We are now heading north up the Shoreline Highway (which further south was called Pacific Coastal Highway) towards to top of California and then turning north east to cross Oregon and to get to Walla Walla in south eastern Washington – a distance of about 1000 miles. The reason for this is that my cousin lives in Walla Walla - he is 8 months older than me and for many of my early years, I wore his cast off clothes even though some 8000 miles separated us. We have never met and having tracked him down using the power of the Internet, it became essential to visit him.
So, although three days of driving are ahead of us, we are travelling via various places including the coastline north of Bodega Bay,
which we think is more beautiful than the famous coastline
between LA and SF – and there certainly are fewer cars on the road here;
on the “Valley of the Giants” alternative to 101 through northern California
covered bridges near Eureka – this one was built in 1931 and is just wide enough for our RV, it is a superb example of wooden engineering.
And then a few hundred miles of wide near straight road – above is the US97 which has a strictly enforced speed limit of 55 mph and is lined with trees for more than a hundred miles,
before we turn off to the US126 (which is lined with trees)
and then onto the US26 which, for a change, is lined with fields (but the trees are on the horizon). Luckily for us, the van has cruise control which keeps us to the speed limit because in the past 24 hours we have seen more police cars in Oregon stopping speeding drivers than we saw in California during the previous 3 weeks. One wonders if the fines are a form of revenue for the police – it is so easy to speed on these straight roads, particularly when the speed limit is so low.
And then for a change, a slightly curving road through an increasingly volcanic landscape before we eventually get to the John Day Fossil Beds.
This area was highly volcanic some 100 million years ago and hence the strata in the exposed landscape are obvious.
It is also very rich in fossils (no dinosaurs though because they died out 65 million years ago and the fossils here are from around 45 million years ago)
This peak is made from Claystone and as you walk around it, its blue colour changes through various shades of greys and blues and it never stays the same because of the moving sun.
It is a most beautiful place and when we walked around it, we had it to ourselves.
Immediately I saw this I knew it was Volcanic in origin (its red colour is the clue) because of Mrs Kirk – she was a gifted Geology teacher at a college I worked at some years ago and the above is one of the two facts she taught me (her boss) about Geology.
This is called Cathedral Rock and again, it shows strata, rock types and shadows which constantly move with the sun. To call it impressive is only a starting point.
Nearby at the Mascall Formation Overlook is an interpretative board explaining the landscape such as these table mountains,
and a superb view of Picture Gorge through which the road east-west from the Fossil Beds passes. Amusingly, as you enter Picture Gorge, there is a large sign saying “stopping to take pictures is forbidden”.
We have been to many impressive places in the world and the John Day Fossil Beds are right up there along with the Bungle Bungles in Australia, some mountainous areas on South Island in New Zealand, the Grand Canyon and the silence of nature which we heard when standing on a part of the Great Wall, so far from anything or anybody else that the only sound was the wind. Take a geologist here and they will think they have gone to heaven.
The one downside of this beautiful place was that it was so hot and the sun was so strong that we could not stay out in it for very long before it became too much. Never-the-less, we very much recommend visiting it and also the National Parks Service centre there within which many fossils are displayed.
In nearby John Day City itself is the Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site. The building was built around 1870 and was
left to the city in the 1960s. Essentially it is a perfectly preserved time capsule of a Chinese store / apothecary dating from the 1870s. There was a lot of anti-Chinese
sentiment in the late 1800s and many Chinese moved from nearby Canyon City to John Day.
The store was opened by two Chinese men (who became close friends), one acting as the store manager and the other as a traditional Chinese doctor.
When they died many years later, the store was left to the city and eventually became a museum. We had our own personal tour of the museum since no one else turned up for the 9 am tour.
When the front door opens and you go in, it is just like walking back in time into a perfectly preserved shop. It is
laid out exactly as it was found when the front door was
reopened some years ago.
Calendars on the wall show the year the shop was open and the
shelves are perfectly preserved from the early 1900s.
And on the right is the chemists shop with its store of herbs and
the chair in which patients sat whilst their pulses were taken to determine what was wrong with them (the doctor was a Pulsologist)
At the back is the kitchen where they cooked their own food and food for those staying in the four bunk beds.
His bedroom is left as it was found (complete with a chest under the bed within which $25000 of un-cashed cheques were found) and an old poster is on the wall – I have no idea what it says.
And then we head on to Walla Walla
over some very high land which was very wide and open
and eventually we reached Walla Walla and we met cousin
Bill (and his wife and grand daughters and many others) for the first time.