Saturday, August 23, 2014

Oregonians vacation at home

7/23/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

There’s no place like Oregon in the summertime. So if you ask me where I’m going for vacation this summer—or any summer—the answer is always the same. I’m staying home in Oregon. Living in the Willamette Valley puts us in the center of one of the most beautiful states in our country. Why not enjoy it at it’s summery best?

Oregon is a small state so mountains, forests, waterfalls, beaches, high deserts, volcanic landscapes, canyons, wetlands and lakes are all within a day’s drive of us. Most locations are blessed with mild to warm weather throughout the month of Sept. Each place offers a variety of outdoor recreation and relaxation for everyone in the family—mom, dad, kids and grandparents.

Usually our out-of-state guests are exhausted when they arrive. Most of them just want to stay home, eat, relax on the deck, swim in the lake or go fishing. Still, I have suggestions for places to go—an unending list of outdoor treks and local summer events are posted on the frig. But just in case someone wants to go on an overnight adventure here is my short list of places to go:

1. Crater Lake National Park. Located in southern Oregon it is a must see. Formed when Mt. Mazama erupted over 7,500 years ago, the lake’s brilliant blue color and clarity are exquisite. On our first trip we took a boat tour and a hiking tour to grasp the immensity. Long a favorite of European royalty, we happened to be there in 2008 when members of Jordan’s Royal family visited on motorcycles!

2. The Historic Columbia River Highway. I never tire of this highway designed specifically for scenic touring. Built from 1913-1922 it begins in Troutdale and goes 75 miles to The Dalles. There are gorgeous views from Crown Point, unforgettable waterfalls, awesome wind surfers, the powerful Bonneville Lock and Dam and more.

3. Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Park is located in both Oregon and Washington. The Fort Clatsop Visitor Center is the major Oregon site. We visited the original reproduction of the Lewis and Clark winter encampment before it burned down in 2005.  It has since been re-built and will give you a real sense of the hardships they endured before their return trip east to St. Louis.

4. National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This Baker City center is one of the best ways to get a grasp on the life that the Oregon pioneers lived on the trail beginning about 1836. Outside, there are miles of actual preserved wagon ruts in the trails and mountain views to take your breath away. Inside there are local pioneer history exhibits, a theater and gift shop. FYI: my favorite detail was the eyelashes on the oxen pulling the wagons.

5. Oregon Coast. It’s only a short two and one-half hour drive from Cottage Grove to shopping in Florence. The coastline includes pounding surf, beach trails, sand dunes, the Yaquina Bay Bridge, Heceta Head Lighthouse, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and gaming casinos! Taking the side roads from a few familiar places will pay different dividends.

7. Salem. A tour of the Oregon State Capitol building with its Golden Pioneer statue is mandatory. The Bush House Museum, the Historic Deepwood Estate and the Willamette Heritage Center are well-preserved buildings worthy of touring near the capital. And The Oregon Garden is located in nearby Silverton.

8. Southern Oregon in the summer offers music-music-music, along with wonderful camping and jet boating on the river.  The Britt Festival in Jacksonville, features world-class artists in classical, jazz, blues, fold, bluegrass, pop and country music. But the world renowned Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is often sold out!

9. Portland. There is so much to do. Where to begin? We have taken grandchildren to the Oregon Zoo before heading up the Columbia to Multnomah Falls and our favorite camping spot. You can spend an entire day at Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, Museum, Arboretum and more. It’s all good.

10. Cottage Grove. Think covered bridges, museums, bicycle trails, campgrounds, lakes and rivers, fishing and waterfalls.

Personally, I’m a waterfall tourist. Wherever we go, I research a trail to someplace where the water flows. We recently stayed a few days in Yachats that culminated in a trip to Sweet Creek Falls, south of Mapleton, in the Siuslaw Forest. It was a little tricky to find (the signage isn’t the greatest) but well worth the effort.

It is billed as an easy, family friendly 2.2-mile hike involving wooden bridges, damp dirt trails with small wet puddles. It doesn’t mention that you’d better be steady on your feet as the trails are not flat and you’ll be walking on large rocks and raised tree roots. We took the Homestead Trailhead to see all of the falls.

The series of about a dozen waterfalls cascading down the lush green gorge is absolutely enchanting. The short hike up the trail took us well over an hour because we kept stopping to ooh and ahh and take pictures. Then we had to come down and take more pictures. You don’t want to hurry with places like Split Creek Falls, Punch Bowl Falls and Ledge Falls to enjoy.

As we returned to our car, some young adults were debating whether or not the climb would be worth it. We convinced them that if a 70-year-old couple could do it they could too!  So they stayed and we gave them our parking space (there aren’t many) and headed back to Cottage Grove.

Home sweet home is the best place to be in the summertime.

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

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