It’s been a long year, and a long semester. I’ve spent more time looking at a screen in the past couple months than I would care to admit, but what else am I supposed to do now that the majority of my academic and social life takes place entirely online? Our school work has never been more demanding and our motivation to actually do it has never been lower. Let’s just say that this isn’t exactly the freshman year of college that I was expecting. Despite all of that though, there is one thing that has made this year so much better for me than it would have been otherwise: the great outdoors.
For me, the simple act of going outside has served as a much needed break from the monotony of endless Zoom classes, a break from the screens that have consumed most of my waking hours during these past few months. And the great thing is that whether “going outside” means a week long road trip along the Oregon Coast, spending two days backpacking through a national park, taking the afternoon to visit Multnomah Falls, or even just going on a bike ride through the Portland suburbs, it is really a moot point. Each of those things serve the exact same purpose. Getting away from our screens for a while in any form is a much needed reset button. Studies have shown that too much screen time can cause eye strain, sleep problems, weight gain, and poses an overall health risk. Going outside, whether it’s for an afternoon or a week, breaks up the pattern that many of us have likely developed during quarantine; the constant transition from Zoom classes to phone screens and back again.
You should probably just stop reading this right now and go outside. I’ve made my point. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, and go outside, you can thank me later. If I’m not enough to convince you yet though, maybe these pictures will do what words can’t.
Multnomah Falls might just be the most iconic natural landmark in the Portland area, and for good reason. Only a 45 minute drive away from the UP campus, the waterfall is well worth spending an afternoon visiting. I was lucky enough to get to go there on my second day in Portland after moving into the dorms, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Oregon.
If you enjoy camping you’ll love the Mt. Hood area. An hour and a half away from campus, Trillium Lake makes for a perfect weekend getaway with beautiful views of the mountain when the weather is good. There are also other cool places nearby that are worth seeing, like the Mirror Lake hike to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (8 miles round trip), or the trail to Tamanawas Falls (4 miles round trip).
Mt. Rainier National Park is a three and a half-hour drive away from Portland, but was absolutely magical. The hikes to the Fremont Fire Lookout and Pinnacle Peak especially were definitely worth it, with amazing sunsets, stars, and sunrises, and great views of the mountain.
The Oregon Coast has everything from beaches and lighthouses to sand dunes and waterfalls, and would be perfect for anything from a single day visit to a week-long road trip. The Heceta Head Lighthouse, Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor, Oregon Dunes, and Silver Park State Falls were all awesome.
If long drives, camping, and hikes aren’t really your thing, there’s still lots you can do to get outside. While there are definitely some parts of downtown Portland that aren’t as photogenic, others are definitely worth visiting, like the Portland stag sign, and Voodoo Donuts.
The Outdoor Pursuits program is also up and running, and has already done several awesome trips this semester, like hikes through Forest Park and different Kayaking excursions. This one to Tillamook Bay would have been worth it for the ice cream alone.
If you are still here for some reason, I’ll say it again—close your laptop, turn off your phone and go outside. Whether you decide to go hiking this weekend, or go on a bike ride between Zoom classes, you won’t regret it. And if all else fails, you can always grab some friends and turn into ghosts for the evening.
Ryan Reynolds is a photographer for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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