September 21, 2009

Oregon Road Trip

Some last minute vacation days gave us the opportunity to go on a road trip. So we headed from our home in the Bay Area to Oregon. Day 1 was the drive up to Ashland, OR where we spent our first night. Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. So we watched Don Quixote at the Outdoor Elizabethan Theatre. Day 2 had us drive to Crater Lake National Park. After a quick stop at the visitor center we headed to the rim to check out the view of Crater Lake. Crater lake is about 5 miles wide and famous for its blue color and clarity. All I can say is, "wow that water is really blue". After pictures at the rim we headed over to do the short hike to Watchman Tower. The hike is only about three-quarters of a mile up a modest grade. It ends at the top of the peak where the Watchman Lookout Station is located. Watchman is one of two fire lookout towers located in Crater Lake National Park. From here you get some great views directly over the lake. After the hike we jumped in the car and headed to the city of Bend. In Bend I will mention that we stayed at McMenamins. This unique hotel in downtown Bend was converted from an old schoolhouse to a lively destination hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pub, brewery and bakery, movie theater, and soaking pool. Day 3 had us going from Bend to Smith Rock State Park. Smith Rock is most known for its fantastic rock climbing, but we went to hike to monkey face, a rock formation that looks just like a monkeys face. We chose to do the hike as a loop totaling 2.25miles. We started up the difficult climb and looped back on the easy trail. If you want to save some climbing you can take the easy trail out and back to monkey face, but you will miss out on some great views. We left Smith Rock and headed towards Eugene where we would be spending the night. We took the McKenzie highway and came across the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit. The Observatory is located in the midst of a lava field and provides some fantastic views. From viewing windows inside you can see and identify several of the Cascade Mountain peaks. The Lava River Interpretive Trail is located next to the observatory, offering an unusual half-mile hike through young lava flows on a paved trail. We started Day 4 in Eugene where we had to go check out Hayward Field, the historic track and field stadium. Then is was time to drive to Portland where we would spend two nights. We checked out Powells books, one of the largest bookstores anywhere and did some shopping around downtown. On our full day in Portland we headed out to see the Columbia River Gorge area. Our first stop on our scenic drive was the Vista house at Crown Point. This spot offers great views of the gorge and has a visitor center and gift shop. The volunteers here gave us a great map of the area and helped us plan the rest of our day. Next up was to check some waterfalls. The area is well known for its numerous waterfalls, many of which can be seen right from the road. The most famous of them is Multnomah Falls, which is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States at 620 ft. After visiting the last of the falls we drove on to visit Bonneville Dam. The dam has a visitor center and hatchery that were very interesting to visit. We concluded the day by making the drive all the way around Mt. Hood. We did make a stop to visit the historic Timberline Lodge which sits near the summit. Day 6 had us saying goodbye to Portland and heading to the coast. We checked out downtown Seaside before heading to Cannon Beach where we would stay the night. Our hotel was located right on the beach with a spectacular view of the ocean and the famous Haystack Rock. Day 7 had us driving south along the coast. The best stop was at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The factory gives you a chance to see the cheesemakers and packaging staff hard at work. You get free samples at the end of the quick tour. They have a store, restaurant and ice cream shop. The ice cream was amazingly good. We also stopped at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport. Five dollar entry fee lets you check out the visitor center and walk up the stairs of the actual lighthouse to the very top. It was another great stop. We ended the night in Eureka. The final day we made quick stops to check out Fort Bragg and Mendocino before heading home. The trip overall was a lot of fun. The lack of a sales tax made shopping a little easier on the wallet. In Oregon its illegal to pump your own gas. So the full service gas station was weird at first but kind of a nice change. Certainly plan to visit Oregon again in the future.