Long view of the boardwalk at the Painted Cove Trail

Long view of the boardwalk at the Painted Cove Trail

Four short trails provided access at different parts of the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  Each allowed closer access to the painted hills.

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The Painted Cove Trail took us on a nature walk around a rounded clay hill.  We stayed on a boardwalk for most of the short trail.

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Dramatic skies above the Painted Hills

Dramatic skies above the Painted Hills

Another trail, the Red Hill Trail, took us to yet another painted hill.

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We had timed our visit perfectly.  The rains held off until we were on our drive back north to Washington.  The rain came in cloud bursts, so heavy that once I had to pull off the road until the rain let up.  As we crossed the Columbia River into Washington, a vibrant rainbow appeared, seemingly giving a final blessing to our trip.

Clouds scudding along the Cascade range in Oregon

Clouds scudding along the Cascade range in Oregon

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And then the skies let down a curtain of rain.

And then the skies let down a curtain of rain.

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington (taken from the car window)

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington (taken from the car window)

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Lofty view of the Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Lofty view of the Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

In today’s post you will accompany me on my hike up the Carroll Rim Trail.  It ascends about 400 feet and is just 3/4-mile to the end.  You are rewarded with panoramic views at every point along the way.  Enjoy!

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Starting to gain elevation

Starting to gain elevation

An even higher view of the Painted Hills

An even higher view of the Painted Hills

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View from the other side of the rim

View from the other side of the rim

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I believe this is a Mariposa lily

I believe this is a Mariposa lily

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Hiking down

Hiking down

 

“It was coming on a rain.  The day had a two-way look, like a day will at change of the year — clouds dark and the gold air still in the road . . .  ”

— Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples

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We finally arrived at our destination, the Painted Hills of Oregon.  What an unusual and amazing wonder it is!  I was transfixed by the rounded shapes of the hills — appearing soft as if aging gently — and the pleasing color palette of the bands.  But what also surprised me was how small this special area is.  I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the Painted Hills are not spread across a vast expanse like the Grand Canyon.    The hills are concentrated in a very small geographic space.

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Most of the areas are off limits to walking or hiking.  The surface of these hills would be easily marked by footprints.  You can see evidence of animal tracks on this hill.  Imagine how the velvety-looking surfaces would be marred if humans were allowed to wander at will.  So access is granted via five viewpoints, all except one are just short walks from the car.  My favorite was the longer Carroll Rim Trail Viewpoint, a 3/4-mile hike uphill, giving a more lofty aerial perspective.

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Interpretive signs say that the bands of color were laid down millions of years ago during periods of wet and dry climates — evidence of past times of climate change.

The surfaces are cracked like dry mud, but apparently are very absorbent.

The surfaces are cracked like dry mud, but apparently are very absorbent.

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The following photos were taken from the Painted Hills Overlook Trail.  My next two posts will show you other parts of the Painted Hills Unit.  Please do stay tuned!

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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Clarno Unit

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Clarno Unit

The rising sun found us enroute to the Painted Hills of Oregon, but first we stopped in at the Clarno Unit.  Both are parts of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  (We never did get to the third part, the Sheep Rock Unit, which has a paleontology center with exhibits.)

I thought the scenery of this part of Oregon was quite beautiful.  Once we left U.S. Hwy. 97 near Antelope, Oregon, we were on a curving, relatively deserted road, dipping up and down the hills.  As the daylight brightened, we could see long vistas — rounded hills dappled with green trees in the foreground backed by more dry hills as far as the eye could see.

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We arrived at Clarno around 6 o’clock in the morning.  Needless to say, we had the only car in the parking area.  I was expecting to see fossils, but except for one specimen, they were not singled out by signs nor on display, so I just enjoyed the landscape.  I walked the very short Arch Trail up to the foot of the palisades cliff formation.  At the end I saw some fossilized logs and a high circular arch in the stone.

Palisades cliff formation

Palisades cliff formation

View from the Arch Trail.  You can see our car in the parking area.

View from the Arch Trail. You can see our car in the parking area.

View from the Arch Trail, Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

View from the Arch Trail, Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Another view

Another view

Fossilized logs

Fossilized logs

Delicate arch at the end of the short trail

Delicate arch at the end of the short trail

The sole fossil in evidence on the Trail of Fossils, Clarno Unit

The sole fossil in evidence on the Trail of Fossils, Clarno Unit

We saw more fossils later in the day along the Leaf Hill Trail in the Painted Hills.  We saw a hill where thousands of fossils have been excavated.  These few were  on display there:

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The park literature said, “Within the hills and valleys of Eastern Oregon is one of the richest fossil beds on Earth, an ancient record spanning most of the Age of Mammals. . . . remarkable is the great number and variety of fossils.”  I will take the park’s word for it.

Later we drove through the town of Fossil and stopped for coffee.  It’s a very small town, but it does have a retirement center — good to know we fossils have a place to live out our old age!