We’re finally done with Washington state. The lousy weather drove us out of the Palouse. We had two days of driving through the grassy country of Eastern Washington and Oregon. We arrived in Dayville and found the pretty Fish House Inn & RV Park. In mid-afternoon, we drove into the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This is the kind of place we are always looking for – interesting geological formations in the middle of nowhere. The afternoon light was muted, good for photographing the rainbow-colored strata. Each area’s layers (there are three widely-separated areas of this monument) contain different fossils dependant on a different environment. For example, the Haystack Assemblage featured good rainfall that fostered hardwood forests that fed rhinos, camels, horses, etc. The Clarno Nut Beds was a wet, lush, semitropical forest with lots of fruits and nuts, creating many plant fossils.
We walked up the Story in Stone Trail, enjoying gorgeous turquoise formations. We also went up the Island in Time Trail, that included some replicas of the fossils found at that point. As we made our way, I heard a weird, gurgling sound that seemed to be coming from the hills around us. Dave said “No, it’s cranes”. We didn’t see any cranes and it seemed very unlikely to me that they were the cause of the sounds. When we returned down to the same point, we heard the noise again. “Look up” said Dave, and there, far, far up in the sky was a very large “V” of cranes. It’s so hard to believe they were overhead at the same point we went up and came down the trail, but there it is.
We regretfully left the pretty campground and headed west to get closer to another unit of the John Day Fossil Beds Monument – the Painted Hills Unit. This area has been pointed out in Outdoor Photographer as a prime spot and indeed it was. The hills are russet, olive and sage green, sepia, burgundy, pumpkin orange. Some of the areas looked like sliced kiwi fruit. From a distance, they had the texture of velvet or our old brown sofa. Close up, they made great abstracts and reminded me of some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. After a while, the sun came out (finally!) and the light got better. It’s grandeur made Artist’s Palette in Death Valley look like a sad little (and difficult to photograph) collection of colored rocks. It is so much fun to find a new, spectacular area.
On Monday, we drove a short way to the outskirts of Bend, Oregon. Once again, we lucked out and found Tumalo State Park, a very pretty campground with hookups. A warm afternoon allowed us to snack on tortillas broiled with butter, cheddar and smoked almonds. Eat ’em up, yum! And we relished our last bottle of lemoncello, toasting the generosity of Jeff and Betty, the donors of the yellow ambrosia. As we watched life in the campground, we heard crinkling plastic and I saw what I thought was a bag being blown by the wind. But there was no wind. Instead, it was a chipmunk, dragging off its booty, a bag of peanut brittle, from a nearby campsite. He must have experienced a sugar high; it was half a package. After a dinner of soup, we had our second campfire of the trip. Dave builds a good fire and we pondered it for an hour or two.
The next morning we drove into the Cascade Range, looking for fall foliage. Initially, we were disappointed by the evergreen forest surrounding us. We got out of the car to see the Dee Wright Observatory and immediately froze our tookuses. But oh what a view – mountains all around us – the Sisters, Mt. Washington and way far off, the teeny-tiny tip of Mt. Hood. The Observatory was built by the CCC in the 30’s, from the material at hand – lava. It’s pretty amazing. But the cold and wind got to us quickly and we returned to the warmth of the car.
As soon as we starting descending from that summit, the deciduous trees and undergrowth began to show color. We stopped a few times, but it was the trail to Proxy Falls that was fun to photograph.
We continued on our loop drive and found Sahalie Falls, a surprisingly voluminous waterfall with a roiling river boiling down from the bottom of the falls. I never get tired of looking at water.
After a day of chores, we took off on another drive, looking for colorful fall foliage. But we were on a lake drive with a lot of lakes surrounded by evergreens. So we did my fallback plan: visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument. After viewing a waterfall and a few more lakes, we walked the Obsidian Flow Trail. We’ve climbed around obsidian rock piles at the Mono Craters, but this walk had so much more obsidian. I love obsidian (It’s shiny! You can see your face in it, sometimes.) We spent about an hour on the half-mile path. So the day wasn’t a waste, photographically.
And so, that’s it for Oregon. We’re heading back to California and see how the autumn colors are doing there.