There’s a good reason it’s known as the Wallowa Country. An hour east of La Grande, you drop into a canyon along the Wallowa River, pinball around the bends and drive into a valley of small towns with a high-alpine backdrop worthy of a red-eye to the Alps. This is a vertical world that sits on the precipice of the Hell’s Canyon gorge and is home to more than thirty 9,000-plus-foot peaks, the most in the Pacific Northwest.
Historical lore dates Tillamook County’s first cheese to around 1856, when William W. Raymond separated curds and whey in a large vat. The growing season was too short, so settlers resorted to cows and surplus milk. Over the past century, Tillamook became synonymous with the 100-year-old Tillamook Creamery, whose medium cheddar was awarded the best at the World Champion Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin this March. That quality no doubt contributes to the little-known fact that Tillamook Cheese Factory is the second most visited site in the state of Oregon. More than one million people each year peer through the observation deck windows to see one of the world’s best cheeses being sliced. Leisha Mizee-Riggert’s forebears emigrated from other cheese-producing nations of Holland and Switzerland and began to raise dairy cows four generations ago in Tillamook. Their family dairy farm, as with 110 others in the area, is a member…
About five years ago, surfing legend and Bend resident Gerry Lopez went into his shop in Maui and built his first stand-up paddle board, a one-off job for a special client. A week and a half later, big wave legend Laird Hamilton, walked into Lopez’s shop to claim the stand-up board that would launch a frenzy over the emergent sport.
Silverton rolls out of the Cascades to the west and over valley soils that support sheep farms, tree nurseries, a handful of vineyards and other agriculture. Fifteen miles west lies the state capitol, Salem, and forty-five miles north is Portland. Silverton takes after neither. Depending on where you look, Silverton is a sliver of artistic Ashland, a dash of Dundee wine country and dose of Eugene oddity.