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I grew up in Chicago where it’s flat, covered in concrete, and brutally cold all winter. When I discovered the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, I knew I had to move out here. The temperate climate, nice people, and slower pace of life seemed so exotic to me. So, about 30 years ago, I did just that.
Since arriving, I’ve been able to get out and sleep under the stars more times than I can count. I’d like to share a few of my favorite spots to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Many of you have probably read Portland writer Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, and so you’re familiar with the PCT. I like picking up a section near Three Sisters. You can pick up the trail around Elk Lake and then head north. I go about 27 miles, passing glacier-topped mountains, waterfalls, and the site of an old forest fire. There are lots of ridgetop camping sites along the way, so you can make this a multi-day excursion if you like.
Closer to Portland, you can take the Cascade Locks to Eagle Creek hike. Bring a tent if you’d like to stop along the 10 mile trail. You’ll pass by a dozen cascades and walk behind Tunnel Falls. This is a great trail to take as an all-day hike there and back, or as an overnighter.
Crater Lake was one place which captured my imagination back in Chicago. It is one of the most amazing places on Earth and I believe everyone should try to see it at least once in their life. There are lots of places to camp and backpack in the park. You’ll need a permit for an overnight trip, so be sure to secure that. I’d recommend taking a day hike down the Cleetwood Trail but it’s not for first-timers or inexperienced hikers. It’s very strenuous. It will drop you (11% grade) at Cleetwood Cove, where boats can take you for a tour of the lake, or ferry you to Wizard Island – for a fee, of course.
I love going out to Astoria and doing the first part of the Oregon Coast Trail. It starts at the mouth of the Columbia and heads south. Since the first portion is a beach trail, you’ll need to be mindful of the tides, but you’ll be blown away by the views. When I normally think of hiking in Oregon, I think about rugged peaks and tall fir trees, but along the coast I get a whole new appreciation of what our state has to offer.