Weekend adventure: Ghost Towns, Dead Stuff, and Birds!

Last weekend I convinced my friend to join me on a trip east of the Cascades to look for birds, abandoned buildings, and things to poke.  Much success was had.  On the way to one of our first stops I saw what looked like bones strewn around a field along Friend Road.  I made a U-turn only to find that these were not bones, they were dead coyotes.  Six of them, likely dumped after being shot or poisoned or otherwise murdered.

Kind of a downer.  Back at the car a Horned Lark was singing on the fence...

We kept driving down Friend Road until we made it to Friend, a town considered a ghost town.  An old store remains as well as a one room schoolhouse.

At the store, Mountain Chickadees chattered away in the trees, while a Say's Phoebe and Western Bluebirds called from nearby powerlines.  There is a residence very close to the store, and they have a horse.  And the horse was very curious about us.

Best horse ever

The schoolhouse was cool too.  They leave it unlocked so you can go inside and check it out.  The outhouses next to it are also open and stocked with wipes.

After Friend, we made our way south towards Maupin where we stopped for the Peregrine feast, then kept driving the backroads for a bit.  A Loggerhead Shrike swooped down from a powerline to catch a lizard, then perched on the barbed wire with it.  I didn't see any great impaling action but it was cool to see anyhow.

Mountain Bluebirds were flying around, catching bugs, looking pretty...

And then there was this guy:

We got back to the main roads and continued the drive south towards Bend, occasionally stopping to poke stuff...

Road-killed GHOW

We stayed in Madras that night, then woke up super early on Sunday to drive the rest of the way to Millican for the really exciting destination:  a Greater Sage-Grouse lek.  This is where sage-grouse males gather to put on fascinating displays to attract and impress females.  The females will select a mate, get down to business, then carry on to raise their young on their own.  Some males never even get lucky, while others get lucky over and over and over.  

Without a doubt, displaying male Greater Sage-Grouse are the strangest, craziest, weirdest wild bird I have ever seen.  I meant to take a video at some point, but never did.  So here is a sequence of what these guys do...

Pretty cool, right?  Factor in some strange noises and you have quite the entertainment.  One of the males took a break from displaying for a few minutes and went back to looking like a regular old grouse...

Only a couple of the males approached fairly close to where we parked, and we never got very good looks at the females.  We left after about an hour and many males were still going strong.

We drove around the dirt roads nearby and found a couple spots to walk the dogs and investigate random junk...

Shipping container of personal belongings and a child's playhouse filled with plastic toys

Our next big stops were the ghost towns of Shaniko and Antelope.  Shaniko has tons of preserved buildings, many made into museums or otherwise still in use...

Antelope has a bit more interesting history, mainly the 1980's takeover of the town by Baghwan Shree Rajneesh.  This fellow is best known for his cult leadership, his salmonella-unleashing at salad bars in The Dalles, being a sex guru, and the large number of Rolls Royces that he owned.  I recommend a quick google search if you need some entertainment. 

The plaque above is located next to the town post office. 

We made a few more stops along the way home, mostly abandoned buildings...

See the Say's Phoebe?  How about here...

And the last bird of the trip, at the gas station in The Dalles...

This was a long post!  Glad you made it to the end.  Good times!!!


  1. Great eastside adventures. I can't wait to go look for the grouse tomorrow morning! Shaniko and Antelope are cool. Max and I stopped there last year to look around because my family used to live there around 1900.

  2. I remember when I lived & worked at Mt. Rainier, & went east of the Cascades, wow. I felt like I'd returned to Calif. I LOVED how open and dry and quiet (visually and aurally) everything was. Never thought I'd miss that. =) Warm & dry is great after months of cold & wet.

    THANK YOU for that virtual tour, super enjoyable. Mt. bluebirds are NUTS. Flying artwork masterpiece. And I love ghost towns, and sagging wooden buildings, esp. barns; it's like the building is visibly sighing.

    Any alleged religious guru who boinks 50 million ladies (typo was laidies) & owns multiple Rolls Royces is clearly working for his own self interest. I like that plaque.

    I seriously can't believe how many people still kill coyotes, et al. It's so 19th century. Dogs ALSO kill sheep, and do people run around shooting them? They DID pass a dog ordinance locally so that if a dog pursues any of my hens, I can shoot it (not that I actually have that skill...). They take agriculture VERY seriously in this v. rural county, and know people's living is frequently made on such things, so are supportive of people protecting their livestock from random dogs. I like dogs, love some, but irresponsible dog owners drive me bonkers.

  3. Forgot to say how AMAZING that spiky tail is on the grouse--truly spectacular design (in the artsy sense, not the holy sense) to contrast w/ a rounded fluffy thing. SPIKES!

  4. Damn son...

    Sweet post Jen. I'll be honest, the usual dead things and ghost town at the end of "Friend Road" had me intrigued, but I was not expecting Greater Sage Grouse to just pop into the mix!
    Oregon is a weird place full of cool stuff. That is what I continue to learn from these posts.

    1. Oregon is indeed a weird place full of cool stuff.

  5. I love sage grouse and it is the bird that got me hooked on birds. Great series of pictures and sounded like a great trip.

  6. Great post, Jen! The Sage Grouse is cool! Awesome shots!

  7. That is seriously beautiful country. Also, the grouse. Shit.

  8. OH the Grouse shots are to die for...great work there!! so much to see I would have a spin headache by this point....poor coyotes, WHY??? Great ghost town history I am curious enough to read up on this guy and I agree with that Quote ---excellent!


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