A Mountain Paradise in Eastern Oregon
Winding up the gravel road to Cornucopia, you can’t help but stare at the craggy mountains that surround you. The sense of anticipation builds as you round each corner. Sunshine dapples the road and the peaks get larger and larger on the approach. Wild plum trees drip with ripe fruit. We stop to gather some for an experiment in jam-making, then hop back in the jeep and continue up the road. A few more turns and a slight rise in the road reveals our destination – a family owned and operated lodge that provides the perfect getaway for families, individuals or couples, high up in a mountain paradise.
Cornucopia Lodge sits 12 miles northwest of the little town of Halfway, on the edge of the beautiful Pine Valley. Built in 2008, the homey lodge’s lobby features a huge rock fireplace and a door that leads to a wonderful deck, from which you can take in the view of majestic Cornucopia Mountain.
In addition to the lodge, Cornucopia has several cozy cabins outfitted with comfy beds, covered decks and plenty of space between for privacy. After settling into our cabin, I set out for a short hike up Pine Creek. I stopped to say “hello” to the corral of horses and mules, who were jostling for position at the feeders where their hay had just been pitched, then headed straight toward the towering Cornucopia Mountain. High up the face of the peak are the dark holes of mine shafts that served a booming gold mining industry into the early twentieth century. Upon the discovery of gold here in 1880, a mining town rose nearby and millions of dollars in gold was extracted from these peaks. Looking up, it’s hard to believe miners climbed the steep slopes and brought the gold down with pulleys and tramways.
Late afternoon, I had the trail to myself as I crossed three foot bridges and passed through shady woods and sunlit grassy open areas. Earlier in the day, the Cornucopia horses had carried riders high into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The lodge outfitters organize day rides and multi-day pack trips throughout summer and fall. But for now, the sights, sounds and smells were mine alone to enjoy and I relished every minute.
We had made reservations for dinner in the lodge, served home-style and promptly at 6:30. We were joined by our host and proprietor, Ralph Eyre, for the wonderful meal of barbecued ribs, macaroni salad, baked potatoes and melt-in-your-mouth home baked bread. Dessert was deep dish apple pie (an ample serving, served with a twinkle in the eye and a silent challenge for me to eat it all).
Though very relaxing, our one-night stay at Cornucopia was much too short. But the peace and quiet, exhilarating scenery and warm hospitality will draw us back for a longer visit to this mountain paradise – and hopefully a horseback ride into the high country.