The Oregon I Bet You STILL Don’t Know

The Oregon I bet you STILL don’t know.

As you can see, when I say eastern Oregon I do not mean Bend as some travel bloggers do. I mean further east as in closer to Idaho than the coast. Not many people think of beautiful conifer forests, waterfalls, hot springs, fossil beds, historic sites, roaming elk herds, nor majestic mountain lakes when they think about true eastern Oregon. In fact, I would say not many people outside of the few who live here spend much time thinking about eastern Oregon if they think about it at all. This seems to be particularly true when people are making their travel plans, and that is perhaps the best part about it out here. If you dare to go against the grain (and do a little bit of roughin’ it) there are numerous trails with brilliant views, and historic structures of some form awaiting your discovery year-round with little to no crowds. Read on to learn more about the eastern Oregon I bet you STILL don’t know!

Did you know about the National Forests and other public lands in eastern Oregon with miles of all types of trails?

Hike, bike, backpack, ride a horse or ATV, maybe even Nordic ski! It’s all here depending on the time of year.

A pristine stream during a summer hike in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, Oregon
A wintry, Nordic ski trail that can be found in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon
It’s a short, uphill hike to this breathtaking mountain lake found in the Malheur National Forest, Oregon
On a trail of the Winom-Frazier OHV Complex in the Umatilla National Forest, Oregon – Photo courtesy of RiderPlanet USA.

If you prefer to have a more relaxing visit you can simply camp along a lake, river, or visit a hot spring.

Ritter Hot Springs, Oregon – Photo courtesy of  Zach Urness/ Statesman Journal.
Did you know that eastern Oregon also has one of the most renowned fossil beds in the USA?

They have discovered such unusual fossils like those of ancient, small mammals.

A marsh “rhino” tusk fossil which can be viewed at the Thomas Condon Palentology Center of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon – Photo courtesy of NPS
Did you know eastern Oregon had its own gold rush?

Asian immigrants were participants, and there are even a few active claims still. 

Kam Wah Chung exterior
This strange building holds some incredible wonders. If you are interested in old Chinese medicine and the influence immigrants had on the gold rush you should consider taking the time to visit the historic Kam Wah Chung in John Day, Oregon – Photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks.
Sumpter Valley Dredge
Gold mining was much more than sifting through pans by hand. To learn more visit the Sumpter Valley Dredge in Sumpter Valley, Oregon! – Photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks
Did you know eastern Oregon has fire look outs that are still in operation during the summer?

Their often rugged roads end in some of the best views perfect for romantic sunrises or sunsets and dark sky photography. You can probably stop by and have a chat with the look out too!

A starry night at Dixie look out of the Malheur National Forest, Oregon – Photo courtesy of Matt Franklin
Did you know. . .I purposely did not give you a lot of specific details?

What good is an adventure if you don’t get to put in the effort to discover it for yourself?! I myself have been disappointed by going to places travel bloggers have already given nearly every detail away about. Putting in the time and effort to find these and other hidden gems out here is one of the reasons I fell so in love with it that I now live out here.  I have a continual sense of excitement about the next beautiful creek or historic remnants I may find on my next outing.  I do not want to potentially ruin that sense of excitement for you. Come out and discover it further for yourself! I will give you a hint though: having a vehicle, particularly one for rough dirt roads, is a good idea.

I hope you enjoy whatever your next adventure is! I must admit I hope it is out here.

6 Best Ski Resort Near Missoula…

There are a ton of options for skiing within the western part of Montana, whether this be in our beloved home state, or one of our close neighbors. There is plenty of fresh powder to go around…

To Start off this list we are going to lay down a few guidelines. All of these ski resorts are within 200 miles of Missoula, and for those of you that were worried…They all sell beer as well.

  1. The Montana Snowbowl  (15 miles outside town)                                                    Snowbowl will always a special place in the hearts of Missoulians, for its close proximity to town, and your ability to go from class to the slopes in under 20 minutes.  While Snowbowl may have its ups and downs, you can always count on good skiing when they get some fresh snow up in the bowls. Priced at $48 for a student day pass, it’s not going to break the bank too bad. But they make up for it with $4 beers in the lodge at the base
  2. Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area (105 miles outside town)

Lookout pass ski area is known as the #1 Powder Place, and they definitely live up to that name. Lookout gets the most fresh snow out of all the resorts near Missoula, and for the most part, has pretty good weather. This resort is about an hour and 45 minutes from campus and never gets too crazy so you’ll always have a parking spot. A student day pass for Lookout will run you about $46, but the snow makes it worth it!

3. Discovery Ski Area (91 miles outside town)

Discovery ski area is located about an hour and a half from Missoula and will never let you down. With a really good mix of steep groomers and powder-filled trees, this resort is perfect for everyone. For those seeking a thrill, Discovery has an expert only backside of the mountain with some truly crazy runs. The only downfall of this resort is the road up to the lodge can get pretty bad, but you’ll always be able to find a ride up from the bottom. Discovery will run you about $50 for a day pass, but you’ll be able to go on a different run every time all day.

4. Lost Trail Powder Mountain (75 miles outside town)

Lost trail is another favorite among locals, for its close proximity to town and amazing snow. You can almost always count on fresh snow at lost trail, and when the Montana side is open it is absolutely mind-blowing. This resort is never too crazy, and it also has a hot spring just down the road for an after skiing relaxation break. A day pass will run you about $45 and you’ll be able to get food and beer at the base lodge for a pretty reasonable price.

5. Whitefish Mountain Resort (140 miles outside town)

Still known to many locals as “Big Mountain” because of the name change back in 2007, but none the less this mountain is absolutely insane. The most powder you can find in western Montana and offers some of the most diverse terrains. Even though this resort is pretty far from Missoula, it makes up for it with the beautiful views and the chance to go on an inversion day. A day pass will run you about $83 and that’s pretty steep for most college students, but a trick it to go buy 2 day passes for $120 from Costco.

6. Blacktail Mountain Ski Area (120 miles outside town)

Blacktail is known for having some serious terrain, with steep faces and ungroomed runs all over the mountain. This resort gets a good amount of powder and can definitely prove to be tough in some spots. With its close proximity to Whitefish, the resort is pretty easily accessible and doesn’t break the bank at $45 for a day pass.

A Weekend Guide to Whitefish, Montana in Winter

Wintertime in Whitefish, Montana is one of the most beautiful seasons to enjoy the small ski town and all it has to offer. This town doesn’t slow down after a winter storm, it celebrates it! Are you thinking about exploring this hidden gem for a weekend getaway? This article will give you the perfect weekend itinerary for what to see and do while you’re here.

Saturday

8:30 am – Breakfast at Buffalo Cafe

A local favorite, Buffalo Cafe offers amazing breakfast options to keep you energized for your full day ahead!

10:00 am – Ski on Big Mountain

A trip to Whitefish is never complete without a day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Endless slopes and an approachable mountain offers a day of fun for all level of skiers and snowboarders.

3:00 pm – Apres Ski at Hellroaring Saloon

After hittin’ the slopes, enjoy an apres-ski drink and nachos at Hellroaring Saloon, located next to the village on the mountain.

5:00 pm – Massage at the Spa at Whitefish Lake

You’re bound to be sore after a day on the mountain, so treat yourself to a massage at the beautiful Spa at Whitefish Lake!

7:00 pm – Dinner at Tupelo Grille

Be sure to book a table here, and be ready for one of the best meals in town. Featuring local cuisine influenced by cajun and southern flavors, the superb service completes a meal here.

Sunday

8:30 am – Breakfast at Loula’s Cafe

Loula’s breakfasts include the standard fare as well as popular originals like Lemon Stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce or Eggs Benedict with white truffle oil.

9:45 am – Pick up a Packed Lunch from Montana Coffee Traders

Before you head off for the day, pick up a packed lunch from Montana Coffee Traders. They offer a variety of sandwiches and snacks that you can bring with you to the park which is helpful because most restaurants in West Glacier are closed in the winter!

10:00 am – Drive to Glacier National Park to snowshoe

The beautiful Glacier National Park is only a 30-minute drive away from Whitefish and offers miles of scenic snowshoeing trails.  You can rent snowshoes from multiple places in town as well as outside of the park.

7:00 pm – Dinner at Abruzzo’s

Finish off your day with a delicious traditional Italian meal at Abruzzo’s. They offer extensive selection of shared plates, grilled steaks, fresh seafood, and a small but decadent dessert list, all prepared in-house and served alongside an Italian-focused cocktail program and an Italian-centric wine list.

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Places Along The Oregon Trail

If you went to school in the 80’s or 90’s you probably played the computer game The Oregon Trail.  While on your exciting and fateful journey you learned about dysentery and getting run over by a wagon.  Luckily, on this journey you have very little chance of those things happening.  However, there is a high chance you will learn about our ancestors and have a bit of fun.  So let’s get started…

We’re going to begin our journey west in Independence, Missouri.  All of the historic trails—Oregon, Santa Fe, and California, started at or near Independence.  This was a popular “jumping off” point where the pioneers

could stock their wagons before their arduous journey.  Spend some time getting acquainted with the trail at the National Frontier Trails Museum. This museum researches, interprets, and preserves the history of the pioneers who traveled along the trials.  After seeing the museum head to the Independence Courthouse Square, this was the official start of The Oregon Trail.  Walk around the square and try and get a sense of what it was like to have all of your earthly possessions crammed into a wagon to set off on a dangerous journey across the continent.

Make your way west to Rock Creek Station which is near Fairbury, Nebraska.  Rock Creek Station was a Pony Express station and road ranch that served the

pioneers along the trail.  It is here where Wild Bill Hickok shot his first man.  You can see reconstructed buildings, pioneer graves and trail ruts.  While in the area you should definitely check out the wonderful Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Nebraska.

Keep heading west to Kearney and The Great Platte River Road Archway, one of the coolest spots along the trail.  The monument is a museum that honors the people who followed the historic trails and built America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After visiting The Archway head to the south side of the interstate to visit Ft. Kearney.  This was an important outpost along the trail, it allowed the pioneers to resupply and offered them a safe resting area in a sometimes harsh territory.

 

Continue on brave pioneer, you’re 15% finished with your journey!

 

We are next headed to the Scottsbluff area and there is A LOT to see here so make sure you have some snacks.  This would also be a great area to make your home base for a few days.  The first landmark you can see from a distance is Courthouse and Jail Rocks.

These are the first rock formations that the pioneers would have seen on their journey west.  At one time there was also a Pony Express station located here.

 

 

Just a mere fifteen miles further west stands Chimney Rock.

One of the most awe inspiring and famous landmarks along the trail, Chimney Rock rises over 300 feet above the valley.  Do you have some quarters in your pocket?  If one is a Nebraska state quarter then you will see a wagon in front of this majestic landmark.  While you’re here make sure to check out the cemetery the newly renovated visitor’s center.

After Chimney Rock head over to see the fabulous landmark Scotts Bluff National Monument.  Scotts Bluff encompasses over 3,000 acres and towers 800 feet over the valley.

Visitors to the monument can walk in the footsteps of the pioneers of the Oregon Trail, drive to the top of the bluff via the Summit Road and stand in awe at the sight of the bluffs rising up from the prairie.

Before you leave Scotts Bluff pay your respects to an Oregon Trail pioneer, Rebecca Winters. Her grave lies on the eastern side of the town of Scottsbluff at the corner of South Beltline Highway and US Highway 26.  Rebecca died in 1852 after contracting cholera, a friend chiseled her name on an iron wagon tire which still stands on her grave today.

Keep heading west, pioneer, to Ft. Laramie.  You’ve made it to Wyoming! You’re a quarter of the way there! The fort was constructed in the 1830’s to support the fur trade and it soon became the largest and most important fort on the frontier.  Travelers would stop here for several days to rest, mail letters home, and resupply.  Today you can stroll the grounds and visit some of the many restored building and ruins.

Just down the road a bit from Ft Laramie is the town of Guernsey where you can see Register Cliff and the Guernsey Trail Ruts.  Register Cliff contains the engravings of hundreds of trail pioneers in the soft sandstone.  Register Cliff, along with Independence Rock and Names Hill, is one of three prominent “recording areas” in Wyoming.

The Guernsey Trail Ruts, or the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic  Site, is an amazing section of preserved trail ruts.  Decades of pioneers, wagons, and animals wore down the sandstone two to six feet.

Next on our journey is the town of Casper, Wyoming.  This would be an excellent place to rest for a couple of days.  While you are here make sure to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. This museum showcases the several different trails with artifacts and interactive displays.

Just a few miles away is Ft Caspar, this is a military post that was named for Caspar Collins who was killed during the Battle of Platte Bridge Station.

 

 

Independence Rock, which lies about an hour southwest of Casper, is a large, rounded monolith that is known as the “register of the desert.”  The rock was a major landmark for the pioneers, they needed to make it here by July 4th to ensure they make it across the Rocky Mountains.  If you walk all the way around the rock you’ve walked about a mile.  Also try and climb to top so you can see the many pioneer inscriptions.

Head west on Highway 287 and south on Highway 28 you’ll see some of the most gorgeous Wyoming landscapes, you’ll be traveling through what’s called South Pass.  This is also the half way point of the journey west. Hopefully, you’ll get to witness the graceful antelopes bounce through the sage.  Make sure to stop at some of the roadside pull offs where you experience both the present and past.

Next you’ll want to make your way over to Montpelier, Idaho and visit the National Oregon/California Trail Center.  This is a living-history center, which sits directly on the site of the historic Clover Creek Encampment on the Oregon Trail.  The center contains displays and artifacts and depicts the pioneers’ journey along the trail.

Fort Hall is just a short drive from Montpelier but it would have taken the pioneers several days to get there.  The fort was originally used as a fur trading post but soon because important to the pioneer.  They had been travelling for weeks since a resupply and hundreds of thousands of immigrants made use of Fort Hall.

Keep cruising along, pioneer, we are almost there!

Just west on I84 is Three Island Crossing.  This was a major point for the pioneers.  It was here where they had to decide on whether or not to cross the dangerous Snake River.  If you remember from the Oregon Trail game many pioneers never made it across.

The last stop on this Oregon Trail journey is the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon.  Yes, you made it to Oregon!  This 500 acre site features original Oregon Trail ruts.  The center also features dioramas, artifacts, and theater presentations.

Well, pioneers, you’ve made it to Oregon!  Hopefully, no one drowned, died of dysentery, or got bit by any snakes.  There are many more amazing places to see along the trail, hopefully you’ll be inspired to go on your own manifest destiny across the plains, prairies, and mountains of the west.

 

Food Abroad

This previous spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Torino, Italy. While living overseas I was able to travel to a variety of different countries, learn a lot, and most importantly eat a ton of great food.

Below, I’m reminiscing on some of the best meals I got to eat there. Hopefully this trip down memory lane will hold me over until my next food adventure.