DESTINATION: northern and eastern Oregon
VISITED TOWNS: Washougal, Portland, Cascade Locks, The Dalles, Pendelton, and Baker City
ELEVATION: 3,450 feet DISTANCE TRAVELED: 307 miles
VEHICLE: 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer TRAILER: 2016 Jayco Jayflight 174BH
WEATHER: Cool, drizzly, and windy TEMP RANGE: low 34º – high 78º
DATE ARRIVED: Wednesday May 12th DATE DEPARTED: Monday May 31st
Our original plan was to travel south through Oregon and California, and then veer east and north through Nevada and Utah, with a final push through the northern states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. Once we made it about halfway through California, it was apparent that plan was going off the rails for a couple of reasons. 1) It was unbearably hot and about to get even hotter, and 2) Matt was determined to look for land/home to buy, and the southern states weren't on his radar for possible locations. So back up north we went, cruising through the bulk of California and Oregon in three days to land in Vancouver, WA for a couple of weeks to recoup. New plan? Head directly east and reach those northern states right away.
#6 VANCOUVER, WA + PORTLAND, OR
5/12/21 Arrived in Vancouver, WA to set up at Hipcamp site. Basically camped in a nice older couple’s driveway with full hook-ups. Two week stay commences.
5/13/21 Drove around to get familiar with the town. Coffee. Groceries.
5/14/21 Very, very windy in this mini valley. Construction in the field next door… noise might be a problem. We’ll see.
5/15/21 Vancouver Farmers’ Market. Drove all the way to Ridgefield Plankhouse but it was closed.
5/16/21 Not much today. Construction is still going on despite it being the weekend. I’m feeling deceived by Ramona and Mike’s Hipcamp description.
5/17/21 Finished taxes. Due today. Laundry.
5/18/21 Rain. Wind. Completed various repairs inside the trailer. Fixed squeaky sink handle. Recaulked shower and tub.
5/19/21 Portland Zoo, one of our favorites. Worth the drive just to see the condors and chimps.
5/20/21 Visited Camas and Washougal. The Pendelton Factory tour was closed, but the store was open. Brief stop at Captain William Clark Park.
5/21/21 Coffee and donuts before Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
5/22/21 Stayed home all day. Bell sewed a leather pouch from the Fort Vancouver gift shop.
5/23/21 Home Depot for misc supplies. Installed new roof rack system on the car.
5/24/21 Work sessions today. Researched next campgrounds in Idaho.
5/25/21 Moving Day 1 to Cascade Locks, OR. Boarded the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler for a sightseeing cruise. Hiked a smidge of the Pacific Crest Trail to reach the Bridge of the Gods.
5/26/21 Moving Day 2 to Ione, OR. Stayed the night at a wheat farm next to a wind farm. Unique stay to say the least. Blood super moon tonight.
#7 BAKER CITY, OR
5/27/21 Moving Day 3 to Baker City, OR. Stopped in Pendleton to visit the Tamástslikt Culture Center. Groceries. Laundry.
5/28/21 Work all day to catch up on projects. Short visit to Baker City Heritage Museum.
5/29/21 Sumpter Valley Railroad in nearby Sumpter, OR. Huge Memorial Day flea market going on in town that we weren’t expecting. Train turns 101 years old next month. Beautiful drive up Elkhorn Scenic Byway.
5/30/21 Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Short hike to trail ruts from wagons of yesteryear. Felt just a tad small in the grand scheme of history.
There are a few routes across Oregon from west to east (or vice versa). We chose to take I-84 across the top, but you can weave through central Oregon and snap pics at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Painted Hills, or head across through the southern and eastern ends of the state (which doesn't go through much at all). We really love the Lewis and Clark Interstate 84 route, because it snakes alongside the Columbia River from Portland to The Dalles. It's relatively flat and straight, and a simply beautiful drive. No problems at all pulling the trailer, and plenty of spots to stop along the way. Be aware of wind gusts though– there's a reason eastern WA and OR have so many wind farms!
Portland Zoo: Officially called the Oregon Zoo, this is one of our favorites. A few animals we don't usually get to see are housed here, including condors and chimpanzees.
Bob's Red Mill Factory Tour: We didn't do this Milwaukie tour on this particular trip, but have visited in the past. Definitely recommend.
Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler: So much fun! Brunch and dinner cruises are available, but we opted for the plain ol' sightseer cruise, which is both shorter and cheaper. The smaller Portland Spirit departs from the Portland area, but this one comes and goes from Cascade Locks, which is about an hour east on I-84.
Pendelton Factory: Tours currently closed, but would have been awesome to see. I love a good tour! The factory stores offer sale and clearance items you may not find elsewhere, and a few good deals are available if you search thoroughly. We visited the store/factory in Washougal, WA.
Tamastslikt Cultural Center: Very nice museum focusing on the heritage and living history of the local Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes. Located just outside of Pendelton.
Baker City Heritage Museum: A small but cute museum with plenty of gold rush and Oregon Trail history and artifacts. Not necessarily a destination, but worth a stop if you're in the area.
Oregon Trail Interpretive Center: Currently closed but the grounds and trails were open to the public. Just off the main road you are instantly transported to the actual, real-life Oregon Trail and can hike to your heart's content as a modern day pioneer.
Sumpter Valley Railroad: As far as I could tell, this was the only scenic railroad available in eastern Oregon or Idaho, so we didn't want to miss it. They offer a ride in the locomotive to three lucky guests (first come first served), but due to the Memorial Day weekend busyness they weren't doing it! Very bummed, as we arrived early just for that. Travel tip– board early and sit in the farther back row of the last car, so you can stand at the rear. You'll have a front row spot for the return trip!
John Day Fossil Beds: I really wanted to go here, but our route was too far off. I'm saving it on the "one day in the future" list.
• The obvious standout here is the Oregon Trail. There's a whole school year's worth of history tied up in this one topic– everything from Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase, to Lewis and Clark, the Corp of Discovery Expedition, and Sacagawea, to pioneers, fur trappers, and gold hunters. And SO MUCH else. Many states have interpretive centers for the Oregon National Historic Trail, including many online activities.
Junior Ranger books and badges are available online for the trail, or at Fort Vancouver as well.
The History Channel produced a decent 4-part mini series about this time in history called The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen. We've watched it a few times and always enjoy it.
Bell's Eyewitness Report
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