John Day Country and home

The picasaweb link posted here is to an individual album that are part of this day’s story if you want to see additional photos. If you like, you can click on the link and see the entire album on Picasa.

Last night we traveled till we felt like stopping which put us at another Oregon State Park, Unity Lake SP. This place is truly a treasure, off the main track, maybe 3 miles from Unity on HWY 26. The park is small and quiet with large spaces along the lake, big pull through sites in the middle, shade from the typical desert locust trees, and no people. Admittedly, it was midweek, but still, midweek in August, and there was the camp host, another trailer next to him, a car camping family from England traveling the west, and a couple of small truck trailer combos down the way. There are probably more than 40 sites here, so the emptiness was a surprise. The cost was great as well, with water and 30 amp electric for only $17. I know it’s the desert, but it’s lovely, with sage and grasslands, and great views. The night was blessedly dark, not a single light or sound to mar the stillness, and the temperature dropped to 42 blessed degrees. I slept great!

We left this morning by 8, an easy start since we didn’t even have to unhook last night. Continuing west along HWY 26 we were surprised by the steep climbs and drops as we crossed the Blue Mountains toward John Day. I got my favorite thing while traveling, not another car in sight for miles at a time. Not far west of the sage country at Unity SP, we found 3 really nice campgrounds on the east side of Blue Mountain Pass, FS camps with no hookups, but open and lovely, shaded with a small creek. We thought it would be great to boondock for 3.50 a night with our pass in the FS camps, then drop down to Unity for a couple of nights of hookups to get ready for some more cheap boondocking. Someday.

I got my first view of the Strawberry Wilderness and Strawberry Mountain, an area I have heard of but never seen. The Oregon Trail passed through here and the interpretive viewpoint with the big covered wagon was a delight. The landscape is open and empty of people, with big ranches, irrigated alfalfa fields, all surrounded by thickly forested mountains and peaks. Truly lovely, and a great drive if you don’t mind the ups and downs. The Tow-Haul got a good workout on this part of the drive for sure. We stopped in John Day to visit the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, location of some truly fascinating history about the Chinese immigrants who were part of the building of the west. In California we have visited several places that have a great deal of history involving the Chinese men who came here, without wives and families, to work incredibly hard and try to reap some benefit from the better economy here in the US compared to China at the time. My home is Jamestown is surrounded by huge areas that were hydraulically mined, mostly by Chinese, and Mo and I visited Isleton in the Delta last Spring, also developed mostly by Chinese. The exhibit in John Day brought all these parts and pieces together for the first time in a way that helped it all fit. It is an amazing story.

Leaving John Day we continued west to the John Day Fossil Beds. So many people seem to pass through this fascinating land without actually seeing it, so this time we made it a point to visit the visitor center at the Sheep Rock Unit. The visitor center has an amazing array of fossils that have been recovered from the 3 different areas of the National Monument, and the explanation and interpretation of the natural history there is magnificent. They even have the work area where paleontologists clean and catalogue and work with the fossils that is visible to visitors, with huge glass walls that allow you to watch the work in progress. The Miocene period is a repeating story in my soils work, and in most places I have mapped, there are interesting formations that are the result of the activity that occurred during this time, from 12 to 50 million years ago, give or take a weekend. Here in John Day, it was all about volcanics, as in the Sierra Nevada, and in the Columbia Basin. It was great seeing really beautiful artistic interpretations of all that was going on here while Table Mountain was being built in Jamestown, and while the diatomite in the Klamath Basin was forming, while the Latah Formation in Spokane was building. Great to see everything in perspective all at once somehow. I am so glad that we took the time to actually visit the visitor center. Just a little aside, while we were there, 3 German tourists arrived, and were taking many careful photos of the American flag flying against the very blue sky.
Our trip for the day ended back in home territory, at brother Roger and Nancy’s home in LaPine, Oregon. Nice to visit them, since they were unable to attend the gathering in Spokane. After a nice dinner out, we slept again to clear skies and cool temperatures in the low 40’s before we headed out home the last 100 miles or so to Rocky Point.

We both felt that it was a successful trip, with all the moving parts of the MoHo working fine, and both of us were glad to pull up into the driveway under the huge firs around Mo’s house and settle in to a few days of respite before I have to return to work in California.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

2 thoughts on “John Day Country and home”

  1. Hi there,I have really enjoyed your blogs,trying to catch up on all of them! We are in the planning stage of traveling in the Rv for a year,starting with the Northwest,coming home(Tulsa,Ok) for a few weeks,then continuing to the East and Southern states. Did you make a map of your travels?We are having a hard time trying to figure out routes,and you seemed to have a great plan to go by.If you have a map that you marked to travel by,can you send it to me? I like all the places you visited. Any comments from either of you would be so helpful.Thank you,Maryann ParhamOwasso,


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