Barlow Trail Roadhouse Legacy Continues to Charm
By Ty Tilden
Nestled in the lush and picturesque landscape on the south side of Highway 26 through Zigzag stands the Barlow Trail Roadhouse, a historic landmark with a legacy dating back to the 1920s. Over the years, this charming establishment has witnessed numerous changes, challenges and triumphs, all thanks to the dedication of its owners, Rick and Susan Exley.
The journey of the restaurant, as it is known today, began in 2004 when Rick Exley decided to embark on a new adventure. Rick, having spent a significant portion of his career in the high-tech industry, faced the ups and downs of corporate life, including layoffs and constant restructuring. However, a new path beckoned him — one that involved transitioning from high-tech to high hospitality.
Barlow Trail Roadhouse, previously known as the Territory, became the Exleys’ passion project. Rick and Susan’s determination led them to secure multiple sources of capital, including a 401(k) loan and a home equity loan, to make their dream a reality. With former owner and mountain legend Linda Trickle’s guidance and a few loans, the couple transformed the place into the beloved establishment it is today.
Over the years, the Roadhouse has undergone several changes to keep up with the times. “We’ve updated some of the tables, rearranged the bar a little bit,” Rick said. The menu has been updated multiple times, and the interior has seen some alterations, though it remains true to its historic architecture, featuring a Steiner-built fireplace. One of the most cherished features of the roadhouse is its unique “shuffle-puck bowling alley,” the only one of its kind in the state of Oregon, which offers patrons endless entertainment for just a quarter.
What makes Barlow Trail truly special is its commitment to preserving history. The establishment has retained many original features, including some of the original booths. The building’s history is intertwined with the region’s past, from its early days as a general store to its transformation into the Barlow Trail Roadhouse. The roadhouse’s colorful history also includes a stint as a bordello, catering to loggers, miners and fishermen passing through the area.
However, the history of the establishment isn’t just about its earthly past. “We do have three ghosts here,” Exley revealed. These spirits, alleged to be former inhabitants of the establishment, add an eerie and captivating dimension to its history. Gene, a spectral presence, is known to haunt a particular booth, while a miner and a cowboy are said to roam the premises, searching for something that keeps them tethered to this world.
The roadhouse has attracted the attention of ghost hunters and curious patrons alike, with various accounts of unexplained phenomena over the years. One