We ran into a little rain on the way to Walla Walla, but otherwise had a pleasant drive in. We found the RV park we stayed at during our last visit and played around with some of their enhanced amenities. A wet day is also forecast for tomorrow so we plan to stay here until Tuesday. It would also be getting wet at John Day where we are headed, so we decided to stick around and have a town day. We went to see “The Girl on the Train” at the local theater and later had a late lunch in town. We almost never do this while on the road, so it was a fun change.John Day Fossil Beds – Painted Hills
Tuesday, October 17After a long 220 mile drive, made longer by our GPS picking a slightly different route than the one we planned to take, we arrived in Mitchell. Towns don’t get much smaller than Mitchell. A few dilapidated/abandoned buildings, a couple of operating businesses and a bunch of wild turkeys. But they do have a municipal park with 4 spaces – 2 of which are 30 amp. Water is available nearby, but no dump. There are a couple of dispersed sites very near the Fossil Beds, but with all the rain, they were a little soggy so we opted for Mitchell.It’s best to have a partly cloudy day here to take advantage of constantly changing light. There is a chance of afternoon clearing tomorrow and we are hoping to capitalize by spending the entire day there. It was very cloudy in the morning and looked like it would not be clearing soon. We didn’t rush to get out, but by mid-morning we were rolling up the road to the monument. The evening rain had soaked the badland-like mud hills, darkening them considerably.Previous visits here, the hills were very yellow with deep red streaks through them. This morning they had a distinctly greenish tint. The clouds made the scene very dim, but it should be better later. We drove the short access road to the main overlook and made some images, but will put off the rim hike till later when we hopefully have more sun. Instead, we drove out to two other sites with short hikes around them. We first stopped at the Red Hill Trail and walked the 1/4 mile path out around a big red hill. Sounds a little dull, but this landscape is quite interesting.Other hills along the dirt road were worth stopping and spending some time. We also stopped at the Fossil Leaf trail which moves around a large mound of fossilized leaf imprints on rocks. We didn’t find any though.
By now the skies were beginning to lighten up some. We went back to the main overlook for lunch, but it was still another hour before breaks began emerging between clouds. It seemed a good time to go for a walk.It is an easy, if windy, uphill walk along the rim of the monument. We could see the light breaks coming from the west, but they seemed to close up just as they arrived. We kept working our way up trail – taking time to hang-out and observe the landsape. It was a great chance to really look at the valley a good long time. The even lighting, while kind of flat, did bring out a multitude of coloration. It is so distinctive – I’ve never seen patterns and colors anywhere quite like here. We moved up the trail, and found new perspectives. From here, the streaked hills took on an almost blurred effect. Looking closely at the original, it is actually completely sharp. A cool effect.At the top of the trail, there is more of a panoramic view. We’d been looking toward the valley hills most of the way up, but turning around now, breaks of sun were splashed over the banded hills and headed our way.More sun finally started reaching us and sweeping across the valley. Large areas would become spotlit – but just for a moment. The fast moving clouds were wreaking havoc with composing images. Try to anticipate – always get it wrong, or the light doesn’t quite hit the spot needed. It began looking like another wave of rain coming in and we still wanted to see the Painted Cove area of the monument. The drive out goes through smaller, but no less scenic hill areas.The Painted Cove Trail is a mostly boardwalk 1/4 mile loop through cracked, red and gold mud hills. There is also a short branch to an overlook where nice views of the area can be seen. It was clouding up again and seemed like it might rain. We finished our walk and headed home, stoping one last time before leaving the park for a few last images. Tomorrow, we move on to Bend for a few days. Then a rather slow dash home by next Friday.