Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jordan Valley, OR and Silver City, ID. A Memorial weekend visit

 Jordan Valley, with a population of less than 200, is the furthest southeastern town in Oregon. Now it is an area of far flung sheep and cattle ranches. However, it first came onto the map when a party of prospectors stopped to spend the night on an unnamed stream.  They decided to try panning some loose gravel and were astounded to find gold.  Claims were filed and the location grew into a city that was subsequently for one of the miners who was killed by Indians along the creek.

As the area transitioned into sheep country, Spanish Basques from the Pyrenees Mountains were recruited to bring their sheep herding skills to this remote area. From the 1890's to the First World War, large numbers of Basque immigrants came here, and to adjacent areas in Idaho and Nevada. The Basques brought a distinct culture and language, "Euskara," which is not related to any other language in Europe.  They have deeply influenced this part of Oregon.  A local phrase is heard, "where smiles are wide and frowns are few, sheep are numerous and friends are too."

A footnote links Jordan Valley to the Lewis and Clark expedition: The child who accompanied Sacagawea during the expedition, Jean Baptiste Chabonneau, is buried just west of the town.

And one more footnote:  The Old Basque Inn serves excellent meals, and the Rock House Cafe has excellent lattes and ice cream!!

I have always been curious to visit Silver City, Idaho, a ghost town that lies about thirty miles northeast of Jordan Valley. The route from the Oregon side, unlike from the Idaho side, requires a high clearance vehicle.  After 15 miles of good gravel road (although there are two water crossings), the remaining distance is a onelane clay track, with many rock and potholes to avoid or go over/through quite slowly.

The town itself is worth a visit, although it can be crowded with those who come in to enjoy taking their ATV's and dirt bikes on the many challenging old roads. Founded in the early 1860's, Silver City is situated in a deep, narrow valley at 6179 feet. As the gold and silver mining thrived through the 1890's, the town grew to 2500 people and was one of the largest and most prominent towns in the Idaho Territory. The Idaho Hotel, built in 1865, is a three story structure that has been restored and now offers rooms and dining from late spring to late October. The home made pie is exceptional!!

Many of the seventy or so existing buildings are privately owned by third and fourth generation descendants of the original miners and have been lovingly restored.  Meg and I were struck that by our standards, access to Silver City is difficult, extreme, and remote. Yet in the late 1800's, it was "normal" to live here, the businesses were prosperous, and travel to and from the town was no more difficult and time consuming than anywhere else in the west. (Check out the stage rates from 1880 on the last picture).  Our paved state and interstate highways have definitely changed our tolerance and acceptance of gravel and dirt roads and how long it takes to get "there."

Harney County, Jordan Valley

Basque sheep herding, Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Old Basque Inn, Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Rock House, Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Silver City, ID, Idaho Hotel

Idaho Hotel, Silver City

Idaho Hotel, Silver City school

Silver City Mason's Lodge and school house

Silver City church

Silver City

Silver City freight rates, 1880

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What is my preference?

Sure, I am generally a good person.  I recycle, help Meg reasonably often around the house, give time and money to charitable causes.  But, so often I prefer to follow what my ego defines as  pleasure rather than what God calls me to do: to love unselfishly and honor Him and His creation with my surrendered life.

"God's call helps us to discover each step of the way, how we are to be a loving person in our world despite our chipped, flawed condition."  Joyce Rupp

Succor Creek, Malheur County

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Friday, May 23, 2014

Scenes from Leslie Gulch and Succor Creek

The whimsical and striking features of Leslie Gulch began with a major volcanic eruption about fifteen million years ago.  Over the millennia, the forces of nature have created shapes that challenge one's imagination.  The features are made up of volcanic ash, known as Leslie Gulch tuff, heated and compressed in the volcanic dynamo. The tuff is composed of rhyolite, a mineral that is rich in silica.

This whole area including Succor Creek provides great hikes and mountain biking.  Spring and fall are the best times to visit, because the temperatures are the best.  Spring, of course, provides the added benefit of wildflowers.

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County, SE Oregon

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County
Leslie Gulch, Dago Gulch, Malheur County

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Swallowtail, Leslie Gulch

Succor Creek

Succor Creek

Succor Creek, Malheur County

Succor Creek State Park, Malheur County

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Troop 514 at Succor Creek and Leslie Gulch

Six Scouts from Troop 514 and myself and a dad of one of the boys enjoyed a fabulous outing in the canyon country of Malheur County, OR. The scenery there reminds one of Utah, as massive cliffs and whimsical rock formations reach skywards. We had a nice blend of older, experienced Scouts and younger, new scouts.  The older boys did an excellent job of preparing meals, leading hikes, and playing games with the younger ones.  They were excellent role models.

We arrived Friday evening and set up camp at sunset.  Saturday was clear and warm.  After breakfast we drove from our campsite above Succor Creek to Leslie Gulch.  The boys hiked, "bouldered," and enjoyed the magnificent scenery.  By that evening it had clouded over and started to rain.  Despite rainy Sunday morning weather, the older Scouts cooked sausage and pancakes, and we enjoyed an excellent breakfast before packing and cleaning up.

Enjoy these pictures.  I will be doing another post of just scenery soon.

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Succor Creek breakfast in rain

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Succor Creek, dutch oven cobbler

Succor Creek, in the rain after breakfast

Leslie Gulch, Malheur County

Succor Creek campsite

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Staying faithful

As I am often pulled this way and that, evaluating/facing the duties and temptations I face, I have come to realize that only love is strong enough to keep me faithful--to God, to Meg, to family and friends.

Wallowa County, Snake River canyon

Ladd Marsh, Union County

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Wallow Mts above the town of Halfway in Baker County

Meg and I overnighted in Halfway a week ago before heading off to hike the wildflowers of the upper canyons above the Snake River.  Located in Baker County, about a three hour drive from La Grande, Halfway is a sleepy ranching town set in a beautiful valley beneath the Wallowa Mts. The area was evaluated in the mid thirties as a potential ski resort site that Averell Harriman wanted to develop to increase the ridership for the Union Pacific Railroad.  Instead, Ketchum, ID, was chosen for Sun Valley.

In any case, the small bed and breakfast, Pine Valley Lodge, suffices as an exceptionally cozy and comfortable place to stay without any of the fancy trappings of a resort. The community is down to earth and the people strongly connected to each other.

At this time of year, the hills outside of town are alive with the yellow arrowleaf balsam root wildflower. Its name comes from a combination of its leaf shape and the fragrance of its roots. It is a common spring flower in the Great Basin areas of the west. Native Americans used various parts of it as a pain reliever, and to treat colds, burns, wounds, insect bites and swelling.

From a photographer's standpoint, these flowers and the snow capped mountains behind them provide some of the most spectacular pictures in Oregon!!

Wallowa Mts, balsam root, halfway, Pine Valley Lodge


Baker County, Wallowa Mts. halfway

Wallowa Mts, Halfway, Baker County

Wallowa Mts, Halfway

Wallowa Mts, Halfway, Baker County

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

God--and mothers--draw us to what is living, what is loving.  Happy Mother's Day! These are pictures of Dr Helen Johnson, an exceptionally loving, giving and compassionate pediatrician who blessed Meg and my lives as we worked with her on trips to Ecuador with Global Health Outreach.

GHO Ecuador

GHO Ecuador

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


 I took Meg back to where I had hiked with the Scouts last week. Continuing upwards into a canyon that rose far above the Snake River, in the Hells Canyon NRA, Meg and I were reminded of the immensity, the infinity that surrounds us.  It is both humbling and awesome to be part of such a vast universe.   The wildflowers along the Snake river had diminished, but the higher we went, the more profuse they became, This week the red Indian paintbrush had appeared, to complement the yellow balsam root and the purple lupine. We hiked high into the deepening green of the canyon, deeply breathing the fragrances and the freshness.

Wallowa llamas

Hells Canyon NRA

Hells Canyon Snake River

Hells Canyon

Snake River canyon

McGraw Creek Snake River Hells Canyon

MeGraw Creek drainage