Spring Break Part III – Land of the dead

Hey people, let’s get this trip report over with so we can be in the moment again shall we?

First of all, I can’t believe I forgot about one of the most exciting and scary parts of our stay at Leslie Gulch. I meant to write about the profound silence there. One walk I took alone, the sound of my vest rubbing against me pants seemed deafening. (curse you nylon and zippers! Now I know why real earth folk wear natural fibers.) So the first night we are snug in our bags and suddenly we hear a noise like the sky is being ripped apart. I am ready for anything. Maybe a meteor? Could this be a good day to die? Or perhaps we’ll make first contact with aliens. The noise passed overhead and we stuck our heads out the tent door in time to see the second wave of these guys, so close to the ground it felt like we could get singed by the afterburners:


They came by about the same time the next night, about 10:30pm. The sound was so loud it was terrifying. I bet that for the pilots, ripping through the Owyhee canyon would be like a video game. They were lower than the canyon walls! Still, it scared the shit out of us.

Day 6

Leaving the Gulch, we decided to go explore the Diamond Craters area and scout out Cow Lakes Campground. After the rains, the roads were less than ideal. Thankfully we have 4 wheel drive!! I wish I had gotten a picture of our car completely coated in mud. We bailed out before getting all the way there and came upon a waterfowl paradise. basalt lined pools in this stream were filled with teals, widgeons, and many more. Then we saw the Sandhill Cranes! They were so tall, they towered over the brush. My camera doesn’t zoom enough to get a good shot, so we just took turns with the binocs. Here’s what the cranes look like:


We were east of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge here. A few minutes later, we stopped at the grave of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. You may know him as Sacagawea’s baby, the only child ever depicted on United States currency.


He died of pneumonia at age 61 while traveling through this area.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau 1805-1866 This site marks the final resting place of the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Born to Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau at Fort Mandan (North Dakota) on February 11, 1805, Baptiste and his mother symbolized the peaceful nature of the "Corps of Discovery." Educated by Captain William Clark at St. Louis, Baptiste at 18 traveled to Europe where he spent six years becoming fluent in English, German, French and Spanish. Returning to American in 1829, he ranged the far west for nearly four decades as mountain man, guide, interpreter, magistrate, and forty-niner. In 1866, he left the California gold fields for a new strike in Montana, contracted pneumonia enroute, reached "Inskips Ranche," here, and died on May 16.

Hitting the road again with a less than favorable weather forecast, we head for John Day country. The Owyhee area is known for its hot springs, including this stunner. But that will have to wait for another trip, when the roads are passable and the river is fordable.

The rest of the day looked a lot like this:

Silvies River

And we ended up in a sad motel in John Day Oregon that night, and ate bad Mexican food for dinner.

Day 7
A new day, we checked out the new John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center. This is an amazing museum, with a working paleontology lab inside. Visitors can peer in through a huge viewing window and see scientists working. There were also 6 uniformed NPS rangers available for our question asking pleasure. The “John Day Fossil beds” cover a huge area of eastern Oregon, and reveal millions of years of ancient history, “one of the longest and most continuous records of evolutionary change and biotic relationships in North America.”


It was too nice a day to spend indoors, so we hit the trail at Blue Canyon:

Blue Canyon

Later in the afternoon we headed for the town of Fossil, where we heard there is a public fossil bed where we could look for our own. There were a lot of leaves in here! We found a dawn redwood. This was more the boy’s speed than writing essays at the visitor center for a junior ranger badge.

fossil oregon

Soon it was getting late. We had to find a campsite. we took a chance at some BLM land near the John Day River. This abandoned ranch/tree research station became our home for the night:

john day ranch
john day river

Day 8
The wind farms have really grown in the Columbia Valley. It looks like an alien invasion of robot monsters. I guess this is where my green power program money is going.

New windmill

I’m not totally comfortable with the wind solution to our oil troubles. The windmills are massive, ugly and scary. There’s a whole new road network now to service them, and new power lines. I’ve heard they confuse and kill bats. Just what we need as mosquito borne disease is certain to increase as our planet warms.

Several hours and a few DVD movies later, we are definitely in Western Washington.
samish river

Aaahh, back in Bellingham!

rainy downtown bham

No place like home!!

Go to Part 1 or Go to Part 2


5 Responses to “Spring Break Part III – Land of the dead”

  1. 1 Lisa May 9, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    What a trip! It looks great. Ups and downs and a lot of cool sights and things to see and do. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    The windmills seem pretty ominous somehow.

  2. 2 littlebangtheory January 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Sounds like a great trip with lots of things to think about.

    I have a new wind turbine turbine atop the hill across the river from me. Now my view isn’t quite as wild, but I try to envision it as a coal fired electric plant fueled by removal of the adjacent mountaintop, and suddenly it’s impact seems entirely justifiable.

    Hope the drier East Side made your trip a respite from the wetness of home.

    • 3 beatgrl January 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm

      Yes it did – 2 years ago. That’s coincidentally when I got on facebook, ending my blogging career. I’m not sure where we will go this year. Dreams of Belize will be unrealized this time. I wish a week was long enough to go back to Moab 🙂

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