Last semester I wrote an opinion piece about how you should stop reading this and go outside, and I still wholeheartedly agree with that statement, especially now that the spring weather has finally started to set in and we’re getting more sunny days here in Portland. In these final few weeks of the semester as things start to ramp up, I wanted to elaborate on that sentiment a little bit, and on the ways that I have found to help deal with the many stresses of life in college. Primarily, that sentiment is taking breaks, turning off your computer for a while, and going outside. My only goal here is to inspire you to do just that.
One of my favorite things about UP is its location in Portland, and more generally in Oregon itself. We live just over an hour away from the coast in one direction, the mountains in the other, and gorgeous forests and waterfalls everywhere in between. And for those of us that don’t like driving that long, or that don’t have a car, Portland itself has lots of opportunities to get out and explore that are close enough to bike to or get to on the bus. Forest Park, different outdoor gardens, Pittock Mansion, and tons of other cool spots are all just waiting to be taken advantage of and explored.
This year especially, that has been super important to me. Moving away from my family and starting college last semester was one of the biggest transitions in my life, and that’s saying something considering I’ve lived in four different countries and graduated from my 10th school. Throw COVID-19, quarantine restrictions, and online classes in with all that and you get a freshman year of college that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Getting out to explore the area around Portland, and in the greater area of Oregon and Washington this past year has played a huge role in bringing back a sense of normalcy to my life.
When you’re hiking up a mountain in the dark, racing to catch a sunrise, nothing else really matters. All the stresses of life fade to the background, temporarily replaced by the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. All the school work, upcoming tests, social commitments, and everything else that makes up the brunt of the college experience are suddenly put on pause, and the worries associated with each of them disappear. All that matters is the view at the top of the climb, and it blows me away every single time.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Here is a quick summary of the hikes, camping trips, and other miscellaneous adventures that I’ve gone on this semester. Hopefully one of them looks cool enough that you decide to go do one yourself.
First up, we have Abiqua Falls, an amazing waterfall that’s less than an hour and a half away from campus and a short (yet potentially arduous hike if it’s been raining) 0.8 mile hike. This would be the perfect afternoon trip, and is more than doable for more adventurous people who want to get out and explore without the extra work that comes with longer camping trips.
Next up on the list is another waterfall, this one near Mt. Hood. I went to Tamanawas Falls this semester on an Outdoor Pursuits hiking trip and I was definitely glad I did. This was back in February, and because it’s at a higher elevation there was still lots of snow everywhere. The hike itself is pretty easy though, and we were able to leave our snowshoes in the van. If you are looking for the easiest possible way to see cool spots around Oregon, Outdoor Pursuits is the absolute best way to do it with provided transportation and experienced guides. I would definitely recommend going on as many of their trips as you can.
Cannon Beach is an Oregon classic, and everyone who can should definitely go at some point. I was lucky enough to go twice this semester, once on an afternoon trip with a group of friends, and another time as part of a weekend long extended photography camping trip. The best way to see Cannon Beach is to get there in time to watch the sunset before sitting in front of Haystack Rock and starting a (safe) fire with your friends while you wait for the stars to come out.
Pittock Mansion is up on the southern tip of Forest Park, and offers the best views of Portland that I’ve seen so far, whether I’ve gone during the day or the night. The best part is that it’s only a 20 minute drive from campus, making it a super accessible getaway and a great candidate for spontaneous Zipcar trips.
Smith Rock is one of the farthest places I’ve gone from Portland, but the three hour drive out towards Bend was well worth it. I would recommend leaving campus on a Friday afternoon and camping nearby, waking up early enough the next morning to hike to the top of the rock to watch the sunrise. If you’re lucky and the skies are clear, you’ll also have a perfect view of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and several other smaller mountains on the horizon. You might even see a hot air balloon. There are also lots of awesome things to do in and around Bend, so this could easily be turned into a longer 2-3 day trip depending on how much time you have.
Last but not least, I went on a trip just a couple weeks ago to Mt. St. Helens, a two hour drive from campus up into Washington. We hiked up a trail through the snow near the Johnston Ridge Observatory in time to take photos of the stars and watch the sunrise. The moon was bright enough that it looks almost like the sun in some of the photos, and the mountain itself was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. That same day we ended up driving all the way back to the coast for a sunset hike to Cape Falcon Lookout before ending the night with the aforementioned fire on Cannon Beach.
Most importantly, sometimes the best way to catch a break from Zoom classes and school assignments isn’t a long multi-day trip with lots of driving and hiking (although those are definitely awesome if you’re into that), but instead just a simple walk around campus in the sun, or an afternoon bike ride through the North Portland suburbs, anything to break the monotony. We’re almost done with the semester, hang in there (and go outside).
Ryan Reynolds is a photographer for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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