I've been reading Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire - a story of wealth, ambition and survival, by Peter Stark. An excellent read.
In the early 1800's, John Day a forty-year-old Virginian joined John Astor's Overland Party as a hunter. He had harrowing experiences along the way, including being left behind because he was too weak from starvation to travel and almost dying. Then, once recovered enough to travel again, he and his traveling companion, Crooks, were robbed and stripped naked by Indians, then set free to wander for an entire week without clothing before they found help from trappers. All of this misery and fright left John Day mentally deranged, much like a modern-day soldier. At one point he tried to commit suicide. His last years were lived out in Astoria.
Yesterday our travels followed the John Day River; passed through the town of John Day; and then the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Our first stop in the monument was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. This 14,000 acre National Monument showcases 40 million years of Oregon History. It is comprised of three units: Painted Hills, Sheep Rock and Clarno.
From the Paleontology Center we traveled along scenic highway 19 to Mule Shoe, a BLM campground situated along side the John Day River. We are camped entirely alone with only an occasional car passing by. Fee: $2.50. Stunning beauty!
Our home for the night...
Tomorrow we explore!
"In their wandering, hunger-ridden route, in all their wrong turns and suffering and dead ends, Hunt’s Overland Party happened to discover the best way to cross the last third of the continent. The route finding occurred in the most haphazard, unsystematic fashion—motivated by a drive to profit rather than by exploration or science—but they had done it...That crucial discovery...would become the Oregon Trail."
~ Peter Stark, Astoria