Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Fossil, Spray... roadtrip fun

Are those town names? Oregon has such unusual names of little towns, especially in central Oregon!  Fossil, Shaniko, Spray, Dufur, Antelope, Burns, Hereford, Halfway, Alfalfa, to name a few.

When my son and his fiance visited me at the end of August, he and she wanted to take a long day trip, and explore some of these strange named little towns! I was so glad to oblige them...... and off we went! It was a gorgeous summer day, but VERY VERY HOT! Thank goodness for the A/C in their car!

Here's a map of the loop we made - it was around 250 miles and we didn't get home until dark!  Grab your coffee or tea as this is a long post!

First town: Antelope
This is pretty much a ghost town now.. there are only a few residents left, population 47!

The town used to be a stage station, originally incorporated in 1901. The height of its population was 249 in the early 1900's, down to about 39 in 1980. This little town has ALOT of history! Even if you live far away from Oregon, you may have heard about this town being taken over in the early 80's by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers. It made national news, and what subsequently  happened in The Dalles, Oregon concerning food poisoning of many of the residents of The Dalles, eventually shut the Rajneesh down! (I later lived in The Dalles in 1995 to 2000, so heard all about what happened).

From Wikipedia:
In the early 1980s, hundreds of members of the Rajneesh movement moved in and built a small city in previously unoccupied land they purchased. The Rajneesh cult members effectively took over the government of the city by outnumbering the original residents with new voter registrations. On September 18, 1984, a vote was held, and the city was renamed Rajneesh, Oregon. By 1985, after several of the Rajneesh movement leaders were discovered to have been involved in criminal behavior (including a mass food poisoning attack and an aborted plot to assassinate a U.S. Attorney), their cult leader fled the country as part of a negotiated settlement of federal immigration fraud charges, and the Rajneesh commune collapsed. On November 6, 1985, the city voted to revert to the name Antelope.

And so it is now Antelope again, and too bad it's such an abandoned little town. It is in a pretty location and far away from the crowds. I remember going therer a few times back before the Rajneesh came, and the town seemed quite lively and populated, with a cafe, store, gas station, post office and school. I always thought it would be a neat place to live if you wanted to live far away from any larger cities!

Next town: Fossil
What a funny name for a town right? But it is very close to the John Day Fossil Beds... very historic and well know throughout the Pacific Northwest. I, in fact, have never been to the fossil beds.. and we didn't stop by then either, as was so hot out.

On our way, we crossed over the beautiful John Day River which was a welcome respite! There was  hardly any traffic. Who says there aren't any areas left that are unpopulated? Well. this area of Oregon is VERY unpopulated.

It's quite desolate country and yet there are rock outcroppings and rivers and canyons that make up for the otherwise dry landscapes.

Was very hot here! We had bought some sandwiches from Subway, in Madras, so chose this spot (under the bridge) to eat our lunch.

In Fossil, we stopped at the very old cemetery. I walked around for a good 20 minutes in 100 degree + temperatures, but it was really fascinating. Some of the headstones were dated back to the early 1800's.

This is the usual landscape around Fossil, Oregon!

Withstanding time.

Such beautifully carved and intricate headstones!

The actual town of Fossil is population 473, so a little bigger in size. We had hoped to stop for ice cream, but nothing was open! It was a Monday.. so most things were closed, even the one small cafe. I've always wanted to spend a night in Fossil at the historic Fossil Hyatt House Motel, but we drove all around the town and couldn't find it!

I also wanted to check out the Wilson Ranches Retreat, which is about 8 miles northwest of Fossil. It's a dude ranch that is on my bucket list to visit.  But you know guys.... right? my son didn't want to go out of his way to go see it!  It was not on our route!

Photo compliments of Wilson Retreat Ranches website.
 Next stop Spray:

The drive from Fossil to Spray was actually quite beautiful. I had been that way years ago, but forgot how you go UP into some forest areas, and see wonderful big trees, firs and cedar, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't but one picture as we headed out of the forest (below), but it WAS beautiful. And then we came back out of the forest area, and followed the John Day River again for a few miles before we got to Spray.

I was sad to see that the usually WIDE John Day River, was really narrow and shallow on most of our drive along it. I can remember the last times I drove there, the river was way up the banks and flowing very swiftly!

In the town of Spray, which is not very populated (160), with just a few stores and a motel, we went to the river park, and spent a few hours at this very beautiful (and empty!) campground along the John Day River. My son and his fiance are genuine rock hounds, so she spent the entire time searching for unusual rocks and stones. She said she found petrified coral!

Petrified coral.

Brave young men jumping off the rocks across the river!

Beautiful clear water with a sandy bottom.. no rocks!

It was SO HOT! I just had to go in!

On to Mitchell and the Ochoco Mountains:
The rest of the drive was through some wonderful vistas.. up and down we went, around curves, into canyons and valleys, then back up to the top of the world it seemed! We drove past the "painted hills" (another well-known monument of that area), but I didn't take pictures, as it was by then starting to get to dusk. We were on a mission to get into the Ochoco Mountains before dark, as my son had never seen them!

Forest fire area by Mitchell, Oregon. So sad.

The town of Mitchell is just a wayside along Hwy 26.. a little store and gas station.  We stopped at a wayside a few miles further, as we were driving through the Ochoco's..... to take in the beauty there!

It was nice to be in the big trees again!

And onward back to Madras!
The drive back along Hwy 26 was nothing short of beautiful, gorgeous, stunning views, lots of trees and sky views. I had been that way a few times, but I always forget how wonderful it is! Compared to Madras, that is "big treeless", this was such a treat.

We went through the town of Prineville, which I really do like. It's a little bigger than Madras, and has more shops, restaurants, trees and rivers. It has a big fairgrounds and arena, that hosts rodeos, horse shows and bull riding events... and the Crooked River runs right through the town. I would love to have lived there instead of Madras, but I guess it was not in the stars, as my husband and I never could find a place there that we liked, in our price range, when we were looking to buy again back in 2015. So Madras it was.....

As we drove west towards the sun and home, the sky and mountains put on quite a show for us!

It was good to get home.  We had a very wonderful and memorable day! 

I'll cherish this day with my son and Terra. It absolutely goes into my "best memories" bank!




  1. Marilyn, what an amazing arm chair trip you have provided me. I was in Oregon for a long vacation 20 years ago. I so enjoyed it then and now. But I was not there when it was so blistering hot. Glad to see you had water in places you visited. Thanks for the trip. Lynn and Precious

    1. Thank you Lynn! Oregon has so many stunning places, so off the map and yet undiscovered! So many places I still want to go, in Oregon! Marilyn

  2. Marilyn, this post is great. You have my adrenaline rushing around like nobodies business, LOL. I've already left a phone message with the city hall at Spray. Do you think the campground at their River Park would be somewhere you would like to meet up for a camp out next year, maybe Spring before the summer vacationers are out and before it's too hot? Just thinking :)

    1. Yes Connie! I think that park is very "unknown" and not so many people rush there to use it! It's a hidden gem! We need to find out the best times to go, and like you said, before it gets too hot! I don't have AC in my Van! :-) I can always use a little heater if it is too cold at night. There's another neat place too that I hadn't thought of... is Cottonwood Canyon Park, up by Condon and it's also beautiful.. but not the trees like before you get to Spray. We'll have to explore that area (on the maps) even more! I hadn't thought of that area for a meet-up! xoxo Marilyn

  3. Oh Marilyn! What a wonderful trip this was for you! How marvelous to get out and see the countryside, such beautiful rivers and mountains, and views! I know it meant so much to you to be able to do this with your son and Terra too! There is just nothing like being able to get out and explore the world around you! I am also excited to see that you and Connie are planning a camping trip, that is marvelous! You too both have been through so much. I so enjoyed this "armchair" travel with you through Oregon - a state I have never been to! Thank you for all the interesting information you shared about each town. I never knew about the cult there either, so sad. Glad they renamed the town back to Antelope though. You covered a lot of territory in a short amount of time! I just loved this post so much, so happy for you to get out and explore! We are getting winter weather here... which means more time for me inside, so I hope to do some more crafting, creating, and blogging soon. Blessings and hugs to you!

    1. Hi Marilyn! Thank you for the nice comment! Yes I did so much enjoy that little day trip. It was FULL of so much wonder! So much to see and I learned things when I researched the towns doing this blog post! I took another trip too, so will blog about it soon. It was a very "magical trip" for me.. I went down memory lane in so many ways. Coming soon I hope...........our weather has turned too.. we've had wind and rain, finally, after a long hot dry summer. The leaves were vivid and gorgeous.. and now they are all almost gone. We've had high winds and rain the last 2 days, and that always blows the leaves right off. I'm happy for the rain! Good time to be inside doing some fun paper crafting and sewing..... hugs... Marilyn

  4. What a lovely excursion to share with your son and his fiance. I really enjoyed seeing your photos of this area - absolutely beautiful!

    1. Thank you Amy. It was a wonderful day, one I'll remember for a long time! This area of Oregon, I always forget how it has such a unique beauty until I get out in the deep country areas...no people!

  5. Hi Marilyn. You sure had a nice road trip and to share it with your loved ones was so special. I love road trips and hope to go on one before too long. I though maybe I had been to Antelope because it sounded familiar, but then you mentioned the "invasion" and that was why it was familiar. We watched the documentary on it not too long ago, I think on Netflix. Very interesting..Beautiful sunsets and Happy Thursday..xxoJudy

    1. Hi Judy..... that's funny you had watched the documentary! Yes it was quite a deal and kind of scary too. And yes.. that was such a neat road trip! ... one I'll remember for a long long time. Mac and I had made that drive, in March of 2021, and I had remembered how beautiful it was, and told my son, and so he wanted to go. I'm glad Mac and I got to do that. It was probably our last fun trip together. It's finally "Fall" here and super cold nights.. so I"m getting in the mood for cold weather and fires in the woodstove! Take care! Marilyn


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