County road trips packed with views and history
To thoroughly learn and enjoy the history and wonder of a place, it helps to live it, touch it, see it, to get out and experience it.
Former Madras resident Stan Pine's new book "Historic Drives Through Scenic Jefferson County Oregon" is a perfect tool for those looking to experience the county, learn some of its history, and experience some of its wonder.
Pine breaks his book into four sections: southern and central county drives; the eastern county; northern Jefferson County; and the western section of the county.
Each is unique with its own story to tell, and varied scenic, geological and historical intrigue. Along with being inspirational in its descriptions, the book includes mileage detail, maps and other important safety and preparation aspects.
The detailed trip information makes the book an excellent research and inspiration piece. However, it's the history surrounding these trips, plus amazing historic photos, which makes the book stand out, and provides great reading from your couch.
The book kicks off with southern and central county drives and leads with one of the more popular historic drives for locals: going out to the Cove State Park and Lake Billy Chinook, then continuing west to see the hoodoos (or Balancing Rocks) and what was the community and region known as Grandview. Pine provides concise, informative histories of the Grandview-Geneva area, known as the Lower Desert. The drive takes you to edge of the Cascade timberland into Sisters.
The section also includes an excursion through the Crooked River Ranch, that's Crooked River to the peninsula between the Deschutes and Crooked rivers. It showcases river canyons where a couple Hollywood movies were shot.
The third trip in the section goes through the southern Grassland by Gray Butte. It includes the Gray Butte Cemetery -- featuring a great 1918 photo of a funeral service there — and the McCoin Orchard, where fruit trees still produce a century after the family homesteaded.
Abandoned train tunnels from the Oregon Trunk Railroad along the Deschutes River are included in the road trip from Madras to Mecca. The history of Metolius is a highlight of the section of the loop trip from Madras, Metolius, Opal Springs and Haystack Reservoir.
Another very popular short road trip in the central county, climbing Round Butte and visiting the Round Butte Dam Overlook Park. The drive may be unbeatable for scenery. The 360-degree panoramic view from the butte top is iconic. The dam overview park and, of course, the popular viewpoints to the east edge of the Lake Billy Chinook canyon are photographers' dreams.
The history of the Vanora country, along the Deschutes River, at the bottom of the Warm Springs Grade on U.S. Highway 26, is part of the section noting the road trip from Madras Pelton Dam and Lake Simtustus. Now an agriculture field, Vanora once was a rail station with a school, warehouses for ag products, and other small businesses.
Section Two focuses on east county trips, featuring the Ashwood and Hay Creek Ranch country.
Among the trips is a 150-mile one that takes travelers from Madras to Crook and Wheeler counties, and takes in the historic mining town of Ashwood, the stunning Painted Hills in Wheeler County, and the Ochoco National Forest of Crook, and then the Crooked River National Grassland in Jefferson. It's a spectacular drive showcasing great north Central Oregon country. A highlight of the section, though, is the history narratives of Ashwood, Donneybrook and Kilts.
Another excellent road trip in this section is heading northeast from Madras, to old Willowdale, Cross Keys, Shaniko and Antelope. The tiny ghost towns of Shaniko and Antelope, both in Wasco County, are highlights, and the histories behind the towns, which Pine includes in the book, are fascinating. Shaniko was once the largest railhead exporter of wool and Antelope's experiences in the 1980s, the Rajneesh period, are Western lore.
Section Three, focusing on northern county drives, starts with the drive from Madras to the Trout Creek Recreation Area on the Deschutes River. It goes through Gateway, by the iconic aged building that still shows it was the former Vibbert grocery store, a hub of activity in its day.
The trip turnaround at the recreation area showcases a nice BLM campground and river access.
Rich 20th century history is featured in the tour from Madras, the Agency Plains and the Madras Municipal Airport. It features great homestead history, old school sites, a cemetery and finally the airport, born as a World War II Army Airbase. It's now a vibrant municipal airport and features the famous Erickson Aircraft Collection, housing rare WWII crafts, most of which are still able to fly.
The third trip in this section is through the Warm Springs Reservation, including the town of Warm Springs, north to Simnasho, then back south through Indian Head Canyon and the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery. The reservation, and this trip, is split between northwestern Jefferson and southwestern Wasco counties.
The history element of this trip chapter — the history of the founding and evolution of the Warm Springs Reservation and the people of the Confederates Tribes -- is another highlight of the book. Though the author takes great care to note that it isn't meant to be comprehensive, it hits many key elements, from the Treaty of 1855 to modern day.
The final segment of the book takes in the timber country. It includes the drive to the mountain lake on the county's southwestern edge, Suttle Lake, along U.S. Highway 20.
A magnificent gem of Jefferson County is the Camp Sherman area along the Metolius River. Nestled by Green Ridge, Black Butte and the Cascade foothills, Camp Sherman is a busy summer recreation spot, and a treat on the eyes. Camp Sherman is just 28 miles, as the crow flies, from Madras, but it takes more than an hour to drive there, as most everyone knows. You get there via Highway 20, west of Sisters.
As a bonus, the book has an excellent preface featuring trip safety basics and, much more intriguing to history buffs, details on the settlement of the region, legislative acts that promote homesteading; creation of military roads and farm to market roads; information on the Depression's impact on the local region; and other historic information sources.
Pine also adds a long list of important dates in local history at the end of the book.
Pine's book is ambitious and presented with both reverence for the topic and an eagerness to share it. It's a valuable guidebook for day-trippers and resource for those interested in local history.
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