Welcoming Another New Oregon Blanket
Say hello to the new Pacific Wonderland blanket! A made-in-USA wool blanket celebrating the centennial of the Oregon State Park System, preserving and protecting our Pacific Wonderland for 100 years. From the pristine shores of Wallowa Lake to the rocky overlooks of Ecola Point, Oregon’s State Park system welcomes 46 million visitors to 256 parks each year. Done in shades of indigo, this scene depicts a serene moonlit landscape.
Learn more here: Pacific Wonderland
Purchase of this blanket (and our Forever Oregon blanket) helps support the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s “Park Explorer Series,” which aims to remove barriers to outdoor recreation and encourage diversity. Projects include building trails accessible to all, and making camping possible for folks who may otherwise never get to try it.
In our last post, we talked about the Forever Oregon blanket, a limited-edition wool blanket that honors our home state’s park system with a design that features Mt. Hood watching over a reflective lake flanked by forests, and medallions for 12 beloved state parks.
You can read the full post about this blanket and the parks it represents here: Forever Oregon
Purchase of both these blankets helps support the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s “Park Explorer Series,” which is a growing, ongoing initiative that aims to remove barriers to outdoor recreation and encourage diversity. Projects include building trails accessible to all, and making camping possible for folks who may otherwise never get to try it.
Oregon’s First State Park
Sarah Helmick State Park is located off Highway 99, also known as the Old Pacific Highway, as it was the original route from Portland to the Oregon coast. The park is named for an Albany woman who donated a portion of her Polk County family homestead to the state highway commission for a park in 1922. The Oregon State Highway Commission accepted the donation as a rest stop and camping spot for travelers. The park has been expanded to about 81 acres, with 15 currently open for used by the public.
Helmick Park was originally intended for respite, and offers plenty. It has large, grassy picnic areas that can accommodate two 150-person groups. It’s shaded by Oregon white oak, bigleaf maple, Douglas fir and black cottonwood trees. A park trail leads to a Lukiamute River swimming hole. As Oregon’s first state park, it is being celebrated in 2022, as is the woman who donated the acreage it occupies.
Who was Sarah Helmick? According to the Polk County Itemizer-Observer:
Sarah Steeprow was born July 4, 1823, in Harrison County, Indiana. In April 1845, she married Henry Helmick, a German immigrant, in Iowa and left the next day in a wagon train headed west. The Helmicks were among about 150 people and 80 wagons on a six-month journey to Oregon, according to Gabriel.
They settled in a region along the Willamette River known as Tualatin Plains, an area that had been home to Kalapuya Native Americans. Henry Helmick was credited with building Salem’s first grist mill. Sarah and Henry Helmick lived for more than 25 years on a 640-acre homestead in Polk County near the Luckiamute River.
After Henry Helmick died in 1877, Sarah moved to Albany, building a home at Seventh and Baker streets to be near her children, son James of Albany and daughter Frances of Corvallis. She also had six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In July 1922, at 99 Sarah Helmick was celebrated that year as Albany’s oldest resident. Although nearly blinded by cataracts, Sarah had “every faculty alert” and “keeps a pleasant lookout on life,” according to a reporter for the Albany Democrat-Herald. (source)
The park named in Sarah Helmick’s honor remains a relaxed and welcoming place to picnic in the shade of Oregon oaks, visit the swimming hole, or to take a shady rest on your way to other Oregon adventures.