Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The Past in Present Time-Part Two
Continuing on Highway 218 (a nice drive in late spring because of the wildflowers), our giant leap back in time began with a visit to the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. For three short hikes to experience the ancient past, stop at a roadside pullout marked only with a sign that says “Picnic Area Restrooms ½ Mile” about three miles beyond the John Day River bridge.
Upon stepping out of the car, we noted the pungent smell of sagebrush from recent rains and the bubbly sound of western meadowlarks, adding to the visual appeal of The Palisades just up the hill. The Trail of the Fossils loops up .2 mile for a look at fine plant fossils in the rock, dating from millions of years ago. Interpretive signs guide your viewing. To the left, another trail climbs .2 mile up to the rimrock for a look at petrified wood and a delicate arch. Another trail ties this area with the picnic area, signed to explain prehistoric events of the last 50 million years.
Wildflowers of spring include the showy mariposa lily. Look up to see swallows, rock wrens, ravens, falcons, red tail hawks and maybe even a Say's phoebe.
In my own history, I recall coming to this area as a child, long before this area became a national monument. Fossils were plentiful and there for the taking. I'm sure I picked up a few! Fossil collection now is strictly prohibited, but take with you all the pictures you want. You never know when time will creep up on you.