To love Portland is to leave it.
Other cities trap you in their sprawl—or just exhaust your will to escape. But here in Portland, getting out of town is the greatest argument for living here. Think of it as a point of civic pride: No one will look askance at you if you haven't visited the hot new boutique doughnut shop that's also a cannabis dispensary and sells unicycles on the side. But if you haven't hiked the Gorge, or skied Hood, or numbed your ankles in the Pacific? What the hell have you been doing?
Lately, though, fleeing the city for the natural splendor that surrounds us has seemed more than just a rite of passage—now, it's all we can do to keep ourselves sane.
More and more, it feels as if Portland is reaching a boiling point. The roads are getting more congested. The lines are growing longer, the buildings taller. Nazis and Antifa are brawling in the streets every weekend, your favorite dive bar just got demolished, and the rent is too damn high.
So this year, for our annual guide to everything in Oregon that isn't Portland, we've put special emphasis on finding peace beyond the city's borders—or at least something different.
It might seem there are no secrets left in this state—no place that hasn't had the magic stomped out of it by a million interloping Timberlands. But even the most well-trodden destinations hide zones of tranquility. To prove it, we put together a guide to Oregon's fastest-growing mountain town, Bend, that circumnavigates the tourists, trading Smith Rock for the Badlands and Bachelor for the backcountry. We also arranged a tour of hot springs that goes farther than Bagby and Breitenbush. And we returned to the Columbia Gorge less than a year after the devastating Eagle Creek Fire, revisiting favorite trails and uncovering new ones.
For some, the best way to deal with the angst of urban life is to put as many miles between you and that familiar skyline as possible. If you really want to get away, you can retreat to the stunning emptiness of the Alvord Desert or the charming culture shock of Pendleton. But you don't really have to go that far—Oregon City, with its vertical streets and midriver waterfalls, is only 30 minutes down the road but feels like an undiscovered country.
Whether you find your zen surfing the frigid coastal waters, conquering "the Pacific Crest Trail of mountain biking" or touring wine country from the back of a horse, now is the time to reconnect. Because living in Portland isn't getting any easier. But when viewed from the outside, our fair town becomes less overwhelming. All any of us needs is a few steps back.