Journal: John Day Fossil Beds

Saturday - March 25th, 2017.

adrian vila
Mar 31, 2017 · 10 min read

7:00am the alarm goes off.

7:27am It’s a beautiful sunrise.

7:58am I’m finally waking up.

8:45am I think we are ready to go. It’s late. Very late. We have a long drive ahead of us and doubts start to grow. We’ve already been there, the weather might suck, we might not be able to find a place to camp. And it’s late. But we are going. I need a few hours away from the city. I push myself, and we are going.

10:20am Just passed Government Camp. Looks like the snow is melting really quick, the pile on the shoulder is at best half the height it was last time I was up here.

10:25am Rachel falls asleep.

12:25pm We get to Prineville, last stop before driving onto the desert. We get firewood and food. We are almost there, just a little bit more than an hour.

12:37pm Luna hates being in the trunk with the firewood. She thinks it can fall on her at any minute.

1:03pm She keeps looking at the firewood.

1:05pm Ochoco National Forest.

1:21pm I love this place.

1:40pm Mitchell. But we are not stopping here. Not yet. From here it’s new territory for me.

2:16pm We finally make it to Sheep Rock. I haven’t done any research about this place, so I hope we can find some information around.

2:18pm There’s no one here, but looks like there are a couple hikes further north. First we are going to check out the ranch.

2:50pm We walk to an overlook but the view is not good. The trail is pretty rocky and full of spiders. I’m tired and now we have to walk back to the parking lot.

3:08pm Ok the house is pretty cool. Also a bit creepy.

3:15pm I wonder if Sheep Rock is all this place has to offer or there’s more. The sign says something about a hike to Blue Basin. Rachel is not convinced. But we are driving there.

3:25pm There are two hikes, one is harder than the other. The “hard” one is a bit longer than I was expecting. I’m still tired, and getting a bit hungry. It’s a loop of 3.25 miles and an elevation gain of 800 feet. That doesn’t sound that bad, right? The other one (called “Island in Time”) is slightly more than a mile. I intend to hike both.

3:30pm We go for it.

3:40pm So far the hike is easy, but we haven’t seen many interesting rocks either.

4:10pm The trail is getting steeper. Now those 800 feet feel like climbing a mountain. The drive and the heavy backpack are really taking their toll.

4:21pm We make it to the overlook. It was so worth it. It always is. Always!

4:25pm We are about to leave, but can’t stop thinking how beautiful this place is. It really has nothing to envy from Death Valley or other more famous places.

4:29pm Hiking down now. This hike is a loop so we have a new view, from the other side. It’s getting better and better. It’s crazy.

4:36pm I’m in love with this place.

4:40pm I’m taking way too many pictures.

4:41pm Luna is being terrible. Not fun to take pictures while holding her.

4:55pm The trail really goes down now.

4:57pm These switchbacks are steep. My knees start to hurt a little bit. I’m getting old!

5:15pm We made it down. The trail intersects with the other hike and it saves me some half a mile or so. I’m doing it. Rachel and Luna are heading back to the car.

5:20pm I am really tired. This trail is easy and it’s really wearing me down. It’s the backpack. Or that’s what I keep telling myself. It feels heavy, it’s gotta be around 20 pounds right? At least. Try to remind myself it’s for training. If it hurts, it’s good. I believe.

5:23pm There are some fossils on the walls, it’s cool.

5:25pm This hike is more for families. It’s still pretty down here though.

5:27pm I reach the end. Ok it was good. Let’s go back.

5:41pm Finally made it back to the car. Not even 2 hours hiking but it feels like I’ve been doing it the whole day.

5:41pm I drink a lot of water.

5:48pm Looks like there are another couple places to check out in this unit. I’m not sure, but “it’s always worth it” so I start driving north.

6:02pm We find Cathedral Rock and Foree. The latter seems to require a hike, so we say “no, gracias”. We want to call it a day but we have around 45 minutes to the Painted Hills. We’ll be camping nearby, at the same spot we camped last year.

7:06pm Made it to the Painted Hills. Sun is setting in 25 minutes or so, we need to keep going if we want to have some light while cooking dinner and getting the car ready for the night.

7:35pm I completely forgot this campground was so far. But we are here, finally. Light is fading quickly, so I started the fire. Luna is having her dinner. Rachel is getting the car ready.

7:45pm Warming up our dinner. Meatballs. We have some bread too.

7:52pm Fire is going strong. Food is still on the stove.

8:20pm Dinner was really good. Time to relax and enjoy. It’s getting chilly but it feels good next to the fire.

9:35pm Time flew by. It’s already late and I’m ready for bed.

11:10pm We watch a couple shows and now it’s really late.


Sunday — March 26th, 2017.

6:15am First alarm is going off. “Stop”.

6:30am Second alarm goes off. I didn’t have a good sleep but I’m not too tired.

6:37am Finally made it out of the car, let Luna do her thing and I’m making some coffee now.

6:40am Coffee is strong. I like it. We have some chocolate cookies.

6:41am It’s mostly cloudy but the sky is getting red. Sun is rising. Good because it’s 28 degrees.

7:05am Ready to go.

7:08am Rachel is driving. I’m going to fly the drone from the car while she drives. I did the same thing last year with my Phantom so I want to see how different the Mavic behaves.

7:39am The little thing performed really well. Also the place is stunning. One of my favorites in Oregon, no doubt.

7:51am Painted Hills. They put a “no drones” sign up. I’m glad.

7:54am There’s also a “keep dogs on a leash” sign but the only people there seem to not understand it. Their dog is off leash, and comes to say hi. It’s a beautiful dog. But it shouldn’t be free. Luna gets really angry inside the car, she cries a lot as we start walking towards the overlook. She can’t understand why she can’t be free like the other dog.

8:07am We are driving to the Cove now. Luna was on the front seat when we got back to the car. They finally put their dog on the leash.

8:21am There are footprints on the tiny colored hills :(

9:43am Having breakfast at a cafe in Mitchell. I bought a book: “Growing up in the Ochocos”.

10:25am Checking out the tiny town of Mitchell. There are a few cafes and a couple of hotels / motels, but most seem closed. Looks like this place lives for the summer.

10:28am Two dogs from a house and another one inside a car are going crazy because of Luna. She’s going crazy too. I feel like we are disturbing the whole town, although I haven’t seen anyone just yet.

10:30am Leaving. Officially on our way home. We might stop by somewhere else, the idea was to go to Smith Rock. But I don’t know, I’m tired.

10:43am Ochoco National Forest. The road is covered in snow. It was clear yesterday. It’s snowing.

10:45am Rachel falls asleep.

12:39pm Getting pretty close to the Warm Springs. Almost half way there.

1:00pm We only stopped to get gas. No Smith Rock or Proxy Falls. I’m too tired for that.

1:40pm There is a snowstorm up here in Government Camp. These trees are beautiful when covered in snow. I’m only taking videos now. I want to make a video of this trip. It’s been a long time.

2:42pm Made it home. I need a nap.


This is the journal entry of our road trip to the John Day Fossil Beds in Wheeler County. Definitely one of the most beautiful places in Oregon, but it’s also a bit remote. So some tips if you are planning on going there: have enough gas in the tank and bring food and water with you; some businesses might be closed even if they appear in Google Maps; we had no service during these two days (Cricket and T-Mobile), but I’m not sure if some other carrier has coverage there; I’m yet to see one, but this is rattlesnake territory, be prepared; it’s also mountain lion territory, but you’ll most likely only see a lot of cows, deer and antelope.

Finally, I made a short video of this trip. This is the result:


Find me on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube!

adrian vila

Written by

Medium Format Film Photographer based somewhere in the US.

More From Medium

Also tagged Oregon

Also tagged Oregon

Unsupervised Play

Stephanie Volin
Feb 18 · 8 min read

9

Top on Medium

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade