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When former University of Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington was preparing to enter the National Football League, he presented the hovering media with stickers that read, “ORYGUN.” The joke played off the persistent mispronunciation of his home state’s name—a name that itself arose from a linguistic distortion. Poet Joaquin Miller traced Oregon’s curious name back to the modification of a Portuguese phrase, aure il agua, or “hear the waters.” Following a guide from Mount Hood from the Columbia River, one can indeed hear the rumbling waters that serve as Oregon’s namesake.
One of the highest peaks in the country, Mount Hood stretches 11,240 feet into the clouds. Thanks to its glacial landscape, the mountain sustains one of the longest ski seasons in North America. Not all of Oregon’s water is frozen, however. At nearby Multnomah Falls, a viewing area carved into the surrounding rocks frames two tiers of the 611-foot waterfalls. A walk across the Benson Bridge allows one to look straight down into the cascading waters.
Oregon’s urban and natural wonders tend to exist side-by-side, and both Mount Hood and Multnomah Falls lie within minutes of the bustling city of Portland. The state’s largest urban area, Portland is widely recognized as one of the greenest cities in the U.S. thanks to its light rail, aerial tram, and streetcar system. Rose gardens blossom throughout the city, a fact that inspired the name of the beloved Trail Blazers’ arena. More than 50 breweries craft their beers within Portland’s city limits, making it the world’s preeminent city for microbrews.
Oregonians’ streak of environmentalism extends to their beaches: all 363 miles of coastline are protected public property. Just six miles from the California border, Brookings Beach falls within the state’s temperate “banana belt.” Here, visitors can tread the one-mile loop of the Redwood Nature Trail or take the Redwood Highway to Crater Lake, where cliffs encircle the glassy water like a jagged piecrust.