John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: Wander through painted hills into the past
The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument offers spectacular views of hills painted by nature, as well as hiking, exploring and even the chance to dig for real fossils.
Check it out
• John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: www.nps.gov/joda/
• Oregon Paleo Lands Institute: The nonprofit group offers geologically-oriented information, tours and classes, www.paleolands.org
It's nature's eye candy, a cluster of hills striped red, green, black and gold in the rugged near-desert of northeast Oregon.
Drink in the kaleidoscope of colors at what's aptly called the Painted Hills, part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
People get quiet here, speaking in the hushed tones normally heard in one of Europe's great cathedrals. It's an astounding place, created by millions of years of volcanic eruptions and erosion, minerals staining the clay-like earth into a geologic portrait of the eons.
A handful of tourists stand at a viewpoint, swiveling slowly to scan the 3,000 acres of the Painted Hills. They're silent except when a rainbow shimmers sky-blue and pink over the hills after a rain squall. "Aaaaah," they sigh at the pastel-painted sky.
Traveling in this often-overlooked corner of Oregon, a place of far-flung, one-cafe towns and empty winding roads, is a trip into the true past. The hills are full of fossils, some protected in other parts of the John Day monument, others there for the digging in public fossil beds in the town of (yes) Fossil.
Stroll along one of the short and easy Painted Hills trails. Wander through tiny towns like Mitchell or Dayville. Stop for a cup of coffee, dip into little museums that tell of settlers and sheepherders, Indians and geology. Just take your time; there's a lot of it here.
Kristin R. Jackson is a Seattle Times travel writer and editor. Contact her at email@example.com.
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