By some great fate, I am an Oregonian. I grew up with Pacific Northwest air in my lungs, Oregon dirt between my toes and under my fingernails, and a vantage point to watch the world start new each day with the sun rising over the Cascade Mountains.
The place is in my blood. While living adventures on pinpoints of foreign maps, Oregon hovers behind my shoulder or calls from the far horizon, an instinctive true north on my internal compass.
Three Sisters Wilderness Area: 1999 (Yep, that’s a pre-Instagram, scanned film photo, people.)
I grew my appreciation of the world’s beauty right here in my native patch of earth: triumphantly summitting Oregon mountains, learning to fish in Oregon lakes, hiking caverns behind Oregon waterfalls, poking my finger into ice green anemones of Oregon coast tidepools, following wagon trail wheel ruts carved in Oregon stone, and learning my identity in the web of Oregon ancestry in the midst of deeply nurturing friends and family.
And now, six(ish) continents later, as I shared in a recent comment to a reader, I’ve come home and fallen even more in love with this place; I know without doubt how special of a spot Oregon actually is. Like anywhere, it has its faults and blemishes, but for locals and visitors with a curious heart and an appetite for nature’s beauty, delicious foods, and friendships with genuine people, this land is absolutely rife with riches to be discovered and treasured.
For all these reasons and more, I’m in this midst of a mad, mad crush on our state Tourism Board’s current campaign: The Seven Wonders of Oregon.
This place on the planet stamped its mark on me from the very beginning, and I’m more proud than ever to see Oregon showcased with such class and style.
“We see your Wonders, world. And we raise you seven of our own.”
The campaign is a reportedly $3 million dollar investment in capturing the world’s attention and sharing the diverse beauties of our beloved state. So far, through TV and print ads, blog posts, Instagram feeds, and various splashes around the internet, I’d say they’re doing a fantastic job.
“The videos are a homegrown effort, directed by Portlanders Christian Sorenson Hansen and photographer Chantal Anderson, and with music by Bryan John Appleby Eric D. Johnson of local band The Fruit Bats. They were shot over the course of 14 straight days by a rag-tag team of 15 people driving more than 3,000 miles across Oregon—often sleeping in tents.” -Portland Monthly Magazine
The city of Portland gets so much limelight these days, but as a Willamette Valley girl at heart, I’m happy to see regions beyond the metro area getting a proper chance at taking center stage.
The Seven Wonders Anthem
Whoever named the 7 Wonders of the World must have never seen Mt. Hood.
They certainly didn’t explore the Oregon Coast.
We’re confident they missed the grandeur of the Columbia River Gorge.
The exposed earth of the Painted Hills, Smith Rock’s towers of volcanic ash and the alpine peaks of the Wallowas were overlooked as well.
All we can figure is whoever came up with the 7 Wonders of the World never actually set foot in Oregon.
Because even Crater Lake was left off their list, which is a shame, because standing high atop the rim of the deepest lake in America you can see what a wonder our earth really is.
So we see your Wonders, world.
And raise you 7 of our own.
And we invite you to visit them.
Not just to see them. Our Wonders aren’t just for taking pictures of.
To truly say you’ve seen our Wonders, you have to get out of the car, hike down from the scenic vista and feel them beneath your feet.
Just remember: This is Oregon. So how you go about doing that is entirely
The 7 Wonders of Oregon. See one or better yet see them all.
1. Mt. Hood
The highest point in Oregon (11,239’/3426 meters) and second-most climbed mountain in the world (after Japan’s Mt. Fuji!).
2. The Coast
Traced by the infamous Hwy 101 and scattered all along with secret spots and famous landmarks, the 363 mile long stretch of land dubbed “The People’s Coast” is a favorite destination of ours.
“Endless Sea” – a family spot on the Central Oregon coast
“Yachats, Manzanita, & Astoria” – among our 2013 travels
Coming soon: Our 2014 Trip to Cannon Beach, a return to the spot where I paused, One Month from Departure.
3. The Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River divides Washington State and Oregon, slicing through canyons, revealing waterfalls, and presenting vista after jaw-dropping vista to visitors heading east and west. Prior to construction of Interstate 84, travelers navigated the Gorge by way of “The King of Roads” (The Historic Columbia River Highway), constructed from 1913-1922.
My past work as a landscape architect included a spot on the team compiling the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail Plan, outlining the final 11-mile connection between Wyeth and Hood River that will complete the full 73 miles stretch of hiking/cycling following the historic route between Troutdale and The Dalles.
In September of last year, the Oregon Department of Transportation completed and dedicated the second to the last segment, and I look forward to one day taking my family out to see the full project when funding and construction are complete.
4.The Painted Hills
A rock-lover’s heyday in the land of Oregon’s ghost towns and fossil beds.
“Shaniko” – A little Instagram stop.
“Richardson’s Rock Ranch” – It’s been about two decades, but I have childhood memories of pretty fantastic thunderegg hunting (stretching our legs after long family road trips) not too far from the Painted Hills…
5. Smith Rock
Central Oregon’s mother of all rocks – the spot that “gave birth to American sport climbing.” (You may remember from a recent post: My mom has a tale from college about hiking all the way to the top in her flip-flops…)
“Three Stories Up: A Lookout Tower Weekend” – A photo essay from our Central Oregon trip (a.k.a. first travels with a baby).
“Growing Pains in El Chalten” – Okay, so not about Oregon, but with so many similar ties to climbing, to nature, and to high desert grandeur, I think the links to this famous climbing destination in Patagonia make a worthwhile comparison.
6. The Wallowas
One of my favorite early childhood memories: a family trip to Wallowa Lake. I remember spotting deer in the campground, riding the gondola to the top of Mt. Howard, spending time on the lake shore with my brothers and parents.
When Ted and I were scouting out honeymoon ideas, we toyed with the idea of a cabin rental in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. (We ended up on a downtown Portland > Mt. Rainier > Vancouver Island route instead…but I’m still holding out for a future getaway tucked up in the Northeastern corner of our state.)
Even if you’ve never been to Oregon, you may recognize this place without realizing it: the beautiful Wallowas serve as backdrop to the bittersweet 2007 best-seller, The Shack.
7. Crater Lake
If I had 25 cents for every time I’ve carried Crater Lake in my pocket…
No, really, our state’s crowning National Park marks the back side of the Oregon quarter.
Dad would point out Wizard Island when we’d stop at Crater Lake on family road trips, and I’d imagine the exploding volcano and the crash of the mountain’s peak falling back in its own crater and the water slowly filling up the basin…
“Crater Lake Under the Stars” – Please, go watch this 1:33 video right now. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve watched it at least 37 times. The beautiful time lapse video is a creation of Ben Canales, the super-nice Oregon photographer who also won National Geographic Traveler’s 2011 Photography contest with his nighttime shot of Crater Lake.
(Also: does anyone else see Cristo Redentor in the “t” in Crater Lake? No? Just me.)
This spring, Travel Oregon invited a series of guest to experience our Seven Wonders and share Instagram photos along the way. Each traveler takes over the @travelOregon account and posts their best photos and videos from their explorations. A few to keep an eye on:
@worksology — Joshua, Jessa, and Jack are headed for the Painted Hills at this very moment. I started following them last year when they passed through Oregon in their Airstream trailer, and I’m so excited that they’ve returned…
@traveloregon — Check their feed for past photos from the other five Wonders, and your own favorites from around the state to the #travelOregon hashtag.
So, have you seen our Seven Wonders?
Fellow Oregonians — Which are your favorites? Any surprises on the list?
(I gotta say, I could’ve pitched Rogue Creamery as the eighth wonder for coming up with the Oregon Blue, the first blue cheese made on the west coast, and Rogue River Blue, a taste bud defying blue wrapped in Syrah grape leaves macerated in Clear Creek Brandy…but perhaps that should be another post: my Seven Foodie Wonders of Oregon.)
Fellow Travelers — Have you spent time in Oregon? Which Wonder tops your wish list?
Mom and Dad — thanks for packing all of us kids up so many times to take to the roads and show us our home. I hope Ted and I can do the same for our little Oregonian. (And brothers — when are we taking the RV for our Oregon-Trail-in-Reverse 20 Year Reunion Tour?)