Editor's Note

From the Editor: How Many State Parks Have I Checked Off?

With 250-plus properties, Oregon State Parks is a welcome to-do list that never ends.

By Margaret Seiler March 10, 2023 Published in the March 2023 issue of Portland Monthly

A tent on a flat section of ground in front of tall trees

The editor’s tent at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, from a research trip for the Summer 2022 issue’s Oregon Coast guide.

I love a checklist. There’s the satisfaction of checking things off, of course. But unlike some list makers, I love an incomplete checklist, too. It’s a plan, a purpose, a call to action, a bit of structure for the hours or days or years ahead. In the early 2000s, my roommate and I would page through Jen Lane’s BarFly zine to mark places we’d been and places we wanted to go next, prioritizing bars with a horns-up icon indicating awesomeness and skipping the “meat markets,” labeled with a little cartoon steak. Time, our livers, and our meager paychecks guaranteed we’d never actually make it to all of them.

For states, I'm at 49, and I’m in no hurry to check off no. 50. If I do get to Hawaii, I’ll probably change the list to include any place with some version of a congressional rep. I can check off DC, but Puerto Rico, Guam, et al. will give me some trips to look forward to, even if all I ever do is imagine them. 

When I made it to my last of Oregon’s 36 counties, bunking down at Summer Lake Hot Springs in Lake County to break a drive to Reno, I celebrated. But then I wanted to double, triple, quadruple my to-do list: how many counties had I camped in, sung karaoke in, drunk a from-there local beer in? Clearly, I had work to do.

Counties can be checked off pretty quickly. But as Portland Monthly travel editor Sam Stites can confirm, it would take a long time to make it to all 254 (and counting) properties managed by Oregon State Parks. Just the official parks alone would be a daunting list, but then there are the waysides, viewpoints, recreation areas, historical sites, etc. (There is some method to this naming madness, Sam learned.)

I’ve yurted with the family at Champoeg; pitched a tent solo in opposite corners of the state, at Farewell Bend and Harris Beach, envied the smarty-pants who booked the campsite closest to the beach at Cape Lookout, when my spot was a whole four-minute walk away; made pancakes on the built-in stove on the porch of a cabin at Emigrant Springs; walked behind the water at Silver Falls; pulled over every chance I got on the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor; and, closer to home, bored my children with talk of surveys and plats at the Willamette Stone off of NW Skyline Boulevard.

But, Sam reminds me, I’ve barely scratched the surface. His exploration of state parks has me eyeing Fort Rock, Minam River, Alfred A. Loeb, and Government Island. (Do I know anyone with a boat?) I hope you discover some new destinations for your own never-ending to-do list, too.