March may be spring time for many areas of the country, but in our neck of the woods, that’s still winter. Many factors came together to lure us from our warm home to take a trip. First, work was sending me towards the middle of the state to pickup equipment and do some networking. Birdy’s birthday was nearby, and we happened to have the kids too.
I decided earlier in the week to go ahead and make hotel reservations, only to find out most were sold out. I don’t know if it was St. Patty’s Day weekend or the truck show, but it left us with slim, pricier pickings. On the bright side, we had a pool and breakfast buffet!
Thursday night, we hit the road right after kids got home. Unfortunately, dinner in Pendleton took longer than expected, and we didn’t pull into our first hotel until about 9:30pm. I let everyone sleep in, walking to breakfast and my appointment in Condon, Oregon. Someone bought and renovated the diner there, and it was great! Birdy had always wanted to dig for fossils in the town of Fossil, Oregon. The kids spent their morning getting dirty, and met me back at the Condon drive-in for lunch.
Free for the weekend, we headed down to Bend, but saw a sign for the John Day Fossil Beds. “Huh,” we thought, “I thought we weren’t going by there.” Turns out the ‘Clarno Unit’ was on the way, so we stopped in to check it out. We found a nice parking lot with toilets and several picnic tables with shelters. There was an interpretive ‘Trail of Fossils’ so we decided to give it a go.
The first leg of the trail has signs spaced out every 10 million years, describing how the area’s climate has changed (1/4 mile). Then you can choose to go on the Trail of Fossils loop (1/2 mile) or continue on up to the arch at the top of the palisades. I had just started improving from the head cold I had been fighting, so we decided to skip the loop, and do it on the way back if we were still eager.
Zig-zagging up the cliff of palisades, we saw many interesting rocks, fossils, and informative signs. There was even a pair of logs petrified from the lahar of the volcano. I think they said it’s a 150-foot gain, and we found the cool March weather accommodating. (I’d hate to hike it in the hotter, snake-season months.) While not yet turned on for the season, there was a convenient drinking fountain at the bottom. At the end of the trail was a little marker, a fantastic view, and an arch.
We made our way back down carefully, as the trail was narrow & steep in spots. (Definitely keep an eye on your little ones!) The climb had successfully drawn our pent-up energy, so we skipped the loop on our way back. Besides, the wind had picked up and the clouds were starting to release some drops, so we thought it best to get back on the road. Definitely a great little stop on an otherwise scenic drive.
Checking into our hotel, we didn’t have much time, so we grabbed a pizza for dinner on our way to Grandma’s house. We were able to deliver some long-delayed Christmas presents to the nieces, and catch up. Birdy’s sister had a little surprise, serving up cake & ice cream! I was relieved they had made the day special, as I felt like a failure this year. (My present for her is still in the mail!) They presented her with a lovely orchid that made it home to fill our house with its aroma.
That night we let the kids stay up taking advantage of the salt water pool. I was fine, but it was a little too cool for my thin-framed family. The next morning we visited her close friend, who I hadn’t met. Then we met up with her brother and mother for lunch at the Black Bear Diner.
When another brother showed up with his family, we decided to meet up back at Grandma’s house. The kids and grown-ups played, talked, and caught up. Birdy got her hair cut, and we tried a game called “Forbidden Desert.” It was fun working as a team to reassemble a steam-punk like contraption from a forgotten civilization.
We decided to let Grandma rest, and take our 6 kids and 6 adults on the road. We settled on Abby’s Pizza, letting the kids have some fun & quarters in the arcade. The grown ups talked, and said our good byes. In the morning we made a b-line for home stopping only for a stretch or a meal.