What to do in Oregon

Steve and I have been lucky enough to visit Oregon several times and explore some of the beautiful hiking trails and viewpoints throughout the state.  Oregon has some of the most beautiful waterfalls, gorgeous beach scenery, desert adventures, and wonderful mountain views in this country.  There are so many things I could write about, but I narrowed it down to 13 of my favorite things we’ve seen and done in Oregon.

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Mount Hood

1. Abiqua Falls – It was a very rough road to get to the parking lot of this waterfall.  We drove a high clearance, 4WD truck and it still felt like the car might be destroyed. It was a short hike on a rugged, steep, and slippery trail.  When we arrived, the waterfall was absolutely breathtaking as the late afternoon sun rays poured through the trees to light up a magical scene.

 

2. Wahclella Falls – This is an amazing waterfall located in the Columbia River Gorge.  It is a relatively easy 2.4 mile round trip hike in a beautiful, lush forest.  The waterfall itself is powerful and covers you in refreshing mist if you get too close!

3. Trillium Lake and Lost Lake – These are two great spots to view Mount Hood.  We camped at both of these lakes during our van trip and really enjoyed the stunning views.  Lost Lake was very crowded on a summer weekend.  If you go for a day trip, make sure to arrive early to claim one of the lakefront day use spots.  Trillium Lake was a bit more rustic and much more calm and peaceful.

Here is a photo of the Milky Way over Lost Lake taken by my talented husband Steve Walasavage.

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4. Punch Bowl Falls – The 3.8 mile round trip hike to this waterfall is a stunning walk through an incredibly beautiful northwestern forest. When we went, it was drizzling and the hills were draped in thick fog.  There is an awesome view of the falls from above and then another after you climb down to the bottom. I really loved this hike!

5. Samuel H. Boardman State Park – This is a beautiful stretch of the rugged Oregon coast with stunning views and precarious hikes. I wrote more about Samuel H Boardman State Park in this blog post!

6. Toketee Falls – This was a very quick 0.8 mile round trip hike.  It leads to a viewing platform with an amazing view of the falls.  The waterfall is stunning and the basalt columns give it a really unique look!

7. Tamolitch Blue Pool – We woke up early to make the 2.1 mile hike to the Blue Pool (4.2 miles round trip).  The hike was easy and beautiful, weaving through lovely forest scenes and crossing perfect rivers.  When we arrived, the view of this dazzling blue pool completely blew me away! There were only a handful of people there when we arrived and we scrambled down the steep slope to the edge of the pool. After some trepidation, we dove in. It was some of the coldest water I’ve ever felt!  But the rush of being in such a beautiful place and the refreshing jolt of jumping in made this an unforgettable experience.  On our hike back to the car, hundreds of hikers were coming in and the parking lot was completely full. Be sure to get up early to do this hike. It’s worth it!

8. Multnomah Falls – This is one of the most accessible and beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever been to.  It can be crowded with tourists and gets very busy, but the scenery is breathtaking and it is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the Columbia River Gorge! (Photo by Steve Walasavage)

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9. The Painted Hills – Most of the time we’ve spent in Oregon was at the coast, in the woods, or exploring waterfalls.  However, there are some really beautiful desert areas.  A few years ago we drove out to the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  The unique sand hills and rainbow of colors were really incredible!  Watch out for rattlesnakes if you visit this spot.

10. Tamanawas Falls – This was a very pretty waterfall on a relatively easy trail (3.6 miles round trip).  We didn’t have much time to spend at this waterfall, but enjoyed the hike and the lovely view of the falls!

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11. Rowena Crest –  This is a beautiful lookout over an incredible winding road. It’s straight out of a car commercial (in fact they were filming a car commercial the day we were there!) We also went in April when the wild flowers were unbelievable.

12. Susan Creek Falls – Unfortunately this waterfall was swarming with mosquitoes when we visited this spring.  However, it was still a gorgeous hike and I would love to back in a different season!

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13. Crater Lake – This is one of the first national parks I ever visited!  The lake was formed by a volcano that collapsed around 7,700 years ago.  It is also the deepest lake in the United States at 1,949 feet deep! We only spent one afternoon there, but I’d love to go back to explore and do some hiking!

 

What are your favorite spots in Oregon? Have you been to any of the locations listed in this blog? Do you have recommendations of places to visit in Oregon that aren’t in this post? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).

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The Instagram Algorithm

Hello again!

Ahh Instagram. There’s a good chance you found this blog through my Instagram profile and if so, hello and welcome! If not, feel free to check out my profile and share your thoughts about this blog post (@carrieoutdoors). I have a lot of feelings about Instagram: some are good, some are bad. I’d like to share some of my thoughts and experiences below, especially as they relate to the changes to Instagram’s algorithm, and then I’d love to hear what you have to say about all of this!

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My Instagram Profile

 

What I Love about Instagram

I really do love Instagram and it has opened up a whole new world for me. Below I will discuss the amazing community I have found through Instagram as well as the unbelievable travel inspiration it has provided.

  • The Outdoorsy Community

Instagram has an awesome community of photographers, bloggers, nature lovers, hikers, and like-minded adventurers. I know there are other niches on Instagram (such as accounts based on food, celebrities, and fashion) but I really only spend time in the nature themed sections. Living in cities for the past 12 years (Syracuse, NYC and Boston) didn’t lead me to interact with too many outdoorsy people. However, on Instagram I have been able to connect with so many! It’s been wonderful and inspiring.

I love reading people’s photo captions and thinking “YES! THIS! EXACTLY MY THOUGHTS!” Whether it’s a caption about Leave No Trace and treating the wilderness with respect, adventuring safely, or just some inspiring words about a recent hike, I really enjoy reading what many Instagrammers have to say about exploring the outdoors and enjoying the beauty of nature. I feel like I have found my outdoors people. It’s so awesome.

I have created some personal connections with a handful of unbelievably inspiring accounts both large and small. Between comments and DMs, it’s been so amazing to connect with these awesome people and share adventures virtually! I have met a few of these people in real life and had some great hikes and conversations. I have also attended an Instameet in New Hampshire through The Northeast Collective where I was able to hike and explore in my favorite White Mountains with a group of excellent photographers, with whom I’ve been able to stay in touch!

 

  • Travel Inspiration 

The second reason I love Instagram is the travel inspiration. It is so much more personal than browsing random Pinterest boards or “top places to visit” websites and guidebooks. The photos on Instagram feel more real. These are real people posting real photos, often with real captions and stories to go with them. A lot of the time the people who took the photos are also willing to chat and answer questions about the particular location or how they took the photo. And they aren’t just the most popular scenic viewpoints either. I learn about hidden spots, lesser known hot springs, wonderful backcountry trails, and secret views. (Granted, many of these photos smartly don’t come with location tags, meaning I’ll have to do my homework to figure out where they are located – always a fun research project for me!). Here are some examples of how Instagram inspired and revolutionized my travels.

⇒ Norway Honeymoon

On our recent honeymoon to Norway, many of the places we visited were found through Instagram. The trip probably wouldn’t have been as epic without Instagram as a palette from which I found the colors to paint our beautiful honeymoon. For example, Bondhusvatnet and Lovatnet, two lesser known but absolutely stunning lakes in Norway, were spots we found through Instagram that we may not have visited otherwise! See our photos of the two lakes below.

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Bondhusvatnet
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Lovatnet

⇒ US Vanlife Road Trip

Our van trip around the United States has also been enhanced greatly by spots we have found on Instagram. I doubt we would have made the drive out to the Alabama Hills or explored around to find the Hot Creek viewpoint, if not for the inspiration we found on Instagram. See our photos of these two amazing spots below.

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The Alabama Hills
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Hot Creek Geological Site

⇒ Bucket List Additions

I have also fallen in love with new areas that quickly jumped to the top of my bucket list for future travels thanks to Instagram. These places include Patagonia, Argentina (inspired by @michaelmatti), the Cordillera Huayhuash trek in Peru (inspired by @everchanginghorizon), and the Faroe Islands (inspired by @reneeroaming). I honestly had no idea how incredibly beautiful these places were before seeing them on my Instagram feed and now I can’t wait to plan future trips!

 

The New Algorithm

As many of you probably know, Instagram changed something about its algorithm in the past year or so. It altered the Instagram feed so that posts no longer show in chronological order and makes it so some posts and users are more visible than others. I don’t really understand the details and I certainly don’t understand why they did this, but what I can tell you is that it has had a pretty noticeable negative effect on my Instagram experience for several reasons.

  • The weird order of posts

I don’t understand why the posts stopped being chronological! I think the new algorithm favors posts that are doing particularly well, and prioritize those in the feed. I don’t want that! I want to see everything my amazing Instagram friends are posting, in chronological order, not just the most popular stuff. Plus I am bound to see those super popular photos again and again as they are featured by all of the large hubs. It makes me sad that I am missing posts by some really talented friends and photographers, simply because they aren’t showing up in my feed. Sometimes I will click on a friend’s profile and realize that the past 5-10 posts never showed up for me and I missed their beautiful images. What else have I been missing out on!?

This also means my own photos are being seen less often by my followers. If some one is following a 200k follower account and also following me, I wonder whose photo is more likely to be seen in the feed… This has led to a striking decrease in engagement on my posts, which I will discuss below.

  • Lower Engagement = Missed Connections

The biggest downside to the changes are that my posts are seen by fewer people and therefore I simply connect with fewer people. Now you might be thinking “Ugh all she cares about is getting likes on Instagram, gross!” But honestly, that’s not it. I miss the connections. I miss new people finding my page, leaving a kind comment, letting me know they were inspired by something I posted, and in turn allowing me to discover their page and be inspired by them. This used to happen all the time, and now, only rarely. I have connected with and met some incredible people through Instagram and it makes me sad that those interactions are happening less frequently.

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I miss this level of engagement!
  • Fewer Opportunities

A lower engagement also means less opportunities to collaborate with brands and companies, who used to reach out a lot more often, but now seem to turn to the same top accounts time and time again. Also, I have really picked up my blog writing since the algorithm changed, and it makes me sad that fewer people will find my blog and read what I have to say. I imagine that people who make a living through blogging and social media must be taking a pretty big hit due to these changes. For me, this is just a hobby but I can see how this would be much more devastating if I were relying on my Instagram interactions to make a living.

 

Proof of the Changes

The numbers don’t lie. Around December, my most awesome Norway adventure photos were getting around 4,000 likes and 100 comments and my less exciting nature posts were getting 2,000 likes and 30 comments. Now, my best photos can barely crack 1,000 likes and maybe 15 comments, despite a pretty big increase in my number of followers. I haven’t really changed anything about the hashtags I use, the comments I write, or the time of day I post.  I’ve done a couple of experiments to compare similar photos posted in winter of 2016 versus now, and there is a clear discrepancy. I posted identical photos and the one posted in December 2016 got 2,993 likes and 97 comments while the same post from May 2017 got 2,031 likes and 79 comments.  That is quite a huge difference for almost the same picture, especially when considering that I gained almost 10,000 followers between those two photos!

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Knowing that approximately 1,000 less people are seeing and interacting with my content each time I post is disheartening. That’s thousands of missed connections! Especially as Steve and I travel around the country, it is a bummer that I’ll have less of a chance of finding awesome people to connect with in each region we visit.

 

How to Combat the New Algorithm?

I honestly don’t have an answer on how to combat the new algorithm and I do not have any solutions for how to get your photos noticed or how to gain followers. I will outline a few of the things that I do to try and improve my engagement, but honestly none of it seems to be working all that well. I now average 700 likes on a photo, even some pretty incredible scenery, which is around what I was getting on my posts back when I had half as many followers. I know that I’m not an amazing photographer, and I am not saying that I deserve thousands more followers or likes. I am simply comparing my engagement now to how it used to be and there has been a very noticeable change. Anyway, here are some tips that may or may not help.

  • Create the best possible content

This is kind of an obvious one, but I have taken more time to be sure that what I post is the best content that I can create. I suppose it has inspired me to find the most scenic views possible, to wake up extra early for the best possible lighting and has pushed me to learn more about photo editing to get better looking images. On the downside, the new algorithm encourages people to only photograph the same epic viewpoints and the same types of scenes that always seem to do well on Instagram. I also see many cookie cutter accounts with the same exact editing styles, as people copy the most popular accounts to try and gain followers. I think creativity both in the shooting and editing of photos has taken a hit. How unfortunate!

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I woke up early for this sunrise at Convict Lake!
  • Finding the best hashtags

Hashtags are one way that people can find your photos on Instagram. I try to maximize how many people will be seeing my posts by trying to find the best hashtags to use. Not all hashtags are equal! If a hashtag is too unpopular, then no one will likely see it (for example #goatonamountaintop has only 3 posts) but if a hashtag is too popular, your image will quickly get lost in a sea of thousands of photos (for example #wanderlust has 43 million posts). I try to keep a balance and have a mix of small, medium, and large hashtags.

I still don’t know how many hashtags are allowed. I used to do 60 tags (30 in a comment and 30 more in the caption). However, recently I heard that only 30 hashtags work and the other 30 are invisible so I switched back to 30. I have also heard about certain hashtags being banned or the idea of an account being “shadowbanned” for using broken hashtags without ever being notified. However, I really don’t know anything about these things. If you know more about this, let me know in the comments!

I always try to keep an eye our for weekly hashtag contests and weekend projects such as those on @PassionPassport and @REI as well as @Instagram’s WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project). Not only will I have a shot at winning the contest and be featured by a large account, it also means these specific hashtags are likely to be looked at as new people enter the contest and browse through the entries.

I try to choose hashtags appropriate to each individual photo, including location and regional tags, and I often try to choose hashtags that are associated with real brands or legitimate accounts. I also check that those accounts actually feature random people from Instagram and not just their own ambassadors, photographers, or employees. For example, National Geographic (@natgeo) typically features photos from official National Geographic photographers. On the other hand, Clif Bar (@clifbar) has featured a handful of my photos through the #FeedYourAdventure hashtag, which seems much more worth it! It is still a trial and error process. I’d love to hear any suggestions when it comes to the best hashtags!

  • Instagram “Pods”?

I have recently heard of something known as Instagram “Pods” where a group of big accounts has a secret chat room, either through Instagram DM or an outside chat app. Through this chat room, people announce when they post a new photo and then the rest of the people hop on Instagram to immediately like and comment on the new photo. Supposedly this boosts the photo’s ‘engagement rating’ or something like that, allowing the photo to then be seen by more people, getting more likes and comments, boosting its rating even higher, and the cycle continues.

I was invited to one of these “pods” before I knew what they were, and immediately left the chat group. It felt really strange and inauthentic. The idea of being pressured to comment on some one’s photo felt weird and wrong, as well as knowing that some of the comments on my photos were out of obligation rather than genuine compliments. This idea also makes me think of the incredibly talented photographers and Instagrammers out there who aren’t invited to “pods” who will struggle even more to get their photos noticed because the more popular posts are getting inflated by boosting each other up. It’s like a “rich get richer” scheme. I don’t like it!

 

Should I give up?

I am still thankful to the many people who I’ve connected with and who like, comment, DM, and inspire me every day with their photos and stories. Instagram still has a lot going for it and continues to be a really great community, so I haven’t given up, though I do feel less and less excitement to post and engage on Instagram these days. I hope that Instagram will listen to the backlash and criticism from their users and return to the old algorithm, or a new one that brings back the same spirit of connection that we had last year. I especially want this to happen for new and amazing accounts that got a late start on the game, and may feeling hampered or stagnant in their growth despite having outstanding and high quality content.

If you have a similar (or different!) experience with the new algorithm on Instagram, please let me know in a comment or on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! Especially if you have any ideas on how to “beat the algorithm” or tips for people who are new to Instagram!

 

❤ Carrie Outdoors