I drove into Eastern Oregon thinking that I could tackle the 7 Wonders of Oregon quickly. Not so. But I did get to see, albeit brief or obscured by smoke from the deadly 2015 wildfires, 5 of those 7 Wonders.
The Wallowas: Visiting this was Wonder way too brief and marred by a 5am wake up call by neighboring campers who didn’t leash their dog. A definite do-over.
The Painted Hills: Another too brief visit cut short by copious water drinking to stave off the August heat. At first glance, this wonderland reminded me of Death Valley. It’s charming curves and soft, blending colors is inviting. Exploration is mandatory.
Smith Rock: The rock, canyon and river combination is startling, mesmerizing and enchanting. Especially since you’ve just driven through miles of sage, tumbleweed and high desert small towns just to arrive at this stark change in scenery.
Crater Lake: The park size to awesome view ratio (pa:av) is definitely skewed in this Wonder. A lot of amazing views are jam packed into a small package. This comes with crowded parking lots, but there is an easy solution to that modern problem. Get up early. Even though my views were not sweeping – due to the smoke filled crater – I had the roads and trails to myself at 7am.
The Coast: I traveled from South to North, stopping, camping and exploring the whole way up Highway 101. August 2015 delivered the sunshine. I took advantage. When I wasn’t in my hiking boots, I was in my flipflops. This has provided my with my most interesting tan line to date. My most memorable standout was Cape Perpetua and Thor’s Well. Cape Perpetua campground provided me with site #19; a canopy of saplings, a stream burbling west to the Pacific, a warming campfire to push out the damp, shadowy chill. All this ambiance was helped along by a bottle of Spring Valley Muleskinner and The Three Musketeers. Thor’s Well was a captivating study of the power and grace of the ocean. A cave without a top is filled and emptied as the tide comes in. The cave walls are a jagged volcanic mix which is covered my barnacles, muscles and various plant life. The water rushes in from below this “well” and quickly fills the well with foamy water. As the tide gets higher the water fills the well quicker and more violently. I was left with the feeling that anyone unlucky enough to end up in the well would emerge, if extremely lucky, looking like they has simultaneously been put through a paper shredder and a meat grinder. For all that, it’s a natural wonder that I could not take my eyes off of.
Yet To-Do: Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge.