I've made every effort to faithfully reproduce, in the photo above, the subtle but spectacular color scheme typically encountered here on overcast days. What a magical place.
For years now my son, Aaron and I have been trying to get together in the John Day River Basin. We finally got it done just over a week ago. It was a relatively brief visit - only three full days of looking-in at various places - but it was a great trip nonetheless. First stop was the painted hills at Cougar Creek. I never fail to go there when I visit, and hoped he would be suitably impressed with the area. We lingered for quite awhile, taking in both the vegetable and mineral characteristics of the place.
I'm still trying to get a positive ID on this cutie, but my best guess at the moment is Eriogonum vimineum (wire stem buckwheat). An ID would be easier if I had managed to hold the camera still!)
We looked-in at Priest Hole- first from the fishing hole just downstream from the rapids...
...then from an overlook we discovered just off the Twickenham Cutoff Road that runs across the north end of the Sutton Mountain Wilderness Area.
While we were surveying the countryside from the overlook, we noticed a set of painted hills lying just to the west of Cougar Creek. This grouping was only a mile or so east of Stove Pipe Springs, an area we were planning on visiting later in the day. "Yellow Head," we ended up calling it. The place turned out to be the highlight of our trip.
The entrance to Yellow Head Creek lies just a quarter of a mile west of the entrance to Cougar Creek. A well-worn cattle and game trail, about the same length as the trail to Cougar Creek, led us inland to the hills. In fact, these hills turned out to be what you might call "the other side" of the ones you'll find at the end of Cougar Creek.
The formations at Yellow Head appear to be a little less heavily eroded than those just a ridge line away at Cougar Creek. The reds also seemed to be a little more intense. One way or the other, the color scheme and textures were fascinating.
Our last hike took us to Stove Pipe Springs, an area I've been meaning to visit for quite some time.
The main formation here reminds me a little of some formations I saw a week or so before, at Tent Rocks National Monument (post to follow soon). I think the basic components (ancient sea floor eroding beneath plates of basalt) may be similar, at least in terms of mechanics. However, the stove pipe formations lack the distinctive caps that make for a true Hoodoo.
Hoodoos or not, The patterns of erosion at Stove Pipe are well worth the short hike needed to view them up close and personal.
Our visit was over way too fast, but maybe we won't have to wait three or four years again before we get back.