Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Road Trip – Part III – The Final Day

After a long day of travel, we decided to spend the night in one of John Day’s finer lodging establishments. A friend once described John Day as being on the edge of no where; if you enjoy peace and quiet, it’s certainly a city not to miss! The city is also the gateway to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the area inside of the monument is considered to be one of the world’s richest fossil beds.

The monument is divided into three units, each of which are many miles apart, so we decided to visit the Sheep Rock unit, which is also the largest. As you turn north on Highway 19 from Highway 26, you pass through the center of Picture Gorge. The gorge was created by the erosive forces of the John Day River as it slowly cut down into the ancient basalt flows. The picture below does not begin to convey the size and beauty of the gorge, you will just have to go and see it with your own eyes!

Looking north to Picture Gorge

When you visit the monument, be sure to take an hour and stop at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. I know the word paleontology and incredible are seldom used in the same sentence, but the center is a must see! The center is composed of several life size dioramas, that explain in simple English, how the multiple fossil strata were formed as the local environment was altered by multiple volcanic eruptions.

In earlier geologic times, the fossil records indicate that the John Day region supported vast subtropical forests. If not for the fossils, I might be inclined to think that this is a government conspiracy because in my career, I have been on numerous forest fires in the area and they all burnt with a vengeance! In fact, the picture below shows Sheep Rock in the distance but the plants in the foreground are Bitter and Sage Brush, neither grow where moisture is abundant!

Looking east to Sheep Rock from the Condon Paleontology Center

After leaving the John Day area, we traveled along Highway 26 and finally arrived in Prineville, the home of Les Schwab Tires. After a quick stop for refreshments, we hit the road again as we still had about a five hour trip to return to the cool and green west side of the state; and so ended the spring road trip.

Now summer has arrived and it's time to start some much needed porch roof repairs. Oh how I can't wait to begin this project!!

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