Monday, June 28, 2010

Vacation Memories - John Day Fossil Beds – Part Two

Recently I told you a bit about our vacation earlier this month. I shared about the historic sheep ranch here and here and about the beauty of the John Day Fossil Beds here. The Fossil Beds National Monument is in three different areas – each requiring a drive through gorgeous country to get there and return to your starting point. On our second excursion out into the fossil beds we spent part of the day at The Painted Hills Unit.


The hills look as if someone took a big brush and painted them in different colors. They were gorgeous and we’ve been told we need to go back at sunset on a clear day so we can see how the colors deepen in the glow of the setting sun. We understand that a good rain storm changes the hills, too. We already know we want to go back! Our first glimpse of a painted hill in the area was amazing. The contrast between the beauty of nature and a telephone pole out in a place where it seemed it didn’t belong made me feel that people are intruders here!


As we turned into the National Monument area we were facing Carroll Rim. A trail winds its way up on the other side to a viewpoint. We didn’t even attempt it – the brochure said it is a ‘moderate to strenuous’ climb. I’m thinking maybe another time. When I am in better shape – and when I have a wide angle lens!


Most of the hills are made up of dry, clay-like soil. . .


That looks like this up close.


Signs are posted along the roads and pathways, asking people to stay off the hillsides. Walking anywhere other than the 'official' trails is forbidden. At times we saw footprints where someone didn't follow the instructions; at other times we saw footprints and trails made by animals who live here. The land here is in a state of continual change. For millions of years extensive volcanic deposits covered and built up this land. Then erosion carved into the deposits, resulting in the Painted Hills. The hills are made of layers of hard claystones of many types, including some ancient soils as well as lakebeds.


The colors of the Painted Hills are caused by layers of aluminum, silicon, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, titanium, potassium, oxygen, hydrogen and traces of seventeen other elements. It is a wonder to behold!


My sweetheart, Joey and I climbed the Overlook Trail one of the ridges. The views were magnificent! I have no idea how many times I wished I had a wide angle lens! Even that wouldn’t have captured the beauty and grandeur we saw.


Fortunately, there were benches along the way for weary folks like me who aren’t used to climbing mountain ridges! And Joey was a nice diversion – people often stopped to talk to him, and us, and ask questions about him. His legs may be short but he’s a good hiker!


This was a quiet place. The silence was appropriate - and so welcome.


We were surprised to see wildflowers growing and blooming on the sides and in the crevices of the hillsides that seemed so barren. You can see some of the trails created by the deer and pronghorn who live here.


Finally, we reached the top – and it was worth every step and every breath we took to make it! Below us were the Painted Hills, across the way to our left was Carroll Rim, and across the valley, on the other side of the river, stands Sutton Mountain – a regal ‘guard’ of the ancient formations of beauty in this place.


The ‘unusual’ became the ‘usual’ as we drove along the roads.


Not far away, we came to the Painted Cove Trail. A quarter-mile, self-guided tour allowed us to walk through the colorful hills. A third of the trail is made of boardwalk, allowing easy access to those who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the close-up view here.


I loved the contrast of these three hills – side-by-side – each in a different color.


Everyone who walked this trail was quiet – and seemed in awe, fascinated with the sights.


Coming around the ‘back’ corner of the trail, heading back toward the parking lot, a nearby lake is visible. It almost seems strange and out of place in this dry, desolate, quiet place.



The hills seem to go on forever and the skies feel like they are bigger than at home!


The clay of the Painted Hills has an ability to absorb water and swell. It retains water so well that most plants are not able to draw the water from the ground. The clay is also dense, making it difficult for most plants to take root. Some plants succeed. In the spring the crevices and gullies of the red hills are filled with the bright yellow blossoms of Chaenactis and Bee-Plant.


We didn't want to go back the way we had come so my sweetheart checked the map and found that there was so much more to see if we made a big circle back to our home base.


Soon I began to learn a few things about map reading! Even though my sweetheart assured me the road ‘cut through’ here and went back to a main highway there, it didn’t take me long to understand the meaning of roads that change from solid lines to little dots on the map! He said it means ‘County road’! What he didn’t say was that they are not always paved - they are not always maintained - and they might not always give me a sense that we would arrive ‘somewhere’ on the other end. I learned that lesson quick, but the scenery was worth the trip.


After what seemed like a long ways on the ‘County road’ we saw a glimpse of green pasture land and the river below. Civilization! People! We weren’t lost!


The road began to parallel the river and it wasn’t long before. . .


We saw it! The John Day River – the river that had been narrow and shallow back near our home base was growing wider and fuller and deeper as it moved toward the place where it empties into the Columbia River.


The contrast of the pasture land below us and the rock formations above us was awesome. We felt as if we were in the middle of an old western movie. It seemed almost as if the cowboys – or the Indians – were hiding there. It gave us cause to wonder if the bullets and the arrows would begin to fly. Or, would Roy Rogers or The Lone Ranger rush out from behind one of these rocks?


Shortly after we reached a paved road again, we turned southward, heading in the direction of the little town where our cabin-on-wheels was waiting our return. The landscape kept changing and we continued to be amazed by the beauty.


In the middle of the giant rock formations we saw evidence of waterfalls from earlier in the season.


Storm clouds began to move in as we continued on.


The storm passed . . .


And it wasn’t long before blue skies and a bit of sunshine could be seen in the distance. We were tired and happy at the end of a long day but we didn’t regret a single minute of the time we had spent in this incredible part of God’s creation.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Source

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 121: 1-4

Scripture: New International Version

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Guess Who Came To Dinner?

Yesterday afternoon I drove a few miles toward the freeway to meet our son and daughter-in-law and their three boys. They live a bit more than half an hour from our home and were taking the two older boys for a surprise outing to see the new Toy Story movie. Our youngest grandson, two-and-a-half-year-old Mr. H., stayed with us. When I arrived at our planned meeting place, Mr. H., was waiting and ready to hop out of the car and give Grandma hugs and kisses. His little mouth was puckered up almost the moment we looked through our car windows at each other! This was his first visit to Grandma’s house by himself – no brothers and no parents! One of the first things he asked when he arrived was, ‘Where’s my bed?’ He was a bit disappointed he wasn't spending the night but it wasn’t long before he had settled in and was having a good time. Grandpa and Joey enjoyed watching him play with cars.


He was anxious to show me that he put this one together – all by himself! It didn’t seem to matter that the arms and legs were backwards!


Mr. H. and Nana (my dear, little mother and his great-grandmother) enjoyed being together. His advice to Nana: if something scares you, go home and don't do that again!


Dinner together was an adventure. He’s a good eater but we were informed that zucchini is not good for you – it’s bad stuff! Later he decided to encourage Joey as he ate his supper.


A little bit of advice, perhaps?


It's hard to go to sleep when someone is watching you - and talking to you! And telling you to close your eyes?


A budding virtuoso in the family, perhaps? Like his brothers before him, he couldn’t wait to play the piano for us. He informed us that he likes ‘loud’!


Before the evening was over it took a bit of time but soon he figured out the remote for Grandpa’s vibrator recliner. Mr. H. and Joey seemed to like being together.


Success for a two-and-a-half-year-old boy is doing it by himself! Success for Grandma is when she knows he loved being here and he begs to stay!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Together For Afternoon Tea - Again

Sometimes in our lives there comes a time when we can stop and spend time with a special friend. In moments like that it almost seems as if time stands still and gives us a chance to share the things we love, our dreams and plans and sometimes – tea! Yesterday afternoon I drove to Portland to spend just such a time with a dear friend who came into my life through our blogs. Marilyn, of Delights Of The Heart, invited me to join her for tea in her lovely garden. It was planned way back when we first met for tea here. Our weather in this part of Oregon has been unseasonably wet and cold and I had suggested we do a ‘sun’ dance but, instead, we hoped (and prayed) for a nice day. And that is exactly what we got! The first official day of summer in the Willamette Valley was warm and sunny and just right! I had seen photos of Marilyn’s home on her blog and when I stepped into her beautiful nineteen fifties kitchen I felt right at home.


The apple box labels are all from her hometown in California. The one over her sink is from her grandfather’s orchard! I wish I had taken pictures of the rest of her kitchen but if you visit Marilyn’s blog you can see more and read all about it. Soon after I arrived Marilyn made two little pots of tea and we headed outside.


Our destination? The greenhouse of my dreams - the wonderful greenhouse her husband has been building – all from recycled vintage windows and other findings. The blue area is waiting for the ‘finding’ of more old windows. The wooden wall on the back side was old kitchen flooring taken when they redid the kitchen floor. The walkway to the greenhouse will be flagstone. Since Marilyn’s hubby is recuperating from shoulder surgery and is a bit laid up for awhile several projects had to be on hold.


Preparations had been carefully made in anticipation of my arrival. A little table and chairs were waiting and a sweet welcome waited beside the open doors.


A teacup with a yellow rose - my favorite - suspended by a beautiful ribbon, hung from a wrought iron garden hook.


A pretty white cloth covered the table and fresh flowers added to the beauty of the moment. Two places were carefully set with china – just for us. Skewers of fresh fruit waited for our enjoyment and Marilyn’s Lemon Verbena cookies completed the menu. (I has requested a light repast, in keeping with healthy changes I’ve made recently.)


As we visited and enjoyed tea together I just couldn’t keep from looking up! The view upward was as lovely as the view through the doorway into the garden. The tree overhead is over one hundred years old and is home to honeybees. Oh, how we wished Winnie the Pooh would wander by and get some honey for us!



Nearby, a rose-covered arbor holds treasures that captured my heart. A 'candelier' waits for the greenhouse to be finished – then it will be hung inside and light the way for more friendly gatherings in the glass house. (For some reason I didn’t take pictures of the darling planters and findings below the arbor!)


At the end of the clothesline I spied a housing development – one home was occupied. We quietly observed the sweet residences that had been carefully placed there.


As we approached the steps that led through French doors into Marilyn’s office I had to stop for one more photo. I decided to hurry home and dig out my old watering can that has waited for too many years to find a home in my garden. I was inspired and I didn’t want to lose the thought!


The afternoon seemed to go so quickly and soon we hugged, said goodbye and I headed for home. As I drove toward home my heart was filled with precious memories of time spent with a friend – a kindred spirit. A friend who shared herself, bits and pieces of her life and her home and, best of all, her heart over tea in the garden.