The Painted Hills, etc.

On Sunday morning my friend and I set off over the Cascades to the Ochocos for some exploring, camping, and a trip to the Painted Hills.  We took a small detour into the Crooked River Grasslands area...


Vesper Sparrow

Our first destination in the Ochocos was an area near Lookout Mountain of abandoned cinnabar mines, where cinnabar was mined in the early to mid-1900's for its mercury content.  The forest service worked in the 80's to clean up the sites but left all things non-hazardous behind.  The first mine we came across was Independent Mine which has a series of random structures to explore.

There were some cool wildflowers around too.

 Long-flowered lungwort (aka long bluebells) ?

Ballhead waterleaf (?) 

 The next mine we headed to was the Mother Lode Mine.  We found something called the Mother Lode Trail which we thought was the way to get there.  We climbed almost 1000 feet in elevation in less than a mile and a half before deciding we had gone the wrong way.

 Little buddy takin a snooze at the top

Along the way I stopped to gawk over my first shooting star:

We decided to hike back down and of course we found another path near where we had parked:  the correct (and short and mostly flat) path to the mine.

Neat.  By this time we were thinking we should find a place to camp and ended up at a sweet spot not far from the Independent Mine.  There was a nice fire pit, an impressive pile of precut firewood, a half dozen deer in a nearby field, a swing, and just a few bear tracks...

 Around 8:30 that evening a Great Horned Owl started sounding off in the distance, then moved to the closest stand of trees to us.  The hooting lasted for about an hour before he moved on again, but a Northern Saw-whet Owl filled the quiet nicely as the moon rose.

In the morning we packed up and headed back out of the woods to 26, stopping a couple times to look at birds, flowers, dead stuff, and scenery.

Northern mule's ears?  

 Whitestem blazingstar?

                      Accipiter down.

We finally made it to the Painted Hills where a Golden Eagle gave us great looks then disappeared forever the second I raised my camera.  So instead you get this crappy photo of a Lark Sparrow:

The Painted Hills are famous, one of those places everyone oohs and ahhs over, a place you kind of want to hate because everyone won't shut up about it.  But it's pretty neat.  We stopped at the overlook then set off to the Painted Cove Trail.


The Leaf Fossil Trail was made more interesting by a Loggerhead Shrike...

And a fence lizard...

One bit of sagebrush we came across here was covered in what looked like blue berries but I assume is some kind of fungus or something?

Along the Red Hill Trail Jake decided it was time to quit walking around in the sun so much.

We returned to the main overlook before taking off.

Back on the main road we watched a raven fly off with one of the millions of little Belding's ground squirrels.

Will I be next???

And then it was time to head back to Portland.  Apologies for this less-than-birdy post, hopefully that will not be the case for the next one!  Good times!!


  1. I need ot explore those grasslands, the Ochocos, and Painted Hills. That is Jefferson, too far north for Bachelor, the Three Sisters dominate Bachelor area. Maybe I'll venture out there the Memorial Day weekend.

    1. It's definitely an area worth exploring. Wish I had more time to look for Dusky Grouse.

  2. Very super scenic. I always love your posts, birdy or not.

  3. Yeah Im happy your blog is back up, I agree with Laura its always show me Oregon a place I have never been and its awesome. The painted hills do stand apart from the surroundings cool place to wander. I checked out Chris's photos on Flickr...he has great talent!!


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