Island to Inland PCS Road Trip | Day 3 | July 27, 2020 | Driving from Sisters to John Day, OR | Visiting John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Our third day of vacation happened to also be our 7th wedding anniversary. This was the first time since our first anniversary that we were able to be traveling on the actual day, and it was probably my favorite anniversary we’ve celebrated so far. Not only because we were on the road, hiking, camping, and enjoying the entire day together, but because it really felt like we had something to celebrate this year. Making it past Curtis’ JO tour on his submarine is a huge deal, and we’re excited for all the time we’ll have together now that he’s on his shore tour.
We started our morning with going for a quick hike up Four Mile Butte. We parked on the side of a forest road off of OR-242 located just West of the campground, and walked the forest road up the Butte. We probably could’ve driven further up the road to walk less, but we wanted to warm up on this chilly morning, and it was a good way to get in a little exercise before our long drive.
The hike ended up being 1.7 miles long with almost 400 feet of elevation gain. When we reached the top, we found that it was much more like a crater than a butte, the ground consisting of bright red dirt. On the horizon, we had perfect views of several of Oregon’s glaciated volcanoes, such as Washington, Jefferson, and the Sisters. If you’re interested in seeing our trail recording, check it out on AllTrails.
After that, we began our long drive to Eastern Oregon. Our goal was to make it to a campsite in Malheur National Forest. But first, we needed one essential item: a new road atlas! We were tired of depending on unreliable phones and needed a way to easily track counties. We drove to a Walmart in Bend and Curtis went in search for one, but struck out here. We then went North to Redmond to check out another Walmart, and were successful.
We also grabbed lunch to go at Charlotte’s favorite restaurant — Sonic! It’s been 3 years since she’s been to one, but I’m positive that she knew exactly what was happening the minute we pulled in to a spot between the drive up menu boards. She waited as Curtis placed our order, then turned around and watched attentively out the back window for the car-hop to bring the food out to the car. And she got just what she wanted — a hot dog which she devoured immediately, then enjoyed whatever bites she could steal from our food.
Finally, we began our drive West. We decided to take US-26 from Redmond to John Day so that we could see two-thirds of the John Day Fossil Bed sites. We had heard that they were relatively easy stops to make with beautiful scenery, perfect for driving through the area. It was also going to be another hot day, so a couple very short hikes to lookouts was likely all we’d be able to do. The trails were dog-friendly as well, which is always a nice bonus.
We first came upon the Painted Hills district of the park just North of Mitchell, OR. As expected, the temperatures were near 100 degrees, so we only subjected Charlotte with one short hike to an overlook. We made sure the ground wasn’t too hot for her feet and offered her water. It didn’t feel too hot to us and we were loving the dry heat, but she didn’t seem as thrilled. After our first hike, we decided to take turns hiking the Painted Cove Trail while the other waited in the air conditioned car with Charlotte.
Next, we drove to the Sheep Rock unit. We mostly just drove through and admired the scenery from the car, but each of us got out once at different view points to read about the history of the area and check out the cool rocks and cliffs.
At the end of the day, we were mind blown that all we had seen had just been in Oregon. The state is so diverse in scenery and every part is beautiful — at no point during our drive were we ever bored. We felt bad driving through and passing by so many other hikes and potential scenic spots, but we knew it would be impossible to see it all in this trip.
We eventually made it to John Day, and drove South on 395 to our campsite in Malheur National Forest at Wickiup Campground. We ended up being the only ones there that night which made it even better. A great way to end our seventh wedding anniversary!