February 14th is a great day. And no, it's not just because I'm a chocolate fiend, but because I get to celebrate three things each year: Valentine's Day, Galentine's Day, and Oregon's Birthday! Did you know that Oregon was founded on February 14, 1859? It's okay, I didn't either before I moved here, but I think it's incredibly fitting. I am so happy to get to celebrate the beauty of Oregon every February just as the flowers start to sprout and sun starts to shine again - it's a lovely time to be an Oregonian. So, in honor of the sun returning to our great state and in honor of her birthday, here are my Oregon Bucket List experiences.
Oregon Bucket List Experiences
1. Watch the Sunrise at Crater Lake National Park
I love a good sunrise and sunset. More than any other time of day you get to see the landscape change in dramatic ways during that short period of time and it can be stunning. I've been lucky enough to see sunrise over Crater Lake both in the dead of winter with six fresh inches of snow and in the middle of the summer and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it. It's definitely challenging, especially in the summer when the sunrise is at 6AM, but I promise it's worth it to drag your tired, cold butt to the top of the lake. My pro tip? Bring your jet boil, coffee/tea, and a big mug to enjoy while you sit and watch nature do her thing.
2. Camp Underneath Mount Hood
Mount Hood is the iconic mountain for Portlanders, despite the fact that on a good, clear day we can see four of them (Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier). The foothills of Mount Hood have quite a few beautiful lakes that are ringed with campsites, like Mirror Lake and Frog Lake. Mirror Lake has the most coveted campsites for sure, but this summer we camped at Frog Lake in a quiet, secluded campsite that had perfect hammock trees and a small brook running through the back of it that kept our beer cold, so I feel like we won the jackpot. Each campsite has a fire ring with a grill attached and there's a general store/gas station within a ten minute drive so to backpackers this campsite will feel like a genuine glamping experience!
3. Explore the Ale Trail in Bend
With Smith Rock State Park just a few miles away, the Deschutes River running through the town, and many, many miles of forests nearby, Bend is an outdoor lover's paradise. It also happens to be a beer lover's paradise. Deschutes, Goodlife, Silver Moon, Crux, Sunriver, Boneyard, 10 Barrel, Worthy, and Three Creeks all call Bend home, just to name a few. My pro tip for the Ale Trail is to get up and go for a nice long hike all morning before diving into the craft beer scene - that way you get the best of all worlds!
4. Hike the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park
Forest Park, a 5,157 acre park located in the Northwest corner of Portland, is one of the country's largest urban parks. The Wildwood Trail is a 29.6 mile trail that goes the whole North-South length of the park and has 2,683 feet of elevation gain. There are dozens of cool trails to explore within Forest Park, but wouldn't way to say they hiked a 30-mile trail within city limits of Portland?! Plus, you get to end your hike in NW Portland just a short walk to delicious food - like pizza and beer at the new Breakside Brewery in Slabtown.
5. Hike the Wahkeena Falls - Multnomah Falls Loop
The Columbia River Gorge is a true natural wonder. I had such a hard time choosing just one place within the Gorge to suggest, and I have to mention that Oneonta Gorge was a close runner up. It's the most fantastic kind of outdoor obstacle course/polar plunge with a beautiful waterfall at the end as your reward.
The Wahkeena/Multnomah Falls Loop is something different entirely. Clocking in at about 5 miles, you encounter multiple stunning waterfalls and a wealth of prehistoric jungle-esque scenes with large ferns and vibrant moss. It's one of my favorite hikes in the Gorge, and shouldn't be missed. Unfortunately, this trail has been closed since August 2017 when the Eagle Creek Fire started burning. It's estimated that it will be closed until at least 2019, although we should have a better estimate from the Oregon Trailkeepers, who just got started on trail restoration in the Gorge last month.