Oregon was not on our list to revisit on this trip. But... life should be lived not planned, right!? While living in San Francisco, we traveled to Portland several times for work and road tripped (with a tent ;) down the OR coast. When considering the state as a potential place to live we made the assumption, which most do, that all of Oregon is damp and cold. But it is not. Once you take the jump east over the Cascade Mountains the environment acts more as a desert than a rain magnet.
Moral to our story: Portland is rainy however, there are other towns in Oregon than Portland, so we went exploring...
In the northeast corner of Oregon lies the town of Joseph: population 2,000 (ish) and surrounded by the Wallowa Mountains. Joseph is officially dubbed the "Little Switzerland of America." If that sentence alone isn't enough to convince you to visit, try being adjacent to Oregon's largest natural Wilderness area: The Eagle Cap. And if you need more, how about Hells Canyon Recreation Area, home to the deepest river gorge in North America which, you can drive into by the way. Outdoor recreation opportunities here are clearly endless. But if for some reason breathtaking views and heart pumping outdoor adventures are not really your thing, Joseph is also home to world class artists and galleries. Known primarily for their bronze sculptures, mainstreet is sprinkled with local art.
Furthermore... (yes, there is more)... Joseph is close to the Zumwalt Prairie, North America's largest remaining grassland of its type. Luckily for us, my cousin Derek works for the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and frequently visits the area for work. In 2000, TNC purchased 27,000 acres of the Zumwalt Prairie, the largest Oregon acquisition in the organization's history. Six years later, they added 6,065 acres, making the 51-square-mile preserve Oregon's biggest private nature sanctuary! Fortunately for us, TNC has an office in the area and we were able to park The Lance on one of Derek's (very generous) coworker's property. Justin and Lindsey have two children that could not have been cuter. They opened up their home to us for much needed hot showers and a few loads of laundry. We also shared a home cooked meal together where they dished out a few must do activities in the area. My cousin Derek flew in from Portland for a TNC meeting one day so we were able to visit with him too! This was officially the start of locals spoiling us in Oregon...
- Drive to Hat Point - about 1.5 hours northeast of town is the Hat Point overlook. The drive is long and steep but the views of Hells Canyon, home to the deepest gorge in North America, the Snake River and the Wallowa Mountains are unbeatable.
- Hike the Hurricane Creek Trail in Eagle Cap Wilderness - the trail continues for 10+ miles but if you are looking for a nice day hike, follow the trail for approximately 3 miles before reaching "Slick Rock." Grab a snack while you take in the view and return the same way you came for a beautiful 6mi RT hike. Elevation gain is less than 1,000'.
- Spend time at Wallowa Lake - Photograph or open up a chair at Wallowa Lake, just don't miss it if you are in the area.
- Hike the East Peak in the Wallowa Mountains - this hike is a 2 mi trip which can be extended depending on weather and your sense for adventure. Take the Wallowa Lake Tram which will catapult you from the valley floor at 4,450 ft. up to the summit of Mt. Howard at 8,150 ft. From the top hike you can hike to East Peak or continue on to Hidden Peak and Aneroid Mountain. The tram is open from May-beginning of October.
- Embers Brewhouse - located right in the center of town, they have great pizzas and local beer selection. Their TVs also came in handy for watching games 5 and 6 of the World Series.
Bend, population 92,000, sits on the Deschutes River and is probably best known for its proximity to Mt. Bachelor, the second largest ski mountain in the U.S. behind Vail. Bend has been one of those towns that people ask us about on our trip. "You are looking for a new place to live...are you going to Bend? You guys look like a couple from Bend." In the last few years, Bend has become a hot spot for 20/30 somethings who enjoy the outdoors and don't want to give their left arm for a downpayment on a home to move to. Again, luckily for us we were able to stay with a family friend's (very generous) nephew and wife who took the leap from an expensive, overcrowded city (aka NYC) and moved to Bend a few years back. Having local (and free) tour guides is always a treat for us. Fulltiming on the road offers more than its fair share of freeing perks but it also brings this weird we never know where anything is... ever feeling on a day to day basis. Not needing to pull out our phones to search for hikes in the area or coffee joints with wifi or where main street is located or where can we park the Lance or how do we get to the local park is seriously the best! So needless to say we loved Bend but even more accurate would be to say that we loved our amazing new friends and tour guides: Andy and Nichole! And... did I mention they just purchased a 20' airstream? We liked to say we traded RVing tips for Bend hospitality but Andy and Nichole overshot their end of the trade by a mile. Their generosity and inclusion really made our trip to Bend, we can't thank them enough.
- Tumalo State Park - great sites close to Bend without being in an expensive, overcrowded RV Park. Offers full hook ups for $33/night. Also close to the small town of Sisters which is a short and beautiful 20 minute drive to the west of the SP.
- Hike the Tam McArthur Rim Trail - This 5.2 mile RT hike in the Three Sisters Wilderness will have you gaining about 1,500' of elevation for beautiful views of Three Creek Lake and the surrounding Three Sisters Mountains. On a clear day you can also catch a glimpse of Mt. Bachelor. Stop for a beer at Three Creeks Brewing on your way back to town.
- Hike or bike the Deschutes River Trail - You can explore this trail for an entire afternoon. I recommend shooting for Benham Falls as your turnaround spot. Driving to the falls is another option but walk/biking is by far the way to go.
- Summit South Sister - We arrived too later in the season to summit this mountain but if we make it back this is on our must hike list! 11.8 miles with 4,000'+ elevation gain. We hear the pain is worth the gain... this is one of Oregon's top summit hikes.
- Check the showings at Tower Theatre - located downtown, this nonprofit small theatre is known to locals as “Bend’s Living Room.” They have hundreds of nonprofit/community organizations that use their stage each year. Check website for up to date shows/times.
- Wild Rose - Delicious Thai Food with a great atmosphere! The wait line might be out the door on weekends. If so, put your name down and head around the corner to 900 Wall for a cocktail while you wait.
- The Sparrow Bakery - everything looked super yummy but the Ocean Roll is a must order... this is their famous, hand folded, croissant dough filled with freshly ground cardamom, vanilla, and sugar (really wishing I ordered a box and froze a few of them right about now).
- Boneyard Brewery - Bend has 25+ breweries but this one is a local favorite known for hoppy balanced beers. Their small (almost unfindable tap room) used to be an old auto shop and is tucked away in the backstreets of Bend historic district. Enjoy!
Located in the southwestern part of state, Ashland is full of 22,000 artsy, foodie, laid back, fun loving people. It has been named one of America's Best Small Towns on Fodor's Travel as well as one of the Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations in the World on Wine Enthusiast in 2016. Furthermore, Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which has performed all of Shakespeare’s plays, depicting each at least 300 times since the festival’s inception in 1935. The Festival has pulled in 20 million visitors over its lifespan and continues to make Ashland, well Ashland. This small town also boasts a big outdoor scene - nestled at the base of the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges and in between the mighty Rogue River Valley means outdoor activities are accessible pretty much year round. Locals and visitors enjoy rafting, hiking, biking and skiing all within 40 minutes of downtown.
Letting the OR hospitality theme continue, we were graciously invited to stay with family friends in Ashland. Kathy and Neal are friends of Dylan's parents and have also road tripped the country several times searching for a new place to live. With their children grown, they finally decided that Ashland was just one of those places that couldn't see themselves living without!
- Hike to Hobart Bluff - this is a short and sweet bluff hike in Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument. The hike is 2.5 mi RT with less than 500' elevation gain but leads to gorgeous views the surrounding area.
- Walk in Lithia Park - Located right in downtown, Lithia Park is the crown jewel of Ashland, Lithia Park is a must explore. The park follows Ashland Creek through undeveloped woodlands and groves of sycamore trees.
- Hike Grizzly Peak - This 5mi RT loop with 1000' elevation gain hike is a local favorite. That said, it was not crowded in the slightest and the dive up to the trailhead is very scenic.
- Ashland Co-op - this is by far my favorite place to grab fresh groceries, they also have a great kitchen inside with a rotating daily menu.
- Morning Glory - the best spot in town for breakfast, order the Moroccan oatmeal :)
- Ruby's - delicous veggie options, they also serve bfast all day which we love.
- Tot - yummy vietnamese joint with cute atmosphere. Also great for takeout. Highly recommend their Pho (they have Pho Fridays!) and Panang Curry.
- Standing Stone - known for their farm to fork operations. Unfortunately we missed this one but came highly recommended.
- Caldera Brewhouse - slightly farther from downtown, Caldera was the first craft brewery on the West Coast to brew and can its own beer, earning the motto: "Micro Canning Since 2005".
- Dancin Winery - spectacular award winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay! If you get hungry, order a few of their small wood fire pizzas, yummmmm.
Crater Lake National Park
The park is about a 2 hour drive south of Bend or a 1.5 hr drive north of Ashland, OR. Navigating into the park can be challenging due to the 44' of snow!!! they get per year so make sure to plan accordingly. As of Nov 1, 2017 the park was only open via the south entrance, the campground and lodge was closed but the trails were open to hikers. Spending an afternoon here is definitely doable but having a few days would have been our preference. The main attraction in Crater Lake NP is... Crater Lake. Registering at 1,943' deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and the ninth deepest in the world. The lake was formed by the now-collapsed volcano, Mount Mazama and is home to some of the bluest, clearest water you will find in the world. You can hike, drive the perimeter or even take a boat tour of the lake (weather permitting). You can find their adventure guide here. If you only have one day, hike to Garfield Peak for rim views at 8,000 feet above the lake.