Thursday, August 19, 2004

Fourth Place Finishers

Since top 10 lists seem to be de rigeur for blogs, I'll be following suit, probably on Fridays. Some will be serious, some humorous, most will be ranty to some extent. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow the list will be the top 10 places I think any visitor to Oregon MUST see.

A problem arose when I tried to put a list together. Narrowing it down to 10 was very tough. You see, I love my home state, I think it's one of the prettiest and most interesting places around, and there's plenty to brag about. But eventually I came up with 10.

So today I'm presenting the runners up. Some of the places on this list probably merit top 10 status, but since I haven't personally been there, I have no room to preach. Others are too niche to be worth telling everyone to see them. and others are so broad that they are unavoidable, or actually contain several places that are all worthy of the list ( a couple instances of this actually MADE the list, but more on them tomorrow).

So here goes, in random order:

A. US Highway 101
Oregon's stretch of PCH is arguably the most rugged and remote along the whole route. Most of the way it's 2 lanes and hugs the cliffos overlooking the ocean. Along its route you'll see several other runners up, including:
Agate Beach: Pretty Self-explanatory. New agates wash down from the mountains on to the beach after every storm (that's quite often in winter). A rock hunter's paradise.
The D River is officially listed as the shortest river in the world. It flows less than 100 yards from Devils Lake into the Pacific.
Haystack Rock is a huge monolithic rock sitting off the coast at Cannon Beach. A refuge for seabirds, It's quite picturesque.
While you're on the coast, you must eat Dungeness Crab. Many Northwesterners prefer the taste of this shellfish to lobster or any other crab, and I tend to think it combines the ebst flavors and textures of both.
Sea Lion Caves: One of the largest ocean caves in the world, Sea Lion Caves is home to a large, permanent colony of stellar sea lions that has probably been there for thousands of years. It's a quick jaunt up from FLorence, and also provides a fine view of Heceta Head Lighthouse.

B. The North Umpqua Highway

This road follows the North Umpqua River east into the Cascades out of Roseburg. It's a narrow, windy mountain road that is crowded by mountains on one side and the river on the other. Along its route, you'll see:
Colliding Rivers. not merging, colliding. The North Umpqua and the Little River flow head-on into each other. This is most impressive in the spring when the rivers are at their fullest.
Diamond Lake, named for the shimmering effect of the sun on its waters. The view is dominated by several glacier-clad peaks, among them Mt. Thielsen.

C. Oregon's Mountains
Don't worry, you won't miss them. You can't -- they're everywhere. And while the Rockies and their subranges like the Tetons, and California's Sierras may be taller, Oregon's mountains have a different appeal -- their variety. From Northeastern Oregon's Wallowas, called the Alps of America, young and jagged, to Southeastern Oregon's Steens, lonely silent and beautiful, to the Cascades, the tallest range in Oregon and the most volcanically active range in the lower 48 (St. Helens in Washington is a Cascade, and the 3 Sisters are waking up), and whose tallest peaks keep snow on them year round (And one, Hood, provides skiing well into June). Are you from the southeast? Maybe you prefer rolling, tree-covered mountains in wave after unending wave of ridges. Southern Oregon's your bag. Wedged between the Cascades on the east and the Coast Range on the West, the mountains start at the Siskyou roange on the California border, and end at the Douglas/Lane county line in the Calapooyas, over 100 miles to the north. And the Coast Range is our distinctive range, rising straight up from the coast, giving us stunning clifftop vistas and causing one of the rarest climatic rgions on earth -- a temperate rain forest (Astoria gets twice the rainfall of Seattle).

D. Oregon's Rivers
Along with the Ocean and the Mountains, our most defining geographical features. Most of the subregions in the state, particularly in the Wester third of the state, are valleys that are both created by and named for the rivers that flow through them -- the Willamette, the Umpqua, the Rogue. And the rivers are as varied as the mountains. The mighty Columbia, border between Oregon and Washington, is navigable for well over a hundred miles, all the way to Pasco/Richland/Kennewick, Washington. The Snake is also a border, between Oregon and Idaho. Before it feeds into the Columbia, it carves another feature that would make the top 10 if I'd ever been there -- Hell's Canyon. The Grand may be bigger, but Hell's is deeper. Both the Snake and the Columbia have historic significance as well, acting as both navigation route and obstacle to the early pioneers. The Smith River is a wild, beautiful river. The North Umpqua, the McKenzie, and the Metolius are all excellent flyfishing rivers, and the McKenzie was the home waters of a now famous drift boat design. The Rogue is one of the most popular rafting rivers in the country.

E. Silver Falls State Park
Oregon's largest state park is beautiful, peaceful, and contains a walking trail that takes you past several impressive waterfalls.

F. Malheur Lake
Home to a National Wildlife Refuge, this lake is a major rest stop for migratory birds.

G. John Day Fossil Beds
Located in the arid Eastern portion of the state, this place is a paleontologists wet dream.

H. Pendleton Roundup
After the Calgary Stampede, arguably the second most famous rodeo in the world.

I. Evergreen Aviaton Museum
Two words: Spruce Goose.
'Nuff said.

J. Oregon's Wineries
We don't pump it out like California, but what we lack in volume, we make up for in small, quality wineries. Oregon's premier grape is the Pinot Noir. Interestingly, ORegon has the strictest labeling laws in the country.

K. Oregon's Breweries
Prefer beer to wine? We got ya covered. Oregon is the unofficial capital of US Microbrewing. Among my favorite breweries: Rogue, Metolius, Deschutes, and MacTarnahan's. Desperation fallbacks that are still better than macro: Widmer, Henry Weinhards(which actually makes a mean root beer, if ya have kidlets along).

L. Timberline Lodge
Built in the 1930's as a WPA project, this stone and timber lodge is one of the most impressive mountain lodges in the US. A great skiing site, it's probably most famous as the location for the original movie The shining. As the lodge is ruled by two St. Bernard Puppies, no pets are allowed.

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