One Year in the Rogue Valley - Page 2
Our recommendations of fascinating places to see in southern Oregon
The town of Ashland was our first exposure to Oregon. It is a beautiful town set in the foothills of Mt. Ashland at an average elevation of 1,800 feet. The downtown is quaint and well kept. It is host to Southern Oregon University, whose students and campus locations are an integral part of town. Ashland is best known for the Shakespeare Festival, with productions running eight months out of the year.
Downtown Ashland with a hillside neighborhood in the background.
The gentleman at the visitor information desk proudly informed us that there is not one chain restaurant in the Ashland downtown area. With the exception of a Starbucks, he was certainly correct. This means that dining in Ashland is always a unique experience, with restaurants ranging from the very casual to the formal. Shopping is also plentiful in a variety of unique stores, many of them featuring works by regional artisans.
Adjacent to central downtown is Lithia Park—a scenic place to walk, jog, or sit on the benches to enjoy the lush landscape. Through the park runs Ashland Creek, fed primarily by melting snow and rain from Mt. Ashland. In the summer, the creek runs clean and swift over mossy boulders. Living up to its name, Lithia Park features a drinking fountain fed by naturally carbonated water. Having grown up in Romania with an abundant variety of mineral waters, I enjoyed drinking this lithia water. I must say, though, that most people would find the heavy sulfur content putrid. After hearing how much I enjoyed drinking it, my brother-in-law took a deep swallow, only to spit it back out.
Lithia Park clothed in autumn colors, adjacent to downtown Ashland.
A short 15 miles away is Mt. Ashland, reaching an elevation of 7,533 feet. In winter, it is a snow sports playground with ski slopes for beginners and experts. In summer, it is open to hikers and mountain bikers.
In late June we drove our scooter up to the ski resort for a short hike. From the parking lot the summit is accessible on foot by those in reasonably good shape. On a clear day one can look south from the parking lot to see Mt. Shasta's white cap in northern California. By early June the snow was gone from Mt. Ashland, with the exception of a few patches on north-facing slopes. In the valley it was around 90°; on the mountain about 50°—perfect temperature for hiking.
For a scenic drive, especially in winter when the hills and mountains are snowcapped, take highway 66 out of Ashland heading east. Shortly after crossing over I-5, turn left onto Dead Indian Memorial Road and take it as far as you like into the countryside. Soon the road winds its way to higher elevations. Several wide shoulders make it possible to pull over and enjoy the scenery. At one such stop there is a wonderful view of Mt. Ashland.
Also on highway 66, a few miles past Dead Indian Memorial Road, is Emigrant Lake. This is a smaller lake with stone shores, but large enough for speed boats and other water activities. There is a $3 day use fee per vehicle. In spring, the RV section of the park opens. We drove through the RV section in our truck, and it seems that the slots are suitable for smaller RV's only, perhaps those under 30 feet.
A vineyard bathed in the orange glow of the setting sun on the outskirts of Phoenix, Oregon.
Exit 24 on Interstate 5 takes you into Phoenix, home to numerous pear orchards and vineyards on the outskirts of town. In early spring the pear trees are veiled in blossoms white as snow.
For a scenic ride in the spring through fall, especially on a motorcycle, take exit 24 on I-5 and drive east on Fern Valley Road until it dead ends into Payne Road. Turn right, or south, and you will be surrounded by orchards, hills, and ranches. Continue on to Suncrest Road and make a left turn, heading east. Follow this winding road until it turns into Valley View Road, which takes you all the way to Ashland.
While in the area, visit Paschal Winery & Vineyard for wine tasting. You can find them at 1122 Suncrest Road, overlooking pear orchards and having the Siskiyou mountain range for a backdrop.