John Day: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock 12/17

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jessbee
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John Day: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock 12/17

Post by jessbee » December 23rd, 2012, 9:50 am

Day 2: Smith Rock and Painted Hills

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We woke up to cold, wind and sun the next morning having survived our first night in the wild. After chowing down some hot breakfast we took a short drive to Smith Rock State Park. We had no intentions of hanging out, just taking a few quick photos and getting on our way. The parking lot was eerily empty. A magpie squawked loudly from a tree just above my head.

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Why not stay? We had some driving to do. Besides, I'd been to Smith a million times, so I was happy to seek scenery elsewhere. We drove through Prineville and the Ochoco Mountains amid beautiful snowy mountains and sprawling ranches.

We made it to our first destination just after noon: the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds. Temperatures were chilly and the wind was still blowing quite furiously, so we got decked out in warm down jackets and wind protection, then headed out on the first of three very short trails. No one was here. The sun was shining through occasional clouds as we admired the bright colors in the hills.

My favorite hike here is the Painted Cove trail. This 0.2 mile loop is the prettiest little hike around. The boardwalk takes you right up against the colorful mounds, where you can truly appreciate the texture of the rock up close. These ancient hills were formed from a tumultuous volcanic history that deposited layers of ash, rock and minerals that have been eroded by wind and water.

Happy Holidays
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The Christmas socks made a brief appearance in a sheltered spot on the trail out of the wind. I daresay this might have been the first Christmas sock sighting at this location in all the history of the fossil beds. I guess the dinosaurs couldn't have celebrated Christmas. And I bet they didn't mass-produce seasonal socks.

As we ate lunch, a light snow began to fall. It didn't last long, but it did add to the beauty of the place. Reluctantly, we left and headed for the Sheep Rock Unit.

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We drove through Picture Gorge and stopped at the Blue Basin trailhead for a mile of hiking. The sky had clouded over but the scenery was still spectacular. We walked along a creekbed, crossing several metal bridges, as we ooh-ed and aah-ed over the milky green water pooling beneath our feet. The blue-green rock on either side of us was crevassed, eroded, and sculpted into interesting patterns. It was late by the time we ended this hike, so we wouldn't have enough time to see the last item on the day's agenda: the Alaska Cedar Grove some 30-odd miles away.

We drove in that direction anyways, to camp somewhere near tomorrow's destination. We ended up at Billy Fields Campground in the Malheur National Forest. There was about an inch of snow on the ground, but it was the dry, fluffy stuff that felt as light as air. We had a picnic table, fire ring, and outhouse here. It was a classy place to call home. The sky was clear and we could see hundreds of stars. We broke out all the down we had to sleep warmly on this cold night.

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Will break trail for beer.

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Roy
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Re: John Day: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock 12/17

Post by Roy » December 23rd, 2012, 10:56 am

Looks fun I have a lot time off during the holidays was thinking of seeing my brother in Dallesport and heading over there. Wife has to work be a good trip for my son and I.

Perfect timing was wondering if it was worth it never been to the painted hills. You sold me.

Thanks for the tr - Tom/Roy
The downhill of the mind is harder than the uphill of the body. - Yuichiro Miura

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Splintercat
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Re: John Day: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock 12/17

Post by Splintercat » December 23rd, 2012, 12:27 pm

Neat! I've only been to that area once during the winter and remembered the "blue" water flowing out of Blue Basin (it was called Turtle Cove back in those days). I love that area -- and am VERY thankful that the National Park Service has a foothold there. Hopefully, it will evolved into a full-blown national park, someday.

Thanks for posting!

Tom :)

mcds
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Re: John Day: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock 12/17

Post by mcds » December 24th, 2012, 2:44 pm

Great series. The Smith Rock photo is awesome!

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jessbee
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Re: John Day: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock 12/17

Post by jessbee » December 25th, 2012, 11:57 am

Roy wrote:Looks fun I have a lot time off during the holidays was thinking of seeing my brother in Dallesport and heading over there. Wife has to work be a good trip for my son and I.

Perfect timing was wondering if it was worth it never been to the painted hills. You sold me.

Thanks for the tr - Tom/Roy
Great time to be out there. You'll have it all to yourself. Enjoy it.
Will break trail for beer.

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