Friday, September 4, 2009

Better Late Than Never: Whistle-Stopping Oregon

Oregon gets a raw deal, reputation-wise. There’s the pronunciation issue, in which outsiders say Or-ug-gone instead of Or-uh-ghin (the “gh” is there because it’s a hard “g,” not because you should get all Germanic-language gargly with your “gh.”). If nothing else, it makes for humorous outsider identification, in which you see the eyes of locals slide over to the mispronouncer, and then they look at one another with the very slightest of headshakes, as if they’re silently saying, “you know, that guy could be from California.” And in Washington state, it’s not a compliment to have someone think you’re from California (before Californians get bent out of shape, let me point out here that my parents are from California. But, um… the California jokes are still sometimes pretty funny).
So, moving on. It often seems as if Oregon just gets overlooked, at least outside of the region. Maybe I’m wrong. But turn and ask the person next to you to name three places in Oregon that they’d like to see (and give them a little whack upside the head if Crater Lake isn’t on the list). If you're not from a neighboring state, they may well be pressed to name 2.

And me, living next door-ish? I overlook Oregon more than I should, not because I forget about it but because there is a ridiculous amount of amazing stuff in easier reach. Oregon, like Washington, is heavily dotted with places I’d like to check out. It’s just… the drive is a few hours farther, so the places in Oregon move down the list a little.
However, since we drove through Oregon to get to the redwoods in California, we had ample opportunity to check a couple of things out. And we checked out: Newberry National Volcanic Monument (the photos above and below this sentence), Crater Lake, Eugene and Ashland.
So, the Newberry Crater? Well, look, it was beautiful, and interesting. Paulina and East Lakes (in the crater itself) were lovely. But we’re not currently big into fishing (which appeared to be a big draw, as both lakes in the crater are literally jumping with trout), and the mosquitoes there were on the bloodthirsty side of vicious. The scenery is ruggedly lovely, and the lakes feel, in an appealing way, about a gazillion miles from anything (if you look at a map, you’ll see this is because they are, in fact, approximately a gazillion miles from anything). But for whatever reason, I wasn’t totally hypnotized by it, even as I could see how someone else would be. So… it’s not on my Go Again Soon list, despite the many undeniable attractions there. If I was going through the area again, I would stop again. But kids, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is not on the way to anything. At all. Which makes a return trip a leeeetle less likely.

As many others have written, Crater Lake is mesmerizingly beautiful. The startling luminous sapphire of the lake, set in a crater of snow-covered peaks, is, even as you gaze upon it, so staggeringly, surreally beautiful that it seems impossible. The moment you leave, you will find yourself thinking that somehow, you must be exaggerating to yourself, that it can’t be quite as beautiful as that. But it is. And… that’s kind of all I have to say about it. That and kids never seem to tire of having a snowball fight in summer.
Ashland is lovely, although not in the startling, otherworldly way of Crater Lake. The town is charming, the Shakespeare festival turns out solid, enjoyable productions, the Rogue River valley is really, really pretty. The 4th of July parade is an awesome mix of hula dancers, excited kids dancing around in costumes, floats, bagpipers, motorcyclists, a forest service employee carrying a bald eagle, a marching band dressed in macaroni costumes and tutu-wearing dogs. Ashland makes me think, with some seriousness, about what it would be like for Stumpy and I there, and how Curly and my boy would do. It makes me think of summer rentals. It makes me eye the line-up of plays next summer. The prettiness is very friendly, somehow. It's a place that makes you plot a return.
And Eugene? Um, I'm running low on time, so I will say that Prince Puckler's is not the end all, be all of ice cream shops, but it's quite enjoyable. And Eugene is super-charming. I'd like to go back.

And now I really, really have to pack to go to another island in Puget Sound and I have procrastinated doing so for about as long as is feasible.

1 comment:

Proud Italian Cook said...

I absolutely love OreGin! I lived there for 2 year many moons ago and still vacation there. Coming from Chicago I day dream often about that beautiful coastline, nothing compares! Just thinking about it has me craving some Mo's!