I had an appointment with my cardiologist back in August, which included an EKG and an echo-cardiogram. Everything looked good and he is ecstatic about my heart health. However, when I bragged about climbing the long trail at Crater Lake from the water to the rim, he looked a little grim and warned my not to hike alone or be too far away from help. What is the fun in that? I reassured him, I only take shorter hikes, and usually not more then three miles in a stretch. Sometimes, I feel like I can't win. I love hiking, but also am well aware I have been gaining weight, so I walk more and walk, and now seem to be having some issues with my Achilles tendons. Oh, the joys of almost being 50!
Nonetheless, there were a couple hikes I wanted to tackle. The first one was along the Washington state side of the Columbia River; Beacon Rock. Beacon Rock is a core of an ancient volcano. The two-mile round trip trail with a gain of 600 feet from the parking lot to the summit is a series of switchback boardwalks drilled into the monolith and provides outstanding panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge along the trail and at the summit. A Discovery Pass is required for parking in the lot. We usually just buy the year round pass for $30 versus the daily pass of $10 and the pass is good for all Washington state parks.
Next, we drove for several hours to the small town of Primeville for the night. We stopped at a couple name brand motel chains, thinking because it was October and the middle of the week, we would not have a problem finding a room. Not exactly wrong, but not exactly right either. The first motel we stopped at was booked and the second only had "Smoking" rooms. Yep, we weren't in Washington anymore. I remember when restaurants and hotels became smoke-free in Washington state and I wasn't too sure how I felt about the law (civil liberties and all). Now when I visit other states, I can't believe they don't have "clean-air" act themselves. I just have gotten so used to not having to smell cigarette smoke everywhere. But don't ask me about the other smell from another substance that is lit and smoked. (Remember, we live in Washington state).
The next morning, we stopped at the Wildland Firefighters Monument. It's a memorial for fourteen wildland firefighters who lost their lives fighting the Storm King Mountain fire in Colorado back in 1994, nine of them were from Prineville. It's a very beautiful and moving memorial located in Ochoco Creek Park. Then we drove to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, stopping first at the Painted Hills Unit. For several years, since the first time a friend posted a picture of the Painted Hills, I have wanted to visit. And the imagery and vivid colors of the hills did not disappoint. There are many short hikes around the park that are very easily accessible for all ages. My two favorites were the Painted Hills Overlook and Red Hill (Red Scar Knoll) Trail. I also really liked the boardwalk walk around Painted Cove. The rain predicted for the day held off, but we were covered in heavy cloud cover throughout the day. The pictures we took do not do justice on how brilliant the colors of the hills really are. Nonetheless, so worth the trip to the middle of central Oregon.
Trust me when I say, the Painted Hills are in the middle of nowhere. (No disrespect to those living in the small communities in the area). However, after hiking around the hills, we then drove several miles to a gas station in the small town of Dayville and purchased some fuel and snacks and then went to the second unit of the John Day Fossil Beds; Sheep Rock. We didn't spend a lot of time in this area, but we did spend about an hour at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. It was interesting seeing fossils up close. And there are lots of opportunities for hands-on experiences for the kids and kids at heart. We were afraid we were going to run out of daylight, so we only drove through the Sheep Rock area. I thought the blue-green colors were a sharp contrast of the reds, yellows, and greens we had seen in the Painted Hills. I also liked the rock formations of Sheep Rock and Cathedral Rock. Unfortunately, we did not have time to hike this area.
We continued on our drive stopping at the Clarno Unit. This was the second must do hike on my list, as I really wanted to see the Palisades. The Palisades were formed by a series of volcanic mudflows. There are three very short hikes that start at the trailhead at the parking lot and then connect with each other. Geologic Time Trail (.50 round trip), Clarno Arch Trail (.25 round trip), and Trail of Fossils (.25 loop). I found the trails very informative as there was plenty of information signage along the trail, as well as fossils in the rocks and petrified logs. Then it was time for the long drive home, because the following day we had to attend a high school marching band competition.
Nevertheless, the John Day Fossil Beds are worth the drive.