Monday, October 19, 2009

A Day to John Day

The trek from Arlington to John Day on Sunday was nothing short of sensational. I was a little concerned what the little State Highway, OR-19, would be like, what kind of issues it might present for a 32,000 pound bus-house, and how difficult it would be to negotiate the turns and twists with a car in tow. But my worry was for naught. It was one of the more enjoyable drives that either of us can remember. We followed OR-19 to US-26 east, which led us to the John Day area.

We climbed out of Arlington about 9:45am... and "climbed" is the right word. The road ascends from less than 300 feet of elevation at Arlington to over 3,000 feet in the first 25 miles... not really all that steep, but it was a continuous climb with slow curves much of the way. The sky was blue and bright and the traffic almost non-existent, so we just settled back and enjoyed the slow climb out of the Columbia Gorge, thoroughly enjoying the views of snow-capped Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams off to the West, and the deepening valleys in our wake. It isn't often that scenery sparks as much open verbal exclamation as it did inside the bus-house today.

But the first 25 miles was only the beginning. The twisting, winding, ascending, then descending road was always interesting, always amazing. I battled between keeping my eyes on the road and on the vistas. We went through little towns -- Olex, Condon, Mayville, Fossil, Service Creek, and Spray. We drove over hills, through valleys, around canyons, and along streams. There was always something new to see. We'd pause at a pull-off and see a bald eagle sitting at the top of a tree, or scan the steep rock walls on both sides of a canyon for deer, or elk, or bear, or mountain lion -- they're all here.



Fall color was in peak form, at least for this part of the world. Along streambeds, in niches here and there, in clumps alongside the road, the bright golds, yellows, shades of tan, reds, and purples... grasses, trees, weeds, all accompanied by the bright sun to provide a visual party for us along the way.



 A portion of the road we were on today is designated as the "Journey Through Time" National Scenic Byway, so named because of the rich fossil beds -- the best in North America -- that are pervasive in this part of Oregon. Since we're going to spend more time in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument during the next day or two, I won't spew more on this subject until that time.

During the previous few days, as I researched possible encampments in the John Day area, I found a State Park that sounded like something we'd enjoy. The Clyde Holliday State Park is a few miles west of John Day, right along US-26. We pulled in before 3pm and really liked what we found... a real gem... a campground, NOT an RV Park. With only 31 campsites, it's a small place with mature trees right along the banks of the John Day River. The campsites are all well separated and private, long and level, with water and 30/50amp electric. Our site is 84 feet of asphalt pad. With only a smattering of other campers here, it feels open and secluded -- just as we like it.



With some iffy weather the next few days (a little rain, some cold mornings) we thought we'd stay here for 4 nights anyway... maybe more if necessary. I think we're going to sleep good tonight.

Thom Hoch
Clyde Holliday State Park near John Day, OR.