The Painted Desert in July...Oh Yeah!
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Unfortunately, I havenâ€™t been able to take too many small trips this year and was getting a little down that the nice weather would soon end. I hate cold weather and the summer weather in NYC has been very mild, which stinks. All of June was a rain fest and July pretty much stayed in the 70â€™s and low 80â€™s. Not goodâ€¦
Due to the lack of warm weather, I came up with the idea of going somewhere warm this summer. Yeah, it doesnâ€™t make sense, but neither do I half the time, so I didnâ€™t care. While visiting some friends in
Now most people donâ€™t realize that most of
I thought it would be difficult to get anyone to agree to go with me after all, it was the desert in July and the average temperature was around 95-105.
We left on a Tuesday to avoid any tourist traffic, not that I think there would be any because most people are smart enough to wait until the Spring or Fall, but still, there is something nice about a road trip on a day when you know most people are working! I am not a morning person, but we knew we had to get up early as it was about a 4 hour trip. Both Angie and I had packed some snacks and a small overnight bag. My dad brought a bag and himself and climbed into the car. After stopping by the local coffee joint, we were off!
I am not a morning person, but we knew we had to get up early as it was about a 4 hour trip. Both Angie and I had packed some snacks and a small overnight bag. My dad brought a bag and himself and climbed into the car. After stopping by the local coffee joint, we were off!
We decided to take I-26 to pass by Mount Hood; we figured it would be a nice scenic route and nice and cool as it had been near 100 degrees everyday in
It is hard to explain my reaction to the change of landscape. One minute you are driving through lush green
The trip was pretty uneventful, though we stopped at a gas station and got some Corn Nuts, so that was pretty cool as Iâ€™m a fan. About and hour out of Mitchell, we had realized that we needed some major air-conditioning and we had lost cell service, that would be the last time we had it until we returned to civilization. There was some lovely scenery on the way including a beautiful river, though I have no idea what the name of it was.
There was some lovely scenery on the way including a beautiful river, though I have no idea what the name of it was.
Soon we were heading into the town of
We continued onâ€¦ Now, I am used to big city living so I was surprised at how small Mitchell was. Mitchell has a population of 157, yep, 157 people. The first time we drove through Mitchell, it took us about 30 seconds on the main road, we didnâ€™t even know we had left until we were back on the highway with nothing but rock formations and sagebrush.
Our first priority was to find our motel. We figured it would be easy to find and turned off the main road and up a big hill, at the top we came upon what appeared to be a school. By the school there was a guy with a large truck, so I decided to ask him where the Sky Hook Motel. His first question to me was why I would want to stay in Mitchell. I was confused by this as that was not my question. I turned to look back at the car where Angie and my Dad were watching. I explained we were doing some site seeing in the area. He wanted to know why we would want to stay in Mitchell as there was nothing to do and we would be happier in a large city like
I wonâ€™t lie, the exchange with this guy was a little unnerving. Angie asked what he had said and I told her just drive a way as fast as you can, which she did gladly. On the way down the hill, I explained what had happened which creeped out both Angie and my Dad and let you tell you, it takes a lot to creep out my Dad! Angie suggested we drive past the motel to see what it looked like, so we crossed the street and went up the hill. It appeared to be nice, but I still couldnâ€™t shake my feeling of unease.
There are not a lot of options as far as food goes in Mitchell from what I could tell. There was only one restaurant open at the time we were there; The Little Pine CafĂ©. We originally took a seat inside, but were soon surrounded by flies. Most flies you swat at and they fly off, but these guys were brazen! You would swat and they would bring back reinforcements and keep dive bombing your face. Now, I am not going to blame the cafĂ© for this, it is summer and nobody in Mitchell has air-conditioning, which means the only way to air out a place in 100 degree weather is to open the door. So, I understand why there were so many. They were so bad though that one table was using a fly swatter while they waited for their meal. We asked if we could move outside which turned out to be a much better solution.
I have to say, I was pretty happy with the lunch.
After lunch we decided that we would stay in Mitchell. It made no sense to change our plans because of some strange dude. So far, the people had been very nice and everything seemed normal for a small town. I have to say the hotel was fine. The couple who ran it let us choose between two rooms that would hold all three of us which was nice. There was no air-conditioning, but there were fans which was good enough for me. The decor was a little kitschy, which I liked. It was almost like going back in time, but it was clean and comfortable and had a kitchen which was nice as there was nowhere to eat after 8PM.
We all ended up taking an unintended 45 minute nap on the couch and chairs as the heat had drained us. That and we had been up since 5AM. After the nap we decided it was time to check out the Painted Hills but not before stopping at the local store to get some groceries. They actually had a decent selection and everything was fairly priced. The best part was the owner was playing banjo. At first, we thought it was a recording, but when I looked behind the counter, I could see that it was the real deal. He was pretty good and it added to the ambiance of the experience, though the deer head was disturbingâ€¦
After shopping, we began our journey to the Painted Hills. Word of caution, to get to the Painted Hills you have to leave the main road and drive down a gravel road, being that it is gravel, there are a lot of rocks and I can see how it would be easy to mess up your paint job.
There are a few places you can visit when you go to the Painted Hills, there is the Overlook Trail, The Leaf Hill Trail, The Red Hill Trail and the Carroll Rim Trail. Just to clarify, none of these trails are very difficult. I think the most difficult trail is the Carroll Rim Trail which is only about a half a mile and the last ÂĽ mile is uphill, but was pretty easy, as least for me. The other thing to consider is that the park is pretty small. There are only a few formations to see, but it kept us busy for several hours as we took everything in and appreciated the landscape. There are also two other units to visit Clarno Unit and Sheep Rock Unit, the problem is that one is 30 minutes away and the other one is 1.5 hours a way, so they are not close. Still if you have the time why now?
A little background, The Painted Hills are a beautiful display of colors representing different geographical eras.
Just to be on the safe side, they do warn visitors to stay on the trails and to be prepared that you may run into a snake or two. Though most of the snakes that reside in the park are harmless garter snakes, there are Rattlers running around. That freaked me out a bit. Okay, the reality is that all snakes freak me out a bit, but Rattlesnakes are my nemesis. Yes, I am judging them even though I have never met one. Wrong, I know, but there it is. I can report back that we never spied a snake anywhere so it may be pretty rare, but I am not an expert, so just be aware of it. Though, I think there is more of a chance of getting dehydrated than running into a snake so bring plenty of water and remember sunblock is your friend.
The landscape was beautiful and the sun was beginning its descent which made the heat dissipate which was nice.
We checked out the hills for about three hours before it started to get dark. Depending on the light source, the hills will change color, so even within the time we were there the colors of the hills had changed significantly. By the time I got to the top of the Carroll Rim Trail it was pretty dark, so my photos were darker than I had wanted, but it was amazing to see the sunset on the desert.
Once we reached the motel we decided to prepare the spaghetti and sauce we had bought, it was so warm inside the motel, we decided to let the breeze in and cool it off a bit, especially after cooking. We ate outside at the picnic bench, but were surprised to see that the other couple in the motel and the owners were already asleep, it was around 9:30. So, we knew we had to be quiet so we made the educated choice not to drink more than one Mikeâ€™s Hard Lemonade apiece so as to be kind to the neighbors.
The motel actually was pretty comfortable and we all had a great nights sleep. Our plan was to get breakfast which we did at the Little Pine CafĂ©, as I said there arenâ€™t any other places to eat. But before we left, we knew we had to do one more thing, visit Henry the Bear. I donâ€™t know too much about the history of Henry the Bear, but he was owned by someone who had him declawed, the officials wanted to put him back in the wild, but knew that he would not survive His now owner, Hugh, offered to take him in and he has been there ever since.
I am happy to say I have never been close to a bear before, which is usually a good thing as they are prone to rip your face off, but Henry is a gentle giant. When we saw him he was a very hungry boy and began grunting when he saw Hugh show up because he knew it was time for vitals.
As we began our trek home after grabbing a coffee from the local coffee kiosk, the three of us decided that we were so glad that we stayed. Even though the creepy guy tried to talk us out of it we had a really great time and it was nice to get away and to take the time to do nothing but enjoy ourselves on our own timetable. On our way back to
On our way back to
We had originally thought about going to Clarno Unit which was on the way, but decided against it as it was supposed to be hotter than the day before hitting around 105 and we werenâ€™t fools, it would be noon by the time we got there. Instead, we decided to pay a visit to Shaniko, which even though it has a population of 26 is considered a ghost town. I find it a little odd as I thought a ghost town had to be deserted to get the title, but whatever, Iâ€™m flexible. If you want to read about it go here: http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/59366/Shaniko-Oregon-Fun-Ghost-Towns-1, though I have to warn you, it is pretty short, how much can you write about a town with a population of 26?!?
In the end, the trip to the Painted Hills was a big success. It really was beautiful and quite relaxing despite the heat. I would suggest going in the Spring or Fall for most people as that is when it is cooler. Many people suggest going in the Spring because the flowers are in full bloom and add to the scenery of the desert; it all depends on what you are into.
So, if you find yourself driving across