After our excursion to Smith Rock, we rolled out and headed East from Redmond before catching Highway 26 at Prineville and drove through the Ochoco National forest. We briefly traveled down Mill Creek Road to catch a glimpse of Steins Pillar, a 350 ft remnant of an ancient volcano, before continuing on through the forest, passing areas that had been recently marred by forest fires. Soon we turned on Burned Ranch road and made our way towards one of our favorite camp sites, Priest Hole. Access to Priest Hole is via a long curvy dirt road the descends down to an open field along the John Day River.
In order to camp along the river, one must navigate the rocky flood plain. Many of the rocks protruding from the flood plain are larger than softballs and really put our camper suspension to the test. It is times like this that we refer to as “Scrambling the Egg”. While we usually have to deal with the aftermath of the scramble, Parker, the cameraman, wanted to record it! So we suction-cupped his go-pro camera to the window and were able to finally see the scrambling as it unfolded…absolutely hysterical.
We found a small spot to tuck the tray on a little sand beach between some river bushes and then proceeded to unscramble the egg. Nick accompanied us and started to set up his area as well. Once we set up, we waited for the crew who were lagging a bit behind us. We were a little concerned that they may not find us in such a remote and hidden spot. Of course there was no cell service there either. Finally we saw the motor home come trundling over the flood plain so I ran out waving my arms frantically to get their attention. Soon I was spotted and the crew pulled in under the shade of a large Juniper tree.
Once everyone was settled in, we got mic’d up and the guys filmed us playing bocce on the rough terrain while interviewing us. Afterwards we all took a hike while they took video of frankie jumping around the rock formations.
Production had told them they were required to take a day off every so often. Parker, our enthusiastic cameraman was none too happy with this because as a rule, Cate and I do not take “days off” on the road. We just keep hiking and exploring, and he was rightfully afraid he might miss something. Brian the seasoned sound guy, however let us all know, you can’t argue with production. Later that evening we watched an amazing sunset reflect off of the John Day River while Cate painted and I cooked on the grill.
The next day was one of many perfect examples of our crew missing things. We woke up early so that we could explore a loop section of the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. Our first stop was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. The museum features over 500 fossil specimens from the John Day Fossil Beds, several scientifically accurate murals, and lots of interactive exhibits.
Afterwards we continued along the byway to Foree, a short half mile trail that features views of brilliant Blue-green Claystones capped by volcanic flows. We kept driving the loop looking at the vivid green farms scattered among the harsh volcanic landscape. Finally we ended up at small restaurant/campground/boat rental company called Service Creek. We had some lunch while Frankie tried desperately to eat the bushes and flowers. The staff told us there was a short-cut back to Priest Hole, and that was the way they run their shuttle service for the boat rentals. I am usually leery of “short-cuts” but since we were not hooked up to the trailer we figured we’d try it! It turned out to be a beautiful drive and did indeed dump us out to the access road that lead to camp.
The next day, with the film crew back in action we made our way out of Priest Hole and down the bumpy 12 mile road to the Painted Hills. The crew wanted to get footage of us on the approach so they went first to set up for their shot. Soon we arrived and the Painted Hills never seems to disappoint. We unloaded Frankie and under the watchful eye of the camera, walked the short trail to the Painted Hills overlook. Remember pet owners that while visiting public lands it is important to check local guidelines and rules regarding pets or pack animals. Sometimes there are restrictions due to the their impact on local flora and fauna. We made sure to call ahead to the park superintendent to get permission to be there with the Franks.
With that shot in the can, it was time to hit the road again. Our next leg would take us to a quick overnighter in Owyhee Canyon before reuniting with the film crew in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains outside of Stanley Idaho. There we would join fellow goat owners (do we own the goats or do they own us?) at the annual National Pack Goat Association meetup.
Next up Owyhee Canyon and the Pack Goat Meetup!