Saturday, September 27, 2014

John Day Fossil Beds; Sheep Rock & Painted Hills...But first~~

In the here and now: 

We're taking a month-long trip leaving October 1st for Granada, Nicaragua.  Why, you might be asking?  Because one lazy day early in the summer I stumbled across this website:  The World's 8 Best Places to Retire in 2014, and decided we should check it out. It's relatively easy and inexpensive to get to and we found another great rental through VRBO.  Ours will be the 1 bedroom unit for $1030 per month which includes many amenities like complimentary breakfasts and free WiFi, in a great location within walking distance to the Parque Central and old Spanish colonial city.

Which explains why I am hurried and way behind in my journal, and more importantly, why we hurried through Eastern Oregon, not giving nearly enough time to our brief destinations.

Another fine blogger tip:

Thanks to another awesome blog, Wheeling It, Nina's photos and commentary led us to John Day Fossil Beds Nat'l Monument and its Painted Hills Unit; two separate days, two different units (out of 3), two unique locations.  Not nearly enough time to do justice nor properly explore an area that preserves plant and animal evolution, changing climates, and past ecosystems that span over 40 million years!  I will let the links do the talking, which I encourage you to read as they tell a pretty incredible story.

Sheep Rock Unit:

We stayed at the Fish Creek Inn and RV Park in Dayville on Hwy. 26, 32 miles west of John Day.  This park is another garden spot with sprawling green lawns, shade trees, and ice cream to boot.  We thought the $25 per night for full-hookups was very reasonable and its proximity to the Sheep Creek Unit for a quick day of sightseeing convenient.

Our first stop was at the very impressive Thomas Condon Paleontology Center to get our bearings, check out the exhibits, and see the movie. The exhibits proved to be the best option for seeing fossils throughout the park.  We already had Blue Basin Dreams, and who wouldn't after reading this (link), though the basin itself appeared rather greenish against a cloudless blue sky. Technically it is a formation of blue-green claystone comprised of volcanic ash, containing fossils of animals that lived some 25-30 million years ago, or so! 

We decided on the Island in Time trail, an easy 1.3 miles round-trip with a series of 13 short metal bridges, instead of the longer and steeper Overlook trail. Afterwards, we continued on to the Foree area to check out the Story in Stone and Flood of Fire trails, both short 1/4 milers.  We also lucked out as there was a paleontologist on site at the time of our hike!

Painted Hills Unit:

Another day and 38 miles down the road to Mitchell, where we managed a spot in the smallish 3-site Mitchell City Park, $17 per nite.

We wasted no time getting down to business as our excitement was building.  Off Highway 26, a country road winds through rugged landscapes, passing agricultural fields leading into a geological wonderland! The Painted Hills are the crown jewels of the region with their spectacular colors of red, orange, gold, purple, and grey, all changing with the sun; a palette of sublime patterns, each layer of color representing another 10 million years, or so. There are several short 1/4 to 1/2 mile trails, and we were determined to take them all.

On to home territory:

So in a nutshell, we made a brief stop in Bend thinking we'd be able to pick-up some summer bargains on the clearance racks at the Columbia Outlet Store.  That wasn't happening.  Air quality is getting nasty so we continued on to Weed, CA.  Do you see the irony here...Weed!!  That's right, we stayed the night before a major fire pretty much wiped out the town!  

The smoke and air along I-5 was so bad we drove all the way to Half Moon Bay for fresh ocean breezes and to see the littlest grandkids, and their parents.  We breathed a sigh of relief, had a couple of great meals, a haircut, and a trip to the pumpkin patch....

And here we are in Petaluma, just in time for Christina's 8th birthday!  She got to chose a store and Toys R Us won out.  

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