Five years ago I first came across this quote and it instantly resonated with me. There was no way to know that I would very soon be falling in love with the state of Oregon and thus begin my quest of calling it home. It took hard work, a little luck and 2,082 miles of driving but it happened, I realized my dream, and have now been an Oregonian for an entire year. Oregon and the surrounding areas of the Pacific Northwest are truly magical. Most of my weekends are spent exploring and there seems to be a never-ending supply of places to go. I have explored mountains, rivers, coastal beaches, waterfalls, all kinds of parks, wilderness and so much more.
Throughout my adventures this past year, my favorites may have been on the Oregon coast. No matter how you choose to get there from Portland, the drive is remarkable. I’ve developed a specific playlist for the drive via Highway 26 that I begin to play as I ascend the Oregon Coast Mountain Range. The songs narrate the twists, turns, ups and downs through the towering trees of the Tillamook State Forest perfectly. If no stops are made and you continue south onto Highway 101, Twin Rocks, Oregon will begin to play as you arrive in Rockaway Beach – home of the infamous Twin Rocks that were the icon of my Oregon dream for the years leading up to my move. Watching the sea grass sway in unison with the wind at sunset while the ocean waves crashed upon the Twin Rocks as an official Oregonian was a special moment for me. Sometimes I like to just sit on the beach and watch the world go by: young and old couples walking side by side holding hands, women walking solo enjoying the solitude of the ocean, men playing with their dogs, families building sand castles and flying kites, kids running into the ocean waves and quickly running back out again as the cool water gets a little too high on their bodies for comfort, and surfers paddling out to find the perfect wave.
|Surfer at Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Oregon|
I’ve watched perfectly blue skies slowly transition to a brilliant rainbow of ever-changing hues during sunset in Bandon before fireworks exploded, shaking the cliff I stood upon, high above the ocean on the 4th of July. I’ve climbed steep coastal cliffs barefoot in Cannon Beach as mud squished between each toe. I’ve gazed in awe while eagles swooped down over the ocean on Indian Beach and elk slowly munched plants in Ecola State Park, seeming to pay no mind as I watched. I have to admit it was the best nature show I’ve ever seen. The fog seems to have a mysterious personality all its own in the Pacific Northwest. The way it creates laser beam-like rays through the forest trees at Ecola State Park is unforgettable. I’ve visited an abandoned shipwreck that enjoys a second life on land as curious visitors pose alongside for photos at Fort Stevens State Park. I’ve seen Thor’s Well suck in the cool, Pacific waters and Spouting Horn push it right back out in Cape Perpetua. I’ve seen the way lighthouses send out a beacon of light in the night, momentarily illuminating the way before passing on by only to come back around, again and again. I’ve stood high upon the towering edges of Cape Disappointment while deer bound through the grassy edge as if the possibility of falling hundreds of feet below to crashing waves were nothing to fear. I’ve watched clouds circle around the eye of a storm as it approached land in Oceanside before heading up to visit a tree shaped like an octopus at Cape Meares State Park on my 35th birthday. I’ve seen water glisten off sparkling sand while wind-rippled dunes stood nearby at Neahkahnie Beach. I’ve heard mussels snap their threads as I walked on by at Neskowin Beach. I’ve watched seagulls ride the wind like kites, sometimes gliding while other times they appear to float completely still in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Perhaps my favorite coastal adventure so far, I’ve fallen asleep to the sounds of the ocean after watching the sunset while beach camping on the central Oregon coast.
|Paradise, Mount Rainier, Washington|
The mountains and forests in the Pacific Northwest are truly enchanting. I’ve seen the most beautiful shades of moss, from velvety, emerald to shaggy, sea foam green, grow on everything that doesn’t move, and even some things that do. I’ve stood on a fallen tree bridge over the Old Salmon River while crystal clear water rushed below over brown, orange, white and black stones before wading through the cool, mountain fed water while a family of ducks rode the rapids downstream. I was overwhelmed with child-like joy when a newt swam into my hand at Lost Lake, high upon Mount Hood. I’ve peered out from behind a waterfall at Silver Falls State Park and seen mist continuously swirl in the air through a meadow, like smoke rolling off a fire, at Tamanawas Falls. I’ve walked through the abrupt change of dry, hot summer air to cool, mountain air that hugs the river at Little Zig Zag Falls. I’ve seen the setting sun’s rays as they cast shadows on canyon walls at Cottonwood Canyon and tumbleweeds roll over desolate roads that double as cattle trails near the Painted Hills. I’ve seen hundreds of caterpillars covering leaves, bridges and trails on a warm summer day in the Tillamook State Forest. I’ve seen a sea of green blanket the rolling hillsides of the Mount Hood Territory while driving up to Timberline Lodge as the peak of Mount Hood appeared, disappeared and then appeared again, over and over as I drove through the winding mountain roads. I’ve driven inside tunnels through cliffs that stretch to the sky and tower above in the Gorge as the Columbia River flowed by. I’ve stood on the perimeter of the devastation caused when Mount Saint Helens blew the year I was born. Perhaps most brilliant of all my mountainous adventures was standing at Paradise upon Mount Rainier and feeling a connection with everything that has ever lived before, during, and after my time, all at the same time, as an unexpected rush of emotion overtook me. I wonder if the same thing happened when John Muir stood in that very spot?
|Washington Park, Portland, Oregon|
Living in the epicenter of all this surrounding beauty, Portland, I’ve gazed over the entire city while Mount Hood stood watch from high above at Pittock Mansion. On clear days, I’ve seen multiple mountain tops in all directions while I simply just ran errands. I’ve seen sunlight break through the trees and shine a spotlight down to the forest floor as if to say, “this is your time to shine, little patch of earth” in Washington Park. Roses of every color line roadsides, parks, houses year-round. For this mid-western girl, there is nothing quite like walking past a blooming rose bush in December while thinking of all my family and friends back home hunkered down for the winter to escape the snow and cold. I’ve watched moody fog creep through the West Hills in Portland during my early morning commutes to work, slowly obscuring everything it touches. I’ve taken in deep breaths of wood scented air after a light rain; even in the middle of the city, it smells like a forest. I’ve seen forest trees illuminated by the sun, highlighting every vein and outline of their leaves, gently move from side to side, creating a symphony of sounds in Forest Park.
The Pacific Northwest regularly overwhelms me with it’s beauty, mystery and wonder and I find myself thinking, how can this place be real? All my life, places like this only existed in movies and in books or in travel shows I used to watch. Sometimes the beauty here is just too much to handle and literally takes my breath away. I then groan with a sort of wonderful pain that starts in my chest and goes up to my throat because it’s just too much to handle. At the same time, I just can’t get enough — I have found my home, my paradise. The home that I never knew was missing, but always felt its absence. The home that I, until stepping foot on the coast for the first time four years ago, never knew was waiting for me. With so much happening in just my first year here, I eagerly look forward to the adventures awaiting me and Cole as we continue our journey, exploring and photographing the wild places of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. I hope you’ll continue to follow along!
In honor of my my first year as an Oregonian, I prepared the video below to highlight some of the most spectacular places I’ve been fortunate to photograph on my adventures.
Kristin Roosmalen Photography