While exploring some of Eastern Oregon, we set out to visit the John Day Fossil Beds national monument with David & Mary. On the small side, separated into 3 separate units, it represents an area of the most fertile beds of fossils and a world class record of plant & animal evolution that spans 40 million years. Back when this climate was equal to Panama (can you believe it?!) with like foliage, there were also three toes horses, rhinos, camels, bear-dogs, saber-toothed cats, tortoises and many more creatures roaming around, not to mention lots of tropical leaves. Now their fossilized remains are there to discover. There were some Covid closurs like we couldn’t see the detailed murals showing the contrasts between then and a lot of the fossil displays were closed but most of the park was open.
The Sheep Rock unit had beautiful blue-hued sandstone cliffs and an historic ranch given to the park service by the Cant family that was complete with an old orchard where you could harvest apples & pears, tour the barn and outbuildings and have a picnic in a green oasis. Jon helped me get taller so I could reach the best of them, but barely. Framed by the John Day River, this area is so pretty. You might think that John Day must have been a famous scientific figure or something to have a park and other places named after him. But in reality he was a fur trapper from the back woods of Virginia who was on his way to Astoria, WA in 1910 when he got attacked by Indians, robbed and left naked by a river. He was picked up by another fur group and made it to to WA before reportedly going crazy and ultimately attempting suicide. But for some reason the river where it happened began being referred to as John Day instead of its original name and after that, a town, a dam, a valley and this park were given his name even though he never even got close to it. Nuts!
The Painted Hills unit had crazy colored striped ancient soil that was especially picturesque at sunset and there were several trails to take it all in. Just outside the park boundary, we camped that night just off the road in a gorgeous setting. Then we took a great free range hike the next morning back into the hills. I love BLM land!
The Clarno unit has steep cliffs and lots of embedded leaves in the fallen rocks but few trails. It was an unsettled day so we didn’t stay long.
Traveling between the units, we passed a huge herd of elk, several lines of turkeys, a herd of mustangs, well known to this part of Oregon and lots of cows. This whole area felt so remote and the towns a blink at best.
On our way back to McCall, we stopped for a couple days at Hells’s Canyon on the Snake River. The river forms the border between Oregon & Idaho and the area is both a scenic byway and a national recreation area. We drove up to a lookout around 7000 feet in the pines and down to the river at 1200 feet. One was snowing and one we were hiking in the grasses, camped by the river in another lovely BLM campsite that was once a family orchard. Among the fruit trees were also olive and walnut trees, the walnuts ready for picking.
Coming back from a hike, we met a local farmer who immigrated to the US in 2005 from Bosnia. He had come to pick a few walnuts to plant on his farm of apples. He came from a family of generations of beekeepers and was one himself. He said that walnuts are true to the seed. If you plant a walnut from a good tree you will most likely get a good nut producing tree from that. Unlike an apple that he said isn’t true to the seed which is why grafting is important. After serving in Bosnia’s military during the conflict years ago and witnessing the violence, shortages and restrictions, he said he couldn’t understand why there was so much resistance to covid guidelines to limit the spread. It’s all relative.
When we were nearly back to the truck, we spotted a few blackberries down by the river that were shaded enough to still be ripe, rather than shriveled up from the dryness of the area. We picked a few and headed down the bank in the thick vines to a walnut tree that had a few nuts left. We’d seena lot of bear scat that day and we remarked that if we were bears, we’d be down here too to do the last of our fattening up. I heard some mild crackling and noted a dark shape in the scrub but couldn’t make it out and guessed it was an old tree trunk. I figured the noise was the birds flitting around. Then Jon went to pull a branch down to get at a nut and that was enough to startle the bear who was a few feet away! He went crashing through the vines and scared the crap out of us! Haha, so the bears are busy using the riverbank to get at the last of summer berries!
I loved the scenery in Hell’s Canyon and we were enjoying the fact that there was hardly anyone around, the summer camping season is over and things are finally quiet for now.
It’s always great to see Mark & Anne back in McCall and we pulled in to our familiar spot in their driveway. We caught up over walks and dinners and now that they have a 5 month old puppy named Cricket, we can get in a dog fix too. One day we got together for a hike with other cruising friends that now live in the the area- Larry & Karen. There was snow up on the hilltop which meant it wouldn’t be long before we’d be seeing it in town. Its always nice to meet up with old sailing friends.
What better way to visit the Kit Fox plane factory than to fly there and taxi to the front door? That’s how the four of us did the tour earlier this week in Boise. It was very interesting to see their craftsmanship up close, meet the staff and ask a few questions. It has become a popular thing to build your own plane, thanks in part to Youtube, and even if you ordered your kit today, you wouldn’t have it till 2022! We forgot to get any pictures though!
Food for thought for sure. I think we need another lifetime. Who has time for covid either?
Some days we’ve been just working on the truck. Soon we’ll have a center console for the cab with built-in cupholders, charging port and storage space. This was where the jumpseat used to be when it was a fire truck. That will be dee-luxe. One thing about McCall is there are plenty of deer citizens. Sometimes we see them camped beside our truck!
One thing that we are growing weary of is the covid blame. Like if you pay to ship something expedited 3 day shipping and then 11 days later it still hasn’t left Germany, for no real good reason, that is frustrating. This is the case with our springs at the moment and the reason we won’t be off touring Utah in a t-shirt as fast as we’d like. Who knows when they’ll finally arrive.
In the meantime, we are supposed to get snow today. We’ll be seeing white in town after all.