My use is quite similar to what you are looking for. I'm in the Willamette valley and most of my travel is south to CA or east to eastern WA, ID, NV. I'm flying a 20E which I've had for 16 years. With 52 gallons usable I can make SLC heading east generally no problem. Coming home will often require a fuel stop as i start to get nervous over 4 hours. With 5 hours max fuel, small changes in winds can make a big difference over 600nm, probably reiterating the obvious.
Where we live, and where you need to go, you will live and die by the MEAs naturally aspirated. It's 10,000 minimum to get out unless you run the gorge, but that only gets you down to 7,000 or so. Whenever there is weather, there is going to be ice over the Cascades or the Siskiyous. And that's really the only thing that impacts the utility of an E model out this way. Mine flies great at 14-15,000. Useful load is more than sufficient for 2 plus as much you reasonably need to take. The small, high baggage door keeps you honest. Manual gear and flaps make for brain-dead simple systems and therefore low maintenance cost.
For one-person travel I love my homely old E model and the only reason we'd sell it is to get the improved utility the turbos and deice provide. But we stay on the fence as the current cost of ownership and cost of use are about as trivial as airplane ownership get.