January 2000

One Saturday in January, I decided to take a drive out to north central Oregon.  I had heard about a wild west ghost town out there called Shaniko.

I didn’t really bother to check the weather report before taking off.  In Portland it was about 40° and raining.  Out around Shaniko, however, there was about eight inches of snow on the ground, and the temperature was around 20°.  I hit some patches of ice on the roads, and almost got stuck in a ditch full of snow when I realized I was going down the wrong road and then tried to turn around.

At any rate, I eventually reached Shaniko.  It’s not entirely a ghost town, since people still live there.  There is still a post office, along with a wedding chapel, some shops, and a small convenience store.  I stopped in there to get a snack, and talked to the lady running the store.  She said most of the old buildings are in terrible condition, many of them are not safe to go inside any more.  Unfortunately, the few townspeople and surrounding farmers don’t really have much money to invest in repairs and renovations.

On such a cold, snowy winter day, I basically had the town to myself, so I waded through the snow and took some pictures.

There were vehicles from various eras, from horse-drawn wagons to 1950’s automobiles.  In a different setting, it would just be a junkyard, but in a ghost town the collection evokes nostalgia.  I particularly liked the old fire truck.

In a small town during the pioneer days, sometimes there weren’t enough people around to provide all the services you might find in a city.  Therefore some businesses were combined by enterprising storeowners, such as Changs Laundry and Undertakers.  Sure, why not?

It didn’t take too long before I was very cold and my nose was running.  I’d had about enough, even though Shaniko was an interesting place, and the snow-and-ice-covered trees were beautiful.  I finished my roll of film, and hopped back in my nice warm car for the drive back to Portland.