Part 5, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010
Pre-dawn from our sleeping spot under the stars. The camera doesn't capture the delicate pinks, but you get the idea.
Middle of nowhere (the car is next to a road, not visible in the picture)
Diamond Craters is an area of relatively recent (past 50,000 years) volcanism full of all manner of volcanic geology - basalt flows, cinder cones, steam explosion craters, collapsed domes, and more.
From a distance the craters landscape just looks like an irregular hill.
These little monkey flowers were growing on the dry cinder hills.
Looking across a crater
We never identified this one.
Malheur Maar - a steam-explosion crater filled with water. A coyote ran out of the rushes, and some birds down there were makingjungle-esque noises.
Multiple-explosion Crater - a mess of lava flows and tossed basalt blocks.
The grippy basalt was easy to climb on.
Leaving Diamond Craters, we stopped at the Peter French Round Barn, an over-engineered structure built in 1880 by Mr. French, who at the time controlled the whole valley as a cattle empire.
From the outside. The roof shakes are not from 1880...
Cool architecture. The roof is supported by a ring of junipers set in the ground and a creative arrangement of angled beams.
From here we had a bit of a drive to the John Day Fossil Beds, although the roads (Hwy 395 and Hwy 26) turned out to be more than scenic enough to make the drive interesting.
Crayfish in Poison Creek, where we stopped for lunch.
Coming into John Day from the south, we passed a sign saying "model train show, 1-4" and since we were lucky enough to be within that time range we decided to check it out. What we found was an exquisitely-designed N-scale layout, the "Oregon Western Lines" with an owl logo, and its somewhat eccentric designer Everett King. The trains are all digitally controlled, and this was the first time I saw three powered engines pulling a realistic-length train of about 50 cars. Everett has a list of things to find (two-headed cow, peeing dog, seven deer, etc.) and a tongue-in-cheek guided tour of the layout (toxic waste facility with glow-in-the-dark cars, locally-grown pot shipped by train to elevators, sawdust processed into breakfast cereal). All in all, a fun and unexpected stop.
We arrived at the John Day Fossil Beds just before 4:30 and took a whirlwind tour of their museum before they closed at 5. This landscape is a geology buff's heaven, with layers upon layers of fossilized soils, volcanic ash, ignimbrite, basalt, and fossils to boot.
One of the coolest geological formations I have seen. Older layers (~15-30 million years) were tipped by faulting and are angled upward away from me, while a younger volcanic ignimbrite (7 million years) sits level on top.
Sheep Rock, another study in historical layers. The basalt caprock is from extensive lava flows 15 million years ago, around the same time as the Steens Mountain flows.
Hiking in Blue Basin, an area where many mammal fossils have been found. I've seen yellow, orange, and red in the badlands, but I've never seen blue! Apparently the color is caused by two blue minerals in the petrified clay.
Rock wrens were all over in the fossil beds. Kelly snapped these pictures of a particularly friendly bird.
Amazing landscape, wouldn't you say?!
Cathedral Rock, last photo before my camera battery died.
Once again we had to find a campsite in the dark, and here there was a shortage of accessible BLM land. We settled on a Forest Service camground a few miles up into the mountains, a great spot except for the hunters who kept a generator running much of the night.