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Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia?
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Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 07:08:18 MDT Print View

My wife and I are planning to more in the next few months and are having a hard time deciding between Virginia and Oregon. Right now we're in Iowa. I'm originally from southern Ca and she is from Las Vegas, but we don't want to return to ether of those locations. I will be graduating from the University of Iowa Physician Assistant (PA) program in June and am open to working in many different fields of medicine. So with the availability of PA jobs I can just about pick the location first then find a job.

The outdoors are high on the list of determining factors for where we choose live. I've only seen Oregon and Virginia in passing but both seem like beautiful places. I originally became interested in Virginia after reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It would be nice to have some snow or at least be close to some snow sport during the winter, but Iowa type winters are too cold for too long. Ideally we would be in a mid to small size town on the edge of a valley next to wilderness with mountains/hills. Far enough from a big city that property prices are lower, but close enough to visit. My wife would like to be within 30 min to a couple of hours from a big city (Portland or DC). I would like to eventually buy a small home with a large backyard (at least a few acres of forest) and it seems like this could be harder to find in Oregon.

If we move to Oregon I think we would want to avoid the dryer side of the state. My wife has a strange hatred for evergreens, which I think she would get over, but for now she sees it as a strike against Oregon. If we lived in Virginia I would try to find a place close to the AT, but if we lived it Oregon I think the larger mountains could make for some interesting trips. Property seems to be cheaper in Virginia, but Oregon would be closer to family.

I was wondering if there is a consensus for which place is a “better,” outdoor location for backpacking and the outdoors in general. Any experiences, opinions, or suggestions are appreciated.


Edited by ascientist on 04/24/2010 14:55:07 MDT.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Oregon vs Virginia (PCT vs AT) on 04/24/2010 07:58:36 MDT Print View

I have lived in southern Oregon the past 20+ years and most of my life in the PNW but yes I have spent a fair amount of time on the east coast including mostly Maryland/Virginia areas.

Oregon for the most part is more rural and less populated with many outdoor recreation opportunities. It can be a great place to raise a family and PA's are in demand in most areas of the state. Yes we do have fur trees and our wilderness areas are far different than those found in and around Virginia (think PCT vs AT). We do not get the fall colors found in most wilderness areas of the east coast but we do have volcanoes and earthquakes.

Having spent time in both areas I would say for me the greatest difference if having to name one variable it would be humidity or the lack there of. Most of Oregon is dry with low humidity which is a big plus IMO. Maryland and Virginia can have very high humidity which can make summers unbearable to many.

I could be happy and enjoy either location as long as I have my family, my dog, my UL gear and my running shoes. At heart I'm a west coast person and the PNW will always be home.

Edited by thomdarrah on 04/24/2010 08:57:23 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 08:09:10 MDT Print View

In your considerations for Oregon, pay attention to precipitation and sunshine maps. Some parts can be pretty damp and dreary, while 40 miles away you'll find sunshine and warmth.

I have no recent experience with the DC area, but I think finding "lower property prices" within an hour will be a challenge.

If it were me, I'd choose Oregon. For the people, for the cities, and for access to the mountains.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 09:11:59 MDT Print View

I'd also study up on favorable laws and taxes ;-) Oregon for example is a no sales tax state but has an income tax - that kind of thing. And you can't pump your own gas - state law (drives us peeps from Wa up the wall!)
Oregon is a rural state overall, outside of a few large population areas (somewhat like Wa as well).
The winters are mild down low, for example you would face rain in winter in Portland but drive up to the Mts and you get tons of snow. This makes snowshoeing and skiing great but you can still drive to work! The beaches in Oregon belong to the people as well, anyone can use them.
The concept of evergreens isn't quite true, even in Wa as well. Yes, tons of evergreens but there is also plenty of other trees like Maples, Aspens, and more. Those DO change in fall. In fall the alpine areas turn vivid shades of red, orange and yellow when the Huckleberries and Ash turn.
You can drive from Mt. Hood to the ocean in a short span of time - you can ski in June and then go play in the salt water on the same day.

The west side of the Cascades also sport little humidity and going above the 80's is rare in summer (maybe a week every year, just like having deep freezes is rare down low).

Va is nice as well but you do have a higher population count (my husband left Va to move to Wa).

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/24/2010 12:37:12 MDT Print View

A primary concern for you will also be the practice of medicine. I may be completely wrong, but my understanding is that medicine in Oregon is highly regulated & "socialized" by the state government. However, given the recent misguided decision by congress, this may soon be universally true throughout the nation.
Any other health providers on the forum have any thoughts on this?

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 14:40:27 MDT Print View

You're asking if Virginia is better than Oregon for outdoor sports? Is this a joke?

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/24/2010 14:51:05 MDT Print View

I lived 8 1/2 years in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle) and 15 1/2 years in Virginia.

I too am this a joke?

If not, concerning nature and outdoor pursuits, Virginia, although pleasant, is not even in the same league as the Pacific Northwest (think Major League baseball vs the Little League). I leave Virginia to visit the Pacific Northwest whenever we can get the money together.

A friend in Seattle complained he didn't get much vacation time, but he did manage to squeeze in a number of hikes, bike trips, etc. I told him we dream of taking such trips, and that, in fact, he lives in a "vacation"!

Edited by ewolin on 04/24/2010 14:54:32 MDT.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 14:52:41 MDT Print View

At minimum, visit both for sure and also figure out what interests you. You'll be surprised how different things are. As I learned when I lived in Colorado, just because the post card looks nice, doesn't mean you'll be living in the same fairytale.

I've lived in Virginia most of my life but have been to Oregon. Oregon has far more geological diversity than Virginia in the sense of deserts, mountains, etc. Oregon carries with it western themes (cowboys, indians, etc.) whereas Virginia carries with it southern themes. The east and the west are totally different. I often laugh at how unpopulated the west is. Take a look at online images which show electrical use based on a map of the U.S. You'll see very dense population in the east and not much in the west except for California.

Virginia has far more population diversity than Oregon. For example, northern VA is packed with people and is truly a suburb of Washington DC. It is a melting pot of cultures and you'll have access to just about anything you can imagine. It has a very high cost of living, incomes are good, and schools are good. The rest of Virginia is much more rural consisting of farming towns, engrained traditions, and people who have been in America likely since its birth. You won't find much diversity or people interested in changing from their values and traditions.

The beauty of Virginia is that we have the mountains and the beaches. Worth noting is that our mountains are nothing like those out west and neither is our skiing. Yes we get snow, but most resorts actually manufacture it (man-made) even at high elevations. We get pounded about once every 10 years (like this year), but often we'll only get passing storms of 6" or less usually three times per season (in non-mountain areas). Mountain areas get more, but it isn't nearly as much as you think and it's tough to live in these areas as there is no business around them other than resorts. So, if you're looking to work a traditional job, you likely will be an hour or two from the mountains because you'll need to live near a city. Our vegetation is also far more dense. Our wilderness is much more wild (in the sense of ecosystems) and lush. This may be a plus or a minus depending on how you look at it. We have many more types and density of animals - and also bugs. The comparison of major and minor league baseball is accurate. When people talk mountains and outdoors - they mean "west". The east is nice, but it all looks the same for the most part and doesn't have the same kind of punch in hiking circles.

There's a lot to learn and I highly encourage you to read up, visit, ask questions, etc. as rolling the dice isn't worth it. Spend a few bucks on books and rental cars and you'll find the decision gets a lot easier.

Edited by regultr on 04/24/2010 14:55:57 MDT.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 15:17:24 MDT Print View

How about your beliefs or needs concerning religion and recreational/medicinal substances? I'm sure Oregon is more open-minded in these regards.

How about TICKS, snakes, chiggers, and poison ivy?

Edited by Coldspring on 04/24/2010 15:18:20 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 15:24:59 MDT Print View

On population diversity.....western Oregon is quite diverse due to being on the West Coast. There is a rich population from every Asian country, many from Russia and other close countries and even from African countries.This is due to church sponsorship and other help in immigration.
Eastern Or tends to be ranchers, farmers, etc. This is also true in E. Wa. There it is whites and Hispanics mostly.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Where should I live Oregon vs. Virginia? on 04/24/2010 16:29:17 MDT Print View

Poisonous snakes.

A google search of "Virginia poisonous snakes" shows me these three: timber rattler, cotton mouth, and copperhead.

A google search of "Oregon poisonous snakes" failed to turn up much of anything -- although I know rattlers exist in Oregon, mostly on the "dry" east side of the Cascades, with a whole lot of them along the Deschutes River. Seems like the Cascades (at least on the west side) are pretty devoid of rattlers. At least, have never seen one in that area over all the time we've lived in Oregon.

Seriously though, after finishing college nearly 40 years ago in Austin, TX, my wife and I went through the same experience of figuring where to live. We were very biased toward finding a place that would be as much as possible like Yellowstone NP, since both of us had worked at summer jobs in that park while in college and knew we didn't plan on being rich enough to fly to that kind of place at the drop of a hat to hike, fish, and camp.

We initially decided on Washington state for its terrific mountains, rivers, lakes, and abundant nat'l forests, not to forget its three great national parks -- the North Cascades, the Olympics, and Rainer. But first we moved to Oregon for three years of law school, intending to move on to Washington afterwards. After three years in Oregon, we grew to like that state for the exact same reasons that made Washington attractive to us in the first place, plus Washingon's outdoors are just a few hours up the freeway from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

As for concerns about "evergreens" -- referring to Douglas Firs, I suppose -- Oregon has a whole lot of 'em for sure. But there are a lot of areas with other kinds of trees (Ponderosa Pine, as well as many hardwoods that do in fact show a lot of color in the fall) -- and there are even a lot of spaces with no trees at all (check a map of Oregon to see how much land exists east of the Cascades, to include a lot of "high desert").

As for "socialized medicine" -- haven't had any personal experience with that since insurance coverage has been a part of all my employment. The same doc I saw starting in the mid-1970's is still practicing on how to keep me going.

As for "cultural" or "social" preferences, seems there's a little bit of everything for whatever you prefer. If real left-wing is your thing, there's Portland and Eugene. If rural traditional rings your chimes, well, probably 90% of the land area has your spot somewhere.

Bottom line (for us, anyway) was mostly the availability of a lot of public land, a whole bunch of it -- something that was very scarce in the Austin area. We once drove a very, very long day to get to Big Bend NP for camping and backpacking while we lived in Austin. Otherwise, not a lot of public land to be had in that area. Perdenales State Park, and a few other state parks here and there. I do recall that there are a good bit of national forests in East Texas, though, along with some huge reservoirs. And a variety of poisonous snakes, too.

Here in the Willamette Valley, it's only an hour or two to wilderness areas like Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Mt. Hood, Three Sisters; and about the same to great fishing rivers like the McKenzie, Nestucca, Siletz, Umpqua, Rogue, Santiam, Deschutes, Metolius, and more. There's Oregon's coast, too, with sandy beaches and rocky cliffs an hour or so from the Willamette Valley -- spectacular!

Then, of course, Washington is just up the road.

Almost feel guilty spending money to go elsewhere when the NW has so much to offer for little expense getting there.

As for rain, weather, and other such issues -- rain storms in Texas can easily dump more water in an hour (or less!) than you ever see over the period of a week or even more here in Oregon. But overcast skies in Oregon might get a little old for some folks -- especially after the third or fourth month without significant sun. Wearing sunglasses with yellow lenses takes care of that. And the evergreens don't look so green that way.

PS -- On second thought, maybe we don't really "live" in Oregon, but are instead just "visiting" since I do recall stopping at Oregon's border as we drove from Texas in 1973 to take a picture of our U-Haul trailer hooked to our car, right in front of the huge sign that said: "Welcome to Oregon, Enjoy Your Visit".

Edited by JRScruggs on 04/24/2010 16:37:59 MDT.

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/24/2010 16:54:46 MDT Print View

Thanks for the responses everyone. Looks like everyone agrees that Oregon is the superior outdoor destination. I'm from Ca, so I am familiar with the arguments for geographical diversity in the west as well as the opportunities afforded by larger mountains, but I do find myself intrigued by the diverse ecosystem of the east. If we moved to Virginia it would almost certainly be in the more rural southern portion of the state pushing 2-3 hours from DC. There are several cities within, and right next to national parks on the west side of Virginia. PA's are all about undeserved/rural populations.

I do think of the two in a sort of PCT vs. AT comparison. Perhaps the volume of AT advertisements and trip reports are an unfair advantage for Virginia. I've lived in Georgia, so expect humidity in Virginia. From what I gather the Oregon climate is very diverse. I thought most of the west side was fairly humid, but based on the responses it sounds like it's less humid than I was thinking. I've looked into state PA laws and the two seem fairly similar. Both are PA friendly and would be a good place to work.

I've visited (but not lived in) both locations. Ideally we would visit both places before deciding, but it's likely that I would take a job at the first one we visit and not look back. As you might guess, I have been leaning towards Oregon and my wife has been leaning towards Virginia. Maybe your posts will help persuade her towards Oregon. I'm sure the poisonous snakes thing will help my argument.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/24/2010 17:45:00 MDT Print View

Dear Brett,

I'm making some similar considerations myself, and right now Oregon is winning...

Have you considered other areas out East? I know you said you wanted to avoid long winters, but it seems southern Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont, and western North Carolina might be other options to consider, as they all have an abundance of outdoor opportunities, albeit the first three do get cold. All seem as though they would have strong opportunities to serve in rural communities.

No poisonous snakes in Maine too...

Edited by ChrisMorgan on 04/24/2010 18:14:02 MDT.

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Re: Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/24/2010 18:04:30 MDT Print View

We could go a little further north than Virginia, but don't really want to go as far as NH/VT. We haven't looked much at Maryland, but at a glance it looks to not have as much public park land as other candidates.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Lot of good advice here... on 04/24/2010 18:31:41 MDT Print View

I think the thing I would just throw in is a lot will depend on your situation and community where you live. For example, I grew up in California, but what does that really mean? You walk through the Sierras, and it's incredible. You sit in Los Angeles traffic, and you want to uproot and move to...ANYWHERE else. I lived in the northern reaches of the state, and I can tell you one doesn't have to go to far east to escape the fog and redwoods for the heat and pine.

I suppose wherever you end up, if your family feels part of the community and you enjoy your job, you will be happy. If your family doesn't feel at home in the community and you fail to find satisfaction in the work, I don't care how great the hiking is, it will likely not be enough to sustain you.

I have to agree that visiting each place for a few weeks could give you a much better sense for each area.

Best of luck!


Mike McHenry
(mtmche2) - F
Charlottesville, VA on 04/24/2010 23:24:21 MDT Print View


Just to throw out a town in VA. I have visited there a couple of times and have been pretty impressed by the area.

I would definitely visit both areas though, because I feel they are very different in a lot of important ways. With that said, asking a bunch of backpackers where you should move is only going to give you an opinion biased towards hiking. Both areas are going to have abundant recreational opportunities if you want them. IMO there are many more important factors that come into play.

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Re: Charlottesville, VA on 04/25/2010 07:50:31 MDT Print View

That's the town we have been most interested in. I think you the 3rd person to recommend it.

Agreed that the BPL community will not determine where we live. However, while the outdoors are not the only factor guiding our choice, it is a significant part of it. This has been a very helpful thread for getting and idea of how the two areas compare from that perspective. Even if we are able to visit both places for a month it is great to have the opinion of dozens of people who have lived there for years. My wife would also like to thank everyone for the input.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/25/2010 12:07:12 MDT Print View

I grew up in Washington and am a bit prejudiced here, but I love Oregon. If getting into the wilderness is important to you, it's an easy choice.

OTOH if you would like to celebrate Confederate History Month, you'll be disappointed living anywhere in the West.




George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Virginia Is For Lovers on 04/25/2010 12:33:14 MDT Print View

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Oregon vs. Virginia on 04/25/2010 13:44:57 MDT Print View

So to summarize...

Virginia: Poisonous snakes, AT, humid, sunshine maps, little league baseball, melting pot, fake snow, dense vegetation, bugs, ranchers and farmers, Charlottesville, Confederate History Month, red-necks, hot air balloons, and lovers.

Oregon: Volcanoes and earthquakes, PCT, bigger mountains with snow, can't pump your own gas, not just evergreens, socialized medicine, cowboys and Indians, legal use of drugs for religious reasons(?), Asians and Russians, better than Texas, left-wing, Three Sisters, fishing, and yellow lenses.

Edited by ascientist on 04/25/2010 13:46:36 MDT.