Union, Oregon: Just a short drive today, on I-84, when we took a right (at exit 285 through North Powder) and headed up to spend a few days in the Union/La Grande area of NE Oregon. This area is ripe with Oregon Trail history, gold rush stories and plenty of hot spring mineral baths with promises of healing what ails you. This part of Oregon is farmland and ranchland. Small towns. High school football is very important. People are friendly.
Recently, large electricity-producing wind turbines have been sprouting on hilltops. This is, of course, controversial. We all like electricity, but we all like our beautiful mountain views.
We Oregonians are forward-thinkers, and we treasure our pristine places. This issue will continue to cause debate in My Great State.
We are camped for a few days at the very nice Eagles Hot Lake RV Park on Highway 203 between Union and La Grande. After settling-in, we headed out in the Honda to visit the Hot Lake Springs Hotel, next to the RV park. For some reason, bronze sculptor David Manuel left his studio in Joseph, Oregon and relocated to the abandoned and nearly-condemned Hot Lake Springs Hotel. It is his dream to restore the hotel – and invigorating hot mineral pools – and re-open to guests. His bronze casting studio and shop/gallery is also housed at the hotel. (We visited Manuel in Joseph in 2003.)
The history of this property is fascinating, starting with ancient people who enjoyed the hot mineral pools. I am not a historian. I am not a demolition expert. I know nothing about restoring historic buildings. I am not a bronze caster. I have no knowledge of hotel management. I am telling you this place is not ready to open in “two weeks” as the guide told us today. There are a million pigeons living in the rafters. Swallow nests cover the eaves. I wish the Manuel family much luck with their endeavors, as I want this property to be restored to its past grandeur. Another Oregon jewel?
A statue by David Manuel greets visitors to the Hot Lake Springs Hotel between Union & La Grande
We continued to the adorable town of Union. Nearly the entire main street is on the historical register and Union became famous nation-wide in 2006 when an 18-year boyman was elected mayor in a write-in campaign. The town has several Victorian-style homes of significance and a fabulous brick hotel with 16 “theme” rooms, The Union Hotel.
The Union Hotel has also seen better days, but is now nearly completely restored and rooms are for rent. (The beautiful restaurant, sadly, has closed.)
The lobby of the Union Hotel is decorated in period furnishings. We wandered around for thirty minutes and never saw a soul – no workers, no guests – no one.
I thought it would be fun to see the hotel in black & white.
Guess what, RVers? The Union Hotel has a 6-site RV park out-back! DT inspected the campground and found a few folks who seem to be living there permanently, but thinks even our monster bus could fit into the little park. Also, the back of the hotel is not quite as appealing as the front of the hotel. Whatever – you are right downtown and next to the city park.
The city park has a very interesting “swimmin’ hole”! A little wooden dam has been constructed across the creek to create a safe spot to cool off in the hot Oregon summer. Clever!
Union is a very cute little town and the Union Market was the perfect spot to resupply the larder of the Magna Peregrinus.
There is a lot of stuff growing in all the mineral lakes, ponds and streams in the area.
We arrived back to the bus late afternoon and I snapped photos of the campground and soaked my feet in the RV Park hot tub. Nice!
Needing a rest after two days of hard driving Thursday and Friday, we opted to stay home tonight. DT grilled chicken and I made a salad.
Okay. I may have made a Buttermilk Blueberry Coffee Cake. Not sure yet, as we have yet to taste my concoction. I had buttermilk (from those lovely Sweet Corn Pancakes) and I had blueberries… so I came up with this little cake which I created in one bowl using only a whisk. (Hey, I’m camping – cut me some slack.) I hope it is delicious, as it was super-easy and would be great in the RV or home kitchen. Verdict tomorrow.
Until my next update, I remain, your Union correspondent.
Eagles Hot Lake RV Park
65182 Hot Lake Lane
(Hwy 203 & Hot Lake Lane)
La Grande, OR 97850
Situated on Highway 203 between Union & La Grande, Oregon, this nice park is a good location to explore the area. 90 foot full-service gravel pull-throughs with 30 & 50 amps, heated pool & spa (in season), store, laundry, bathhouse, free wifi, pavilion, tent sites. Set in a meadow below a hill, this park is nothing fancy, but has good facilities and is quiet (though there is an occasional train about a half-mile away). Cell service. We paid $27 per night with Good Sam discount.