Community, Springfield

Roadtrip in the Gypsy Rose

Emmalee Williams, Vicki Schoenleber, Cassie Schoenleber, Willow Smith, Jamie Schoenleber during their Oregon exploration. PHOTO PROVIDED

My family recently embarked on a four-generation road trip. There were five of us in a small recreational vehicle. Our ages ranged from 7 to 93, including myself; my mom, ”Grandma Em”; two of my daughters, Cassie and Jamie; and my granddaughter, Willow.
We left Cottage Grove and headed for the Old McKenzie Highway. Our first stop was the Dee Wright Observatory – a site I hadn’t visited in 55 years. This is a great day trip if you have not been before.
The Old McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242) to the observatory is only open part of the year due to snow. The road is winding for most of the way to the top – and is especially hairy if you are driving a 27-foot vehicle. Any vehicle over 35 feet is not allowed.
Once we arrived at the observatory, we were greeted by chipmunks – something my daughters and granddaughter had not seen before. Mom decided it was too much of a hike up to the observatory, so we left her sitting on a flat rock while the rest of our tribe headed up to see the sights.
Inside the observatory are little ”windows,” and from each window you see one of Oregon’s beautiful mountains: the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Three Toed Jack – more commonly known as Three Fingered Jack; that got quite a laugh from anyone in hearing distance.
The Observatory was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This project was headed up by Dee Wright.
”I was hired as a stonemason LEM for the Civilian Conservation Corps,” a Dee Wright quote read. ”What’s a LEM, you ask? Local Experienced Men. Know all ’bout stone masonry and it was wisely reasoned to pepper experienced men about the young Corps enrollees. They’re unskilled, but I’ll teach ’em to mix mortar, read the rocks and set them in proper. Most have come from rural areas, which makes my job easier. City men often don’t know which end of the shovel’s for diggin’. All are eager learners, though, and darn hard workers.”
To my surprise, it turns out that my grandfather was a part of the CCC, which was a government program during the Great Depression to provide employment. It is such a blessing to have my mom to explain so many things to us. Her memory is remarkable.
At our next stop, at Prineville Reservoir, we enjoyed relaxing and the star-filled sky at night. The first night, my daughters, much to their delight, witnessed many falling stars. Mom and I stayed close to the home on wheels and the girls hung out at the lake. We shared our watermelon with some chipmunks: we just cut off the pieces they had gnawed on and enjoyed the watermelon anyway. I was a little reluctant to venture too far as we were in rattlesnake country.
After two nights we headed to the Painted Hills, one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders.
I am not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. I thought the Painted Hills would be bigger. They were beautiful and it is hard to imagine the valley at one time was filled with water, which is what caused the coloration of the hills.
Then we visited the little town of Mitchell, which is just a few miles east of the cutoff for the Painted Hills. It is a very old town with original buildings from the early days of Oregon. We enjoyed an ice cream while sitting on the bench in front of the General Store. We visited with some of the locals and thoroughly enjoyed our short time there.
We all enjoyed being together for our short vacation. It is so sweet to watch my 7-year-old granddaughter being so helpful with my 93-year-old mother. These are memories that we will all carry with us for our lifetimes.
As we started back to the Willamette Valley, we began planning for our next outing. I think we ended up deciding on Crater Lake.

Vicki Schoenleber is the vice president of Citizens Bank in Springfield.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos