Explore wild Oregon on a trek inspired by the natural world.
Stories by Jules Davies and Chelsea Parrett.

choose your element

Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful. We set out to explore the state of Oregon through the lens of the
Four Elements. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty.

Our first stop was on the Deschutes River, a tributary that starts near La Pine, Oregon and runs 252 miles north to meet with the
Columbia River. One of the most beautiful, rugged and desolate rivers in the country, the Deschutes is a corner of serenity and more
recently has become world renowned as a recreational hub for whitewater rafting and fly­fishing.

Deschutes River

The Deschutes River wilderness has a tone to it, it’s earthy brown color and full­-bodied hills seamlessly twist and wind as you drive side­-by-­side with the river. The dust that engulfs your feet as you walk, the sun beating down on your skin, the humming sound of the insects in tune with the river; it’s a humbling place that makes you feel small. In that feeling, we found ourselves admiring the work of the river, how it had formed and shaped such an intricate and beautiful canyon into the earth, a give and take of two elements: earth and water, colliding and flowing together. This steady strength felt very much of the Earth.

Beavertail Campground

Located 9.8 miles from Maupin, OR down a gravel road, Beavertail is a primitive campground that offers 17 sites, a bathroom, and a sometimes-working water pump, but most importantly it has incredible views of both the river and a large canyon surrounding you from all sides.

Tips + Things To Do

Wallowa County

The next leg on our trip through the Oregon element of Earth is tucked in the Wallowa Mountains. Joseph, OR is about as far northeast as the state goes and is referred to as the “Switzerland of America”. With peaks towering more than 10,000 feet over clear blue lakes and picturesque cattle fields, this place quickly leaves you with a taste of nostalgia. One of Oregon’s best kept secrets is Hells Canyon, where the Snake River has carved a gorge that is 1,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon! With epic views, calm lakes, snow-capped mountains, and a handful of small towns where everyone seems to know each other, this is truly a slice of rural heaven.

The Jennings Hotel

One individual who saw the immense beauty and opportunity in Wallowa County was our friend Greg Hennes. After years of contemplating his departure from Portland, OR to make Joseph his new home, Greg hatched a plan that would, as he puts it “send him inexorably down the path of accidental hotelier” after purchasing the 1910 Jennings Hotel on Main Street.

Through the powers of hard work, good taste, and a social media phenomenon via Kickstarter and Instagram, Greg has turned this once fallen hotel/apartment complex into a design-driven community space for those seeking the solitude and gratitude of such a beautiful landscape.

The Jennings Hotel features thoughtfully curated rooms filled with light and character. The minimal designs and tall ceilings allow space for you to breathe, while the communal kitchen/library can often be found filled with laughter and conversation as hotel guests come and go. One of our favorite amenities at The Jennings is the sauna, which acts as a social binding agent for those who care to löyly together, and on our first night we managed to squeeze 7 friends into a space most comfortably fitting 4.

Things To Do In Joseph, OR

Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful. We set out to explore the state of Oregon through the lens of the
Four Elements. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty.

The diversity of Oregon is incredible. As you drive just one to two hours in any direction you’ll find a continuous fluctuation of what
seems to be completely new landscapes and ecosystems. From the lushious rolling hills of the Wallowas to the high desert of Central
Oregon, there are no limits to the beauty of this majestic state. To continue our journey through the four elements, we looked for Fire.

High Lava Plains

Probably the most expected of places to find Fire, we headed straight towards Newberry Crater in Central Oregon. Much of Oregon’s geological history is tied to the extreme volcanic activity of the Cascade Range, a series of mountains formed in a subduction zone that spans vertically through the Pacific Northwest. (California, Oregon, Washington)

Cascade Mountains in Oregon

  • Mt. Hood
  • Mt. Jefferson
  • Mt. Washington
  • Three Fingered Jack
  • Three Sisters
  • Mt. Bachelor
  • Newberry Crater
  • Crater Lake

Unlike most volcanoes with one major peak, Newberry Crater is a “composite volcano” formed by an array of 400 volcanic vents scattered across the slopes of its 5 -mile wide caldera. Numerous lava flows surround its crater extending for miles which makes Newberry Crater the largest volcano in the Cascades.

This dynamic environment conjures up a sense of wonder as you imagine massive fields of hot lava flowing from their tumultuous chambers below. The most recent eruption that burned and charred the earth with this strangely beautiful dark scar happened nearly 6,000 years ago.

Paulina Lake Hot Springs

Sitting at 6,340 feet on the western edge of the Newberry Crater is Paulina Lake (pronounced: paul­eye­na), an idyllic blue gem surrounded by thick forests covered in electric green moss and glistening obsidian trails. Yes, the trails literally shine like glitter with tiny pieces of black obsidian that have been slowly chipped away.

In true Oregon fairweather fashion, the night we arrived it was so stormy you could barely see 20 feet through the fog resting on the lake. A moody evening that left us no choice but to seek shelter and a delicious dinner at the neighboring lodge at East Lake. After dinner we quickly set up camp in the rain, went to sleep and hoped for a clear morning to hike to the hot springs.

Paulina Lake

  • Stay at Little Crater Campground. Find a spot by the water.
  • Get dinner at East Lake Lodge, try the Tempeh Reuben or
    the Salmon. Yum.
  • If you can, get there on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
  • Set your alarm for sunrise. Seriously...do it.

Alas, sunshine! The intensity of color we woke to was astounding. It felt like a new season had arrived and we jetted out of camp in hopes of arriving first at the hot springs. The entire hike around the lake is an easy 7.8 mile loop, the perfect route for all levels of hikers, and at 1.2 miles there are a few hidden trails to the left that lead you down to a secluded beach of semi­-established pools dug out and formed with driftwood.

Lucky us, we had the entire place to ourselves for the first few hours of the day.

The act of soaking in such a natural hot spring truly feels transformative. This highly delicate environment, being fed warmth from the depths of the earth, offering us such a welcoming and pleasurable experience is unique and certainly wild. The element of fire we found wasn’t too hot to touch, it was just right – just enough to warm our souls and heal our bones.

Our Hot Spring Tips:

  • Clothing is optional, but make sure to bring your suit just in case.
  • LNT: Leave no trace! Preserving the habitat means everyone can enjoy.
  • Sunrise or Sunset are optimal times to soak. Don’t forget a headlamp.
  • Bring your camp coffee kit. Trust us.

Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful. We set out to explore the state of Oregon through the lens of the
Four Elements. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty.

The challenge of both capturing and exploring the element of Air is inexplicable in nature, as something that cannot be seen. In our
search, we thought that the best manifestation of air would be to visit the birthplace of Sport Climbing, Smith Rock State Park.

Smith Rock

With towering walls of rock standing hundreds of feet above the charming Crooked River below, it never stops feeling overwhelming even after almost 18 years of visiting this place. Smith Rock is a force. It has a way of drawing you in, and in many cases, drawing those who dare UP. This has been claimed as the birthplace of modern day Sport Rock Climbing. With thousands of established routes, mostly bolted and managed by a careful team of rangers and volunteers, Smith Rock is one giant playground for climbers and adventure seekers.

While setting up camp at the Bivy we noticed a young Bald Eagle flying around it’s nest and later learned, from a local nature photographer, it had just learned to fly several weeks before. The proximity to such a symbolic creature of freedom seemed so fitting for the challenge we were on. The element of Air was effortlessly woven into this experience.

Smith Rock 101

  • Chase the shade. No matter the time of year, climbing in the sun is hard.
  • Bring extra water. Hydration is key.
  • If you’re new and learning to climb, make sure you carry gear and a good attitude.
  • Don’t forget your guide book. Buy on at Redpoint in Terrebone, OR.
  • Stop for Huckleberry Ice Cream on your way out. It’s really good.

The best way to enjoy Smith is to have a solid crew of friends along for the trip. There are several places to camp, and if you’re looking for great access to the climbing wall and epic views, the Bivy at Smith Rock State Park is your best bet. Note that you have to walk ­in and there’s a fire ban. If you’re camping with a larger crew, drive 10 minutes out to Skull Hollow Campground where you’ll have space to car camp and the ability to have campfires. Some of the most memorable moments from climbing trips are spent around the campfire after a long day on the wall.

Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful. We set out to explore the state of Oregon through the lens of the
Four Elements. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty.

The last element on our list is Water. Oregon has no shortage of water dominated landscapes to visit, but we felt the Oregon Coast
would be the pinnacle example of Water.

The Oregon Coast

A quintessential surf spot, Oswald State Park, otherwise known as Short Sands has become the mecca of tough cold­water Oregonian surf culture. This is no “Beach­ Boys” summer day get­-a­tan type of beach. It’s truly not even called a beach to most who know. It’s called The Coast.

About a 10 minute walk in from the parking lot through dark green rain forest filled with massive tree trunks and mushroom lined trails, it suddenly opens up wide to a serene-looking cove tucked away like a secret treasure.

The alternating weather changes on the Oregon Coast that seem to flow in and out as fast as the waves do reflects the essence of Water. One moment you’re basking in the sunshine with your toes in the sand, and the next you’re running to the forest for cover and a down jacket. It’s the type of place that keeps you on your toes.

The best way to endure the storms between is to share it with friends. Huddling together, building a fire, even in the windiest of days and grilling food as the sun dips below the horizon. This is the kind of place you find peace in still moments, as they often feel rare.

Oregon Coast

  • Bring a layer for every type of weather. Even if it says sunshine.
  • ­The ocean water is actually warmer in the fall/winter.
  • ­Bring your own wood for a fire, since almost everything is wet.
  • ­Socks and Chaco Sandals are the best post-surf footwear.
    Comfort is key.
  • ­Always carry a trash bag with you to pick up the beach.
    Leave it better than you found it.

Pack up and go

Your own adventures await. Gear up with Chaco.

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