John Day Fossil Beds
Now the rest of the day. I pass the Painted Hills and for a brief moment I’m tempted to go in, but I let it go. It’s most probably not better than yesterday evening and I can better have a look somewhere else.
The John Days Sheep Rock Visitor Center is the next. There are 9 different rock layers in this area and the Painted Hills is one of them. Sheep Rock is another. They all belong to the John Day Fossil Beds. Every layer dates from a different time period varying from 5 to 55 million years ago. Some layers were caused by lava flows and others by lahars. Interesting fact is that the complete period of mammals is represented here. Many fossils have been found already. The largest variety in mammal species dates from 29 million years ago and is deteriorating ever since and we humans are increasing that dramatically.
One of the areas in particular draws my attention, the Blue Mountain, and I wonder where I can find it. It appears to be only a few kilometers from here.
I have found it quickly. There is a small parking spot where a trail starts.
The clay has a strange blueish green color overhere, just like jade. There are two routes, a short one and a long one. Because of the time I take the short one.
The mounts of clay erode by water and wind and fossils are released on a regular bases. I could even find something here that no one has seen before. One rain shower can be sufficient to reveal something.
Photographing proves difficult because I’m in between the hills and there is not much foreground material to make photo’s interesting. Furthermore, it’s in the middle of the day, so light quality is not that ideal.
Then I find a ridge of green clay with more open space surrounding it and I try a couple of compositions.
This landscape used to be a flat plain a couple of 100 meters higher than the mountain summits (which I estimate to be around 1000 meter high) that I am seeing around me. All that material has been eroded and transported away. So, I’m kind of walking in the past, which is giving a special feeling.
Nice colors though! I would like to see this in high quality soft morning light.
Soon, I’m back at the car. The black summit is one of the other layers. That mountain is much higher than where I’m currently standing and quite young. It consists of layers of basalt (lava).
The drive back to Seattle is going to take at least 6.5 hours so I better start driving. I have thought about visiting unit 3, the Clarno Unit, where I can see another layer, but that is an extra 40 miles driving so, one hour extra at least.
Panther Creek Falls, Iron Falls and Mt St Helens National Park are on my list. These are all en route so I can try to visit them. I can forget about Olympic National Park, it’s already too late for that.
With these long drives it’s always nice to have some snacks, but I don’t have that much anymore. There is some bread in the car. It still looks good and smells good. Bit dry but good enough. Once I have almost finished the first sandwich and am already thinking about the next one, I suddenly taste the disturbing taste of fungus. I quickly spit out everything in the bag with bread and almost have to vomit. What a disgusting taste this is, Yuk!
Then it starts to rain, so I drop all my ideas and plan the shortest possible route to Seattle.
After a couple of hours driving the sky breaks up again in Washington. Maybe I can have a sunset at Mt Rainier National Park or visit Panther creek Falls, or maybe even both? But all alternatives that I calculate do not bring me before sunset at the right spot anymore.
Then after all I do have to take the fastest route, because I would like to be in bed early, as I have to get up at 02:45 for the flight to Vancouver.
Maybe I might see something on the north east flank of Mt Rainier, but half an hour later the sky blocks up again.
Suddenly there are appearing warnings along the side of the road. There is a huge traffic jam over Snoqualmie Pass and that is the only route available to me. To make a long story short, 2.5 hours delay.
In the end, I’m in bed at 00:00. What a day…
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file here.