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Archive for May, 2009

painted hills

Oregon’s Painted Hills are on the little strip of highway just northwest of Mitchell (about 75 miles east of Bend) that leads up to one of the John Day Fossil Beds.

The area is dreamlike and sparse. The stripes vary in color—red, yellow, ochre—and some are marked with odd black shapes.

There are trails for hiking, and a covered observation station supplies welcome shade and a boring diagram. Like a solar eclipse, it’s impossible to take a good picture of what the hills look and feel like.

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“Sleep in a fossil bed” (ha! get it?) boasts the sign outside the casual Fossil Motel and RV Park. Yes, you can actually dig for real fossils in Fossil, out behind the high school. Proud of their paleo heritage, there are mentions and puns aplenty throughout the town about dinosaurs and even wooly mammoths but I seriously doubt they’ve ever dug up anything that big.

Stock up at the fantastic general store and while there, admire the cute old cash register, typewriter collection, and display case of Fossil watches (which come from Texas, not Fossil).

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ghost towns of oregon

Viewed a lot of faded, listing old buildings that would be condemned if they weren’t in a historic guidebook. Seriously. Who did they blow? This excursion required a lot of steering around in the heat looking for unmarked abandoned buildings and nonexistent cemetery headstones. Always a nervous driver and/or passenger, Ralph exclaimed “uh oh!”, “watch out!” and “godammit!” for 14 hours until my nerves were shot. We fought from Wasco to Fossil to Shaniko.

The jewel in the crown was supposedly Hardman, which we drove three hours out of our way to see and was revealed to be an unmitigated dump that the guidebook called “one of the most scenic and charming” places to visit in the Northwest.

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lincoln city

It was chilly and pouring (no, really?) and we were cranky when we pulled into an impossibly tight spot at Devil’s Lake campground (be aware of the difference between the day use area and the overnight park). By the next morning the sun was out, the beach was sparkling, and everyone was cheered by the smell of the sea air and long walk on the sand.

Our primary reason for visiting Lincoln City was to see Sol de Mexico, one of the world’s finest and most popular mariachi bands, playing at nearby Spirit Mountain Casino.

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