AMONG MY CIRCLE of friends are several native Portlanders who have traveled to places like Costa Rica or Tuscany, but who have never managed to visit that most exotic of Oregon destinations, Crater Lake.
Of course, we Americans are a hardworking people (we spend an average of 1,708 hours per year at work, about 120 more hours than Danes, who are supposed to be the happiest people on the planet), so when we do manage to claim a week for ourselves, it’s only natural that we don’t want to go traipsing about in our own backyard—even if that backyard includes spruce and fir forests, mountains, rivers, world-class wineries, eagles, that sort of thing. Instead, we dream of going somewhere extraordinary, somewhere that has animals with unfamiliar names like kinkajou and coati, somewhere we can eat pappardelle al cinghiale. Anywhere that says I am most definitely not in the Northwest anymore.
I get it—I do. But I just can’t figure out how anyone could live in Oregon for several years without venturing a mere five hours south to see Crater Lake, which to me is as magnificent and strange to behold as the lake inside the crater of Mount Rinjani, a volcano I once climbed on the Indonesian island of Lombok. Or without walking through the volcanic landscape of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, whose bold colors and Martian formations are as spectacular as the deserts around Abiquiú, New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keeffe found much of her inspiration. Or even without touring the orchards and farmlands of the Hood River Valley, where Mount Hood’s slopes preside over a fertile landscape as bucolic as any you might see while traveling in the Tuscan countryside.
All right, yes, that last comparison is slightly overblown. But my point is this: Unlike the gaggle of Germans I once met at Cape Meares who were flipping out over the common murres nesting in the cliffs, or the Gore-Tex-clad Dutchmen I met on a trail in the Olympic Peninsula who confessed to tearing up a bit when they saw the old-growth forest, you don’t need more than 48 hours to travel somewhere fantastic. And this month’s cover story, “Weekend Getaways,” offers ample proof of that.
Many of the places we mention you’ve probably heard of before, but we hope that our story shows them to you in a new light. And in case you’re someone who has trouble with the logistics of traveling, we’ve charted your route and plotted your days—in fact, we’ve practically booked your hotel already. All you need to do? Set aside a weekend for exploring, clock out a little early on Friday, and hit the open road.