Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 17th, 2014 at 10:47 pm
Perspective is everything in life. Bicycling through the canyons of Morrow County in eastern Oregon in summer heat can feel difficult at times; but when you consider the experience of pioneers on the Oregon Trail it seems downright easy.
On day three of our trip with Treo Bike Tours we continued our educational tour with a focus on that famous east-west route once traversed by families on wagons with wooden wheels.
The group rolled north of Hardman via Rhea Creek Road, made a stop in the small town of Ione (where Treo owner Phil Carlson went to high school), then continued north on Heppner Highway along Willow Creek to the Columbia River Gorge. Along the way we made a stop in Cecil, known to Oregon Trail users as Willow Creek Campground.
According to local history, as told to us by Carlson, in 1862 William and Mary Cecil’s wagon broke down at a nearby spring and they camped at Willow Creek. William ended up staying and becoming a wagon mechanic. He later built a store that still stands today. With keys from current owner Maureen Krebs (a descendent of homesteaders who have farmed this valley since the 1800s) we got to go inside the store, which has much of its interior still intact.
A mile or so north of Cecil we crossed the Oregon Trail itself. No sign of the wagon wheel tracks remain near the highway (apparently you have to go about 15 miles into the valley on a dirt road to see those), but we still stopped and paused at a roadside memorial that marked the old campground.
Our own adventure continued north to the Columbia River Gorge, where — after a grit-your-teeth climb — we were met by the Treo bus which was waiting for us with cold drinks and wet towels at the junction of I-84. From there, Carlson drove us east to Boardman where we visited the new SAGE Center, a very cool agricultural museum that highlights Morrow County’s food processing and farming industries.
Check out more photos and notes below…
Thanks for following along on our trip with Treo Bike Tours. Tomorrow we’ll wrap things up with the group’s first gravel road experience and one of Oregon’s most spectacular downhills.