Scenes in Oregon, Three Sisters Wilderness by Charley Zheng

Portland, OR is my home but when I talk about where I live, I rarely talk about the city proper. What I truly consider my home is actually all the amazing stuff outside of PDX. Portland is just the gatekeeper, the very front door of the house, if you will. That’s why I selected these photos of Elk Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness, a mountainous region about a three hour drive away. They’re a good reminder that what’s amazing about Portland is the diverse access to things that are NOT Portland. When you need to get out of the city, the beach, mountains, desert, and forest are all within reach and, before you know it, you’re on mini-vacations every weekend. I think many Portlanders would agree with me on this. Even an hour drive out of the city will make you feel like you’re in a different country altogether.

Name:Charley Zheng

Digital strategist and photographer.


Always trying to see and experience new things at every possible moment; building an extremely long Google doc of all the places I want to camp this summer; dreaming about the epic meal I’m going to have after a long and grueling hike (before I’ve even gone on it); and adding places to my enormously long “must travel to” list.

Tell us about the place you live:

Portland, OR is a quaint urban center with small town charm. It’s often defined by its quirkiness, creativity, and fondness for patchouli. But more importantly, Portland is unique in that it’s surrounded by incredible beauty in all directions. In a way, the city fuels my love to get the hell outta town. At the same time, I’m always looking forward to go back home. That’s basically what home is all about, right?

A perfect day in Portland?

Wake up at 7 am, pack a daypack, hop in the Soob (Subaru is Portland’s unofficial official car), and hit up a local roaster with a friend for coffee. Then we speed down the highway into the mountains and summit a mountain. Enjoy the views and have a snack, then hike down, get back into the car and speed down the highway towards some obscure, divey pub in an ultra small town and eat the best burger of our lives. Then it’s bottoms up on some local beer and chat up the locals before buying an ice cream for dessert. After that, drive home, hit the sack, and sleep a damn good night’s sleep. Maybe do it all over again the next day.

What is the best thing about Portland?

There’s really good coffee at every corner of the city, and I-84.

What is the worst?

This is both a curse and a blessing: there are so many fellow outdoors enthusiasts in this city. Sometimes it’s difficult to enjoy a good time out in the wild because everyone and their moms are single-filing up the trail.

What would be surprising about Portland to an outsider?

Two things come to mind: Portland shuts down at 10 pm. And all the nature-y stuff I’ve already mentioned. You need to experience it to believe it.

If Portland was a person or character who would it be?

That’s hard to say. I’d rather describe it as a food. Portland is like a Monte Cristo sandwich–it’s just got a little bit of everything; it’s savory and sweet, it’s soft and crispy, and it’s got all this delicate, powdery sweetness on the outside, plus a side of THE JAM!

Who are three of your favorite artists?

I’m heavily influenced by the Hudson River school of painting, which was a 19th-century art movement composed of a group of landscape painters including Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt, to name a prominent few. Their aesthetic vision was defined by themes of discovery and exploration, and the idea of man and nature co-existing peacefully. One of my favorite pieces is Sierra Nevada, painted by Bierstadt. For me, it represents the ultimate ideal–a vast wilderness with mountain scenery so epic and so expertly painted, it’s difficult to feel like you’re not in the painting itself. These guys had a crazy power and ability in doing that–bringing the viewer into the scene, which is something I also strive towards in my work.


Name:Charley Zheng


Favorite place to eat:

In the city, probably Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen. Outside the city, I’d say Zig Zag Inn near Mt. Hood.

Favorite place to drink:

I love Barista for coffee and Angel Face for drinks.

Favorite shop:

Andy & Bax.

Local Tip:

You’ll find the finest mac-and-cheeses at the Skyway Bar and Grill in Welches, OR. It’s about an hour’s drive away, but it’s worth it if you’re a mac and cheese fanatic like me. They also have a rad fireplace. It’s an awesome post-hike dinner spot.

Must Do:

Take a day trip out of the city to the coast.