Saturday, September 3, 2011

There's no place like home in beautiful Oregon

8/24/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

We’ve been gone for several weeks this summer and it is good to be home. It is especially good to be home in beautiful Cottage Grove during the months when the blue sky and puffy white clouds are plentiful; the lakes are full and the weather warm enough to grow a vegetable garden. I can’t think of a place that I would rather be.

Others have a different idea of where they’d like to be. The television program, “Good Morning America,” recently asked viewers to submit the names of places that they considered to be the most beautiful in America. People responded with thousands of photos and descriptions of their favorite haunts from sea-to-shining-sea.

In alphabetical order, the top ten winners were: Asheville, N.C., Aspen, Colo., Cape Cod, Mass., Destin, Fla., Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyo., Lanikai, Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, Newport, R.I., Point Reyes, Calif., Sedona, Ariz., and Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mich.

The winning entries used phrases like ‘breathtaking views, natural beauty and jaw-dropping landscape.’ Sounds great, doesn’t it? In fact, many of the places and activities are suspiciously like what we can find in our own Oregon backyard. Sadly, they either didn’t make the GMA cut or weren’t nominated by Oregonians.

So, I made up my own list of some (but not all!) of the most beautiful or interesting places I’ve visited in Oregon. In no particular order, I submit to you places to go and things to see that your family and guests will enjoy and that you won’t have to buy an airline ticket to get there!

1. The Oregon Coast. The spectacular shoreline of the Oregon coast stretches nearly 400 miles from Brookings in the south to Astoria in the north. The vistas along our coast are as breathtaking and varied as those you will find anywhere. Beaches, sand dunes, lighthouses, state parks and wayside walks will enchant you at every turn.

2. The Columbia River Gorge scenery literally defies description. It was formed by an ancient river of lava and encompasses a variety of awesome scenery. Crown Pointe will give you a great overview. Our state’s most magnificent river is home to barges, windsurfing, boating and Native Americans fishing off platforms near the dam at The Dalles. Kids and grown-ups alike can go inside and marvel at the salmon traversing the Bonneville Dam fish ladders. And if you’re not going to England this year, take the short trip across the river to the Washington side of the Colombia where you can observe the 1918 Stonehenge concrete replica of the 4,000 year old original. You can also tour the nearby Maryhill Museum of Art and picnic afterwards.

3. Mt. Hood’s multi-forested areas have something for everyone. Check out Timberline Lodge’s skilled woodwork and spend the night at a nearby campground. At 11,239 ft. it is breath-taking to ride the ski lift without snow on the ground.

4. Portland. This big, multi-cultural city offers more than a magnificent skyline and amazing bridges. During the summer, visitors can roam the fabulous Oregon Zoo and then board a train for a 4-mile ride through wooded hillsides to the International Rose Test gardens, the restful Japanese Gardens and teahouse. Later you can board a train to go back to the zoo. The fabulous Pittock Mansion is a must see.

5. Silver Falls State Park. If you love waterfalls, this is a great place to go. My husband and I hiked the 7 miles through the park near Salem, to see the 10 waterfalls in the canyon. Billed as a “moderate” hike, we were happily exhausted at the end of the day. Other waterfalls closer to the road: Multnomah Falls, Sahalie Falls and Wildwood Falls.

6. Crater Lake. This awesome lake with its intense blue color and Native American legends is a must see. A ranger told us my favorite wilderness bear story here that I’ll save for another column.

7. The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Located in Baker City, this trip takes some planning. The Center uses exhibits, sound effects, video and live presentations of a 2,000-mile trek on the Oregon Trail. Believe me, you will never complain about your hardships again after you have seen life through the eyes and feet of our pioneers.

8. Boating. If you enjoy calm river cruises check out Columbia River Cruise options. And if you want something a little more exciting I can highly recommend the Rogue River Hellgate Jet boat Excursions.

9. Cottage Grove. We have it all. A historic downtown, a gold mining district (and museum), lakes, covered bridges, trails, friendly people, a charming resort, interesting murals, an airport, and lots of quirky stuff. There’s something for everyone to love here! We should have been on GMA’s list!

10. And finally, my favorite place in Oregon is my own back yard. I enjoy sitting with a glass of ice tea, listening to the boats on the lake, the chirping birds and watching the wildflowers grow. I love the wildlife: mama turkey training her chicks; the deer tiptoeing around the rose garden; the osprey warning the eagles to keep their distance; the Stellar Jays bickering in the trees.

I submit that some of the most beautiful places in the USA are right here in Oregon.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 

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