Friday, November 10, 2017

Along the Painted Cove Trail

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Please do not leave the Painted Hills without taking this short quarter mile loop through these gorgeous red and yellow hills.  It's a chance to study these ancient soils up close as the boardwalk hugs their base.  Seen from a distance I thought the soil resembled fine colorful sand.  Not so.  Not so, at all. 

This volcanic ash has solidified over millions of years, much like petrified wood. It is hard and course, more like clumps of baked clay.   Because the ash is rich in iron, it is actually oxidizing--rusting like old metal.     

But what I loved most about this trail was the sensuous shapes of the hills.  Despite the rough soil, the layers of ash have fallen in a way to form soft hourglass figures.  These shapes verge on the erotic and remind me of Fernando Botero's gigantic nudes.

Signage along the way explains once again the origin of the different soils.  The red soils indicate a warm, wet period when swamps were common.  The yellow soils were from a cooler, drier time when the landscape was dominated by forests.  

But along this trail, there is another color:  Lavender.  A sign explained that this soil is all that remains of an oozing rhyolitic lava flow from the Clarno Volcanic eruptions.  Most of the rhyolite is buried deep underneath the Painted Hills and hidden from view.

Nature:  When science and art blend to create magic.


  1. Wow. What a stunning landscape! Thank you for sharing this. Very cool.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. The Painted Hills are truly fascinating!