Monday, May 16, 2016

exploring the painted hills

It was Andy's birthday last week so we planned a fun family getaway to Central Oregon to do some exploring. We had a blast and were able to experience some amazing things and I came back very inspired. There is so much to share that I decided to break up our trip into a series of posts. So this week on the blog will be little different because I've decided to share all of our adventures! Next week we will return to regular scheduled programming. 

First up is the Painted Hills. You guys, this place is amazing, especially if you are a photographer or an artist. While I have explored a lot of Oregon, the Painted Hills were on my bucket list. If you live in the Northwest or if you are planning a trip to Oregon, I would TOTALLY recommend making time to experience this magical place.

The Painted Hills are one of three units of the John Day Fossil Beds. They are located in Eastern, Oregon about 6 miles off of HWY 26. The closest town is Mitchell, Oregon. They are basically in the middle of nowhere and require quite a bit of driving- but so worth it! We stayed in Sisters, Oregon (more about that another day) which was about 1.5 hours away. Since we travel with a four year old who always has the wiggles, we try and break up our driving into 2 hour blocks.

As you drive along the 6 mile road you slowly come upon hills that look as if they have been covered with bright paint. The farther you drive, the more color appears until you are surrounded by an amazing and colorful landscape.

Once upon a time, this area was floodplain covered in forests prehistoric animals. The colors that streak the hills were formed over 35 million years ago by volcanic eruptions and changing climate patterns. Over time, the layers of ash and different kinds of minerals and plants eroded causing the unique color. 
The black soil is lignite, the grey is mudstone, siltstone and shale. The red/rusty color is laterite soil that was formed by the floodplain deposits back when the the area was warm and humid.
And the crazy part is that the colors shift and change with different angles, light, weather and seasons. I took photos from a variety of angles, camera settings, locations and with different lighting, and every photo (out of the 600 that I took) all have shades of color and details that are different. It blew my mind!!

TIPS: If you are a photographer or if you are looking to get some great photos, challenge yourself to really experiment and play around with angles. Also try planning the time of day-early morning and early evening will always be the best times to take photos. We arrived late morning and it was really bright (not my favorite conditions for photography) but I was able really play around with taking photos in different locations and at different angles. 

Rain apparently intensifies the bands of red and orange color and during April and May yellow flowers grow in the nooks and crannies and down the side of the hills which adds even more color and contrast.

What I found crazy is that from a distance the mountains look fuzzy or soft, like they are covered in velvet. But up close you see that the entire surface has a crackled texture which gives everything this really interesting blurry effect.

The Painted Hills have all kinds of short hiking trails (perfect for a kid) that give you different views, lighting and angles of the color. 
TIP: It is illegal to walk on the hills because it will leave footprints for years so a telephoto lens or a camera with some good quality zoom will enable you to get some great up close photos.

Carroll Rim Trail (1.6 mile round trip): The best panoramic views of the Painted Hills. There is a small parking area at the trailhead.

Painted Hills Overlook Trail (½ mile round trip): The trail of the Painted Hills follows a ridge just above the multicolored mounds, offering many places for photos. 

Painted Cove Trail (¼ mile loop): Since you can't climb all over the Painted Hills, this is a fun trail because you are able to get up close on a short boardwalk trail. 

Red Scar Knoll Trail (¼ mile round trip): This out-and-back trail gives you another close look at what makes the Painted Hills so colorful.

Leaf Hill Trail (¼ mile loop): The Leaf Hill area has been the site of paleontological research. No fossils can be seen today along the trail, but an interpretive exhibit shows examples of a few leaves that have been found there.

TIPS: Bring water and sunscreen. This place, even in the spring gets really hot and even a short hike in the sun will catch up with you. Also stay on the trails. This is rattlesnake country so it's always best and safest, especially if you are hiking with kids, to stay aware of your surroundings and keep to the the trails.

We had such an amazing time exploring the Painted Hills and it is by far an Oregon must see!

You can check out all of our family adventure HERE


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