Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eastern Oregon,Hells Canyon and the Painted Hills

Laurie and I just got back from an Eastern Oregon road trip that encompassed the entire northeast region of the state. It’s hard to believe we traveled over 900 miles and never crossed state lines and really only scratched the surface in terms of exploring Oregon in it’s entirety.
The Painted Hills

The trips conception was certainly based on photographic pursuits as well as seeing areas of Oregon that were new to us. On the short list were of course the Painted hills, Hells Canyon, and the Wallawa Mountains to include Wallawa Lake.

We traveled over Mt Hood through Maupin down into Shaniko, Fossil and finally reached the town of Clarno. The first of three visitor areas that make up the John Day Fossil beds National Monument start in Clarno. There is little to see here except for some ancient rock formations that were formed 55 million years ago
. Just three miles east of Mitchell Oregon we found the Painted Hills Unit. These are spectacular and quite stunning to see first hand. A photographer’s paradises indeed as you catch the first glimpse of color in the hills. However it’s not just the color that makes this place so special; but also the perceived texture of the formations that give it that otherworldly feel. The formations look like velvet but are actually made up of hard clay, Siltstone and Shale.
Painted Patterns

Approximately 1-hour east near John day are the Sheep Rock Unit and more fossil beds. This area was a bit of a disappointment. We were to late to enter the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, which houses all of the regions Fossil collections. Also the formations were jagged and a bluish green in color. If we had more time I would have liked to take in a couple of the nearby hiking options to explore further.

We spent the first night at the Best Western in John Day knowing full well we had a huge day ahead of us in the morning. After several hours of wandering through vast uninhabited regions of the northeast we stopped in Baker City to refuel ourselves as well as the car. The next objective was to head into the Hells Canyon region of Oregon to catch a glimpse of the Mighty Snake River. It turns out that the wild Snake River is considerably north and down stream of the Hells Canyon Dam. We never did see any beautiful scenery of the Snake River and decided to cut our losses and take the only road over towards Joseph and Wallowa Lake. Yes it is a 64-mile wild ride of twists and turns that takes you past the Hells Canyon Overlook. It is quite a vista and deep gorge and yet the Snake remains elusive even here.

Painted Detail
Hells Canyon Overlook
When we finally reached Joseph we were somewhat weary travelers at this point and decided to book a room only minutes from the lake. Stayed in a old but quaint motel called the Indian Lodge Motel. New mattresses and fire hydrant like water pressure in the showers were a couple of nice attributes. The town of Joseph is very nice and is bolstered by a huge art community that has donated many works to the city, which are displayed along the streets. Apparently there are three bronze foundries in town as well. The town takes on a wonderful vacation feel in the evening hours as many of the business are creatively lit which ads to the warmth of the town. We took an evening stroll after enjoying a fireside outdoor meal at the Embers Brewhouse.
Wallowa Lake At Dawn

I awoke early, pre dawn in fact to photograph Wallowa Lake; however that magic moment never materialized and I was disappointed with all of the images. The sweet light doesn’t always happen especially on a cloudless Eastern Oregon morning.

Anthony Lakes

The next day took us through Tollgate Oregon and up and over the Blue Mountains where we visited the Anthony Lakes area.
We then came through Pendleton and linked up with I-84. It's a 200-mile trip through the Gorge to home so we stopped off in the Dalles for a Mexican dinner at El Mirador.
Great trip as always and I thank Laurie for all the safe driving and companionship.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hopefully next time you're in Eastern Oregon you'll be able to make a trip to Hat Point in Wallowa County--an incredibly scenic overlook for observing the Snake River in Hells Canyon (although it is accessible by dirt road and a total drive of 2 hours away from Joseph, OR).

Thanks for the comments about our lovely corner of the state!
--Heather at the Bronze Antler B&B

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