Call this a prequel. On my way to Bend, Oregon, last week, I added an hour to my drive in order to see the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument outside Mitchell, Oregon. Well worth the extra hour on the road, I might add.
I’ll spare you all the geological details, but suffice it to say that something to do with lava and ash from the Cascades mixed with clay turned out to be these strange and subtly beautiful hills in Central Oregon. I say subtly beautiful, in contrast with the majesty of the snow-covered peaks of the Cascades, but both are beautiful in their own right.
There isn’t a visitor center at this unit of the national monument, but there are restrooms and picnic tables on a side road near the entrance. If you happen to miss those restrooms, never fear — you won’t see another soul for most of the rest of your solitary tour of the Painted Hills, and you can find a nice tall-ish sage bush to serve you just fine near the Painted Cove trailhead. Not that I know from experience. Except I do.
It’s a free park, people. Go to Central Oregon!