Explore Oregon This Spring/Summer But Read This First
With the recent heat I was worried this might feel dated, but that’s not actually accurate. There’s still plenty of snow in the Cascades and with the high country still limited, the hikes spotlighted here by guidebook author Matt Reeder are still your best bet. Reeder just published “Extraordinary Oregon! 125 Fantastic Hikes Across the State of Oregon.” He picks 10 favorites from the Coast to just outside the Wallowas.
It’s been almost three years since the Labor Day Fires upended life in Oregon, but for thousands, the scars of that day linger. That’s why this trial, in which 2,500 properties blame Pacific Power for igniting the flames, could have major ramifications. The trial is scheduled to go into mid-June. The plaintiffs are asking for $1.4 billion from the corporation owned by multinational Berkshire Hathaway. It’s a historic trial in the sense that rarely does the question of who’s at fault for a wildfire go to trial. This trial folds in the Santiam/Beachie fires, Echo Mountain Fire, 242 Fire and South Obenchain fires. I laid it out here, and talked with survivors about what it means for them here, and did a podcast about it here that included audio we recorded right after the event.
Oregon’s wet April was critical in helping the state build its best snowpack since 2011 and head into the dry part of the year in decent shape drought wise (at least compared to previous springs). Normally, that means all of the reservoirs in the Willamette Basin are full. After all, full reservoirs are popular for recreation, store water for irrigation and produce hydropower. But this year something different is happening — in an effort to help save the dwindling number of salmon in the Willamette Basin, four reservoirs will be at extreme low water levels this summer. I dove into what’s going on here? It’s both complex and very simple. On the other end of the spectrum,
This podcast includes an interview with OPB about the good water year at Detroit Lake — and why that’s important post wildfire — before diving into the reservoirs issue.
Nature is harsh. A few photographers on the Oregon Coast captured the scene of a lifetime when they spotted a group of orcas in a coordinated attack on a grey whale calf that was migrating north from the Baja to Alaskan feeding grounds. This is normal behavior from orcas, and was actually something I talked about in a podcast a few years ago with a whale expert. Basically, mother whales try to swim very carefully, and close to shore, to avoid their calves being attacked by orcas. Obviously it doesn’t always work.
This was about as tragic a story as I’ve written over the years, but it does speak to a greater issue. Basically, what happened was that a family — a dad and kids — were looking for the famed “Secret Beach” at the Boardman Corridor on the South Coast. They got the wrong information, started from the wrong spot (by just a little) and followed an unofficial user trail. They thought it was taking them to the beach but it actually took them to a cliff. One of the kids fell off it and the dad went to try and save him, but ended up falling off himself and tragically dying. The other children involved were rescued and were safe. Two issues jump out. First, poor information that people can get online. And then user trails, which have proliferated at popular parks like Boardman, which can lead people to dangerous spots. It’s also prompted calls for better signage at Boardman.
Back to some happier news, in this podcast Charlie, our outdoors intern, headed to the Crooked River area to write about its spectacular fly-fishing. Charlie talks about how easy it is to camp and then stroll along the river making casts — and how the river has some of the best fish density in the state. This podcast includes an interview with an expert angler and fly shop owner, along with our picks for great camping, hiking and even bungee jumping in the area.
It was a banner year for the medium sized ski areas that I tend to cover most — in this case, Hoodoo (Santiam Pass) and Willamette Pass Resort. The two ski areas are engaged in what I’d call a good-natured arms race for middle-class families in the Willamette Valley. This year, Willamette’s new owners made skiing free for kids 12 and under, while also offering deals on rentals and expanding ski season into mid-May. Hoodoo, who I’d say has been more successful recently luring families, responding by upping their age for free skiing to 10, from 7 previously.
Intern Charlie wrote a fun story about the misunderstood whitefish, how to catch them and eat them. And why it’s worthwhile to do so. This echoes back to my growing love for catching and eating fish in Oregon that are primarily abundant and that you can have fun and catch without having a negative impact on Oregon’s fish stocks.
Oregon’s most dangerous and geologically unstable cape just opened up another giant sinkhole. This all ties into what makes Kiwanda such a … unique place, I guess. Basically, it’s a sandstone cape that has been getting slowly destroyed by the ocean for a really long time. It probably would already be destroyed if it wasn’t for Haystack Rock blocking some of the ocean currents. It creates a unique place that is extremely scenic and extremely dangerous.
The annual wolf report was released last month and Oregon’s numbers have been pretty slow the last few years. They’re still growing, but the number of wolves killed by humans has definitely had a big impact. Anyway, if you’re interested in wolves, read into the details. We have a longer wolf story coming soon about the gradual march of wolves into the state’s west side.
I wrote a lot in 2018 about Oregon’s newly created Office of Outdoor Recreation. The idea of the office was to become a clearinghouse that connected outdoor recreation policy and businesses. Or something like that. In the story about the first director of the office being hired, I wrote: “It’s a job with no roadmap, limited power and a decent amount of skepticism baked in.” Indeed. The first director of the office stepped away for a new job last year. A search for the next director could begin in May.
Speaking of the job, one of its priorities will be figuring out the general disaster that is Oregon’s liability insurance situation, in which everyone from ski areas to rental shops are struggling to get insurance to cover their activities after a Supreme Court decision basically nullified the ability of waivers to protect businesses from lawsuits. A bill meant to sort things out died in the state legislature.
Big changes are coming to Smith Rock State Park, as officials wrap up planning the park’s “master plan.” Upcoming improvements are expected to be new parking, a visitor’s center, bathrooms and maybe a reservation-only parking lot. Park manager Matt Davey told me about the new vision in this podcast.
A giant landslide closed a big part of the Rogue River Trail in southern Oregon. It pretty well screws up the famed one-way backpacking trip. It’s unclear how long it’ll be closed but I have heard, from Gabe Howe at the Siskyou Mountain Club, that: “We’ve been told by managers that the agency’s Fire Crew 10 has been dispatched to dig out the landslide near China Bar and it should be opened within the coming weeks.”
I did a podcast with Oregon’s state climatologist Larry O’Neill a while back. With El Nino looking increasingly likely, I updated the story a bit in this medium long Q&A on the state of Oregon’s climate and what we can expect in the near term.
Oregon is making a push to make it easier for electric cars to travel across the state. In this case, by installing high-speed chargers at seven state parks that’ll be free to use for maybe a few years.
I think the headline says it all in this case, haha.
Charlie wrote this last month and it holds, but just barely, for now. If you want to get on the Grand Canyon of Oregon, go, like, yesterday. Now. Just do it.
Charlie wrote about a really great and not often visited waterfall hike. Great for these hot days when the falls are still booming pretty well and shade sounds really good.
This is a fun story. Oregon needs more accessibility for its wild places. And this is a good place to start.
Oregon has rebounded from the pandemic and it bringing in tourism $$ once again.
A surprising number of the reclusive animals have been spotted across western Oregon. It could be the same one.
Another fun spring hike, though it might be getting a touch late. And wait for it to cool down a bit.
This place is a real gem in the Quartzville Corridor. Hope it opens soon. It had been on my list to camp at.