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    Three covered wagons on Oregon Trail

    Stories from the Oregon Trail enthrall, terrify or impress with their perserverance and strong sense of hope. People from all walks of life packed up their belongings, loaded wagons and walked thousands of miles over months in search of a better life. A great place to get an inkling of what it all entailed is at the National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center on the outskirts of Baker City in Easter Oregon. This is a truly impressive display in the form of a life size diorama depicting what life was like on the trail. They do a fabulous job of keeping this history alive with events and exhibits. You can even take part in a Ride the Ruts once a year – think of taking your bicycle along the wagon wheel ruts left behind after all these years.

    A covered wagom wit woman and child in life size diorama depicting life on the Oregon Trail inside the Interpretive Center
    A section of the excellent life size diorama depicting life on the Oregon Trail inside the Interpretive Center

    But there is way more to Baker City than the Oregon Trail. A historic pretty little town, it boasts a vibrant downtown, growing art scene and gorgeous scenery surrounding it. Another claim to fame is the movie Paint your Wagon was filmed nearby and the crew stayed at the local hotel, the Geiser Grand built in 1889. After the filming of the movie, the hotel closed down in 1968 and it was nearly demolished to build a parking lot. You can only mutter, “What were they thinking?”especially as you gaze up at the beautiful stained glass ceiling. Luckily, it avoided this fate and now the splendid restored Geiser Grand Hotel dominates Main Street. If you can't spend the night there, be sure to stop by for a a glass of wine and nibbles in the bar.


     stained glass skylight  inside Geiser Grand Hotel
    The beautiful stained glass skylight renovation inside Geiser Grand Hotel

    A short walk from the hotel you'll find a friendly welcome the craft distiller, Glacier 45,. Their ultra modern facility produces excellent 'wet' (i.e. not dry) gin and speciality bourbon. The name is inspired by the nearby glacier they get their water from, reportedly about the fifth most pure in the nation and because the city is located on the 45th parallel. All along Main Street you'll find coffee shops, the Copper Belt winery, restaurants, art galleries, Barley Brown's Beer brewpub, a kitchen specialty shop and a chocolatier/art galery combined, Peterson's Gallery & Chocolatier. There is no shortage of interesting places to visit.

    whiskey bottles inside distillery Glacier 45 in Baker City, Ore.
    The modern interior of the award winning distillery Glacier 45 in Baker City, Ore.

    Head just around the corner to 2020 Auburn Ave to the Crossroads Carnegie Art Center. Do not miss this place. The old Carngeie library has been transformed in to a first class art center the town is justifiably proud of. It is an impressive building and what is inside is just as impressive. Under the energetic guidance of Executive Director Ginger Savage, they host an interesting variety of exhibits, artistic demonstrations, musical events, dance and all manner of creative fun that draws from, and involves, the whole community.


    During the first weekend in October the Baker Art Guild, a local area art group, open their studios to the public for the annual Baker City Studio Tour, which also includes a stop at the Crossroads Carnegie Art Center and local galleries. They host individual artists who can not open their studio to the public to demonstrate their craft, plus the galleries hang special exhibits.
    The studio tour features approximately 20-25 indivudal artists covering a range of artistic media from painting, sculpture and pottery to wood work, mosiac and fibre art. Get the brochure and map and head out to see the artists at work in their studios, talk with them about their process and buy yourself, or someone special, a unique gift.

    exterior of the Crossroads Carnegie Arts Center.
    The Carnegie library was transformed in to the Crossroads Carnegie Arts Center.

    Take a ride out of town to visit the mountains nearby for an interesting day trip. You can take a picnic lunch to enjoy on the shores of Phillips Lake or stop by the small village of Sumpter. Here you can walk through the fascinating history of the huge 3-story Sumpter Dredge. It scrambled the area as it searched for gold but, thankfully, it's now firmly anchored in place. Or ride the wee train, the Sumpter Valley Railroad, as it chugs up the hill, then wander along the small main street with a host of interesting shops, the Lynn Bean art gallery and plenty of local characters.

    Delightful Baker City, nestled in Eastern Oregon, and it's surrounding area, has much to offer. Stop a while, enjoy the slower pace, interesting history, and the exciting modern vibe that oozes from every corner.

     The  Sumpter Dredge
     The enormous Sumpter Dredge makes for an interesting tour, especially for engineers.

    Business information:
    http://visitbaker.com
    http://oregontrail.blm.gov
    http://GeiserGrand.com
    http://crossroads-arts.org
    http://bakercityopenstudios.blogspot.com
    http://weavespindye.org
    http://wegoregon.org
    http://NEOregonArts.org




     

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