We are officially on the road after spending one last night at our friend’s house.  Our first stop was the Painted Hills in central Oregon.

We were lucky enough to be able to spend our first night out of our home on the street in front of our best friend’s house. Our girls were thrilled to have a farewell playdate with the kids they call family. Saying goodbye was so incredibly hard. We plan to meet up with our friends for Christmas on the road yet somehow this goodbye felt so final. It was heartbreaking to see Kira’s broken heart as she sobbed out the window waving goodbye. Kira and I both had a long cry together and reminded ourselves that love travels far distances.

We were on the road! We did it! First stop, the Painted Hills. This was one of our longer planned driving days since we wanted to book it to new territory so we would have more time to spend in uncharted places. With the exception of the last hour of driving the girls did really well in the car. We had a lunch layover in an authentic TeePee! Okay, so it was in the parking lot of a casino…but it was amazing and very well built! Our 5 year old and I have read the first two books of The Indian In The Cupboard series so it was extra neat for her to see one close up.

There is a lot of BLM land near the Painted Hills so we were able to snag a great spot by a nice little creek. The girls loved pretending to fish and walking upstream in the frigid water. It always amazes me what temperature water kids will enter with barely a flinch!

Something we knew but hadn’t taken into account as much as we should have is how dry it is in the high desert. Where there is an extremely dry climate there will be plants desperate to spread there seed whatever way possible. Most of the plants we walked past looked like they were long dead, yet as our legs brushed past them they viciously dug their needle-like seed pods into our clothing. We were picking prickers out of our shoes and tires and when we weren’t wearing pants our legs got scratched up as if a cat had attacked us. By the time dinner came along our 5 year old deemed the place “too spikey” to eat outside for dinner and insisted on eating her dinner in Dimes (the van).

Playing in the “spikey plants”

The next morning, after everyone got a good night’s sleep, we explored the Painted Hills. What a sight!  In contrast to the dull earth-tone colors of the high desert these red, orange, yellow, white and black striped hills were quite the sight to see! There were signs posted everywhere directing people not to touch or set foot on any exposed hills. We obviously followed this rule but it was temping. The surface was just so foreign, smooth and untouched (with the exception of spots where a few idiots actually DID climb them).

As a family we went on 3 hikes while at the monument. The first was .5 miles and the second and third were .25 miles. Perfect for the beginning of our journey. The girls both earned 2 dimes each for walking on their own two feet for all 3 hikes. We were amazed to learn that that environment used to be a jungle where sloths and elephants once roamed. The fossils are incredibly prevalent there in part because the weather helps preserve them so well. So much history!