Aruna Jacobi: Local Perspective
German mother-daughter team Aruna and Barbara Jacobi discovered this region in the 1990s, when Barbara first saw the Painted Hills and subsequently purchased two cottages nearby. They spent the next years driving from Seattle each weekend to work on the houses and gardens, discover magical places off the beaten paths and fall in love with the region. Today the cottages are Painted Hills Vacation–Cottages & Retreat, and welcome guests from around the globe. In 2016, Aruna and Barbara added a third cottage, and this year they launched the food truck Dino Bite.
1. Hike to the Stove Pipes
The walk to the Stove Pipes on Sutton Mountain is a smaller version of the Blue Basin, presented in yellow colors, not blue. The walk is easy along an old dry riverbed and ends in a geological fairy land, with small yellowish clay hills surrounded by steep rock formations and beautiful landscape views. It gives you a glimpse of the ancient history out here—there is so much beauty there and one usually has the place to oneself.
2. Visit the Priest Hole
About 10 miles past the Painted Hills Unit in the direction of Twickenham is the BLM-managed Priest Hole. This is one of the best places to explore the John Day River which winds through this pristine valley filled with wild and magic beauty. You can walk a nice loop along the river, discovering small hidden beaches perfect for fishing and swimming. Across the river, see the Painted Hills theme repeated in the landscape.
3. Drive the LOOP
Part of the Journey through Time Scenic Byway, the LOOP features breathtaking landscapes and vistas around every bend of the road. The roundtrip journey of about 4 to 5 hours starts in Mitchell and offers fantastic stops like Sheep Rock, Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, Cant Ranch Museum, Blue Basin, the trail of Fire and Ice, Thomas Orchards, the John Day River, and the towns of Spray and Fossil are along the way.
Pristine Nature Abounds
Aruna and Barbara wanted to create a special place for visitors from all around the world to stay and explore this amazing area, especially the Painted Hills Unit, but also Blue Basin, Smith Rock, Clarno and the John Day River. Barbara, a master gardener, created the extraordinary European gardens surrounding the cottages. Aruna’s father, an artist, painted many of the landscapes adorning the walls of the cottages. “There is beauty everywhere,” said Aruna. “I love how the light changes with the seasons and the subtle change in colors and moods. The Painted Hills are always special, no matter what the weather or the time of day. That’s the main attraction out here—pristine nature.”