On Day 2 of our road trip, Perrie and I woke up in the same place we went to sleep: Little Crater Lake campground in the Mount Hood National Forest. It was a beautiful morning, so after breakfast we went for a short hike past the camp’s namesake lake, hoping to find our way to the larger Timothy Lake.
At this point, it seems appropriate to relate a bit more about our plans for this trip. Although we had some specific goals (most notably a visit with friends in Elko, and touring the Oregon Caves National Monument) and envisioned a general clockwise route through Oregon, Nevada and California, our intention was to keep the day-to-day specifics of the trip loose and flexible so that we could be spontaneous: stop here or visit that; go whichever direction the mood struck us at the moment of decision.
However, since the areas we planned to visit are very sparsely populated, we knew we would need to carry pretty much all of the necessities with us in the car. So a fairly high level of planning and checking went into that step. In the weeks before the trip we started a list of all the things we’d need to bring, adding to it continuously up to the morning of departure. As we packed Molly, we crossed everything off: tent (check), sleeping bags (check), pillows (check), swim suits (check), firewood, matches, stoves, pots and pans, cutlery, cooler, maps, gps, camera, cribbage board, water, wine (don’t forget the corkscrew!), water bottles, insect repellant, can opener, chopping board … check, check, check, check, check! Meals were pretty well planned out: pasta and sauce for one night, hot dogs (and buns and condiments) another. We had some instant oatmeal for quick breakfasts, and made some pancake mix for when we had more time. Perrie even pre-mixed some ingredients to make bannock one night. Lunches on the road would be simple: either cheese and tomato sandwiches, or peanut butter and jam. All planned out, ready to go. Food: check!
The first 24 hours of a camping trip are the most perilous. Any major failures in planning are likely to show up then. For example, if you’ve forgotten your tent, you’ll know as soon as you get to the campsite. If your flashlight batteries are dead, you’ll figure it out around dusk. If you left the tea at home, you’ll know first thing in the morning.
Which brings me back to our short walk on the morning of Day 2. Everything was going swimmingly: we had made it through the first 24 hours of the trip without hitting any stumbling blocks, so the rest of the trip would be just a case of rinse-and-repeat.
Timothy Lake turned out to be a bit farther than we had time for that morning, so we did an about-face and headed back to camp. As we walked back, we plotted out the day ahead: keep heading southeast on Highway 26, maybe stop for gas in Prineville, and stop for lunch at some pretty rest area along the way, en route to the John Day Fossil Beds and Burns.
“So we’ll just have cheese and tomato for lunch?”
“Yep. Oh wait, did we pack the cheese?”
“Uh, no. And we forgot the tomatoes too!”
“Well, I guess we’ll have peanut butter and jam. Wait … did we pack the peanut butter?”
That’s right: we brought bread and jam. We had even purchased a new jar of peanut butter and a new block of cheese specifically for the trip. But these were both sitting at home, about 100 miles away in the wrong direction. So we planned an extra stop at a grocery store in Prineville. Spontaneous fun!
We headed back to camp, shaking our heads, laughing, and wondering what else we’d left behind. (We always forget something on every trip. Cheese and peanut butter? Disturbing, but an easily-remedied oversight. Thank goodness it wasn’t the corkscrew!)
After packing up and grabbing a geocache on the way back to the main road, we pressed on.
The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is broken up into three “units.” We only visited the Sheep Rock Unit. The visitor center there is excellent; we only hiked one short trail, but it and the other recreational opportunities there seem limited. I don’t know if that’s intentional (to protect the resource), due to lack of funds, or simply because there’s not much else for the public to see.
Once we reached the town of John Day, we headed south on Highway 395. Besides the several transitions between forest and desert, this stretch was notable for one thing: butterflies. Specifically, the pine white butterfly (Neophasia menapia) which is in the midst of a huge outbreak that happens every 30 to 40 years. (You can read more about the butterfly outbreak and its causes and effects here.) The little white specks you see in some of the road pictures? Not snow, not flowers: all butterflies. Needless to say, Molly’s pristine exterior is now broken-in.
The travels and travails of Day 2 ended at Crystal Crane Hot Spring, southeast of Burns.
(Click here for the interactive map.)