Sunday, May 15, 2005


A Trip to Bend and Fossil Beds in Oregon

My husband and I met up with friends in Bend. On the way there, we were surprised to see so much snow along the sides of roads. We expected snow on The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor and other peaks and were not disappointed. It was great getting away from the Portland area and feeling the joy of open country.

We visited the High Desert Museum -- enjoyed a talk on owls and close up to an injured great horned owl. There are good exhibits of tribes that dwell along the Deschutes River, showing how the 18th and 19th century Indians combined modern things with their traditional dwellings and clothing. For ex., one teepee had an folding aluminum chair in it and a necklace had been made by stringing metal thimbles. Outdoors are exhibits of equipment formerly used by sheep herders and cowboys. Fee for seniors was $11 -- kinda steep for a museum still in the mid stages of development. The place is good for bird watching. We saw pygmy nuthatches and a western tanager. Our friends did the identifying.

We also visited Lava Butte. Seeing the vast lava fields from on top of the cinder cone was spectacular, especially with the snow-clad mountains in the background.

Next Day -- Left the way too noisy Motel 6 in Bend. (Don't stay there if you can't sleep through trains, noises from trucks and loading heavy cargo.) We headed out to The John Day Fossil Beds. Along the way, we stopped at the Painted Hills Unit to see awesome stripes of red and yellow on the hills. Then we drove to the Sheep Rock Unit to look at the indoor exhibits of fossils and to learn a bit about the ongoing research. Strange for me to be back in a dry climate -- reminded me of my 30 years in Tucson. The views were interesting, but we never did see any fossils outdoors at that unit. Later in the day, we drove to the thriving (down to 24 kids in the high school) town of Fossil, county seat of Wheeler County.

COOL -- behind the high school, you pay $3 and get a shovel and hammer with claws to tap open rocks and an explanation of what to look for. Then you are let loose to climb on the rocky hill with exposed layers and explore. We all found fossils of metasequoias and other plant parts. Some of these are as old as 30 million years. They are somewhat fragile because the rock is from compressed volcanic ash and tends to be powdery. But we made it home with some. Another highlight of Fossil is the Bridge Creek Flora Inn, where we had a 4-bedroom, wonderful old house to ourselves, as well as a delicious all-you-can-eat breakfast.

Whew, this is a lot of writing, but our trip covered a lot and about a total of about 15 hours of driving. It was a good time to go -- not too hot yet in the desert areas, but roads free of snow.

The tapping open rocks thing sounds fun, I'll have to try that next time I'm in that area! (Liz)
Sounds like lots of fun to me, too. All those years I lived in Oregon/Washington, and we never got to Fossil...
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