As a child growing up in New Jersey, I dreamed of travel and hoped to visit Oregon some day. My early image of this state located 2,400 miles away reflected the following mural taken from a community center wall in Bend, Oregon.
My late wife Sue Auerbach Heller and I moved to Atlanta Feb. 22, 1972. We took advantage of our summer vacation that year to compare Atlanta to every major US city and see as much of the beautiful countryside as possible in seven weeks on the road. This 17,000 mile-long aim required almost daily calibrating to effectively combine those two goals – hard choices had to be made.
California’s size and attractions slowed us down a bit and by the time we reached the Oregon border, I scanned the map to organize our route. My eyes wandered to Crater Lake, then the gorgeous coastline and finally the three mountain ranges. Washington State and British Columbia offered similar travel coverage challenges – each required a week to truly explore the state and relish the natural wonders.
But we had only a week to see the entire Pacific Northwest – Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver all deserved at least a day to contrast with Atlanta plus a needed day of travel between each. I lamented to Sue that we would have to return to Oregon some day – there was too much to see in too little time. We therefore drove up I-5 to Portland, surveyed the city, found it lacking, and headed to Seattle with the same intention while prioritizing Oregon as an important future destination.
Forty-seven years would go by before an opportunity to finally discover Oregon materialized. Sue sadly passed away from cancer five and half years ago – had Sue lived, she would have loved a driving vacation to witness the state’s charms.
Fortunately, Patty Morrison, my lady friend, accompanied me on a tour of the western coastal and central mountainous areas. In honor of explorers Lewis & Clark, I have nicknamed our eight day journey the Heller – Morrison Trail because we jointly tracked a perfect eight day trip that was wisely split up into six distinct legs. This introductory web page will be followed up by six more web pages, each documenting the six separate legs of our Oregon Odyssey.
Leg #1: Portland to Astoria: A Tale of Two Cities. Our plan was to fly in to Portland, acclimate, explore, learn the grid, and enjoy the City of Roses in two days. On day three, we drove Route 30 North that follows the Willamette River until it flows into the Columbia River and next follows the mighty Columbia until its mouth empties into the Pacific Ocean where Astoria is located. After discovering Astoria’s pleasures in the afternoon – cute town and very awesome water scenes – we spent the night in Seaside located ten miles south of Astoria on the coast road. Seaside is an attractive beach town, sports a long, broad beach and even longer cement promenade.
Astoria and mouth of Columbia is here.
Leg #2: Seaside to Newport: Oregon’s Coastal Treasures. Day 4 included a Seaside Promenade walk in the morning, beholding the breathtaking beauty of the rocks at Cannon Beach in the afternoon, Newport’s attractions in the evening. Seaside and Newport are similar in function but uniquely beautiful in their own way.
Leg #3: Newport to Eugene: Coastal & Cascadian Adventure. On Day 5, we left the gorgeous coast and traveled over the rugged, green Cascade Mountains to Eugene, a university city of 156,000+ with a very progressive culture. We explored the cultural milieu at Wine Lab and Irish Pub in the afternoon, and dined along the riverside in the evening.
Leg#4: Eugene to Klamath Falls: Umpqua River, Crater Lake, Upper Klamath Lake.
Day 6: This leg includes a short ride down I-75 to Roseburg where one picks up scenic Route 138 that meanders along the Umpqua River and National Forest. Stop at Diamond Lake before entering Crater Lake National Park. Exit the park on the south side and take Route 62 south to Klamath Falls for a place to stay and eat.
Leg #5: Klamath Falls to Bend: Deschutes River & Forest Drive. Day 7: Route 97 follows the Deschutes River as it winds out of Upper Klamath Lake and streams through the Winema and Deschutes National Forests. The real reward for this slightly less scenic leg is Bend, a model American city of 80,000 to explore, revel in its beauty, and relax by dining and spending a night at a riverside lodge.
Leg #6: Bend to The Dalles & Portland: High Desert Vistas & Columbia River Gorge & Drive. During the planning stage, I wondered if we could comfortably reach The Dalles and Portland via I-84; essentially, was worried that the route was too long and intended to take Route 26 across the Warm Springs Indian Reservation into Portland. A waitress in Bend convinced us that “the gorge” was worth the extra effort.
Day 8: Take Route 97 North from Bend – road follows the Deschutes River through the High Desert gorges. At Madras, a river rafting village, we took Route 197 to continue along the Deschutes to The Dalles (French for narrows) where the river empties in to the Columbia. We suggest a pit stop in The Dalles and a bit of exploring – find a great vantage point to take a picture of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge and Bonneville Dam. Take I-84 West to Portland, perhaps the greatest 70 mile stretch of superhighway in the country – interstate hugs the wide Columbia River and Mount Hood mountain chain. We found a room in Portland close to the airport for an easy flight home the next day.
Oregon was part of the bounty of the 1846 Mexican War – Great Britain renounced its claim as part of Treaty of 1848. Aggressive US settlement by migrants from New England, Ohio, Scandinavia, and other sources led to admission into the Union by 1859. The state and region grew rapidly during World War II and the decades afterward.
The Transcontinental Railroad is most responsible for Oregon’s development: National arkets were created for the vast timberlands and rich agricultural and mining resources. Oregon today has 3.8 million people inhabiting 95,997 square miles – Portland is the largest city with 583,000; Eugene is second with 156,000.
The railroad, timber, and lumber mill workers fought for the right to unionize – the state’s progressive spirit was born during this occasionally violent period of labor union recruitment. The economy has transformed into a modern global engine driven by hi-tech, tourism, brewing and food production, distribution and retail, manufacturing, financial services, shipping.
The Heller – Morrison Trail was blazed May 20 – 28, 2015. We landed at 6:30 PM, rented our car, and headed for the Jupiter Hotel in the heart of Portland just across the Burnside Bridge to downtown and the Pearl District.