Klamath County, Oregon, dodged the worst of summer 2018’s West Coast forest fires. Even so, smoke from as far away as Redding, California, choked the skies here for several weeks in July and August.
The stubborn haze shut down outdoor activities like swimming, kept the elderly, young and asthmatic indoors, and shrouded from view the majestic mountains that give this place a rare splendor.
That hidden natural beauty serves as an apt metaphor for a place locals say is underappreciated, or at least misunderstood. Residents in this region of about 66,000 people—spread across 6,135 square miles, an area larger than the state of Connecticut—want outsiders to truly get to know them, seeing their grit, strong sense of interdependence, deep wellspring of hope, and successful efforts to improve their community.