Sunday, August 2, 2009

Doe--A Deer, and the Great Train Robbery!

Pictures L to R: Henry on the train; The Great Train Robbery; Pond left by the Sumpter Valley Dredge.

1 August 2009 Union Creek Campground near Philips Lake, Baker City OR

Our campground neighbors were talking this morning about a local steam train that they were going to go on so David went over to ask them about it. As a result, Dave, Henry and I spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon riding the railroad.

Sumpter Valley Railway was one of the most colorful and longest-lived narrow gauge railroads in the nation. It began in 1890 as a train to haul lumber, and eventually expanded to haul timber, mining supplies and equipment, and passengers. During its 57-year history, the SVRy was vital to the settlement and development of the eastern Oregon region it served. Today, this railroad is a narrow gauge steam train that runs from McEwen, OR to Sumpter, OR on weekends. Brought back to life by a group of volunteers who have rebuilt over six miles of rail line and fully restored two original engines, this train travels through the forests and gold dredge tailings of the Sumpter Valley.

It was a beautiful ride through the pines, following part of the Powder River and passing many, many ponds left over from the Sumpter Valley Dredge operation which ended in 1954. Henry was excited when the engineers told him he could come up into the engine and blow the whistle. However, he was not real excited when the train was raided halfway up the mountain by the bandits on horseback.

Not long after we returned to camp, Dave serviced the car to get it ready for our last week of traveling. While he was doing that, I was busy putting stuff away, as a huge thunderhead was building in the west, and appeared to be heading our way. The rain never did fall on us, but it sure got cloudy, a bit breezy, and the thunder was booming. We did have a number of people stop by to visit and ask about the car—something we are always happy talk about.

2 August 2009 Baker City, OR to Burns, OR 138 miles

Pictures L to R: Heading down into the valley; Deer Crossing; Climbing Divine Pass.

The Day of the Deer

We got started early today, as we heard that the temperature was going to be in the nineties and we were heading into the high desert region of eastern Oregon. The drive was pretty uneventful as we made our way over to Highway 395. We started at an elevation of about 3600 feet and by the end of the day had climbed two different passes that topped out at over 5,150 feet.

We saw our first buck of the trip—a young one; called a "spike buck" according to Dave, his antlers were only one point, and they were still fuzzy looking—ran right in front of us as we were heading up the first of the three climbs we had today. Then, after stopping for a grocery re-supply in John Day, OR, as we were heading back toward the highway, three deer stood at the intersection, looking almost as though they were waiting for traffic to clear. They safely crossed right in front of us--in the crosswalk!--to the other side of the roadway, walked across a parking lot and into some trees bordering the lot. A short time later, a doe and her fawn stood frozen where they were trying to make it up a steep incline right next to the highway as we were passing by—I don’t think this was their normal crossing place, as the fawn seemed to be having difficulty getting up the slope.

We drove across the high desert for a while before dropping into Divine Canyon as we neared Burns, OR. There were thousands of butterflies around—we passed a patch of bright yellow flowers that looked like they had white booms on them—those blooms were white butterflies.


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