Thursday, August 9, 2012

Oregon field trips for grandsons

8/8/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Yikes! This is the second week of August and the last month of freedom for many school kids. At our house, it is also the month that our three Templeton, Calif. grandsons come to visit. We look forward to their yearly visit and right now, I’m in the middle of checking out places to take them on a ‘secret journey.’

It has become a tradition for us to introduce our 5 visiting grandsons to a part of Oregon that they haven’t seen before. Somehow, it was much easier planning these trips when the boys were small. Now that they range from a senior in college to a fifth grader, it’s a little more difficult to plan something that appeals to all of them.

Fortunately, since they’ve driven 800+ miles to get here, they really are happy just to hang out with their grandparents and the dogs. They can sleep in, swim in the lake, play cards, ride bikes and relax. Still, I try to fit in one or two day trips that won’t wear everyone out.

Most years they try and time their visit to coincide with the Junction City Scandinavian Festival. I have pictures of them as little tykes eating cotton candy, dancing on the stage, attacking the climbing wall and posing with a knight in armor. This year they’ll arrive too late for the Festival, so I’ll have to stock up and freeze some delicious meat pies to remind them of what they’ve missed.

One year we all went up to the Enchanted Forest, a 20-acre theme park between Albany and Salam. Trees shaded Storybook Lane where the boys crawled through Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole and staggered through the crooked house where the crooked man lives. We also visited an old English village and a western town.

The big attraction (and my favorite) is the Big Timber Log Ride. Now that the kids are older it probably wouldn’t rate very high on their list of exciting excursions. But just a few years they loved the clanking of the chain lift as we rode through a sawmill and then traveled through some beautiful forest scenery. There was a small dip where we all got a little wet before entering some more twists and turns. Finally, we climbed a bit and zig-zagged before we got to the big dip and everyone got wet. It was lots of fun.

Oregon’s central coast is another fun mystery trip. Camping at Honeyman Park is convenient to a variety of places to keep the kids busy. Old Town Florence is better sight seeing for adults than kids but between shopping and eating, there’s enough to hold everyone’s interest for a few hours.

As soon as everyone gets bored, we head for Sea Lion Caves. It’s always exciting to board the elevator that descends to a massive sea cave at the bottom of the cliffs. Sometimes the fishy stench can be a little overwhelming but just watching the sea lions sunning and frolicking on the rocks is mesmerizing.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is just a ways up the road. It’s currently closed for renovations but it’s still a great spot to relax, look for seashells and watch for whales. I’m told that whales really do frolic in those waters but I’ve yet to see one

One of my favorite spots is the 2.700 acre Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. It has 26 miles of connecting trails that take you from tide pools below to the magnificent old growth forest above. It’s a cool place to be on a hot summer day with an interesting interpretive center.

Another favorite mystery trip was the year we took our Ventura, Calif. grandsons to Salem. There is so much to see and do in our state’s capital that it was hard to know where to begin. First we toured the capital building and it is impressive. Inside the rotunda, the capital dome rises 106 ft above the bronze replica of the state seal. The ceiling, featuring 33 stars, symbolizes Oregon’s admission as the 33rd state in the union.

We then rode the elevator to the 4th floor where we were told there was a short 121-step climb onto the observation deck. Ha!  The literature forgot to mention that those steps were straight up a narrow spiral staircase that wound through the infrastructure with catwalks and ramps leading to a heavy door. Fortunately, the door opened at the base of the gilded Golden Pioneer Statue where the view was awesome.

After working up an appetite, we headed downtown for pizza and a visit to Salem’s Riverfront Carousel (closed) and the A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village. That turned out to be a surprising hit with the boys because of its interactive exhibits. Gilbert, an inventor, is most famous for the Erector Set and the village is home to the world’s largest Erector Set tower at 52 feet.

Eugene-Springfield, of course, is much closer to home. The boys are all athletes in one sport or another, and visiting the UO is a choice destination. Hendricks Park is beautiful and the Wave Pool is always fun but we’ve never been to the Cascades Raptor Center. Hmm.

Cottage Grove has been well explored but I’m sure we’ve missed some sweet spots. One place we haven’t been is river rafting on the McKenzie. Maybe a return trip on the jet boats in Gold Beach or Grant’s Pass or Wildlife Safari. So many places and so little time.

Truly, the area that we live in is a treasure trove of places to go and things to do. I have barely scratched the surface and I want to share them all with our boys!  So where are we going this year? I’m not sure. But this I know…it won’t be boring and it will be fun!

It’s summer! Welcome to Oregon, boys! Let the fun begin...

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

No comments: