The Northwest Corner

Back in July I took a Road Scholar trip titled “The Many Faces of Oregon”. As a Southern Oregonian I thought maybe the title should be SOME of the Many Faces of Oregon but it was still a good overview of the scenery, geography, culture and history of the Northwest corner of the state. So here is a day by day account, with photos, of course.

Day 1 – Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge

Vine_MapleAfter an expert led lecture on the Geology of Oregon we hopped on the bus and headed up to Mount Hood. Our first stop at Wildwood Recreation Area included a picnic lunch and a short walk through the temperate rainforest characteristic of theSalmon Oregon Cascades below timberline. Douglas fir, big leaf and vine maple, ferns and oxalis are the most recognizable plant species. We were even treated to a few raindrops. We also learned a little about the struggles of Salmon attempting to make their way up river to spawn.

Our guide, a geologist was fixated on the “path of destruction” and tried very hard to convince us that Mt. Hood was on the verge of eruption. A one in 15 chance in the next 15 years was the statistic he quoted over and over and over. Well, I did the math and that’s a 6.67% chance. In meteorology we’d call that a sunny day. I think he was just trying to Timberlineconvince the Californians they were safer living on the San Andreas fault-line.

Next up, and frankly one of my primary reasons for signing up for this particular trip was a guided tour of Timberline Lodge. The lodge was built in the 1930s by artisans and craftsmen hired by the Works Projects AdTimberline_nteriorministration. Everything in the lodge from furniture to masonry to artworks was locally sourced and hand crafted. The lodge is publicly owned but operated by a contractor. Every effort is being made to keep things original.

Here are a couple more pictures of some of the many works of art, just to give you a little flavor of the place:

a cougar carved in wood graces the entry to the main lodge. The fisherman was carved from linoleum then stained to add color. This one was allowed to keep its patina after years in the sun but others have been colorfully restored.Cougar


The mountain itself played coy with us but in the end made a brief appearance to the delight of all concerned.



Day 2 – Portlandia


If my days of city dwelling were not at an end I might consider living in Portland. It’s wealth of city owned parkland, it’s well developed light rail and public transportation system, it’s vibrant yet historic downtown, it’s rivers, its proximity to mountain and coast all make this one very livable city. Unfortunately, the world is catching on with the consequent problems of traffic and homelessness taking their toll. And of course, there is the rain. Above is my artistic attempt at capturing my impression of Portland based on a composite of several images.


Back on the tour route, our first stop was the International Rose Test Gardens. I was so
busy taking pictures I didn’t quite pick up on whether the Gardens came first or the Chamber of Commerce designatHydrangeaion of the Rose City. Either way they do seem to grow well here. So too, for that matter, do hydrangeas.



Next up, one of my eternal favorites, the PagodaJapanese Tea Garden. I think I could photograph here every day and never get tired of it. I don’t know what is about a Japanese Lantern but I can never resist clicking the shutter.









Back to the rose garden for a delicious barbecue lunch then back on the bus for a driving Signposttour followed by a walking tour. We got our bearings at Pioneer Courthouse square then proceeded to meander from the retail district to the cultural district, to the government district and then back to the waterfroSkyscrapernt to meet up with the bus again. Along the way we saw bronze beavers, benson bubblers, shopping centers, skyscrapers, statues, parks and
yes, Portlandia herself gracing the Portland building.


Day 3 – Astoria

South_JettyThis day was mostly on the bus. We followed the Columbia River to it’s mouth learning about Lewis and Clark and their adventures in Oregon along the way. I was most impressed by the story of the building of the south Jetty to improve navigability at the River’s mouth. All this stone had to be hauled from up river and it took several years to put it in place. This starting in 1885 when machines were not readily available to help.

One of the many ships that foundered off the Oregon Coast was the Peter Iredale. I’m prettyPeter_Iredale sure it has disintegrated a lot since I last photographed it in the early 2000’s. I was still shooting slides then but those sunset pictures might be worth resurrecting.

Our last stop was Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark and their men (and Sacagawea aka Sacajawea and her son) camped one miserable rainy winter. The reconstructed fort is not very photogenic but the visitor’s center was interesting.

Sadly, we were not allowed off the bus in Astoria itself. I will have to return another day because there is much to photograph along the waterfront. And according to our guide it will all be gone soon when the town slumps into the river once the imminent Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake strikes. Personally, I’m betting I don’t live to see it, but I’ve been wrong before.

Day 4 – Columbia River Gorge

Our 4th and final day took us on the scenic route up the Columbia River Gorge on the old highway. You haven’t lived until you have covered this narrow windy route in a motor coach. But the views are ever impressive and the water falls magnificent.  We proceeded to the Discovery Center in The Dalles after a bus tour of the downtown murals. There we were provided lunch and treated to a live raptor demonstration along with time to explore the exhibits at the museum.

Heading home in the afternoon we saw more views of the Columbia River from the original highway and were reminded of the treacherous rapids that were the final hurdle for early pioneers making their way to Oregon. The rapids are now gone, inundated by the backwaters behind Bonneville Dam.Columbia

Our final stop was at said dam. I was reminded of one of my favorite Woody Guthrie Bonnevillesongs which we often sang in grade school: Roll on Columbia, roll on. Roll on Columbia, roll on. Your power is turning our darkness to dawn. Roll on Columbia roll on. Of course, the salmon have paid a heavy price for that power but the efforts to save them appear to be little short of Herculean.

I was the only Oregonian on this trip which made me a little sad. In many ways it was a much needed refresher course from the third grade. I had seen most everything on the trip at one time or another but I hadn’t had the expert commentary which made the experience so much richer. Besides, I didn’t have to drive, fight traffic or figure out where to park.


I’ve been struggling a lot with where to go with this blog. While I have been getting out and about some it seems like I never have enough material. I finally decided to start close to home and just go with what I’ve got and try to keep in mind that this is supposed to be a photo blog. It is not a travel blog or a history blog but I am an explorer and scholar at heart so I like to see what I can learn about a place and share that with you along with my photos. Most of the information here comes from the internet and some books I will get around to adding to the bibliography one of these days. While I try to check my facts it is possible I could be lead astray by the carelessness of others. The population figures in this blog, however, have all come directly from the U.S. Census Bureau so I feel fairly confident in that.
Cemetery.jpgI started my visit to Jacksonville at the cemetery which is a great place to commune with nature if you are not afraid of ghosts. The tombstones make for fascinating reading and often tell a lot about the souls occupying the graves. Among my earliest memories of Jacksonville was a 3rd grade field trip to visit the museum (now closed) and having a sack lunch in the cemetery. Prior to that, Jacksonville had just been a place my family drove through to get to the swimming hole and picnic area at McKee bridge or the Turkey farm near Ruch managed by some friends of my grandmother.

When gold was discovered along Jackson Creek in 1851 Oregon was still a very new andLight_Shadow2.jpg largely unsettled territory. The reports that Jacksonville was once the largest city in Oregon may well be true though I have not been able to find any documentation to support them. But, given the times, that is not really saying much. What we do know is that in the 1850 Census only five cities show up in the entire territory, Portland with a population of 653, Milton City at 458, Oregon City at 416, Astoria at 185 and Linn City at 66. So it is not so far-fetched to imagine that the booming gold camp could well have outpaced the farming and trading communities to the north in the early 1850s.Maple_Leaves2.jpg

My explorations next took me to the Britt Gardens which once surrounded the home of pioneer photographer Peter Britt. Britt settled in Jacksonville in November of 1852 and became one of it’s leading citizens. His house, sadly, burned down in 1960 but the 4.5 acre property, now a Jackson County Park, is the venue for a series of outdoor summer concerts known as the Britt Festival.

While it is not clear from the information I was able to glean on the internet just when the gold played out in Jacksonville, it does appear that the dust Mail_Pouch_CEP.jpghad settled by the time of the 1860 census when, with a year of statehood under its belt, Oregon’s cities were beginning to fall into a somewhat more familiar pattern. Portland leads the pack with 2852 residents. The surprise is little Sublimity in second place (who knew) at 1219. Eugene City falls in line at 1189, Salem at 900, and Oregon City just nudges out Jacksonville with populations of 888 and 879 respecBird_Houses.jpgtively.

I stopped for lunch at the Bella Union whose cozy garden is always a pleasant and peaceful stop (and the food’s not bad either). It was there that I found this intriguing display of birdhouses and butterfly garden art.  I proceeded up the street to explore some of the Pansies.jpg shops along California Street. It was nice to see flowers blooming in front of nearly every business.

When Jackson County was formed in 1853, Jacksonville was the logical choice for a county Courthouse_window.jpgseat. Though the currently vacant courthouse was not completed until 1883. By 1880 Jacksonville was thriving as an agricultural and commercial hub with a population of 839 though upstart Ashland has outstripped it in size with 842 residents. Like many western towns, Jacksonville suffered three devastating fires between 1873 and 1884, accounting for the many brick buildings lining its streets today.

But it was the decision of the Oregon and California Railroad in 1883 to route its line 5 miles away from Jacksonville through the heart of the Bear Creek Valley that rang the death knell for this frontier town. At that time, Medford did not exist so it was not a question of competing communities but of geography, the land to the east being flatter and more conducive to railroad building. Enterprising citizens donated land for a depot along the new line and the city of Middle Ford, later shortened to Medford, was born as hotels and businesses grew up around the new transportation hub. By 1890 the new town has grown and drawn citizens away from the county seat and now claims 967 residents to Jacksonville’s 743. Ashland appears to have gotten a shot in the arm Levis_CEP.jpgfrom railroad business too as it is now the leading community in the county boasting a population of 1784.

Though Jacksonville managed to hang on to the county seat until 1927 its population continued to dwindle as its neighbors continued to grow. By 1930 Medford had established itself as the Valley’s commercial center with a population of 11,007 while Ashland was beginning to stagnate at 4544, an increase of less than 300 from the previous decade, while Jacksonville had bounced back from a low of 489 in 1920 to 706 in 1930, probably due to low rents available during the depression.

I continued my tour by walking up the street to a beautiful old church I haveChurch_wtree.jpg long admired. I can’t remember if it started as Methodist or Presbyterian though for some reason the latter is stuck in my mind. If there was a sign I missed seeing it. It was especially striking on this spring day with clear blue skies and a blossoming tree in front.

After World War II Jacksonville’s population started a slow but fairly steady climb. In the 1960s it’s well preserved buildings, bypassed by post war prosperity, were declared a historic preservation district. For a while it became a popular site for filming moves, most notably the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, a 1972 western featuring Robert Duvall as Jesse James and Cliff Robertson as Cole Younger and one of my classmates as an extra.

In the 1970s the first vineyards were planted in the Applegate Valley, the Britt Festival began to attract tourists overflowing from Ashland and in 2010 the town, which has become popular as a retirement destination, had grown to 2785. Its once empty storefronts are now filled with boutiques and restaurants. Perhaps the gBarbershop.jpgreatest fear is that it may soon be swallowed up by Medford which has grown to 75,000 and continues to push its suburbs to the west.

I concluded my visit with a little shopping and a stroll through the two block business district on my way back to my car. I’m a little sad that most of the antique stores my Mom and I used to enjoy exploring have been replaced by boutiques and wine tasting rooms but, alas, time marches on.

OK, so much for not having enough material. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

Skookum – A book report

Skookum: An Oregon Pioneer Family’s History and Lore, by Shannon Applegate

Skookum. A word from the Chinook Jargon, means good, solid, reliable, and true. Shannon Applegate, the great-great granddaughter of Charles Applegate, has sifted through family stories and papers to bring to life the experiences of one of Oregon’s first pioneering families.

In 1843 three brothers, Charles, Lindsay, and Jesse Applegate set out from Missouri with their young families. Among them there were already 21 children and more would be born in the coming years. The families first settled in the Willamette Valley, west of Salem, in what is now Polk County. But Jesse and Lindsay, having each lost a son to the rapids of the Columbia River, set out a few years later to find an overland route into Oregon. Thus was born the Applegate trail.

The new route departed from the Oregon Trail at Fort Hall, Idaho and brought emigrants through Nevada via the Humboldt River, into Northern California near Goose and Tule Lakes, then into the Klamath Basin and over the Siskiyou Mountains following a route close to the current Greensprings Highway (Hwy 66). The trail then turned north following the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers before crossing the Calapooya Mountains into the Willamette Valley.

In the course of their explorations the brothers found greener pastures and relocated their families to the Yoncalla area in the late 1840’s. Lindsay would uproot his family again in 1860 in order to operate a toll road over the Siskiyou Mountains near Ashland. Unfortunately, Shannon Applegate’s stories mostly revolve around the Yoncalla crowd and we somewhat lose track of the southern branch of the family, though she does include some recollections of Lindsay’s son Jesse Applegate Applegate about his interactions with the native peoples.

I found this frustrating because as an Ashlander I wanted more information about the Ashland Applegates. Further research indicates that Lindsay would go on to be an agent for the Klamath and Modoc Indians as well as a state representative for Jackson County. He retired in Ashland in 1869. I was interested to note that when we buried my brother in the Mountain View Cemetery last summer many of his neighbors were Applegates. I have not had a chance to revisit the graveyard to see exactly who is there. Presumably they are children of Lindsay, as I have since learned that he and his wife are buried in the Ashland Cemetery (the one behind Safeway for those in the know). I’ll be checking that out next time we get some warm dry weather all in the same day.

I went looking for the connection between the Applegates and our own beloved Applegate Valley. I was only able to learn that the river was named for Lindsay Applegate but based on my reading in Skookum I could only conclude that while some of the Applegate children may have spent time in Jacksonville in its heyday, none of the family actually settled in the Applegate Valley. (I could be wrong about that so please leave a comment if you know otherwise).

While I found Skookum to be an incomplete history of the Applegate family, it did bring a personal and very human light to the pioneering history of Oregon. The cherry on the sundae for me was reading through the acknowledgements to learn that one of my childhood friends, Margaret Haines (aka Peggy) had been of assistance to Shannon in researching her book.

Oregon My Oregon

It is always good to set the stage with a few facts so that is what this post is intended to do. Oregon was admitted to the union as the 33rd state on February 14, 1859. Though the number and boundaries of its counties have changed over time, there were 36 counties with approximately the current boundaries established by 1916. Here is a link to a website showing the historical boundary changes of Oregon counties:

And here is a map of Oregon counties and their county seats (thanks to the office of the Secretary of State):


In 1860 the official population count was 52,465. By 1900 the population had grown to 413,536. In 1940 when my father’s family moved to Oregon from Idaho the population had reached 1,089,684. When my parents were married in 1950 the state had a population of 1,521,341. When I was five years old in 1960 the count was 1,768,687. By the time I had finished school and moved away in 1980 the population had reached 2,633,156. The official count in 2010 was 3,831,074. I cite all these figures for two reasons. First to give myself some perspective on how the population has changed over my lifetime and second, to show that while, indeed the population has more than doubled since I was young, that kind of growth is normal for the state. In its first 50 years the population grew 10 fold, in the next 50 years it more than doubled and in the past 50 years it has more than doubled again.

Here is a map showing population density based on 2010 population to give you a feel for just where all those people live:


The state is roughly 400 miles wide and 360 miles tall for a total land area of 98,381 square miles. Plenty of room for a 21st century explorer to roam around. The highest point in the state is Mount Hood at 11,249 ft (3,428.8 m). The low points can be found at sea level all along the Oregon Coast.

State stuff is always fun but mostly designated at the whim of state legislatures so not to be taken too seriously, some of the more recent ones particularly make me laugh. I mean, seriously, how did a state with a burgeoning wine industry and a history of really great beers end up with milk as a state beverage? But for the record here is a list of state stuff including the year of its designation:

Flower: Oregon grape (1899)
Tree: douglas fir (1939)
Animal: beaver (1969)
Bird: western meadowlark (1927)
Fish: chinook salmon (1961)
Rock: thunderegg (1965)
Colors: navy blue and gold (1959)
Song: “Oregon, My Oregon” (1927)
Insect: swallowtail butterfly (1979)
Dance: square dance (1977)
Nut: hazelnut (1989)
Gemstone: sunstone (1987)
Seashell: Oregon hairy triton (1991)
Beverage: milk (1997)
Mushroom: Pacific golden chanterelle (1999)

And on that note I think it is time to close out this first post. This is going to be fun. I hope you will join me in rediscovering Oregon.