For our second “big” (with all the kids) trip of the year, we decided to visit Sumpter, Oregon. Phillips Lake/Reservoir is one of our favorite spots to camp, and was near enough to cut down on travel time.
We took off Saturday morning, taking our time to empty tanks & go shopping before arriving late that afternoon. By Saturday evening our favorite spots were already taken, so we tried a new one at the SW Shore Campground. We hiked around and explored before dinner and bed time stories from Rick Steber’s “Mining” volume.
Sunday dawned bright and shiny, at about 50 degrees. I made ham/egg/cheese sandwiches to go with our coffee. It would take hours for the day to get hot enough for water sports, so we decided to check out some local ghost towns. First up was the town of Granite, Oregon. It was larger than I anticipated, being spread out amongst several streets on the side of a hill. Many buildings were still intact, and others used and maintained as vacation locations.
We spent some time touring their cemetery, where I found a headstone to “one-up” the 1892 my brother had found in Texas. They’ve re-erected some signs for old plots, including one for a founding pioneer who died in 1862. (The rules aren’t clear on our competition, but I still have a stone for 1890, so I’m in the lead either way.) Before leaving, we patronized the local store, buying some ice cream, and a book to complete my Rick Steber collection. The “Outback” had gas, ice, and all kinds of other necessities.
On our return, we debated whether to visit the town of Bourne. The votes were dead even, so it was my decision to go, even though it was lunch time. Cracker Creek Road is just outside of Sumpter, and winds up the creek of the same name. We saw remnants of a dredge, and it’s tailings too. By the time you reach Bourne, a tall-clearance vehicle is needed, and I even took the liberty of putting it in 4-wheel-drive.
We parked in the driveway of an unoccupied cabin. (This one didn’t have trespassing signs plastered around.) We hiked up to the creek and back, thinking we saw all the 1/2-dozen structures available, when an older lady started to approach us. “Oh boy,” I thought, “she’s probably here to run us off.” I called the kids in close, and prepared mentally for a confrontation.
Much to my relief, she was the Aunt of Birdy’s ex-husband, and had recognized the kids! Birdy had heard of their cabin, and we just happened to be in the right ghost town on the right weekend! We hung out with them for a while, taking a tour & learning about the town. Then, they informed us of its main attraction…
Our local connection told us directions to an old stamp mill that was used to crush rock and recover its gold. (Without the tip, I wouldn’t have taken my truck any further, for fear of a turnaround spot.) I crawled up the rocky road a ways before the shrubbery revealed a 3-plus story, stone behemoth!
Without fencing or signs to deter us, we totally crawled all over that thing, gawking at it’s former innards. I’ve edited a photo here, to give you an idea of the scale as we stand on a shorter, second floor. I’ll have a separate gallery for this attraction at the end, but it was the highlight of our trip.
We had a late lunch when we got to camp, before heading out to get wet. Phillips was low again this year, so neither camp site was on the water. Instead, we drove around to Social Security Point. They had a pit-toilet here, and road to the shore, where everyone else parks, swims, goes fishing, etc. (There were ruts and holes, so even a good-clearance vehicle needed to be wary.)
We launched our kayaks & stand-up-paddle board and had fun. Birdy & her kids decided they wanted to paddle across, so TBear and I swam around before driving back around to meet them at camp.
I grilled burgers for dinner, and the kids worked on their faerie structures. We decided on a competition for the best fairy building. The kids ended up creating a whole village but TBear won, with a vote for each of his fairy ‘mines.’ As a result, he got first shower when we got home!
Monday we slept in and, after breakfast, just went on walks, hung out at camp, and worked on fairy buildings. By the afternoon, we were ready to explore some more, so we went down by the dam. (Again, very rough roads.) Fishing was supposed to be better down there, and the rascals took as much power bait as I would feed them. Fishing barb-less off the bottom, I was unable to snag any before they got away.
That night, we enjoyed a campfire with steak-filled foil dinners. Smores were roasted again, and we enjoyed the sticky sugar-fueled dreams.
We ran an errand in Baker City, and decided to stop for a picnic lunch. Just east of Elgin lies a pond. We pulled in and set out the canopy. Birdy made wraps for the group, and the fast-eaters got to play frisbee too. As I enjoyed the breeze and shade by the cottonwoods, I thought, “this beats the heck out of a bag of tacos on the run!”
Well, that concludes this journey. Our hectic schedules won’t converge the kids again until August so (in the mean time) enjoy your summer!