Being 40, Day 3, The Painted Hills and Fossil Beds of John Day

With no real plan other than to get home eventually, we took a look at our map and decided that a stop at the John Day Painted Hills and Fossil beds was in order.  I've always been curious about the sites but they're far enough away from home and not the right spot for backpacking that we've put off going there.  But this trip was to celebrate my birthday, so I made the call: we're as close as we'll ever be... we're going to John Day!  The drive out of the Alvord Desert was beautiful - moody skies, sharply contrasting colors of vegetation and land and sky, and not another soul for miles and miles.  When we finally reached the first fossil bed site, I was blown away by the colors and shapes that are nested in the middle of Oregon - so close but so far from where we live.  We spent the night nearby and got up early to get to the Painted Hills.  They're just silly with their intense layers of color.  We hiked around a bit, made several cups of coffee on our camping stove, and watched clouds lift, lower, and lift again above the hills.  One more long drive took us to the other fossil bed site where we marveled again at the beauty in this state.

That was all a month ago.  Now we're home, figuring out how to get through a dark, grey, rainy winter.  I'm thinking about where I am (geographically, emotionally, spiritually), how time passes (because milestone birthdays tend to take me there), and daydreaming about where I'll be next.


Being 40, Day 2, The Alvord Desert and Hot Springs

We hiked out of Big Indian Gorge and drove around the southern end of Steens Mountain, stopping in Fields for an awesome burger.  Driving north along the east side of the mountain, the Alvord Desert came into view.  It was stunning.  And it was our home for the night.  We drove our car out on the cracked earth and giggled at how insanely cool the land was and how alone we were.  And we soaked in the hot springs on the edge of the desert.  Many times.  When we first arrived, at sundown, at sunrise... they might be the best part of the whole trip.  Seeing the heard of antelope in the second photo below wasn't too bad, either.


A Month Ago Today

I turned 40.  You know birthdays are big deals to me.  Big birthdays are really big deals.  Barry and I had planned a backpacking trip in the Trinity Alps in California to celebrate, but our plans were thwarted when, days before my birthday, the area was hit with a big snowstorm that would have made finding our way almost impossible.*  So we quickly planned a last minute alternate trip to a place we might not have gone otherwise, and before our extended weekend was over we'd already decided we wanted to go back - who knew?  We took off right after work on my birthday for the southeastern corner of Oregon.  After hours of driving across the state with a motel stop along the way, we reached the first destination on our trip: Big Indian Gorge in Steens Mountain.  We backpacked in, hiking several miles with wonderfully overwhelming scents of juniper and sage all around us, gentle sounds of Aspen leaves blowing in the wind, bright coppery clusters of fall leaves nestled among the rocky terrain, and sights of snow-covered Steens Mountain ahead of us.  We had the canyon completely to ourselves and had one of the best evenings of camping ever, sitting next to a cozy fire with the stars blazing above.  Perfect start to a big birthday weekend.

*We've still got the Trinity Alps book we bought when planning the original trip.  It's gonna get used one day.