We started out at the Painted Hills, which are pretty incredible. They reminded me of the sand dunes of Colorado, except you really can’t get close to them. There are only about five trails. The Painted Cove trail is definitely the coolest (it’s the one that looks like this); you can just loop it over and over again because the hills are so fun to look at. We also did the Leaf Hill trail, where some significant fossil finds have been made, and the Red Scar Knoll/Red Hill trail. We drove through the very cute town of Mitchell on our way up to the Clarno Unit, where it really started to get hot. We started walking toward the trails and Cody was just overheating. We’d never seen him like that. I think the pavement and gravel were even too hot for his feet, and he would just plop down in any shade he could find. So we found some access to the John Day River under a bridge and let Cody swim around, and that helped a lot. Then it was back to the campground, where we all swam in the reservoir.
The next day, we began at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center at the Sheep Rock Unit. We did the Island in Time trail at the Blue Basin trailhead, and it was very cool. It looked like we were on a different planet. It was already getting hot, so we found a spot for Cody to get in the water again before we went up to the Foree trailhead for the short Story in Stone trail. We had lunch at the Historic Cant Ranch House, which wasn’t open but we walked all around it. It’s super beautiful and in an amazing spot. Next, we drove out toward John Day, aiming for the Grant County Historical Museum in Canyon City. Disappointingly, it was closed, but we decided to go to the Kam Wah Chung State Historic Site, and that was truly amazing. It’s a general store and herbal medicine shop that began operating in the mid-1800s when John Day was the third-largest “Chinatown” in the US. Because of the dryness of the area (and other factors that shut the place off from people going inside after a certain point and before it opened as a museum/National Historic Landmark), everything inside is perfectly preserved; it is seriously like looking into the past. The tour only accommodates eight people and we were lucky enough to arrive right before the last tour of the day.
The trip included a lot of driving and almost all the trails we did were very short, but it was such a good time.
Sidenote: I always swore I would never put a bandana on my dog!! But we found these evaporative cooling bandanas at the paleontology center gift shop, and we bought one for each of the three of us. At least Nat and I can say they worked! Not sure they’re really meant for dogs. None of the three of us are meant for the heat.