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The 50-year-old perspective: exploring

While I'll all for staycations in Hillsdale (yoga at OmBase, chamomile tea at Baker & Spice, shop the sale at Paloma's, deep breath and repeat), Oregon Territory was known for its adventure and we still have it. I'm writing this from the catwalk of a fire lookout near John Day, where we've spent three glorious days hiking, exploring the culture and cozying in. That old adage was right, but in Oregon it's "Go east, young man, go east!"

Did you know there is a Mount Vernon in Oregon? How about that Prineville Western Wear is the best place in the state for a cowboy belt? Speaking of cowboys, you can be one at Wilson Ranches Retreat in Fossil, stay in the bunkhouse and have a ranch breakfast. Did you know that the Strawberry Mountains are in Oregon, not Candyland? That you can collect charms from every shop and restaurant in Pendleton and put together one heck of a bracelet? That you can stay in a tepee on the rim of Joseph Creek Canyon and hear the coyotes sing when you're in the outhouse?

How about spying wild Kiger mustangs in the Steens Mountains after a hearty dinner at the historic Frenchglen Hotel? Or that the Terrebonne Depot is an old train station still beside the track, but now serving up bison burgers on the deck overlooking Smith Rock? And every town has a "merc" which is quite different from the chic one in downtown Portland that has a Super Bowl Sunday sale. (And, hey, the one in Dayville is for sale if you want a real adventure!) I know I'm beginning to sound like Gerry Frank here, but people, there is still half a state east of Bend.

We're lucky in Oregon. The West people still seek out is in our backyard. Yes, it takes driving east of The Dalles or going up and over the Ochocos and through Picture Gorge, but it is worth it. My son has dug fossils, hiked into High Lake with his dog, water-squirted his cousins while floating the Grande Ronde, moved cattle down a draw before he started grade school, hiked into a fire lookout with a full backpack and forgotten toilet paper — and survived (his mother not so much). He knows columnar basalt, sage grouse and that juniper is not native to Oregon. And yep, he’s still a boy; he loves that fire lookouts have electricity for watching a movie on your iPad and one heck of a launching pad for any number of projectiles. Adventure can be made anywhere.

We love Portland and it has its own adventures (think Gay Pride parade on Father's Day with naked bicyclists), but we owe it to ourselves as Oregonians, as well as to our kids and grandkids, to explore the other side of the state. Go east!

Lori Sweeney was born in Prineville and has been to half the places Gerry Frank recommends. She gives out free Eastern Oregon travel advice at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..