History runs deep across Oregon’s varied landscapes that seem to offer a treasure trove of places and activities that reveal much about our past.
In fact, one region offers plenty of hands-on lessons in history that – with a little imagination – can transport you to a very different Oregon.
Hells Canyon of the Snake River offers you thrills and chills on Oregon’s most challenging whitewater river. But rugged and remote adventure is but one entree from a remarkable menu of Eastern Oregon adventures.
Near Baker City, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is a fine gathering site for your family. The site provides you with a perspective and context to better understand the region’s early days.
The OTIC opened in 1993 and shows - through tours and exhibits – how the westward migration that began in the 1840’s changed Oregon forever. This year they celebrate 175 years of The Oregon Trail.
“We tend to think about coming across the Oregon Trail as this great big adventure – hurrah, let’s go!” said Jeremy Martin, BLM Park Ranger. “But the fact is there was a sense of desperation that moved most people west. People who came this way in the 1840’s and 50’s needed a better life!”
Outside the OTIC you can explore replicas of covered wagons that give you a feel for the pioneering experience, but Martin is quick to point out that you won’t need to travel far to see the real thing. That’s because the actual trail – deep wagon ruts and all – is adjacent to the OTIC.
“It’s important to remember that there wasn’t just one trail,” noted Martin with a chuckle. "There were many Oregon Trails and the reason for many trails is because no one liked eating dust for long. So, often-times the wagons would spread out across the valley floor. We are a place that holds on to Oregon history and we tell the story of the largest non-forced human migration in human history."
In Baker City, the pioneer spirit is celebrated through a new generation of entrepreneur owned brew-pubs, distilleries, art galleries and chocolate shops that bring new vibrancy to the town.
For many, the crown jewel of the town is Bella’s Main Street Market where owner Beverly Calder manages a dynamic retail destination with thousands of products from every corner of the planet.
Photos: Bella Main Street Market
Photos: Bella Main Street Market
You can find kitchen gadgets, cookware and dishes, specialty foods, coffees, teas, local meats and more than 1,200 wines.
Be sure to glance overhead and enjoy the 40-foot colorful mural that shows off whimsical flying women above Paris rooftops. It is delightful and gorgeous!
“Bella means beautiful. It’s Italian. It’s an all-encompassing word that is good and me happy. Bellavita was the beautiful life I came out here to build,” Calder said.
Calder arrived here 25 years ago after years of marketing work in Oregon’s fast-growing wine industry.
She went looking for a life-style change and landed in Baker City.
“The beautiful thing about being out here is that there really isn’t any competition. If you have a really good idea, you are going to get a lot of attention because you’re going to be the only one doing it and that’s a plus!”
Her “Bella” now celebrates 21 years in a business that’s open 7 days a week and represents destination retail at its finest.
Calder and her partner, Alex Castillo, recently embarked on a new adventure: brewing and bottling an assortment of tonics called “Ruby D Red.”
A delicious array of organic herbs spices combines in a knockout non-alcoholic beverage that reflects Calder’s business wisdom and willingness to move in new directions. She says that is approach to business is a part of the Baker County lifestyle.
“We’re the best little kitchen, wine shop, chocolate and good food store you never expected to find here. Beat that! You can’t. That’s me!”
If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my new book: “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures With the Kids.” You’ll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thundereggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park.
In addition, be sure to check out “Grant’s Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. Scores of colorful photos by “Grant’s Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field. You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures"