Discovering Eastern Oregon

After almost 15 years in Bend, I still hadn't explored Eastern Oregon. So when my friends -- new full-time fifth-wheeler friends Kristie and Scott Lemon -- announced that they'd be spending a week at the Union Creek Campground off of Sumpter Highway, I was all in. 

The campground, which overlooks Phillips Lake, was the first surprise. One of the nicest I've experienced. And check out the off-leash dog area, directly below!

Head northwest from Union Creek Campground and you'll hit Sumpter, with its historic Sumpter Valley Dredge. Yes, there was gold in them thair hills and rivers. You can even ride the rails like my friend Leah Hendrix. 

Half an hour from Sumpter, you'll find Granite. Cool sign, but pretty much nothing else. So keep driving until you get to the John Day river. That's worth a stop! Just remember that salmon spawn there, so watch out for dogs rolling in and eating dried up and potentially toxic salmon parts. On your way there or back, don't miss the Ah Hee Diggins Interpretive Site historic marker, which displays the mining efforts of Chinese miners in the late 1800s.

The following day, after a walk on the Lake Phillips Shoreline Trail (see directly below), head into Baker City.

Baker City has seen an influx of resident artists, which shows the second you hit downtown. 

Don't let the long view put you off. Baker City's got plenty of charm, despite first impressions. The photo at the right is the same block featuring at least two of the buildings and art pieces above.

You'll also find mosaics on building walls, along with a suspended crocodile sculpture, and some lovely architecture, witness the Geiser Grand Hotel below.

Did I mention the upscale chocolate shop that looks like an art gallery or the local distillery that uses all natural ingredients and makes two mighty fine bourbons along with a number of vodkas and gins?

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