneak into but no dice.

This building is full of old cars. Used to be a museum. The jerk locked it.

This is where my memory and photo taking both get a bit shitty. We moved on to Antelope which was the precursor to Shaniko until the whole town burned down. There was one great big school there that I liked. We wandered around looking for a way in. Again, no dice. But there was a swing set, which always makes me happy. 

We decided while we were in the area we would see the painted hills.  They were very pretty but we think probably better in the rain, when the colors are more vivid.
We camped that night at Clyde Holliday Park outside of John Day. It was a lovely camp site but cold as hell. So we huddled around the fire and ate our tuna sandwiches. Which were surprisingly delicious. A kitten kept coming  to our site to lick the tuna cans. It wouldn't let me make friends with it but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Joey, however, was upset about the cold and about being outside so he whined until we went to bed with him. The next morning we thawed ourselves and headed for some old mining towns- Bourne and Granite. They ended up being way up in the hills and full of little hunting cabins. Middle aged men walking down dirt roads with cups of coffee. Kind of lovely. 
We then got dinner and drinks in Hood River on our way home. I really enjoyed the trip and the time with my love but there was one thing about the ghost towns that sucked a little. Most of them were actually scattered with motor homes-both occupied and abandoned. It seemed like people just used these places as dumping grounds. I did not take pictures of the piles of junk that were throughout all of the towns because they were depressing. It wasn't old ghost towny junk. It was semi-recent piles of consumer waste and it was an eye sore and just reminded me of sad sad people living in the middle of nowhere. Which I suppose is the reality of these places but I just feel like there should be some sort of common courtesy not to dump your junk in the middle of a town.
Downer, I know. Overall, wonderful trip and it was pretty cool to see some more of Oregon. I recommend visiting ghost towns. I also recommend reading novels I write on my blog. Well done.