November 6, 2010

11/3/10 – John Day Fossil Beds (Clarno Unit)

Our very first National Park! Well, that's not counting parks that we've visited on other trips before we retired, of course. And John Day Fossil Beds isn't really a National Park—it's a National Monument. Apparently NPs have a higher status, get more money, and have more rules. Hunting is allowed in NMs. And I think some of the land within the part is privately owned—you should probably check on that.

There are 3 "Units" at John Day Fossil Beds—spread all over central Oregon. My original plan was that we'd swing by the northernmost Unit on the way to our next 1000 Trails RV resort so we wouldn't have to backtrack so far. Then we'd check out the other two units (Painted Hills & Sheep Rock) later.

So as we're headed south on US97, I suggested we take one of those "roads least traveled" to get to the Fossil Beds. On my map, it showed a little red line going south, then east across an unshaded section of the grid. To me that signified more-or-less flat, or at least no big mountains. There were some little grey squiggles for a mountain range a little further east, but no passes were shown or even little tiny numbers identifying the elevation of a mountain. How would I know the little red curve on the map disguised a twisty, windy, narrow, steep road downhill???? George wasn't yet comfortable being pushed by the trailer, so he was a tad upset…I'm not sure he even registered the views of the layers of hills off to the side. He doesn't swear, but the atmosphere in the truck was both sizzling and frosty.
Enroute to John Day Fossil Beds
(Digression: Ever wonder why those roads are least traveled? It's because most people are smart enough not to venture onto them for some pretty valid reasons. Few of these roads are marked with warnings to avoid them with a trailer.) 
Once we got to the park, we parked and walked up to the picnic area for a rather silent lunch, then loaded up the cameras and hit the trails. There are 3 really short trails right there at the Palisades:

1. Geologic Time Trail from the picnic area to the trailhead with interpretive signs that explain pre-historic events that caused the landscape to look like it does. (I walked this one, while George drove the trailer down to the trailhead area.)

Moving the trailer

2. Trail of the Fossils with lots of huge boulders that fell from the cliffs have fossils in them. The tree trunk was pretty obvious, but I couldn't always see the leaves…

George checking out the fossils

3. Clarno Arch Trail climbed up to the base of the Palisades cliff so you were just below an arch created by erosion. 

Clarno Arch

When we left there, we decided not to attempt the other 2 units this time around. And, even more importantly, we stayed on OR218 to get back to US97 and on to 1000 Trails Sun River at Bend. We had the GPS (we call her Gertie) telling us which way to get to the resort, and it was fine until we got to Bend. She then took us through town around a zillion traffic circles, then out of town to the resort. The road kept going up and up….and up. There was snow at the side of the road. We saw signs to Mt. Bachelor! We're still pulling the trailer. We don't have chains for either truck or trailer! George was getting testy again…so we found a place to turn around and go back to town, back around all those traffic circles and back to US97, with Gertie "recalculating" all the way!
Gertie was apparently trying to take us west on the scenic route to the ski resort then south to Sunriver (approx. 40 miles), rather than take us straight down 97 (10 miles), definitely not something we wanted to do at dusk in snow country. There doesn't seem to be a way to program common sense into a GPS unit, so I did the next best thing and put her on mute! 

We only stayed 2 days at that campground. Lots of deer grazing around the trailer, which I thought was pretty cool. We left Bend before an expected snowstorm, and headed south and west to Grants Pass to visit my cousin Charlotte.

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