Friday, October 27, 2006

Day Seven: The Boise / Oregon Ghost Town Tour...

Finally, here we are on Day Seven - the final day of the tour! This is the day we travelled home, but FIRST there was a little more adventure to be had!

One of the highlights of the eastern Oregon high desert country is the John Day Fossil Beds. The entire area covers 14,000 acres, but there are four primary areas you can stop at and explore. On this day, we stopped at two of them. The first stop was was at the Clarno Palisades, which is about 20 miles west of the town of Fossil. You drive a VERY windy road to get here!

But there's some fun hiking in and around the area. And as you can see from the photos, we had a beautiful, HOT day to enjoy the trails. Here are a couple of photos from our hike....

and a close up of the rocks...

After our hike, we drove about two hours south to the town of Mitchell, Oregon where we stopped for a treat.

Now, Mitchell is a little tiny town in the middle of the desert with a population of less than 200. But for a tiny town, we had a lot of fun.

We pulled over at the local (and only) grocery store.

Note the wording across the front of the store...

"Antiques and Needful Things..." Needful things? Isn't that a Stephen King book? Yes, indeed. I this this is the first time I've seen that phrase used outside of fiction. Perhaps it's a generational thing.

Anyway, inside we found a delightful selection of ice cream to cool off with. My son, Nathan, decided to try something a bit different...

I have no idea what flavor that is....

But this is my kid - he loves to try different things. Just the other night, we went out and he had tarter sauce for the first time. He's like, "I've never had tarter sauce - I'll try it."

What a great kid, you never have to ask him to try something new. He's always up for a new taste and new experience!

Then we stumbled across this old relic of technology. Nathan tried to figure out how to use it...

"Papa, what's this?"

"It's a phone booth."

"What's a phone booth?"

"It's a public telephone."

"Why do people need these when we have cell phones?"

"Well, son, there was a time when there weren't cell phones."


Pretty soon he'll be asking me what a Compact Disc is and why people ever owned them.

So we headed out of Mitchell, and on to our next stop, The Painted Hills. This is a really beautiful area of the John Day Fossil beds just a few miles west of Mitchell. If you're EVER in this area, it is definitely worth the stop. I feared I might be disappointed - I mean, how "painted" could the painted hills really be?

Well, pretty painted!

It was a very colorful hike through the hills...

It was a lovely, memorable day. A nice way to finish the tour. A few hours later, we were home, and had to return our Ford Explorer "rental car." Leaving that and switching back to our old Honda Civic was a bit like seeing our ride turn back into a pumpkin. You really get used to being in that big ol' thing.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour. I enjoyed sharing the pictures.

Next time I'll give you a little preview of the results from our church location photoshoot - and a glipse at the new CD cover.

Chow for Now,

David Nevue

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day Six: The Boise / Oregon Ghost Town Tour...

Day Six of the tour was a day I was really looking forward to - the day I'd finally be able to track down some of the more secluded churches in Eastern Oregon that I thought might work for a photo shoot.

To recap, one of the objectives of this "tour" was to scope out possible locations for a photo shoot for my next album - an album of traditional hymn arrangements. I wanted to find a church that was secluded, run down and lonely - something that spoke of a bygone church era.

As the day began, we headed south on Hwy 19 from Arlington, Oregon. The first stop we made was at a road marking for the Oregon trail - the highway crossed the *actual* Oregon trail. So we got out of the car with kids in tow and walked on it for a bit. It was kind of surreal to know you were walking in the steps of the pioneers. It gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk to my son Nathan about Oregon's history. To the right is a shot of me carrying my daughter Noelle on the Oregon Trail.

And here is a *gorgeous* picture my wife Julie took of the landscape...

What a nice start to the morning!

We got back in the car and took a very exciting journey to our first "Ghost Town," the city of Lone Rock, Oregon. Lone Rock is so secluded that you can only get there by gravel road. You drive down, down, down into a lonely valley and then.... there it is.

For a small, hidden-away town, it has a beautiful welcome sign...

The sign is three-dimensional. Someone put a lot of care into crafting it. One very interesting little factoid - on all the "official" Oregon maps, charts, and government documents I found, the city of Lone Rock is spelled "Lonerock" - one word. But the citizens of the city itself obviously prefer two words - the more proper spelling. It makes you wonder if some government official mistyped it on a document long in the past and now the poor little town is forever a typo!

The population of Lone Rock was "24" according to the 2000 census.

The big draw of the town is the church, which is reason we went there. If you go here, you'll see an old picture of the Lone Rock church from 1963.

But here's mine...

and here's my favorite picture of the day, taken looking up at the bell tower...

Pretty cool, huh? I didn't even notice the weird cloud formations when I took the shot. When I looked through the photos later, I was startled by it. It looks very ghostly for being high noon!

The church was very close to the building style of what I was looking for for the photo shoot, but believe it or not, it's not quite secluded enough. There are lots of power lines around, plus just too buildings nearby.

Still, Lone Rock was a wonderful stop on our trip. And here's something I just had to show you. This "vehicle" was parked in front of a home in Lone Rock. Now THIS is how you mow a lawn... note the front bike "wheel."

That's not something you see every day!

From Lone Rock we headed northwest back out of the valley on Hwy 206 toward Wasco. The next church to visit on our trip was one I was very excited to see. I new it had potential based on the one single image of it I found online. The church is located in Locust Grove, Oregon, which isn't even really a town. Try finding it on Google Maps! Good luck, it's not there! It was tough to track down this "non-existent" place, but I did finally find it.

Here are some photos of the Locust Grove church we took that afternoon...

Now this, folks, is exactly what I was looking for! At this particular time of day (about 3 pm) the sun wasn't in the right position so the lighting on the structure is a bit shadowed, BUT I think you get the idea.

Aside from the trees, this church is all by itself - there's no other building for a block away. It's PERFECT! The main issue we'll have with the shoot is dealing with the trees and how NOT to get them in the shot too much. I kind of like the angle below as with this shot, the trees all appear behind the church. In the fall, once the leaves fall off the trees, this will make a nice location for a morning shoot, I think.

The Locust Grove church was built in 1895 and last used for a funeral in 1914. So it was only used for 19 years! That's rather sad, really, as it's a magnificent structure which so perfectly hails back to a past era.

The only potential problem with this location was that the church is on private property behind a barbed-wire fence! So I headed to the closest house, found out from that neighbor who owned the property and then tracked down the owner! I shared with the family what I was hoping to do with the photo shoot for the album cover and they agreed to let us shoot there! I'm hoping to do that in the next few weeks. If we get some good material, I'll post it here.

Our next stop was in Grass Valley, OR, just south of Locust Grove on Hwy. 97. Here's a picture of that church...

Notice how the trees there have totally overgrown the building. The front entrance of the church is completely immersed in trees! Here's the "entrance" side....

This was a really interesting building, but the exterior wasn't exactly the style I was looking for. However, the INTERIOR is wonderful. Take a look at this shot - this photo is taken using just the room's natural lighting - the sun coming in through the broken out windows....

I'm planning on doing a photo shoot here as well. I think this spot would make a wonderful interior and/or back cover location for the album.

The rest of the day, we continued south on Hwy 97 to a town called Shaniko, which bills itself as Oregon's "living" Ghost Town. It was a real disappointment as far as "ghost towns" go. It's a tourist stop, with ghostliness "hammed up" for kicks. While certainly it's a very old town, what they've done there in terms of design and decor comes across as very inauthentic. Kind of like spray painting your lawn white and calling it snow.

Finally, we headed back north and west to a little town called Maupin, which is basically river-rafting central. We stayed the night there, ready to head to John Day fossil beds the next day!

So all in all, Day Six was a successful, fun-filled day. I found the locations I wanted for the album cover photo shoot. It's hard to say what will come of those, but hopefully we'll get what I'm looking for. The potential is there.

Next up, the VERY LAST DAY of our trip!


Day Five: The Boise / Oregon Ghost Town Tour...

On Day Five we headed east from LaGrande, Oregon into the area some refer to as the "Alps of Oregon." If you take a look at this map you can actually see the very route we took, from LaGrande, through Wallowa, Enterprise, Joseph and finally Wallowa Lake.

It was a WONDERFUL, beautiful day of traveling and for this blog entry, I will let the pictures tell the story.

The first gorgeous site along the way (in Imbler, I believe) are the sunflower fields...

And then you get your first glimpse of the "Alps of Oregon" - The Wallowa Mountains in the distance...

In the city of Wallowa, there was this old church for sale....

The church had been converted to a residence. It was a mere $150,000 and a small part of my brain was thinking just how cool it might be to buy it. Not that I could actually *do* it, mind you, but still, it's fun to imagine.

Next, we stopped in Lostine, Oregon at this really cool coffee shack... The Blue Banana - and yes, that's an airplane going through the roof and a VW Bug through the wall. By the way, that VW bug is actually a "seat" inside the coffee shop.

and behind it is, well, "The Coffee Pot," where the family, um, took a little break. It's hard to tell in this shot, but that's a boat going through the roof.

Next, we drove through both Enterprise and Joseph, Oregon. Both were neat towns in their own right, but Joseph was really spectacular. Strangely, I didn't get any real great photos of the town, but you can go to the official Joseph, Oregon web site and get a good feel for it. You simply MUST check out the panoramas on the Joseph web site.

Finally, we arrived at the lovely Wallowa Lake... It is here that I got my favorite shot of the day of my son Nathan just chillin' out on the dock...

I just love the colors in that photo. And here's what he's looking at behind him...

Take a deep breath...

After some down time, we stopped and had some family fun!

That's a water pistol my little girl is holding and she took great joy in squirting mama and brother with her purple pistol! Nothing made me more happy this day than to see my entire family full of smiles and laughter.

It was a day of fun, relaxation, and simply enjoying life. After the above shot we took a two hour drive into the Willowa Mountains, and then headed back toward LaGrande. We ended the night (very late I might add) eating dinner at Shari's Restaurant and staying at the Best Western Inn in Hermiston, OR. That drive from LaGrande to Hermiston seemed very LONG after such a full day.

Well, Day Six brings more exploring as we hunt down some more old churches for a possible album cover photo shoot in Eastern Oregon!

Stay Tuned!


Day Four: The Boise / Oregon Ghost Town Tour...

Day Four of the "tour" was the day we entered my favorite part of the trip... the day we REALLY got to start exploring Eastern Oregon.

As I'd mentioned in the prelude to this blog series, one of the objectives of this week long excursion was to scout out possible locations for a photo shoot for my next album. As the CD will be an album of traditional hymn arrangements, I wanted to find a very old church - something that spoke to me of a bygone era of the church.

There were several "pioneer" style churches that I wanted to hunt down in Oregon and this day was the day we began the hunt. It was also a day of very long travel. We traveled north of Boise and came into Oregon via Hells Canyon. Here's a map showing both where we INTENDED to go, and where we actually got to.

We came back into Oregon via Oxbow and intended to go through Hell's Canyon all the way to the city of Joseph, Oregon on the other side. Unfortunately, a lot of the mountain country was on fire (imagine that - Hell's Canyon on fire!) so the road from HWY. 86 through Hell's Canyon to Joseph was closed.

We decided then to take the long way around - go through Baker City, up to LaGrande, spend the night there, and then head to Joseph the next day.

This made for a very LONG road trip, as is evidenced by this picture of my son, Nathan. What is he doing here? He is trying to tune out his three year old sister Noelle. You see, Noelle at this age talks and talks and talks - and never stops. After ten hours in the car, we ALL feel this way... I saw Nathan doing this and had to get a shot of it. It's cute.

Despite the long journey in the car, we still had some fun. One of my favorite stops this day was a little town called Halfway, Oregon. Halfway is sort of famous (or rather infamous) for changing it's official town name to during the boom of the 90's. It was rather a failed attempt as the city doesn't even own the domain anymore! How sad is that? This is the closest thing the town has to a web site now. I should move there just to give them a decent web site! There is this cool little sculpture there in - a bicycle in the shape of the state of Oregon...

OK, I'm getting off the track here! This day was mostly traveling but we did make it to Cove, Oregon where stands Ascension Chapel, built in 1869.

Here are a couple photos of it...

a straight on shot from the front (that my daughter Noelle exiting the building)...

and from the side...

The inside was very nice - with beautiful stained glass and an air-pedal powered organ that I played a bit. It had two pedals side by side at the foot of the organ - you pushed them down one after another (kinda like pedaling a bicycle) you could get enough air power going to play the organ which sounded very much like a miniature pipe organ.

Here are some of my other favorite shots from the Ascension Chapel... the view as you entered the front door...

the rafters and stained glass (I really like this one)

and a stained glass close up...

A delightful church indeed!

In terms of the photo shoot, however, the Ascension Chapel doesn't fit what I'm looking for. I wanted to find a more classic "steeple" look, plus the front of the building is nearly totally obscured by trees. It doesn't quite have the isolated, lonely look I'm looking for.

We ended the day in LaGrande, OR. We had a WONDERFUL pizza dinner at Pizza Hut (it was truly delicious!).

We also achieved a dream of Nathan's - staying at the Best Western motel! Don't ask why, but my son has been obsessed with wanting staying at a Best Western ever since he saw a television commercial about it. So, we got a room there. As it so happened, the first room they gave us smelled like someone just changed a diaper - eewww! - so the management gave us a suite instead! So Nathan's first experience at a Best Western hotel was staying in the suite - and he is now forever a fan of the hotel chain. The room lived up to his expectations. :)

Thus ended Day Four. On Day Five we venture on to Joseph, OR and the very beautiful Wallowa Lake.

More to come!