By Victor Block
It doesn't take long for visitors to Oregon to admire its varied landscapes, intriguing chapters of history and reputation as a cornucopia of tasty fruits, vegetables and outstanding wine. At the same time, Oregon is as much a lifestyle as a destination. "Laid back" and "laissez-faire" were among words that crossed my mind shortly after I arrived.
"We're very accepting of various lifestyles," a young woman told me, and "A lot of eccentric characters live here," reported a man whose gray hair was twisted into a ponytail.
The diversity that characterizes Oregon's populace translates to its landscapes. They range from rugged ocean coastline to dense forests, from glaciers to desert, from grassy prairies to volcanoes. That variety provides a wide choice of things to see and do.
Some people visit wineries that offer samples of their products, which are advancing in the world of fine wines. Others delve into history. The Lewis and Clark expedition, which traveled through the Oregon Territory between 1804 and 1806, was followed by a wave of farmers, hunters and other settlers.
As word spread about the area's inviting characteristics, a growing number of people took what became known as the Oregon Trail, accepting the daunting challenges it presented. The route, which ran over 2,000 miles from its start in Missouri, was the most heavily used trail in the westward expansion.
Visitors today may follow sections of that trail and others that provide an immersion in various aspects of the local lore. For example, the Hood River County Fruit Loop leads to farm stands, berry farms and wineries. The Mount Hood Territory Heritage Trail includes stops at the Museum of the Oregon Territory and the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge tour combines dramatic views of the canyon with plummeting waterfalls and stunning mountainous terrain.
For those who prefer walking, a stroll through the town of Canby (population about 16,000) traces its history from serving as a stop along the Oregon Trail to a logging community. In an area of mountainous terrain, the snow-capped peak of majestic Mount Hood, which soars to more than 11,200 feet, reigns supreme. That dormant volcano offers the longest ski season in North America, including runs on 12 glaciers and snow fields.
During the summer, dense wilderness, fields of wildflowers and alpine lakes in the million-plus-acre Mount Hood National Forest attract hikers, campers, fishermen and sightseers along with experienced mountain-climbers. Humans share the woodlands with black bears, elk, mule deer and an occasional cougar.
A number of Oregon's cities and towns have collections of outdoor art that compete with Mother Nature. Among works along art trails in Tualatin (pronounced Twah-luh-ton) are a 20-foot-tall metal statue that represents the town's history and another that depicts a flock of bronze geese. The Gallery Without Walls in Lake Oswego includes both permanent and loan pieces.
Hillsboro and Forest Grove are among communities that host monthly art walks when shops extend their open hours and local artists showcase their work. Art also enhances outdoor spaces throughout Portland, Oregon's largest city. Pieces in a collection of statues around town range from the Greek god Orpheus to Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Visiting Portland's neighborhoods is a good way to experience what the city has to offer. The Alberta Arts District is home to quirky galleries.
Houses in the Old Town district, where the city was born in 1843, display ornate cast-iron scrollwork and filigree along with human and animal figures. The Pearl District has evolved from a setting for warehouses, light industry and railroad yards to a collection of art galleries, specialty stores and upscale residences. Strolling the streets also helps visitors understand the attitude and atmosphere that are unique to the city and its residents and how it continues to cling to much of its small-town charm.
Another inviting attraction is the city's collection of parks and gardens. Hikers find wilderness in Forest Park, which is crisscrossed by 30 miles of trails. Council Crest Park sits on a 1,073-foot-high hill that offers dramatic views over the city. Mount Tabor Park occupies the only extinct volcano within city limits in the continental United States.
Against the multihued shades of green provided by parks, gardens add dramatic splashes of color. The sprawling International Rose Test Garden, which contains 400 varieties of roses, is a major reason why Portland is known as the City of Roses. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is an oasis of winding paths, reflecting ponds and a graceful teahouse.
Lovely gardens, towering mountains and forested fields are among attractions that beckon people to visit Portland and Oregon. Nearly two centuries ago hardy pioneers braved extreme hardships to seek a better life in what today is the state. The trip now is much less strenuous, but the rewards can be just as satisfying.
WHEN YOU GO
For more information: www.traveloregon.com or 800-547-7842
(SET IMAGE2) tad062919bdAP.jpg (ENDF IMAGE2) (SET CAPTION2). The Oregon lifestyle is exemplified by this farmers' market. Photo courtesy of Victor Block. (END CAPTION2)
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
The Oregon lifestyle is exemplified by this farmers' market. Photo courtesy of Victor Block.