John Day River near Twickenham

John Day River near Twickenham

Our road trip to the Painted Hills of Oregon was taking longer than I expected.  Not that I was disappointed with what we were experiencing along the way, but I was hoping to photograph the Painted Hills in the low morning light.  There were no direct roads from the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to Mitchell, the gateway of the Painted Hills Unit.  So as we were making our circuitous way along the highway, I suggested we take a shortcut through Twickenham and enter the Painted Hills through the backdoor rather than through Mitchell.

Both my husband and I have enough life experience to know that many shortcuts on a map are actually the opposite.  And this time was no exception.  Once we arrived at Twickenham and crossed the John Day River, we turned onto a gravel back road which promised to follow the river for several miles.

I thought it would be a pretty route, and I was not mistaken.  The landscape was refreshingly green along the river.

Irrigation along the John Day River

Irrigation along the John Day River

Our drive along the John Day River

Our drive along the John Day River

But soon the road went up and up, parallel to the river perhaps, but too far away to see it.  We twisted our way down the narrow gravel road, hoping not to encounter a vehicle coming towards us, because we would have been hard pressed to share the road without plunging off.  My palms began to sweat.  This section seemed to be taking longer than I expected (again).

The map showed the road turning south away from the river at about the halfway point along the “short” cut.  We saw a sign for the Priest’s Hole Recreation Area, and figured that we had reached the proper point.  George wanted to check out the river before turning away from it, so we took a break from driving so that he could cast his fishing line into the water.

Priest's Hole Recreation Area along the John Day River

Priest’s Hole Recreation Area along the John Day River

It was a beautiful spot.  Very peaceful.  It would have been great fun to join some of the parties drifting along in their rafts.  I enjoyed strolling around, taking photographs, and checking out the plants.  George was happy to have his fishing pole in his hands.

John Day River

John Day River

George's fishing pole

George’s fishing pole

Rafters on the river

Rafters on the river

Pebbly beach

Pebbly beach

Volcanic rock, the origins of much of this area

Volcanic rock, the origins of much of this area

I have no idea what this plant is.

I have no idea what this plant is.

Mysterious growths on these leaves; they looked like beads on a necklace.

Mysterious growths on these leaves; they looked like beads on a necklace.

Fishing

Fishing

This area also gave us some tantalizing glimpses of colorful hills.  Were these the “painted” hills?  Were we finally getting close to our destination?

Landscape near Priest's Hole Recreation Area

Landscape near Priest’s Hole Recreation Area

Tantalizing glimpse of painted hills

Tantalizing glimpse of painted hills

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Pinkish hill in the distance

Pinkish hill in the distance

After a relaxing break, we got back on the road and kept watch for the entrance to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  We were still on the gravel road, but the ride was now smoother and the vistas more open.  We saw more colorful hills in the distance.  We were getting close.

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Approaching the Painted Hills of Oregon

Approaching the Painted Hills of Oregon

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I had no regrets about how long the trip was taking because every moment was an adventure.  And the rewards continued with the Painted Hills.