The pacific northwest was my first real case of Fernweh. I loved it for so many reasons before I ever step foot there. When I was 28, my mom and I took a road trip starting in San Francisco, then on to Napa, the Redwoods, Oregon coast, Portland, Seattle, and eventually the San Juan Islands. That trip confirmed my suspicion that the Pacific North West is an incredible place.
Well, let me tell you, my second time in Oregon did not disappoint. They have an ocean, mountains, AND people that care about the environment!? Talk about the full package!
Also, before we get to far, let’s make one thing clear: it’s pronounced /ˈɔːr.ɪ.ɡən/ similar to organ, like the musical instrument or in your body. Not “or-a-gone.”
It started with a primitive campsite up a gravel road just east of the North entrance to Crater Lake National Park. I was super nervous, as it was my first time using freecampsites.net or a “first come first served” site. With a 40-foot rig, it’s easy to get into a bind. As I bumped my way down the gravel US Forest Service road, I prayed there would be space to camp AND even more important, space to turn around. Getting to a dead end and having to back up a half mile is a scene from my worst nightmare.
Y’all, this water is the blue-est blue that I’ve ever seen. I unknowingly got there the DAY AFTER the North Entrance opened for the season. Had I arrived any sooner, I would have had to back track to the Southern Entrance and put a lot more miles in each day. Again with the luck and good timing! Since my first day was primarily spent driving and pulling off for stunning photos, the second day I was itching for a hike. I brought the dogs with me, and we walked the 9 miles to the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which is the only path to the base of the lake. Sierra, my 10.5 year old pup, was looking tired and sore, so I opted not to add two more miles to our hike by going down to the water. I loved taking in the surreal blue vista, but in all honesty, there wasn’t much else to do in the park. The trips to Wizard Island and boat tours of the lake were not up and running yet for the season and the entire east side of the park was closed due to snow, so two half days were more than enough to see what was open. Maybe I’ll get back someday and experience it more, but I don’t have the same draw to go back like I do with other parks. Quick history lesson: Mount Mazama erupted around 8,000 years ago, an explosion 100 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens in 1980, and created the crater which only gathers water through rain and snow run off, hence, the super clean blue water!
“Bend sucks. Don’t move here.” The bumper sticker says it all.
This small town is booming, and the people who live here are seeing the rapid growth create change they didn’t ask for. While some people might try to convince you that the growing population, without job or housing markets to support it, is going to ruin the town, I’m not so sure. Bend is a great mix of outdoor activities, craft breweries, independent shops, and Midwest-caliber friendly people, with the convenience and amenities of a bigger town. Yes, change can be hard but perspective is important. When locals complained about traffic, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own experience of commuting in Chicago which I considered to be 1000x worse. I hope Bend keeps its charm and the housing and job markets evolve in order to keep up with the population. But until then, there’s only one thing you should remember: Bend sucks. Don’t move there.
But if you visit Bend, there is sooooo much to do! Don’t miss driving down the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway, which has stunning views of Mount Bachelor and passes by several lakes, perfect for kayaking. Nearby Sisters has a cute and walkable downtown, and the beer at Three Creeks Brewery is not to be missed. Although I can’t speak from experience, I hear this area is great for skiing and snowboarding as well.
Portland. It’s notoriously weird. A town that has already experienced huge growth in the last decade or so, Portland has sprawling suburbs that provided me with two fantastic places to park for free. First was Hoffman Farm Store, a U-pick berry farm with no hook ups, but plenty of space to walk the dogs and enjoy the country atmosphere. Next up was Tripod Ranch, a beautiful piece of land with llamas, goats, sheep, and chickens, three friendly hosts, hot tub, fire pit, and full hookups- for FREE! I could have stayed here much longer, but alas, it was eventually time to move on. Side note: I spent almost all of my time working, and only went in to Portland once. When trying to stick to a budget, a giant independent bookstore, delicious breweries, and incredible foodie destinations are best avoided.
However, a drive in the Columbia River Gorge is completely worth the gas money. Waterfalls are the main attraction, although apparently the wind down the gorge makes it a world class destination for wind surfing. At the end of the drive, I was ready to cross another state border- Washington state, here I come!