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Exploring Oregon with Anne Guthrie

When I spoke on the phone to Oregon resident and outdoors aficionado Anne Guthrie, she was hurtling through northeast Oregon on her way to the tiny town of Enterprise. There, she intended to explore the Eagle Cap Wilderness and Hell’s Canyon,  America’s deepest river gorge.

It was a typical weekend for Guthrie, a 27-year-old Oregon transplant from Philadelphia, who has spent the last year documenting her explorations of the state on her blog, Annie in Oregon. While she made the eight-hour trek from Eugene (where she resides), we discussed Oregon’s unique geography, the power of the desert and the best way to get a tire patched in the middle of nowhere on Labor Day.

What motivated you to start your blog?

GUTHRIE: I felt like Oregon wasn’t really well known to the traveler.  I’ve lived here for five years and realized that there is so much incredible wilderness around me. I have been so impressed by the majestic, raw, beauty of this land, that I just wanted to document it so people could check it out.

How do you find out about many of the more out-of-the-way places you visit?

GUTHRIE:  One of my favorite things to do is call the local ranger stations. They’ll tell you so many stories and talk to you for as long as you want.  When I’m discovering a new place, I try to spend a lot of time talking to the locals as well.  From that, I’ve been able to find all these amazing places, many of which don’t have many tourists.

So often people are afraid to talk to strangers, but some of the best experiences I’ve had traveling in Oregon have been when I’ve stopped at a sketchy bar and chatted up the bar tender or the waitress or the tow truck driver. People have really rich lives and will tell you some incredible stuff.

Why do you think Oregon has stayed under the radar?

GUTHRIE: In the Northwest, I think Washington takes a lot of the tourists, and when people travel here they go to whatever is outside of Portland and they don’t realize Oregon is so huge, with so many different geographies. Right now, I’m all the way out in Enterprise, where you feel really small and isolated and it’s kind of breathtaking to feel this sort of raw desert beauty, then, when you get to the west side of the Cascades, you see so much color and so much life.

What part of the state is your favorite?

GUTHRIE: Right now, I’m more into the Eastern section, which kind of has an ascetic feel. You have to come to grips with it and it really makes you think about who you are and what you do.

Your writing is fairly intimate. How has traversing and exploring Oregon changed you at a personal level?

GUTHRIE: I feel for the first time truly attached to the land. Eugene is kind of a hippie bubble and so going out and traveling has really made me feel more connected to the land and the people.  Oregon is a very natural place, when you travel across it you see the decay of what used to be America, you see towns that were built on lumber and now there’s  just nothing.

In a lot of these places [decayed towns], this was the American Dream, people would come out here, they would get duped into thinking they could farm where they couldn’t, but they would stay and make it work.  Seeing that kind of makes me feel connected to this idea of the American Dream and think about what it means now.

On your blog, you often chronicle or at least provide background information on the history of the places you visit.  What motivated you to begin that habit?

GUTHRIE: It’s just a travel philosophy that I have. Looking at the history just gives me an idea about what a place will be like and where I might want to go. Though I do some reading before, I probably do most of it afterward.  I tend to not put too much effort into knowing about these places, until I get to know them by being there.

So, yeah, I do want to make sure I know the lay of the land before I arrive, but, at the same time, if I lock myself into having to experience one thing, one trail, I could get disappointed very fast, because you discover a lot more when you stay flexible, that’s how you get way more insight.

Is there one moment from all of your experiences that sticks outa highlight of sorts?

GUTHRIE: There was a moment when I was driving through the desert. You never really remember how high the desert is, your driving, and it seems so flat, but I remember getting out of the car and there was a this giant bowl-shaped Gorge in front of me, and it was a huge drop, a giant gorge, and then, suddenly the mountains just appeared out nowhere.  Really, it just surprised me, to suddenly  find myself in the midst of something like that.

What advice would you give to those who want to spend more time exploring the outdoors, but just can’t breakthrough with the motivation to do so?

GUTHRIE: You need to get in the car in the drive. It’s that simple, just get in your car and drive, get a cup of coffee and don’t worry about where you’re going.

This article is part of our ongoing outdoor blogger spotlight series.  If you’d like to have your blog profiled, contact with the URL and a brief description.