Wild & Wonderful - Oregon Really Does Have It All
By Tim Johnson
Wild and wonderful, Oregon embodies all the best of the Pacific Northwest. A place filled with roaring rivers, soaring, snow-capped peaks, giant redwood rainforests and picturesque, untamed beaches, the Beaver State offers anything and everything a nature-loving person could ask for. But it doesn’t end there. When you tire of shooting whitewater rapids in a kayak or traversing subalpine landscapes, head to the sophisticated streets of Portland, one of America’s most beautiful and livable cities. It’s all there – all in one state.
In Oregon, fresh air comes in abundance. And there’s no place where that’s more true than at Crater Lake National Park. At 600 metres deep, the park’s eponymous lake is the deepest in the United States, a giant caldera filled with clear, clean, blue water. The lake is filled with rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon, and the surrounding park also teems with life, from the bald eagles that circle in the sky to the black bear and bobcat that stalk the surrounding forests.
And there are many opportunities here to get active. No licence is required for those who want to try their hand at fishing. The park contains some 145 kilometres of hiking trails, which offer opportunities for everyone from day-trippers and weekend warriors (some can be completed in as little as 20 or 30 minutes) to hardcore trekkers (50-plus kilometres of the Pacific Crest Trail pass through the park, a trail that runs from Mexico to British Columbia). And bicyclists will love the fact that they can circumnavigate the lake by riding the 53-kilometre Rim Drive, which features 30 pullouts and overlooks that afford stunning views of the park’s breathtaking scenery.
But outdoor adventures in Oregon certainly don’t end with Crater Lake. Slow things down in Washington County, a sylvan spot on the northern part of the state that boasts a lovely 95-kilometre Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route that winds through the green Tualatin Valley, taking in views of the Cascade Range, farms, historic sites and some of the county’s 25-plus wineries. Head to the coast and bike dramatic Highway 101, which runs along the left side of the state, on the edge of the Pacific. Make a visit to the Columbia Gorge and try some windsurfing or kite-boarding on the Hood River, something that attracts enthusiasts from around the world. Or gather up all your courage and head to the southern part of the state to shoot the raging rapids on the Rouge River, the state’s most famous rafting river.
When you tire of the great outdoors, swap your hiking boots for heels and head to the city. One of the safest, greenest and funkiest cities in the United States, Portland has a lot going for it, a place surrounded by mountains, bisected by two great American rivers (the Willamette and the Columbia) and shot through with trails, home to a super-clean and efficient public transport system, a plethora of community gardens and, seemingly, a cool coffee shop on every corner.
And, even better, visitors to Portland will find a red-hot culinary scene. With a restaurant culture that’s been recognized by everyone from the New York Times to Travel + Leisure, more breweries than any other city in the nation, plus a prime wine-growing valley just outside of town and an array of food carts that make Portland one of the greatest street-food destinations in the world, you’ll never go hungry – or thirsty – in this town.
Attracted by reasonable real-estate values and an earthy, laid-back culture, chefs from across the nation have flocked to Portland, following a new Oregon Trail westward. While the 160-kilometre, farm-to-table movement is still fairly new in some places, restaurants in Portland have been a part of this freshness movement for years. Check out Ned Ludd, a rustic spot on the newly reinvented Union Avenue, which lists its local suppliers on the menu and, true to their namesake (Ludd was the leader of the Luddites) uses refreshingly low-tech cooking methods, including a wood-fired oven (you won’t find a deep fryer or even a grill on the premises). Order charcuterie, meat pies, local wines and other delicacies, then enjoy the ambiance, which includes a dining room built out of repurposed lumber and adorned with rooster art. Or, for even simpler pleasures, head to Violetta, a burger joint that, in true Portland style, provides a chart giving the very anatomy of their burger, complete with the place of origin for each ingredient.
Sated and satisfied, you may be tempted to just relax – or, even better, throw on those hiking boots for another adventure in the great outdoors.