ALBANY, Ore. — In this week's Let's Get Out There, we share a tool to lead you to new adventures across the state of Oregon. We meet the creator of the Oregon Challenge, Melinda Martin.
Near or far, Melinda Martin has been to many different places.
“This trail is very close to town. But in a spot like this, it feels very remote,” she said from Talking Water Gardens. “We are in the center of the universe, Albany, Oregon,” she continued with a smile.
No matter where the center of your universe is, Martin has a message for you.
“The whole rest of the universe is out there,” she said. “When I need a walk or a little dose of nature that's in the city, if I just have a short time period or something, I'll come out here and take a walk.”
Talking Water Gardens is an example of nature’s healing power. In 2010, the cities of Albany and Millersburg joined with industrial partners to turn the area into a water treatment wetland. It delivers treated water safely back into the Willamette River.
Martin owns a small business called City Delivery Service, a same-day courier and delivery service based in Albany. On the company’s website is an idea born in the early days of the pandemic.
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“Do you remember we got a little fearful there for a while? And people were hunkered down and we stayed in the house, and we just didn't know what to expect,” Martin said. “I just felt that that was the opposite of what we should be doing.”
So she created the Oregon Challenge Passport. It’s designed to get you out and discover the far reaches of the state. “It does not matter if you go out in your own backyard, if you go to a nearby city park, if you go to the mountains, or the coast, or the desert," Martin said.
The challenge is all self-regulated and the passport’s pages include over 140 items, places and experiences to mark off as you go. Think of it as an outdoor bingo card, including things like all 11 of Oregon’s national forests and three tallest peaks.
“And that would be Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and the South Sister,” said Martin. “If you want to get yourself to the top of those peaks, that's fantastic! That would be more of a challenge than say just driving by and seeing them which also counts."
From the grand to the more mundane. Find a picnic table, s’mores, even a flannel shirt. Use the hashtags #GoOutsideAndPlay and #TheOregonChallenge on Facebook and Instagram .
Martin hopes the passport encourages families to hit the road and adventure together. Oregon Challenge Passport can be ordered for ten dollars, which includes coupons for local businesses in the Albany area.
“I encourage people not just in Albany to support small businesses, but wherever you go,” Martin said. “Wherever you go exploring in the state, stop at the local coffee shop, stop at the local bakery and get your gas at the local station. You're there enjoying the natural spots that are close to those communities, so it's important that we support the businesses that are there also.”
Martin encourages everyone to grab a passport, get out there and explore the rest of their universe at their own pace.
“I really like to see people with families out using the passport because that's engaging different generations, older folks, younger folks,” Martin said. “I like it when people go out in groups and like young people who take a hike together, for instance, or go camping together. Just having fun and enjoying nature together, that's the best.”
Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.