January 2nd, 2018

Michael J. Totten on the Two Oregons

My friend Michael Totten has written dispatches from the Middle East and many other places, but here he writes about his native Oregon:

'Oregon is divided geographically, culturally, and politically by the Cascade Mountains, a spectacular range of volcanoes roughly 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean that pick up where the Sierra Nevadas leave off, stretching from Lassen County in northern California to the international border with British Columbia. Those mountains are invisible on non-topographical maps. No political boundary takes them into account. The state line between Oregon and Washington mostly follows the Columbia River, and the international border between the United States and Canada follows the 49th parallel. The Cascade Mountains are natural borders, however. Instead of dividing the Pacific Northwest into northern and southern halves along the Columbia River, it might have made more sense to place Portland and Seattle in one state and everything between the Cascades and the Rockies in another. Coming from Portland, I feel more at home in Seattle and even in Vancouver, British Columbia, than I do just an hour east of my house.

The climate is also radically different on each side. Western Oregon is lush, green, and temperate all year. Eastern Oregon is dry; much of it is desert. It is colder in winter and hotter in summer, and it’s as sparsely populated as Wyoming. Vast and empty Malheur County—by itself, five times the size of Delaware—is the least densely populated place in the United States outside Alaska.

The aesthetics are different on each side. Portland is made of brick, glass, steel, green spaces, and Victorian architecture. Eastern Oregon towns are made of wood and iron and rock. Portlanders like water features and art. Eastern Oregonians opt for wagon wheels, antler racks, and animal heads on the walls. ...'

Read the rest at the link.