Along roads less traveled.

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Where I stayed
Hat Rock Campground, Hermiston, OR

Flag of United States  , Oregon
Monday, June 17, 2013

Route:  Bend, Oregon to Hermiston, Oregon via John Day Fossil Bed National Monument near Mitchell, OR--218 miles.
Campground:  Hat Rock Campground, Hermiston, OR

This was a day of travel on roads less traveled—no major highways.

Our goal today was to have a stop at the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument, feeling that this would provide an interesting, as well as educational, stop or break in the day's driving.  Bob loaded our destination into the GPS; however, the signage on the road indicated that we should turn much sooner.  We followed two other RVs into the Park, only to find that we had reached the Painted Hills site or section.  The actual museum and exhibit site was down the road about 47 miles.  So, in the interest of seeing the exhibits, we headed on down to the Sheep Rock Unit, only to find out that that was closed on Mondays due to federal budget cuts!  We’re disappointed now that we’ve had time to read all the literature that we missed two short walks which would have let us see fossils embedded in the rocks.  We weren’t sorry we had driven into the Painted Hills site as the hills did look like they had been painted!

In the 1860s, Paleontology was still a very new science.  The discoveries of Thomas Condon, a Congregational minister, spurred scientific interest in the region.  Studies began seriously in the late 1800s and continue to this day.  "Under the hills and valleys of eastern Oregon is one of the richest fossil beds on Earth, an ancient record spanning most of the Age of Mammals."  “These Fossil beds expose extraordinarily well preserved specimens.  Also remarkable is the great number and variety of fossils.”  The studies uncover an amazing array of evolutionary events:  global and local changes in the distant past, climate fluctuations, mass extinctions, and life forms new to science.  Information found here reveals clues to our present and a glimpse of what our future could hold.”

Looking at the pictures of these hills, it’s hard to imagine that forty-four million years ago, this area was a “wet, lush, semi-tropical forest with many vines and creepers.”  Evidence of 300 plant species, including 175 fruits and nuts from that time period has been found.  The museum at the Sheep Rock site has 8 different exhibits from time periods beginning 44 MYA (million years ago) up through 7 MYA.   From the brochure, it would have been interesting to see the changes reflected in each of these exhibits—changes in plant life as well as animal life.  We found it fascinating to know that some forms of elephants, camels, and rhinos once lived here.  Information regarding the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument came from the Park brochure.

The geological features of the two sites alone were striking.  The painted hills that I mentioned earlier were so different from the formations and striations at the Sheep Rock site.  Knowing how my parents enjoyed things like this, I couldn’t help but think of them when we were driving through these areas and the surrounding ones.
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Dottie Chapmman on

Nice reading you are seeing a lot of country. that's what retirement is for. glad you brought your grandson with you very nice trip for him to enjoy. glad you are having fun.

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