Monday, June 29, 2009

Central Oregon roamings, part 6 - Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds-John Day River areas near roads

There is a lot to see in the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. So much in fact that I'll save the stuff that included the spectacular hiking into and around the rim of the Blue Basin area for later to give special attention to just that part of it! For starters I began by roaming all of the sights that are essentially accessed from driving around on the road or short 1/4 mile walks from a parking area. Even if you only do this simple approach you'll still enjoy seeing great geologic formations and history of the area!

Cathedral Rock is the in-your-face stunning formation of rock by a sharp bend along SR 19. After a stop here I headed north to enjoy the short nature trails in the Foree Picnic Area. The Flood of Fire trail started off with a great view back down the wonderful winding roadway that brought me here - I loved it!

Then a short 5-10 minute walk (keeping eyes open for cool lizards and being careful for snakes which never materialized here) to a great overlook at wonderful geologic eroded hillsides of this volcanic region. Wow.

Another short 15 minute loop walk on the other side of the picnic area, the Story in Stone Trail, was just as enjoyable but yet very different in what you learned along the interpretive trail, which was set up excellently!

Later in the day, long after having sweated out a hot hike on all 4+ miles of trails in Blue Basin (coming later!) I stopped at the James Cant Ranch site, a historic homestead of a settling rancher in the John Day Valley here just below Sheep Rock.

While I didn't see sheep on the cliffs above me, a

nice ram skeleton on a roof of an outbuilding was humor enough! I loved touring the old farm - the barn was open and the old farm implements always warm my heart to view and photograph. Lastly before closing I rushed in to the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center to tour the museum and fossils shown there. WOW!!

It was a very long, very hot day, and one I used every minute that I could to enjoy this unit of the monument - one I highly recommend and do allow a full day if you can! Coming next? My hike into Blue Basin, around it, dancing with buzzing rattlesnakes, and sweating in a lot of hot sun!

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