We drove past the covered wagons and the signs about the historic figures that stayed at Farewell Bend before us as we got back on the road to head home.
As a graduate from Huntington High School I’ve always associated Eastern Oregon with the covered wagons and struggles of the early travelers on the Oregon Trail.
Those looking for better opportunities in the West referred to this area as “the land without soil.”
Not much has changed since then.
Our journey home wouldn’t go much further along the Oregon Tail, as we decided to cut through the state and travel along highway 26.
As a high school athlete in Eastern Oregon I remember taking on Monument-Dayville, one of many small school co-op team, but never did I realize the marvelous nature that lies between those two communities.
Because along highway 19, which connects these two communities, is the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument a collection of colorful rock formations with fossils that take its visitors back in time.
Our stop was the Blue Basin, at the north end of the national monument, where we did a 1.2-mile hike in blistering 98 degree weather names “Islands in Time.”
At first glance it looked like just the rest of the desert of Eastern Oregon. We’d been driving through barren landscape with sage brushes rolling by for hours.
The signs warned us for a variety of things, most importantly we were going to go over 16 metal bridges that were not going to be easy on dogs. In fact, it said that we may have to carry our dog across.
Additionally, it warned us about there being no shade on the trail. This would be alright if it were a cool 70 degrees, but it wasn’t. We walked with no shade for about 45 minutes in 100 degree weather with a blistering hot sun following us everywhere.
But even more than hot, it was mesmerizing.
As soon as we crossed that first bridge —which the dog didn’t mind one bit— blue-green mountains appeared.
It was a strange color to see on a mountain and the pictures don’t show you how bright the color was.
Throughout the trail were informational signs and encapsulated fossils. The fossils were from animals that roamed our state nearly 40 million years ago.
There footprints and skeletons stayed in pristine conditions in this blue basin.
I can only imagine what early travelers must’ve thought when they saw these blue rocks in the middle of the land without soil.