So Oregon is already kick ass because you don’t have to pay sales tax or pump your own gas. (You literally can’t do it yourself, the law is you must be spoiled.) And there are hardly any cops in Oregon. And it’s full of cool shit. Here’s some of my favorites, the popular and the virtually unknown:
Drive to Crater Lake from Roseburg along the “waterfall highway,” on 138. There are several ways to get to Crater Lake, so make sure you take this scenic one. There are tons of waterfalls, and here’s just one of them, called Clearwater Falls. We had all to ourselves, in the middle of the day in July!
This place was incredible, and right off the highway. We hiked a few minutes up to the waterfall, and just behind it is an uber-clear lake/river that feeds the waterfall from a volcanic spring straight out of the ground, covered in sexy mist of course. Markus drank from it and didn’t die, so that was cool.
Then we pulled into one of the campgrounds along the way (deserted!) and just look at these moss draped Dr. Suess trees…
In contrast, just before you get to Crater Lake you drive through the suddenly arid Pumice Desert where thick forest gives way to plain. For a few minutes.
Crater Lake itself didn’t excite me until I saw it in person. Whaaaa! And I imagined it going down almost 2,000 feet. There’s something surreal and serene about standing above that lake. There’s hikes and stuff, but we just drive around it and stared. Oh! And the Lost Creek campground is $10, which has water at each site, flush toilets (!!) and free pre cut firewood. Booyah! But make sure to get there early. We had our fairy dust with us and just happened to cruise into the very last spot at sunset.
From Crater Lake, head to Grants Pass and pick up 199 to Cave Junction, but there’s some cool things to do before you get there.
In Selma, there’s a small 76 gas station on your right, and a sign for the post office. Turn right here onto Illinois River Road. The road turns into National Forest road and consequentially dirt/gravel, but it’s fine for 2wd. This is one of my favorite rivers in the world- often you have the place to yourself and the water is a gorgeous clear-green thanks to the abundance of serpentine rock in this area. The Illinois has deep swimming holes (even in 2015 amidst the drought) and has boulders to jump off. Plus it’s not cold like most other rivers in the Land of Tall Trees. Sixmile is the first spot to jump in (and exactly 6 miles from Selma) where there’s a sandy cove, blackberries for the picking along the short trail, and a bridge over a pretty crystal clear creek running along to join the Illinois. Here’s a typical Illinois River scene:
photo credit: Illinois River via photopin (license)
If you keep following the road, it ends and there’s a boy scout camp across the river. The scouts built this awesome footbridge. Secret tip: someone made a notch in the middle of the bridge and if you bring a nice big rope that you trust, you can set it into the notch and swing away! This is also a great river for tubing between Sixmile and the bridge.
When you’re done on the river, (I’m never done with cool green rivers but whatever) literally across the street from the 76 gas station is Crystal Kaleidoscope. It’s hands down the cheapest and most awesome crystal shop I’ve ever been to. I got this hunk of amethyst for $9.
A few miles later in Kerby, stop at the It’s a Burl! place. It’s a couple properties dedicated to using and showcasing burl wood. They have a few little tree houses, and incredible wood furniture and stuff. You’ll know you’re there when you see the welcome sign above a fountain spewing purple water. I’m not really “into” wood, but you don’t have to be to appreciate the wild streaks of creativity here. It’s like hobbit land. Fucking rad.
When you get to Cave Junction, make sure to stop at Bagel Junction for breakfast lunch or snacks. It’s on the left on the town’s main drag. The interior of BJ in CJ has dripping plants, local authors’ books free to peruse while you hang out, and hand carved wood things that make it look really funky and creative. I like that kinda stuff. BJ has amazing jalapeno cheddar bagels among others, and good coffee. There’s also eggs and bacon and shit. There’s local art on the walls including some close-ups of the exotic carnivorous plants native to Oregon. People in these parts are super creative, and you’ll find hand made everything around here, from art to dream catchers, painted rocks, books, wood furniture and on and on.
CJ is also home to the original Wild River Pizza and Brewing Co. There’s 3 other locations in Oregon but this is the best one. They serve their own hand crafted ales and lagers and have great pizza.
The Oregon Caves are supposed to be awesome. I’ll report back when we re-visit this area next week. See, I can’t stay away from southern Oregon!
From Cave Junction, head out to Takilma. Takilma borders a bunch of National Forest land, more rivers and hiking and it’s where you’ll find the Out ‘n About Treesort. You can stay in the treehouses, walk suspension bridges between trees and take horse rides or tile mosaic classes. This is a truly unique spot. You can also check in with reception and have a self guided tour for free.
Warning: there’s an optional puppy love tax on your way into Out ‘n About. If you choose to stop for the greeters, they WILL jump in your car.
I adore southern Oregon, don’t pass it up!