Monday, July 30, 2012

IN THE LAND OF GOLD AND GHOSTBUTERS…


Wagon Tracks on
the Oregon Trail
Dimples Ancestor
The Covered Wagon
A short drive east brings us to Baker City, Oregon.  We spend a few days here at the Oregon Trails West RV Park.  This park is in a really great location, and their WiFi works OK, but their lack of any rules regarding the appearance of the permanent residences, leaves us feeling like we are slumming in the ghetto. But we’re out and about during the day and we don’t feel unsafe, just aesthetically polluted.

The major attraction that brings us here is the Oregon Trail Interpretive Museum.  Although neither of our families came west in covered wagons, this is a large part of the history of the western United States.  We spend a whole day, studying the exhibits and hiking the grounds. We even walk along some of the wagon tracks that still mar the landscape.

Sumpter Valley RR
Speaking of marred landscapes, another draw for this area is The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge.  There we take a guided tour, shoot some pics and hike a bit amongst the tailings. We also spend some time photographing the Sumpter Valley Railroad Yard and some of their train cars.

Back in Baker City we walk around the historic downtown district photographing the incredible architecture in the late afternoon sun.  While downtown we decide to treat ourselves to an upscale dinner at the Geiser Grand Hotel.  After falling into disrepair in the 1960’s the hotel sat vacant until 1993 when it was restored to it’s current glory.  The restaurant’s main dining room sits in the center of the building. It is actually an atrium with a beautiful stained glass ceiling suspended two stories above.  The ambiance is elegant yet comfortable, paying homage to the bygone era of gold fever and early twentieth century elegance.  The menu however, honors the current trend of local, fresh and organic. We dine on a Crab Cake appetizer, Mesquite Smoked Prime Rib, Wild Mushrooms in Marsala Sauce Over Grilled Polenta, and finish off the meal with a House Special Bread Pudding in Whiskey Sauce with Marionberry Ice Cream.  The Crab Cake is a bit too “blackened” and bitter. The Smoke on the Prime Rib is a tad heavy handed along the edges, but the center is flavorful and tender.  The Wild Mushrooms are exquisite and deliver explosions of flavor and the Bread Pudding a wonderful finale for a pleasant meal in spectacular surroundings.
Geiser Grand Hotel
The Geiser Grill on Urbanspoon

While waiting for our table we see that the hotel is hosting a ghost-hunting event later that night with members of a local paranormal investigation group.  We discuss this and decide mid meal that we would like to participate if there are still spots available.  There are and we finish our meal shortly before the 9:00PM start.  We’re not really sure what to expect.  There are television shows featuring these types of events, but since we don’t watch a lot of television we are only aware that they exist and only have a small preconception of what can happen.

Hunting Ghosts

At the start we are divided into three groups. Each group is headed by an experienced hunter and supplied with gizmos and gadgets to record any findings.  Our group starts in the basement where supposedly there have been paranormal readings and ghost sightings.  The basement houses the washers and dryers for the hotel, all of which are running when we arrive.  Additionally all of the plumbing in the hotel runs along the ceiling and we hear the constant gush, dribble and stop of water as guests above shower and flush their toilets.  We sit in the dark and wait.  The hunter asks questions that would irritate any adult let alone a dead one.  She also continually turns about the room and takes pictures with her flash camera, blinding us and causing spots before our eyes.  (No wonder folks see and hear things that are more imagination than reality.)  This continues on the third and second floor and the kitchen and adjoining rooms.  Occupied hotels are busy and ambient noise is everywhere.  After each group visits the three specified locations, we all meet together and once more sit in the dark in the basement.  The finale is a post mortem where everyone reports their findings.  Our take on this is that the human imagination will fill in the dots and create what we want to believe, and if there really are ghosts or spirits in the Geiser Grand, they are probably just sick and tired of being prodded and poked to perform for a bunch of wannabe ghost busters.  Regardless, we left laughing and feeling that this was one of the funniest adventures we have participated in.

With nothing else to keep us here, we head out to work our way further east…

k

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