Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oregon Fall Foliage

10/19/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

'Tis the season of pumpkin and apple
The leaves are changing and so is the weather
It's time to put away the shorts and put on the sweater
Halloween is near and Thanksgiving is coming
My favorite time of year this is becoming.
Author unknown

As I finished writing this column a blustery rainstorm blew into Cottage Grove and largely destroyed today’s subject—the beauty of autumn and some local places to visit before winter rains set in. By the time you read this our fall foliage may have washed away. Sorry about that. Mother Nature is in charge! Perhaps you can save this information in a file under “Fall 2017.”

This column came about out of desperation. For too many years to count, my husband and I have taken our major vacation of the year in September or October. The weather is always nice—not too hot and not too cold—making it a good time to go sightseeing in mostly fall foliage areas around the country.

 In recent years, some of our favorite trips have been to the East Coast. We have fond memories of eating lobster at Peggy’s Cove on a brisk autumn day and some fabulous shopping in North Conway after driving through the glorious White Mountain foliage of New Hampshire.

This year’s trip plans included Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Instead, our travel times were visits to doctors, ERs and hospitals. Chuck has developed some serious cardiac issues that have curtailed his energy and ability to travel long distances from home. It’s a bummer.

But you can’t keep determined travelers down. I decided that this would be a perfect time to make some Oregon fall foliage trips. One does not have to travel out of state to see color popping up all over the Willamette Valley. Right here in Cottage Grove all one has to do is head out of town and up to either Dorena or Cottage Grove Lakes for amazing scenery.

Everywhere you go in the Willamette Valley is a scenic wonderland.
Roads to most wineries and vineyards are colorful and a leisurely drive from town. And your trips don’t have to be costly. You can pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery at any of the Willamette Valley’s covered bridges. The CG Chamber of Commerce has excellent pamphlets that will tell you how to get to Currin Bridge, Dorena Bridge, the Stewart Bridge and more. All in one day.

There are other covered bridges outside our area. If you get really adventurous you can drive east on Highway 126 and check out the Goodpasture Covered Bridge in Vida Oregon. And don’t forget Eugene. Last week, driving through Eugene’s downtown, I couldn’t help but notice that their trees are also popping color.

If you’re into biking, there’s still time before the winter rain sets in to pedal out our wonderful 35.5 mile Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour route. This scenic bikeway will give you up close views of colorful foliage that you can’t get on a tour bus, The bikeway is a paved path that is off the street (no car traffic) and suitable for all ages.

We like heading up north. We want to check out a new place (to us), the Sweetbrier Train and RV Park’s Pumpkin Patch Train Ride. It is located in Scio, OR, 25 miles east of Salem and Albany or 90 min. from downtown Portland. We have not been there but if it’s as interesting as Cottage Grove’s former Blue Goose train ride it will be memorable. The park closes this weekend for the winter so if you don’t make it, mark your calendar for next year!

Their website says that the park is privately owned and set in 19 acres of woods with old growth fir that is interspersed with foliage and creeks. This year, along with the train ride, there is a tractor hayride, panning for gold and more. The cost for the 2016 Pumpkin Patch Train trip is $6 per person with a can of food; $10 without canned food and free for children under 2 years of age.

Speaking of Salem, I’m putting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge on our list to visit. It is located just off Interstate 5 and provides overwintering habitat for the dusky Canada goose and other migratory waterfowl.  It is handicap accessible and its boardwalks and kiosks are open year-round. All other trails are closed from Oct. 1 through March 31. There are interpretive signs and a photography blind available for reservation. Sounds good to me. Check Map Quest for directions to 2301 Wintel Rd., about 67 miles from C. G.

Another place that we always enjoy is the famous Dean Creek Elk Viewing area. It is the habitat for hundreds of Oregon’s Roosevelt Elk population with viewing stations and of course, photo opportunities. Just a few miles east of Reedsport, on Highway 38, it’s an enjoyable stop on your way to the coast.

Now, dear readers, all is not lost if you no longer drive. You can still enjoy many of these places. Check out Experience Oregon or other small bus tours. Winter’s a-coming. Enjoy Fall!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —

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