Off-the-grid in Oregon’s Wild East

Be prepared for a very different experience of the Pacific Northwest when you travel east of the Cascades. Swap towering evergreens, rocky coastline and cloudy skies for sagebrush plains, dusty canyons and craggy mountains - all doused in high desert sunshine and steeped in history. Travel back centuries in the wagon ruts of early settlers or millennia in fossil beds created by ancient floods. With all the ghost towns and wide open horizons, you may mistake Eastern Oregon for a lonely place, but we will connect you with friendly families who have been ranching, farming, and exploring this land for generations. As you spend time with them, they will connect you to their world in this remote, beguiling corner of the state.


Days 1 & 2

Enjoy the big city perks while you can; the colorful craftsman homes, streets choked with cyclists, and funky food carts will soon feel a thousand miles away. Based in the heart of downtown, you will be just a stone’s throw away from iconic spots like Powell’s Bookstore and Voodoo Donuts, but we will make sure you have plenty of reasons to cross one of the city’s nine bridges to experience the eclectic neighborhoods, arts districts and expansive urban greenspaces that make Portland like nowhere else. 

On Sauvie Island, this afternoon, a beekeeper and passionate pollinator advocate will help you suit up and show you what it takes to maintain a healthy hive before serving up a honey and cheese tasting alongside the farm’s flower fields. On a clear day, you’ll see at least three snow-capped volcanoes while you enjoy your spread.  Watch the sunset over Forest Park with a  local brew on Revolution Hall’s rooftop, or pull up  a stool for a custom cocktail at Angel Face.

The Deschutes River

Days 3 & 4

Leave the city in your rearview mirror and drive towards Oregon’s dry side. Your route to Maupin takes you over the shoulder of Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. Make a short detour up a winding road cutting through thick fir forest, to the historic Timberline Lodge and jaw-dropping views of the Southern Cascades.

Descending the pass, you’ll have a great view of the golden, high desert plateau, before pulling into laid-back Maupin and your waterfront lodge on the Deschutes River.

In the morning, you’ll step outside your door and start your white water adventure directly from the lodge.   As you travel the river through steep desert canyons, you’ll tackle the rapids of ‘The Narrows’, the Deschutes’ most scenic section. This afternoon, return to the lodge for a barbecue on the riverside lawn and swap stories with fellow rafters around the firepit as the last light fades behind the canyon wall.

Wilson Ranch  & The Painted Hills

Days 5 – 7

Emerge from the river valley and onto the rolling plains en route to a historic sheep and cattle ranch. This expansive property has been producing wool, beef,  grain and hay continuously for 150 years, but the ranchers here are far from old school. As you walk the dusty grounds and pastures, you will see how they  have been guiding national conversations around sustainable and local textile production  long before it was in vogue, paving the way for partnerships with top brands such as Patagonia and Ralph Lauren.

Travel past the crumbling ghost town of Shaniko, and through Antelope, where villagers and the Rajneesh cult clashed in the popular documentary Wild Wild Country.  From here, we meet up with the “Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” a befitting route to take you to the town of Fossil.  The Wilson Ranch Retreats, a 9,000 acre cattle ranch set just a few miles out of town, will be your home for the next three nights. Each day you’ll get a taste of life on the working ranch, starting with a hearty breakfast around the kitchen table alongside the sixth and seventh generation of Wilson ranchers. We will be sure you spend a day exploring the property’s expansive valley and rolling high desert hills on horseback. If you are ready to spend several hours in the saddle, you can help ride for strays and check fencing, or if your timing is right, join in on a cattle drive or pasture move. 

Explore historic Mitchell with a local, who will show you just how lively this ghost town remains before showing you the best view points of the Painted Hills. These mounds stretched with bands of sunset-hued soils serve as visual representations of millenia of geological changes and the resting place for fossils dating back nearly 40 million years. On the way back to the ranch, we’ll show you where you can conduct your own fossil dig to bring home a few ancient souvenirs. 

Minam River Lodge

Days 8 – 10

Today you will continue on to a different sort of backcountry adventure. The Minam River Lodge is an off-grid yet luxurious retreat in the remote Eagle Cap Wilderness. You can reach this alpine paradise on foot, on horseback or by charter plane. We recommend flying or hiking in and riding out, but just let us know your preference and we’ll take care of the rest. 

Your days at the lodge can be as busy or as relaxed as you choose. If you’re feeling adventurous, lace up your boots and head into the Wallowa Mountains on foot. If you’d rather spend a day on the river, we can pack in the necessary fishing gear.  For a slower pace, ease into your day with a sauna session or a morning yoga class. Everyone can wind down with an afternoon massage and an evening hot tub soak under the stars. Your only firm commitments are the incredible dining experiences hosted by the property’s chef, made with ingredients grown on-site or at the farms and ranches seen from the plane on your way in.

After your time along the Minam River comes to a close, you may be reluctant to head back to civilization, but a scenic drive along the Columbia River will give you time to reflect on your journey through the Oregon outback. Break up the day with a stop at Tamastslikt Cultural Institute to learn about the area’s indigenous people in historic Pendleton or with a quick hike in the gorge before returning to Portland.

From The Magazine


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