Hello everyone, we are back from our Oregon Road Trip. It was actually 2 short road trips with a break at home. It was really nice to be out of town for a few days. This summer is surreal. Like many people, we’ve been stuck at home since March. My wife and child are completely happy with it, but I became more and more restless. We wanted to visit Hawaii and Thailand this year, but these trips were canceled due to the pandemic. I thought we could go on a long trip instead to visit friends and families in California. However, COVID rises sharply there, so that the trip was also canceled. Pooh! How disappointing. So we decided to make the most of it by visiting a few places we haven’t been to. It worked out pretty well. We had a lot of fun and I feel much better. Now I can sit back for the rest of 2020 …
I lived in Portland for over 25 years, but I didn’t spend much time in Eastern Oregon. It is a huge rural area. I visited some ski and rafting attractions with my friends in the 90s, but have not decreased in recent years. We usually travel to other countries or go west to the beaches when we go on vacation. However, we had a lot of time this summer, so I had to remove it from the list. I decided to visit the John Day National Monument and off I went. (Ms. RB40 hates travel planning, so I’m responsible for our vacation.)
Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock is considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing. Thousands of routes attract climbers from all over the world. I don’t know anything about climbing, so it wasn’t at the top of my list. Fortunately, Smith Rock was on the way to our destination and we took a short hike.
We picked up 2 orders from burritos in Madras and had a picnic in Smith Rock. Surprisingly the food was excellent. Who knew that you can find authentic Mexican food in Madras. Ms. RB40’s grandmother told us about some terrible enchiladas she had in central Oregon many years ago. She said it was covered with brown sauce. But that was already in the 80s, so I should have known that the dining option is much better now.
Anyway, we went hiking after lunch and had a good time. The ways are open, but they want you to wear a face mask. We kept our masks ready and put them on when we couldn’t keep our distance. It was very hot, so bring plenty of water with you when you plan a visit.
After our hike we drove to Mitchell. Mitchell was like an old west town. There was a street with a few shops and that was it. The population was 130 at the 2010 census. We decided to sleep in Mitchell because it was perfectly located in the middle of the John Day National Monument. There are actually 3 units (locations) spaced about an hour apart. If we were to stay in a larger city, we would have to drive at least 2 additional hours each day.
The Painted Hills is the first John Day unit we visited. It is really neat. The hills are bright red, yellow, green and white. That’s how I imagine Mars. This is the main attraction for me. I’ve heard of the Painted Hills for a long time, but they’re so remote. We enjoyed it very much. At this point there are several simple, short ways. We visited twice, at 7 p.m. and another day at 8 a.m. Illumination for pictures is difficult here. There wasn’t much going on when we were there.
It happened to be our 21ststAnniversary. Yay!
Lucky Strike Mine
I read about Lucky Strike Mine a few years ago when our son was in rocks. There you can dig for thunder graves. Thundereggs are spherical rocks that are filled with minerals. If you’re lucky, you can cut them in half to get intricate patterns and colors. The Lucky Strike Mine is located in the Ochoco National Forest (near Mitchell) and we had to take some unmarked Forest Service roads to get there. Google Maps was not helpful because it is incorrect. There is no road that we should take. Fortunately, I found pretty good written instructions on the Internet. I checked it with the satellite view on Google Maps and was pretty sure we would make it.
After 30 minutes in the forest, Ms. RB40 thought we were lost, but I kept walking. It turned out that we were on the right track and soon made it to the mine. The mine was neat. There were two places to dig. A Rockhound club from Salem dug in one place with power tools, so we went to the other. At that point, RB40Jr realized that mining is not much fun in real life. (His favorite game is Minecraft.) We dug around for about 90 minutes and got away with a bucket of Thunderegg. It was an interesting experience, but once was enough. The stones cost $ 2 a pound with a minimum of £ 15. We spent a little more than the minimum. I think it supports the locals. Anyway, 2020 is the last year they can be dug publicly. There are not many places like this anymore. Now I have to find out where I can have these stones cut.
Sheep Rock is the 2ndnd Unit that we visited. There is a nice paleontology center here, but it is closed due to COVID. That’s too bad. I read that they have a nice fossil collection. We went on a hike and relaxed instead. That’s okay. At the next stop we have the opportunity to see some fossils.
Yes, we still have a chance to dig! We attended Wheeler High School in Fossil, OR. There is a fossil bed right behind the soccer field. You ask for a donation of USD 5 per person and you can dig to your heart’s content. There are many plant fossils here. We spent about 90 minutes digging and splitting limestone. We found several fossils, which was exciting. We arrived here around 9am and it was already starting to warm up. Come early and bring plenty of water.
Here is the best we found. You can see needles on both sides of the gap. I think these are redwood needles.
Clarno was the last John Day unit. We came by on the way home. Ms. RB40 went hiking and the boys rested in the shade. This whole area was a lush tropical rainforest 50 million years ago. There is a fossil record in all of these strata.
For our 2ndnd We visited Newport on a road trip. It is our favorite Oregon beach town. The restaurants here are much better than in other beach towns, IMO. We spoiled ourselves with seafood and a nice hotel.
Yum, a nice cup of chowder.
Our hotel was on Agate Beach. Unfortunately there are no more agates on the beach. However, the beach itself is very beautiful. It is a wide, long beach with a few small dunes. RB40 had a great time playing there. The water was freezing cold as always. We have never been here and it was a nice find.
Beverly Beach is really neat. You can walk along the hill and find shell fossils everywhere. Visitors can keep the found fossils, but they cannot dig. I found some nice fossils to take away. This is one of my favorite beaches in Oregon because you can get free souvenirs. Kind!
Make the best of it
Okay, that’s it for our summer vacation. We couldn’t make a big trip, but we made the most of it and enjoyed exploring new places in Oregon. It was really nice to unplug it for a few days. I feel a lot more relaxed now.
Did you go on summer vacation this year? Where did you go? Enjoy the last summer weeks!
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