I'm no wine aficionado, but know just enough to be dangerous. Several years ago, I was at a business dinner and needed to order wine. Though I typically favor heavier reds, the night called for a lighter one, and I thought a Pinot Noir would work. I didn't know much beyond that, but I'd read that Oregon made some good ones, so when I saw an Oregon offering on the list (I didn't even recognize the winery), I blindly ordered and crossed my fingers. It was a huge hit, and everyone at the table was impressed with my savvy. If they only knew.

These days, the buzz about Oregon's Pinot Noirs is downright mainstream, and rightly so. We asked local writer Chuck Thompson to take us on a tour of this Pacific Northwest state's offerings, exploring the wine country (conveniently close to Portland) and the big business it's becoming. In "Toasting Oregon's Wines", he offers us suggestions of where to go, what to do, and, most important, what wines to try.

If you're looking for a more adventurous outing, check out Ken McAlpine's "Go Wild". In this Travel feature, McAlpine turns us on to the U.S. National Parks' field institutes - which now offer exploratory trips deep into parts of the parks most visitors never see. Ken is an avid outdoorsman, so when he's impressed, I know it must be good. His account will make you want to lace up your hiking boots and head out.