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!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your photography of Nostalgic and modern archeological locations brings a flair of certainty into clear sight for me.

You should definitely take a few photos for my project.

J. Edward Nolan


If you're interested, we could truly use some of the style of "Isolated" images you've managed for the Illusion of Driftwood Project.

For more information, please contact me:


4:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should KEEP the trees in the picture of the church because they are BEAUTIFUL and really add to the beauty of the shot.

Your fan Dannielle

P.S. My favorite songs of yours are Psalm 77 and "While the Trees Sleep."

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sign at lonerock is mispelled.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous poster is correct. The town is called Lonerock (all one word) by the locals. The sign was one of three gifted to Gilliam county by a talented artist of that craft. (It was sometime in the mid 90s.) His gift was greatly appreciated and I doubt anyone ever told him of his error. I was born and raised in Lonerock, from 1980 to 1998.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures. My mother was born in Lonerock. My husband and I are headed there to try and thing that might be left of their homestead. Not getting our nhopes up, but excited to see the country.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Next time you get out that way, Flora is a good stop for an abandoned church. If that doesn't work, there are dozens of other options. Just search for ghost towns of Oregon

3:04 PM  

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