Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More from Central Oregon

One of the best things about having a significant other in your life is that they expose you to things you would never experience on your own. There is absolutely no chance that left to my own devices I would ever find myself in Fossil, Oregon (Estimated zip code population in 2008: 598). On the other hand, my husband had a burning desire to go out there and the knowledge to know what we should see once we were there; and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. This picture and the one above was taken traveling south on Highway 19 on our way to Fossil. Just outside town was this marker for the 45th Parallel. As well as some fabulous Teasel. We stopped for gas in Fossil. Well….backing up about 10 minutes we were actually at the Mercantile (they carried food as well as fabric on the bolt and other household necessities) when my husband inquired about a gas station, it was about 5:45 pm and he was told there was one right next door but he’d better hurry. Can you imagine the only gas station for miles closes at 6pm!? This interesting parking strip was in front of the gas station. Look at all these rocks! The girl running the station told us there was a frog in the stock tank (it’s actually a water feature, although the water wasn't flowing when we saw it), she had caught him and put him in the tank. We searched but never were able to find him. Instead we got to see her green frog tattoo! This is where I should mention that the people in these small towns we visited were so friendly! We got waves as we drove through town and friendly conversation where ever we stopped. In Fossil there is a little building that houses the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute. It sounds terribly important doesn’t it? Basically this little building is the nerve center that ties together all of the interesting geological monuments and fossil beds of central and eastern Oregon. There was an extremely knowledgeable and friendly woman running the center when we were there. Unfortunately I didn’t get her name. But she was so full of excitement for what she does that I’m sure many a budding geologist will be inspired if he/she gets the chance to talk with her.

I came away with a new book, the Weeds of the West, don’t you think they could have come up with something besides a wagon wheel for the cover!?Not something I would have picked up elsewhere (when tempted by other books) but an interesting and useful resource with lots of pictures. I'm sure you’ll be hearing more about it in the future.
After leaving Fossil our destination was the Clarno Unit. Another fabulous name, right? The Clarno Unit is part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Here at the Clarno Unit Beds, more than 300 plant species fossils have been found. The cliffs of the Clarno Palisades were created by a succession of ash-laden mudflows inundating the forested landscape. Beautiful. After all this driving I was excited about an opportunity to get out and walk around, to look at the plants and features of the land up close. Amazing, no? As we walked along the trail something that my husband had said earlier kept running through my head. He asked why I enjoyed the beauty in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts but not in the desert right here in my own backyard. Of course my reply had something to do with cactus and agave and how much more interesting they were than any of these weeds! (I had said this prior to buying the weed book….see my thinking had already begun to change by then) But here I was finally able to look at these weeds and wildflowers and see their beauty. The educational signs along the trail made me wonder about things way back. A near tropical forest! Now that sounds really interesting. Fossils! Aha! Can you see it? A tiny leaf imprint right in the center of this rock. An artist’s interpretation of what the tropical forest may have looked like. And another fossil! Aromatic sage. This was an eye opening trip in more ways than one. I forget sometimes how small my world can become, then I find myself out somewhere like this and the sky opens up and I can suddenly see for miles and miles. It’s impossible not to feel small under the big blue open sky of Central Oregon.


  1. Well, thanks to your hubby, your trusty camera and blogging this is not an area I would ever see either. I love it!!

  2. Just returned from Central Oregon and saw much of the same...there's a silvery tree they grow there I need to ID. Loved your gas station rock photos and the fact that you have an eye that sees these things. :)

    Weeds of the West is a great book. We use it in the Master Gardener offices for weed identification. It's very handy!

  3. What is a tiny four-toed horse?

  4. We loved Fossil and the John Day area. My husband and I actually spent an afternoon digging up fossils-oddly enough, the public site is located behind the high school. We came away with an entire Tupperware container filled with fossils of those little leaves mostly. (I found more than he did-the heat and his smaller stash made him a little grumpy so we quit after a couple of hours.) Beautiful country, I love Eastern Oregon. Did you check out Joseph and Enterprise?

  5. Absolutely beautiful. Wish I were there now (it can't be much hotter there than it is here!)

  6. Gotta add Fossil to my list, what a great place. The land doesn't have the insane colors of much of the Southwest, but the formations are just as interesting. Maybe you need a potted agave to take around on your travels like the trolls that get photographed in front of all the international landmarks.

  7. Beautiful! I love the rock formations in the distance and the wide open skies! There is something so peaceful about those wildflowers and weeds!

  8. Let's hear it for venturing east over the Cascades!
    Glad you had such an interesting time. The rocks in central and eastern Oregon are just fabulous! And the land is so empty (in a good way.)

  9. What a great post. I know that for many Easterners, we envision Oregon as a lush wet place, but that is near the coast. Probably more of it is like this than might be imagined. I found it ironic that you where in Fossil to get fossil fuels.

  10. Included in those cool high desert plants are two kinds of cactus (opuntia fragilis and a kind of barrel cactus). They're especially easy to find around and above the John Day River. Did you run across any?

  11. Darla, yes Central Oregon does seem like a bit of a stretch as a vacation destination for you.

    LeLo, good luck with the tree id, I don't remember seeing such a beast, and even if I did I suck at tree id! Good to know you endorse my book purchase!

    D+N, I don't know I've never seen one. I'll ask the OM.

    PGG, I know! Isn't that a funny location for the dig? It was closed when we were there (they needed to excavate a new section) but we did dig for fossils years ago in Republic, WA. Came away with a few leaves that we still have. We didn't make it as far as Joseph or Enterprise, that's for another time.

    Kate, we were there when it was 98 in Portland...and it was only in the high 80's out there. Odd.

    James, oh god. I've got to do that! Great idea. As for the insane colors we do have the painted hills:

    Laura, wide open skies indeed!

    MulchMaid, agreed.

    Les, fossils and fossil fuels found in Fossil (sorry I had to, you set me up for it). Yes this huge state is probably more desert than the lush green most people associate with it. I grew up in Spokane, WA, which is on the dry side of that state. I remember encountering people who assumed because I lived in Washington it rained all the time. Not when you are on the east side of the Cascades!

    David, we did not, I would have been very excited if we had!

  12. Great post, Loree. The desert is not my first choice for a homestead but it does have it's own beauty for sure. I love the rock formations. The rock display at the Mercantile/gas station is to die for and the friendly people, I can attest to this when I was recently in K. Falls. Silverton on the the other hand seemed somewhat aloof. I wonder if they don't like all the "tourists." Anyway, kudos to hubby and to you for obliging him.


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