When I finally came around on my good friend’s idea to start a Portland Bucket List, I couldn’t contain myself. I furiously scribbled ideas for new experiences, but that list inevitably ballooned to include adventures outside of Multnomah County. Rather than winnowing it down, I decided to create an Oregon Bucket List; there is, after all, more to this state than this little corner I’ve traversed for years.
So here, in no particular order, is my Oregon Bucket List:
Attend the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria
Every February, fisherman and women from across the country converge on Astoria for the FisherPoets Gathering, a three-day festival that spotlights poetry readings, live music, storytelling, and workshops. It sounds like an illuminating peek into a profession and lifestyle with which most of us landlubbers are unfamiliar, and it doesn’t hurt that I’m already fascinated and inspired by the ocean. The fact that it takes place in one of the cloudiest, rainiest towns in America only adds to the allure.
Run (or walk) the Great Columbia Crossing
This 10k walk and run takes place on the 4.4-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge, one of Oregon’s most iconic symbols. Its two narrow lanes are normally reserved for automobiles, with no pull-outs for drivers to enjoy the view and marvel at the beautiful bridge. But, with the bridge open to runners and tourists for one morning each October, the Great Columbia Crossing sounds like a rare chance to experience the crossing in a new way. And with the steep ascent at the end of the course, I will have earned that post-workout beer at Fort George.
Stay in a forest lookout
Maybe I’ve read Kerouac one too many times, but staying in a forest lookout sounds like a fascinating experience. How cool would it be to enjoy the beautiful panoramas by day, write furiously by night, and experience a quiet solitude through it all? (I just hope my time up there doesn’t feel as fruitless as it did for Kerouac, who spent more than two months on Desolation Peak in northern Washington.)
Spend a weekend in Bend
Perched in the high desert southeast of Mount Hood, Bend has existed more as an abstract idea than actual city in my imagination. I grabbed a few beers in the Old Mill District last summer, but that’s as much as I’ve explored. And that’s a shame, because Bend—and the surrounding region—offers a lot of what I love in an out-of-town destination: innumerable outdoor opportunities, a thriving craft beer scene, and picturesque natural scenery. Why again haven’t I made this happen?
Run “Pre’s Trail” in Eugene
Oregon track star Steve Prefontaine, whose life was tragically cut short in 1975, lives on as a legend in the state. When he died at 24, “Pre” had already recorded 11 indoor and outdoor U.S. track records. Shortly after his death, the four-mile Prefontaine Memorial Jogging Trail was established in Eugene to recognize the track star, who’d jogged along the same paths himself as a student at the University of Oregon.
Eugene is known as Track Town, USA, and for good reason: It hosts some of the biggest track and field competitions in America, the University of Oregon routinely produces an outstanding track program, and Nike got its start in the leafy college town; while I haven’t really run in roughly 10 months, I still consider myself something of a runner and would like to experience some small part of that culture. Running Pre’s Trail is my way of doing that.
Visit Crater Lake
I’ve seen the jaw-dropping photos, and several friends gush about their visits. Now it’s my turn to see what makes Crater Lake such an attractive destination. Do the cliffs really jump straight out of the water like that? Is it really as blue as in all those photos? I can’t wait to throw my tent in the car and find out this summer.
Eat at Camp 18 Restaurant
Camp 18 Restaurant boggles my mind for so many reasons. I mean, it’s 18 miles inland on Highway 26, making it inconvenient for everyone who’s not traveling to or from the Oregon Coast. But, once you do arrive, you’re greeted in the parking lot by a graveyard of old construction equipment and an enormous mountain lodge-turned-family-style restaurant. And if the cinnamon rolls really are as big as they look in those Yelp photos, I may have a heart attack before completing my trip.
Visit some Oregon ghost towns
Ghost towns fascinate me to no end. For starters, visiting a ghost town means I have to get off the beaten path and explore some uncharted territory; I mean, if I traveled the well-worn path, these ramshackle remnants of a bygone era might be more than tourist curiosities today. Beyond that, though, they provide a real-life glimpse into another time and place. These aren’t photos or exhibits in a museum; they’re dilapidated buildings and crumbling cemeteries that tell the kinds of stories we don’t hear anymore. One of these days, I want to listen.
Frolic in the dunes at Pacific City
Pacific City is already on my radar because of Pelican Pub & Brewery, which (I believe) is the most award-winning brewery in the state over the past decade. As if that’s not enough, it’s perched within spitting distance of the ocean and boasts an outstanding view of Haystack Rock near Cape Kiwanda. Honestly, I may sit down for a taster tray and just not ever leave.
But if I do leave, it will be to check out the mesmerizing dunes at Pacific City. Can you imagine the views from up there? And how much fun would it be to roll or slide down? (Okay, so maybe this isn’t the best way to follow up a trip to Pelican Pub.) Either way, it sounds like a blast.
See a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland
I’d be lying if I called myself a theater geek; the sum total of my theater experience is attending my junior high’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie” and a couple dalliances with “The Santaland Diaries.” It doesn’t mean I’m not interested; it’s just never happened. Enter the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, which offers a mixture of modern and classic plays–including, yes, a handful of Shakespeare productions at any given time–in one of Oregon’s most beautiful outposts.
Check out the Tulip Fest in Woodburn
No matter how many times I see photos from the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm’s annual Tulip Fest, I can’t help but think it looks like something out of a movie. Is it really that vibrant? Are there really that many tulips? I’ve heard that photos don’t do it justice, and that only stokes my curiosity even more.
What’s missing from this list? What else should I experience in Oregon? Leave a comment and let me know!