Oregon: The Vortex State

I blinked and I am done with Oregon. Oregon was short but so, so sweet. The forests are lush, the lakes are deep, and the elevation is less steep. Oregon was also fun, really fun. We pushed bigger mile days but also spent lots of time exploring and relaxing in the local towns. Of the 21 days it took to hike Oregon, 7 of those days were spent in town. Let me paint you the story of my time spent during these 450 miles.
After barely escaping all of the wildfires of Northern California, we thought we were in the clear. However, the sky was not clear. With wildfires spotting the state in every direction, the smoke coated the sky in grey. I did not see a blue sky in all of Southern Oregon. The sun shone red behind the dense haze leaving an orange tint for our eyes to see. I even awoke with ash falling on my tent one morning. We kept an eye on the charts and maps of fires and air quality and determined that it was safe to continue north.

Oregon provided lots of little resorts and lodges along the trail. We made a point to stop at almost all of them. Let me teach you a PCT hiker term. Vortex: the ability of a town (or small lodge with pizza and beer or any location for that matter) to pull you in with a strong force making it very difficult to leave said location. Peer pressure is a real thing. “Come hang out,” they said. I blame the power of the vortex for the number of rest days we took.

Our first stop on tour de lodges was Fish Lake. A quaint campground/RV park with a store and restaurant. Picnic tables lined the patio overlooking the lake with Mt. McLoughlin in the background. We enjoyed lunch and pie and more pie. After several hours of vortex, we hiked out along the flat, green forest floor.

After a couple of days of hiking through dense, lush forests with pockets of burned sections with sketchy water sources, we made it to Mazama Village in Crater Lake National Park. Pizza, hamburgers, ice cream, soda, beer. We got vortexed again. The next day we took the alternate route in order to hike the Rim Trail following the rim of Crater Lake. At 1,943ft, it is the deepest lake in America and the deepest volcanic lake in the world. Again, we got super lucky. After days of grey, hazy skies, the smoke cleared out for just a few hours to show us the blue beauty of the lake. We meandered our way around and the smoke slowly drifted back as we ended the rim trail.

The next day was the big day. 24 hour challenge day (see last blog post for detailed version of this day). I awoke and started hiking and did not stop hiking until 24 hours later. I made it to Shelter Cove the next day. Talk about vortex. I rested/recovered there for two days. No one does the 24 hour challenge to be productive. I did it for the challenge. Shelter Cove is another resort with a campground, store, and restaurant overlooking Odell Lake. We went swimming in the lake, laid out on the dock, and ate all of their food (seriously, they ran out of pizza).
After two days of rest, my legs were feeling recovered and we hiked out slowly, wary of the aches and pains that the 24 hour challenge had awarded us. I never said the challenge was smart. Luckily we were hurting together. The next couple of days of trail passed around many ponds and lakes. Somehow or another we made it to Elk Lake, the next vortex. This is a resort with good food, good beer, and a lake with kayaks and paddle boards. After chowing down, we spent the day hanging out in the lake. We then hitched from Elk Lake to Bend. I was still feeling pain in my shins from the challenge so I needed some good rest. Bend was perfect for that. I laid in the hotel bed for two days and watched many movies and ordered food to my room. I did get out and explore this cool, hip town. We brewery hopped and hung out by the river. This town is full of good people and good times and I would love to come back and visit.

Getting out of Bend was a logistical nightmare due to an old fire closure. There was only 23 miles of fire closure but because there are no roads in the area it is almost impossible to only skip the closure. Most people took a shuttle from Bend to Government Camp, skipping over 100 miles of trail. Again, we got super lucky. A true angel gave us a 3 hour ride to Olallie Lake which allowed us to only skip about 60 miles of trail. Back on trail and now we are in Northern Oregon. Moss covers every tree surface and ferns cover the ground. The weather became drizzly and the temperatures dropped. The dense fog engulfed the tops of the trees. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest. I love it.

After a couple of days walking through foggy, drizzly, green forests we made it to Timberline Lodge. Breakfast buffet and lunch buffet. Vortex. It sucked me in and spit me out six hours later. The hike out was beautiful. The trail circles the base of Mt. Hood, a majestic mountain looming over all of the surrounding landscapes.

The last stretch of Oregon brought beautiful, grand waterfalls. Not technically on the PCT,  we took a couple of blue blazes to see Ramona Falls and Tunnel Falls. Totally worth it. They were stunning. What a great way to end Oregon.
We then exited the forest and entered into Cascade Locks, just in time for Trail Days. Trail Days is an event where outdoor gear venders come to sell and repair gear for hikers. We hung out there for a day before getting a ride into Portland. Last vortex-able city of the state. Portland is fun, weird, and memorable. We rode bikes, went rock climbing, walked around the city, and ate a ton of food, of course. After spending the day in Portland, we got a ride back to Cascade Locks and walked over the bridge. This is not any bridge, this is the Bridge of the Gods. This bridge crosses the Columbia River marking the end of Oregon and the beginning of Washington. Washington, we’re coming for ya!

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Comments 17

  • Kim Hansen : Aug 29th

    I loved the excitement you explored on the mountains, lakes and towns I’ve grown up in all over Oregon. It is a gem state and I love it’s history! I wish you could’ve seen Rowena Crest while in the Columbia gorge. It’s development from a volcanic eruption and glacial melting in Montana that breathed wild flowers all the way to the Willamette valley coastal mountains, specifically Mary’s peak. You can see the ocean and up and down the Willamette valley on a clear day. Enjoy Washington 😍 too! It’s gems ate just as beautiful and intriguing! I’ll let you explore her ❤️

  • TAMMI HART : Aug 30th

    Love the adventure, happy you Loved Oregon as much as we do. I am a Native Born in Portland and raised in a little town 45 mins outside of Bend called Prineville. I now Live in Springfield and have most of my adult life. Minus the years I lived in Hawaii, but came right back to Oregon. Stay safe watch out for Cougars & Bigfoot! Keeping Oregon Weird!!!

  • Madeleine : Aug 30th

    Wow! That sure is a very good report on your trek through Oregon, where I am from and live to this day. Very good in description and detail, but not too much, in just the right places. I am so glad that you had an ok experience in Oregon, and had some fun too. I think what you all are doing together is so good and an inspiring. Keep up the good work. And please keep reaching out and spreading the good vibrations and positivity!! Good job!! Peace, truth, love! God Bless.

  • David Crosby : Aug 30th

    Don’t tell anyone else. Oregon needs more people like we need a Tsunami..

  • Dennis : Aug 30th

    You must be Democrat you need to come to northeastern Oregon. But then again the trails here would be to hard for people like you who just hike close to big cities. On second we don’t want you here.

    • Karen : Aug 30th

      Very rude!
      Im from oregon too!! My whole 54 yrs of life and i definitely welcome you to the state of Oregon. So glad u enjoyed all the beautiful scenery and and told us a little about your adventure. I enjoyed the story!!

    • Steve : Aug 30th


    • Wendy : Sep 5th

      You must be a very unhappy person to spin hate on a strangers fun

  • Janetmartndale : Aug 31st

    Went to Crater Lake at least once a year as a child.
    Took a walk down the path to the lake itself one year. The water was so very clear one could see 20 to 30 feet down into it seemed.
    As an Oregonian, I think Oregon is one of the beautiful places.

  • Colleen Rogers : Aug 31st

    If you’re hiking back South, you need to come down the Oregon coast. You will get Vortexed where you won’t want to leave LOL.

  • Leo Nielson : Sep 3rd

    That’s me in my work truck, coming over the Bridge of the Gods while you were taking the group photo . . . Hello, and welcome to Washington.

  • Missed large parts of Oregon... : Sep 7th

    It’s kind of disappointing that you claim you were in the “last vortex in Oregon” but you explored so little of it. Mildly rude and insulting for you to say that in an article that anyone can read (including residents of the areas you avoided). The other 4/5 of the state you chose not to visit is beautiful as well. But hey, you blinked and almost missed the state as you went through…. I think that means you didn’t explore much. Just my thoughts.

  • Joe cantwell : Sep 7th

    I lived in Oregon 5 years 3 in Gresham and 2 in Gladstone worked at Ross Island the state is beautiful then the laws suck income tax = a lot of money
    Homeless get squatters rights which is ridiculous and drug addicts are catered to like the homeless the whole state is like that and is getting worse everyday The representatives of that state only show you pictures of what they want you to see take a drive down Marine Drive up 33rd Ave. towards Swan Island looks like they’re filming an episode of The Walking Dead so the politicians of Oregon you should be really proud that you have ruined the state I will never move back there Kate Brown you should be ashamed of your damn self do you think you did a good job and all you did is increase the homeless population and you never want to do nothing about it all you do is shipped it to a different location

    • Kristy : Sep 11th

      You so just nailed it on everything about Oregon today! Used to be such a different place and it’s now being destroyed to the point of being ashamed to be a life long Oregonian


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