Sunday, February 18, 2018

Baker City 97814

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

These small towns in Eastern Oregon are starting to grow on me.  Baker City, with its population of 10,000, is small . . . yes. . . but charming as all get out.  Its main street is lined with historic buildings, lovingly restored by local entrepreneurs.  At the Geiser Grand Hotel, we were given a Walking Tour Guide and had every intention of being good little tourists, but once we stepped inside the Peterson's Gallery and Chocolatier, forget it.

 The owner brewed us a pot of french-pressed jasmine tea, and then, of course, we had to sample a few of the handmade truffles.  Sublime!  We ended up talking to the young man for over an hour about hiking and traveling and art and good food and the pros and cons of living in a small town.  We could have easily stayed another hour if I hadn't noticed the time.  Our hotel tour was about to begin.  We paid our bill and dashed out the door.

After breakfast the next morning, we set out again.  Because it was early on a Sunday, all the shops were now closed and I was a bit upset.  There were some antique shops and boutiques I had really wanted to check out. My travel buddy reminded me that part of the fun of traveling is meeting people, and he is absolutely right.  We had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon.  I started to relax.  I got out my brochure and started reading about all the wonderful buildings that lined this street. 

Baker City was founded by miners.  A gold rush after the Civil War brought thousands of people to Northeast Oregon.  By 1900, this town was known as the "Queen City of the Mines."  It also became the cultural center of Eastern Oregon, although a rough and tough one with gamblers, cowboys, miners and sheepherders making up most of the population.  Victorian houses were built followed by a sturdy downtown of drug stores, banks, saloons, churches, a mercantile and even a mint.  But like so many of these towns in the high desert, once the mines dried up, the people left.  The population shifted west.  


But jump ahead to 2018 and a renaissance seems to be taking place.  There's still gold to be found in these parts.  Perhaps not in the ground, but in the old buildings left behind.  Young people are recognizing this and filling these sturdy stone and brick masterpieces with great food, art, wine and interesting inventories.  And drawing us in once again!

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