We first heard of the Painted hills from a brochure we picked up in Portland, but we didn’t know much about it, except that the scenery looked amazing. I am a photography enthusiast, and it looked like a great new place to shoot some interesting photos. We found it was much more than great scenery, if you have an interest in geology, paleontology or how our world developed this is an area you want to visit.
The painted hills is only one unit out of three units, of the 14,000 acre John Day National Monument.
The adventure started on Highway 26 East from Portland to snowcapped Mt Hood dominating the Horizon. We were late getting out of Portland and Mt Hood was so impressive we decided to stop at Government camp, a typical winter ski town with a couple of bars, small stores, hotels and cabins.
We found a nice Best Western motel built in ski lodge style with lots of wooden beams, and offseason rates which was perfect..The local market and liquor store combination was open and liquor was available even if it was sunday. So after a happy hour cocktail and dinner at a small local restaurant which looked like a 60’s era diner, We visited historic Timberline Lodge and shot some nice photos of the Ski area.
The next morning Highway 26 carried us to the Journey through Time Scenic Byway with the amazing vistas of lava flows and Volcanos from millions of years ago. The painted hills unit was our next stop, and the scenery with the amazing colors of smooth fossilized volcanic ash hills was incredible. The roads are gravel that lead into the Painted hill overlook, but were in good condition and the short trip is worth the view. There are a number of short trails from the overlook parking area to explore. It was a hot day and we decided they could wait for another time.
We took highway 26 further east to Mitchell http://www.nps.gov/joda/index.htma pioneer town founded in 1863, which still has many of the original buildings from that era. Mitchell is just off the highway in a narrow canyon and some impressive rock formations. This is town that time forgot and is worth a stop for groceries or lodging and to soak up the feeling of the 1800’s.
Driving north on Highway 19, the next stop was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, a national park service research facility dedicated to the study of the John Day Fossil beds. The fossils at John Day are from the age of mammals which dates from 55 million years ago. This center is green building powered by wind turbines and solar. Displays of fossils fill the center and you can view the laboratory through the picture windows to see current projects. Research has been ongoing since the 1860’s and new discoveries are being made today. The amazing array of events, climate change, and mass extinctions reveal clues to to our present and our future. This was a great learning experience and we only touched the surface of the fossil beds and other places to see in eastern Oregon. Visit and enjoy!!!.
Find out more about Mitchell Oregon http://mitchelloregon.us/about-mitchell/history/
The John Day Fossil Beds http://www.nps.gov/joda/index.htm
Scenic Byways. http://traveloregon.com/trip-ideas/scenic-byways/journey-through-time-scenic-byway/