When I asked people for a recommendation of what to do around John Day, the first recommendation almost everyone made was that I should go to Strawberry Lake.
I’m staying at John Day for the month of October volunteering at Kam Wah Chung. While there I’m exploring the area.
The tourist brochure for Grant County listed the top 20 tourist sights and included the Humongous Fungus with a note to see the chamber of commerce or forest service for more information. My interest was perked. The Humongous Fungus was in the top 20 sites to visit in Grant County! I located the chamber of commerce office and went in to get the information on this interesting site. The gentleman there had heard of it but couldn’t find any information on it. He couldn’t remember if he had ever visited it. He suggested I visit the forest service office, so off I went. At the forest service office the lady looked around a bit and then found the information for me. Then she pointed on the map (that she gave me) where I should go to see the Humongous Fungus. When I pointed out to her that the area wasn’t where the map located the Humongous Fungus, her reply was: “it is all the same.” I was getting more intrigued about the Humongous Fungus. It didn’t appear to be a hot tourist spot.
Another abandoned ranch. Without a plan, this seems to be a theme for this trip. In this fast world, it is calming to see items made by hand slowly. I slowly look at how things were cobbled together. Yet I imagine that the Riddles may have found pleasure in our easy to purchase manufactured world. They had a hard life.
I stopped at the Malheur NWR headquarters for information. I knew this time of year wasn’t prime for bird watching but I had seen so many birds at the Tule NWR, maybe there would be lots of birds here. I asked, “Do you recommend taking the auto tour?” Other visitors overheard me and answered my question with, “No way. It is a waste of time.” But on Saturday, I drove the south portion of the auto tour and throughly enjoying it.
The Steens Mountain seems like a huge ramp extending from Frenchglen to the sky. It is bigger than imaginable – a Jack In the Beanstalk fairytale size of ramp. It gently goes up and up and the Steen Loop road provides the path to drive.
I has vaguely heard about a canyon/gorge north of the Virgin Valley campground. I wasn’t sure how far the walk would be, so I made the sad decision to leave my old dog Rocket in the trailer. This was the first time I would leave him behind because of his age. I knew that on this trip he wouldn’t be able to go on all my walks so I reminded myself many times that it would be OK to leave him behind. I put Razzy on her leash and started to leave the trailer imagining there would be a fight by Rocket to leave too. Instead he seemed to tell me it was OK to be left behind, he jumped up onto the bed as I closed the door and Razzy and I left. Razzy and I enjoyed our walk but it seemed a bit incomplete without Rocket along.
The Thousand Creek Gorge that we found was amazing. Below are photos from the walk and then we drove to an overlook. I was amazed at the overlook. Four to five hundred feet of shear straight walls. I have never seen anything like this before. The photos don’t capture the aw from the overlook.
This is big country. Driving Hwy 140 you can see vast distances. By Sage Hen summit I could see the Steens to the north and the Pine Forest Range to the south with fresh snow on the top. It is a wonderful middle of nowhere type of place. In the valley of Guano Lake there were miles of grass land.
I came to the Lava Beds National Monument to see the caves and found so much more. The area is full of surprises, contradictions, and irony with a complicated history of war mixed in.
The geology of the lava tube caves was interesting but unexpectly it didn’t grab my interest. I felt an uneasyness as I ventured into the dark caves. And with my headlamp and a large flashlight both on, I couldn’t light up the cave to see the details of the rock. So I stopped visiting the caves and ventured out to see other sights I had heard about.