In the never ending debate between the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States, people emphasise California’s sunny beaches, movie stars, and knowledge of how to party (thanks, Tupac). But situated right above it, the real gem of the West Coast can be found: Oregon.
Here, the smog of big cities fades and evergreens taller than buildings take over. It’s natural, untouched, and so ready to be explored that the state has earned the tagline “Exploregon”.
Native Oregonian Kayla Warfield and her golden retriever, Alta, are exploring it all. From the Cascade Mountain Range, to the semi-arid deserts of the Eastern side of the state, to the rugged Pacific coastline, they’ve traversed Oregon, all the while keeping tune with local music from The Decemberists and keeping time with watches from Kaville.
You’ve traveled a lot. What are the must-see places in Oregon?
Everywhere. Seriously, anywhere I go I find myself in awe of the unique beauty of it all. But there are a few spots that really stand out. If you have a whole day, you’ve got to take a trip up to Mt. Hood for a hike or ski session. From above the evergreen timberline on a clear day, you’ll be able to see the Cascade Mountains and their rolling foothills stepping all the way down to the Willamette Valley. I always recommend looping back through Hood River for a pint of the best beer you’ll ever taste at Pfriem Brewery, right on the waterfront that’s bustling with kiteboarders and windsurfers. Driving back through the Columbia River Gorge around sunset makes my heart sing. The clouds that blanket the steep hills turn every shade of color, and waterfalls plunge down the cliffs to join the vast river that borders the highway.
Those are your favourites -- what about Alta’s?
Alta loves anywhere she can romp, play with tennis balls, and chew on sticks. The beach has been one of her favorites since she was a small pup, as she loves digging in the sand and chasing kites (the Oregon Coast is known for its strong winds and colorful kites year-round). I take her snowshoeing at Mt. Hood, as well, and she couldn’t have been happier. She loves eating snow and burrowing in it.
Does Alta have any special gear for her adventures?
Yep! She has a sporty black coat that she wears outside and loves to wear for naps inside, as well as snow booties for colder ventures. Alta also wears a custom-made prosthetic device on her back left paw because she was born without her full foot. She gets around just fine, now!
There are at least 238 waterfalls in Oregon. Haven’t Oregonians ever heard TLC’s warning not to go chasing waterfalls?
We may have heard it, but we definitely haven’t heeded it. Multnomah Falls is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the state, since it’s more than 600 feet tall and beyond gorgeous. But my favorite waterfalls are the ones that are off the beaten path. The harder they are to find, the better! There’re also a lot of waterfalls with swimming holes around here, like Punchbowl Falls and Oneonta Gorge, which are well worth hiking to in the summer.
You spend a lot of time in the wilderness. But what’s it like in Portland, Oregon’s biggest city?
It’s the hipster capital of the United States, maybe the world. As Fred Armisen put it, it’s “where young people go to retire”. If you’re visiting Portland, it’s hard to go wrong, but you should absolutely take a walk on the city esplanade, which follows the banks of the river and crosses iconic bridges, all the while giving you great views of the city. There’s a ton of good food, the people are laidback and friendly, and there’s nature woven into everything. You can’t go two blocks without seeing a small forest, or at the very least the outline of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helen’s, or Mt. Adams on the horizon.
A stop at Powell’s book shop is a must to truly bear witness to our city’s dedication to oddities which include yoga with goats, vegan gentleman’s clubs, and naked bike rides.
How do you find time to go on so many adventures?
The great thing about Portland is that it’s within a 2-3 hour drive of everything. Mountains, forests, beaches, semi-arid deserts. Whatever you want to see or do, it’s possible with the right equipment and planning. And a cute puppy as a travel companion doesn’t hurt.
To see more of Kayla and Alta’s adventures together, check out Alta’s Instagram @Alta_the_goldenpup.