Friday, May 31, 2013

Sumpter, OR

Day 13: Friday, May 31, 2013
Prairie City to Sumpter: 46 miles

Today was the day of the three passes. They weren't high: 1500', 1000', 800'; but they came bang! bang! bang! one right after another. Yeah, there were downhills in between, and for that I'm thankful. But by the time it came to turn to Sumpter (3 miles) or Baker (27 miles), it was an easy decision. I didn't want to do a 70-mile day with three passes.

Besides: I have always regretted not going to Sumpter 32 years ago. We made the push to Baker, because Sumpter was off the route, and we had no idea what was there. This time I did, and I didn't want to miss it. So I headed for Sumpter. That would give me time to see what I wanted to see and have a lazy ride to Baker the next day.

Despite (or maybe because of) the three passes, the scenery was superb. Lush green valleys, snow-capped mountains, stands of Ponderosa pine.

mountain range south of Prairie City
Snow- and cloud-capped mountain range
south of Prairie City

The Sumpter Valley Railroad was started in 1890 for the purpose of delivering machinery to logging camps and the gold fields in the Sumpter Valley and beyond, and to carry logs out of the woods. By 1910, the railroad reached Prairie City via a circuitous route to navigate those three passes. But, like so many other small railroads, it had a short life. Exhaustion of timber, the decline of gold mining, and improvements to roads severely cut its freight and passenger revenue. The railroad pulled out of Prairie City in 1937, and went belly-up in 1947.

Much of the railroad's right of way has been reclaimed by the forests or covered by new roads. Working my way up one of the passes, I stopped to walk a bit of the old right of way. A short section had been cleared, and rails laid, as a kind of memorial to what used to be.

SVRR memorial track section
An SVRR memorial track section
in a clearing in the forest

old SVRR roadbed
Can you see where the track used to run?

The town of Sumpter was one of numerous gold-mining centers that dotted the valley and the surrounding hills. Today, it's a sleepy shadow of its former self. I spent the night at the Sumpter Stockade, a motel/camping spot made to look like something out of the old west. It was quite comfy - the shower felt good! I copped out on cooking again, and had a chef's salad at a rustic restaurant down the street.

the Sumpter Stockade
The Sumpter Stockade:
motel, camping, event center

Sumpter Stockade gazebo
The gazebo was intended
to host weddings and other events

1 comment:

  1. Love the beautiful view and railroad story. Thanks for sharing your adventure!


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