This was our first excursion into the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. A real sense of adventure overtook me as we barreled down the country road leading to the Painted Hills. As we drove through the park’s entrance, I was immediately struck by the undulations and rich color of the land. Stepping out from our vehicle, I felt like an astronaut climbing down from his rocket ship onto a Martian landscape.

By no means did we plan on seeing the Painted Hills. Rather, we were photographing the many picturesque barns that dot Eastern Oregon’s farming heartland. Using the hamlet of Condon as our base, we scoured hills and dales trying to find as many of these agricultural gems as possible. The marathon photo shoots often called for some much-needed R&R lounging outside the quaint storefronts that line Condon’s Main Street. We sat, feet propped up, enjoying amazing malts from Country Flowers and watching the world slowly pass by.

After a restful night’s sleep at the charming Hotel Condon, we decided to make an impromptu stop at the Painted Hills. Neither of us had visited the park before so we thought it would be a fantastic place to burn away a few calories from the prior day’s delicious indulgence.

When we arrived, it was early morning on the Mars-like scenery. We made our way along a half-mile trail, leading to an overlook that providing panoramic views of the otherworldly terrain. What started as a hike soon evolved into a search for signs of life. Unfortunately, the creatures that typically inhabit this strangely beautiful place were shy that morning. Undeterred, we continued walking and enjoying the most pure feeling of solitude that one can only experience in such remote places.

After only a couple of hours of exploration – and our mission far from complete – we reluctantly headed back. Our need to get back to headquarters (Portland) weighed heavily upon us.

Beam us up, Scotty. Time for the long journey back to earth.

These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

About the Author: Philip Turner

Philip Turner is a photographer based in Oregon. Three years ago, following the footsteps of dreamers before, Philip and his wife blazed a trail west in search of adventure. Now, with Portland as a home base, the two spend every weekend exploring the far corners of this incredibly diverse state.

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  1. Donna Turner says…

    Awesome story and pictures, we can’t wait to see these places in person

    Written on August 30th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
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