Looking for a scenic route through central Oregon, we found ourselves on route 26. As we drove west, we stumbled across John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This national monument area is divided into three sections: Sheep Rock, Clarno and Painted Hills.
We stopped at the visitors' center where they had a very nice display of the on-going paleontology, including a window opening into a laboratory. Within the protected are of the monument, there are over 700 fossil beds that are visited, during the summer, by the park's paleontology staff.
Our main destination was the Painted Hills section. This is an absolutely beautiful area, the hills painted with yellows and golds, black and reds, a result of erosion exposing ash falls from ancient volcanos. There are trails throughout the park, allowing visitors to either get up close to this spectacular scenery or to go higher, for a bird's eye view.
The spring is a wonderful time to visit when the wildflowers are blooming. And for the photographers (and other artists) out there, early morning and late afternoon light give you a constantly changing palette of colors.