Ghost Town Jamboree
Jul 1-2, 2000
We were to meet in Troutdale and leave there at 8:00 a.m. Dan's Blazer had a mind of its own and overheated on the way. A quick trip to Scottie's didn't reveal anything, so they got back on the road and met Janet and Vikki, as well as Darin and Ronnie in Troutdale. Scottie was riding along with Chris who had met the others at Scottie's. After deducing that we had several no-shows, we headed out at 9:15 and were at Multnomah Falls just after 9:30. Rather than stopping, we made a pass through the parking lot, snapped a few pictures and headed East on I-84, passing through Hood River, Mosier, The Dalles, Moro, and Grass Valley.
By 12:25 we arrived at our first Ghost Town: SHANIKO. It was one of the commercialized towns with a few new buildings mixed in with the old ones. Most interesting were an old school house and a water tower (built in 1900 which held two 10,000 gallon tanks). There was also an old car museum (old garage or barn) with around 15 vehicles, buggies, etc. There is still a working hotel and a handful of original structures. Unfortunately, we could not go in any of them, except the hotel, which also houses a restaurant. We spent a good hour at Shaniko, then hit the road again.
Twelve minutes later we arrived at Antelope. This is the town closest to where the Rajneesh Puram had his commune. There wasn't a lot to see here. There were some newer homes mixed in with a few older ones, but not much to get out and look at. We decided to do a "cruise through" and move on.
We began driving through the area known as the John Day Fossil Beds. We made a stop at "Trail of the Fossils". There were great rock formations all around and there was the "Arch Trail" that you could walk to observe various types of fossils. It was 80 degrees at 2:30 p.m. and a beautiful day for our adventures.
At 3:15 we arrive in Fossil. This is a cute old town established in 1883 and still holds a county seat. It has a couple of restaurants, a great old mercantile, and various older buildings. We stopped for some lunch and spent a while digging for fossils behind the towns high school. There is a hillside that you can dig for and keep what you find for fossils. Most of them were palm-size rocks with imprints of leaves in them. Scottie got into it and wanted to bring home a larger rock, but decided against it, as he'd of had to carry it a ways to Chris' pickup. It was a fun stop. The kids as well as the adults enjoyed looking for the fossils.
Continuing on, we passed through the town of Spray, then made a stop at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It had been a farm with a huge home and several barns, but is now a museum for the area. Unlucky for us, we arrived about 20 minutes after closing, but it was a pretty site. We moved on, passing through Dayville, and Mt. Vernon.
At 7:00 p.m. we arrived at Clyde Holladay Campground. Victor was there, saving a couple of spots. Rick and Kathy had already arrived as well. We left Scottie to camp and Chris and his family (with a camper) at the camp ground. Dan & Diana and Darin & Ronnie had reservations at the Best Western in John Day. We all got checked in. Janet and Vikki had reservations at the Dreamers Inn, but they didn't hold their room as promised. All of John day was booked solid. After considering staying in Baker City (about an hour away), they opted to cut the trip short and head for home.
It was agreed to meet in the morning for breakfast at the "Squeeze-In".
After a great brunch, we headed out at 11:30 and minutes later arrived in Canyon City. There sat the Greenhorn Jail (an old building from a town we would visit later) that had been moved there. By whom and why I don't know. There were some old houses and a main street with several older buildings. We chose to move on. Victor and Sarah had been out the night before checking out the area for any potential off-road sites. Most of us were not in our trail rigs for such a long trip but were eager to scout out the territory and give it a try. It was 65 degrees and we were at an elevation of 4323 ft. We followed a gravel road into an area that had been hydro-mined (water shot at the hillside to bring down the material and extract the gold). Blue Knight wasn't running that great, so Dan & Diana stayed in a lower section while the rest of us followed Victor through some ups and downs: pretty mild stuff. We ended up at a mine. Nobody was there, but we could see new wire, etc. that suggested that it was still in use. The entrance was locked up. Scottie loaded a few interesting rocks into Chris' pickup that he wanted to bust up later. There was lots of quartz, granite, etc.
Victor's wife wasn't feeling well after that jaunt, so after hitting the main road again, he left to take her back to camp and agreed to catch up with the rest of us at our next destination - Greenhorn. We passed through Prairie City and arrived in Greenhorn about 2:10. At an elevation of 6500 ft, it claims to be the highest, smallest city. We stayed about 40 minutes in the area. There were several old homes, barns, outhouses, etc. but the land is all privately owned. The buildings are all locked up. A few even had new additions being done and there were some funky new metal roofs on a few. There was remnants of an old log home, which Dan had seen standing a few years ago, but it looked like a tree or two had fallen on it.
We arrived at Whitney about 3:15. This was a neat stop. There is basically one road's worth of old homes and barns. They were also private property, but we did peek in a few. The others were all locked up. It looked as though some of them have been kept up a little and serve as vacation cabins? There appeared to be two or three full or part time residents in newer homes. We couldn't get to it by road, but through a meadow we could see what was left of an old mill.
We continued on and arrived in Sumpter at 4:00. There was a huge flea market going on in town, so it took away the effectiveness of the "old" feeling. There were some neat looking older buildings, again mixed with many newer ones. The most fascinating part of this town was the "DREDGE". It was a 120 ft. long by 60 ft. wide floating machine that dug up material and made a creek as it went. It filtered the size of rock and much gold was taken out over a several year period. As it went along it had a conveyor chute that spit out the unwanted rock into large piles. This makes for interesting terrain in the area. Today, I'm sure the environmentalists would never allow the land to be dug up like that. After Sumpter, Dan and Diana decided to call it a day, and headed for Portland.
Some of us were still feeling adventurous and decided to head a few minutes down the road to an area called Borne. An older gentleman in Sumpter told us that it was interesting and his grandfather use to work the area. It was a nice drive down a dusty gravel road. Poor Victor had his windows and doors off. We passes remnants of what use to be another dredge (they had three total). All that was left was the wood bottom. We looked up and to the left a ways down and saw a mine opening. There was a road leading up to it, so we decided to investigate. It was neat. There was still tracks on the ground from the little mine cars and a large area that appeared to have been covered many years ago and a slope of the hill where you could see that they had dumped the unwanted material on down. Later we heard there was a possibility that they were going to open the mine back up. Who knows. We took lots of pictures then headed further down the road. There were several old houses. Again, there were people inhabiting some of them. Most were locked up tight. We'd hit the end and turned around.
Back towards the main road their was a guy that had his own business set up. He had a CAT to dig materail, rock crushers, etc. But he also had several gold-panning areas set up. Anybody could come in, pay him an hourly fee and pan for gold. We met a man who wanted to be called Fat John. He had been panning and showed us his vial with a couple of small nuggets and some gold dust.
By now it was after 7:30 and Darin and Ronnie decided to call it a day and head for Portland. Vicor was going to stay on at camp for a few more days. Rick hadn't made up his mind yet. Chris and family and Scottie had to go back to John Day to get Chris' camper and start the long drive home.
A big thanks to Dan and Diana for organizing the trip. We had a great time. Thanks!