Been east lately, young (or young-feeling) person? No? Because there’s another world out there. The Willamette Valley’s outsize cultural reputation and big-city electoral influence could fool almost anyone into thinking Oregon is nothing but bike-commuting urban planning majors, I’m-With-Her voters, and Cascadia-flag-waving Doug fir cultists. True, more people live in Portland’s Buckman neighborhood than in all of Wallowa County, in the state’s northeastern corner. But Portland’s city limits, which hold 15 percent of Oregon’s population, cover less than 0.15 percent of its land. In some places, Oregon’s largest city barely even registers: most of Malheur County lies in an odd bump-out of the Mountain time zone, a sign that it’s much closer to Boise, commercially and culturally. Every county east of the Cascades posted for Republican candidate Bud Pierce in last November’s governor’s race, and some greeted January’s inauguration not with protest marches (though the Pendleton and La Grande Women’s Marches each mustered a few hundred) than with a sigh of relief that the new guy probably won’t declare a national monument in Malheur County’s Owyhee Canyonlands.
A stereotypical Portlander’s Hood-and-Coast getaway itinerary misses out on the hiking trails in Owyhee’s Leslie Gulch (politics aside, the views are monumental), the world’s richest Cenozoic Era fossil beds, and steak at a restaurant just down the road from its source ranch. Out where logging trucks give way to hay trucks, no one cares about the latest Portland brewery—chances are, they have their own.
Sure, some destinations top five hours just to get there from here. (You can shave off some time with Boutique Airlines’ new Pendleton direct service.) But when your mission is to revel in the state you call home—all of it—there are more important things than time.