Small Town Celebrates with a Big Bang

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Follow along with Web Content Manager, Taj Morgan, as she and her daughter see how the town of Creswell celebrates the 4th of July

My five-year-old daughter and I are standing expectantly on the curb awaiting Creswell’s July 4th Parade. I had just discovered that we hadn’t come prepared – no camp chairs, no cooler, no bag for collecting candy…and the crowd here was obviously pros. Up and down W. Oregon Avenue in both directions the street was lined with a colorful ensemble. Little girls in red, white and blue dresses, little boys sporting American flag t-shirts and everyone waving flags. Across the street the white spire of a former church-turned-historical-museum poked the summer sky.

As I gazed lazily upwards, there was a sudden whir and loud swooshing above the parade route. Bi-planes were overhead, tipping their wings in greeting. Of course! Creswell is home to Hobby Field, one of the region’s most popular hobbyist airports – what a thrilling way to begin the parade!

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The friendly folks around me made space for my daughter to sit but she didn’t stay put for long. The parade was far too exciting.

It was jam packed with all the traditional elements that make a small town parade so nostalgically delightful and relevant to real life all at the same time.

We ogled spiffed up and polished classic cars adorned with festive bows, sleek modern hot rods, proud stepping horses, all manner of tractors, waving politicians and beauty queens, boy scouts and marching bands. And they rolled by spewing candy. It was like one long drawn out piñata bust. As a rule we don’t eat candy, but that didn’t dampen my daughter’s delight in stuffing my purse and pockets full. (Later she took pleasure in passing it back out to other kids, although I did let her eat one piece – I’m not a totally uptight mom.)

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As it started to heat up, fire trucks and floats with water blasters cooled us down. The kids frolicked in the spray and ate popsicles.

I felt like we were having the “most American” Independence Day ever. It was perfect. And then – a sudden scene change.

Usually I try to stake out bathrooms ahead of time but with so much else to look at, I hadn’t scanned our surroundings for promising looking venues, so I was woefully unprepared when the “I need the POTTY” alarm was sounded.

IMG_7366We had to move quickly. Luckily, there just happened to be a tented diaper changing station nearby (how great is that?) and the nice volunteers were able to point us in the right direction.

The bathroom break took us to Harry Holt Neighborhood Park which was a pleasing discovery in itself, easing any disappointment over missing the tail end of the parade. The sight of swings and slides can solve a million ills.

The clean park was ringed with food and drink vendors. A tuba band was playing and, joy of joys, the parade was circling back around the far side of the park.

Turns out, there was eIMG_7380nough to do here on this two-acre park block to entertain us for the rest of the afternoon.

And one of the best things about the park and the parade was, despite to sheer volume of people in attendance, there was still plenty of space. It didn’t feel crowded.

No lines for the bathrooms, only a few rows deep along the parade route and only short lines at the food booths.

As we were heading back to the car with sticky hands, tired feet and happy smiles, in my head I heard Chicago’s refrain of “Saturday, in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July…”

Tips for going: Get a hold of the Creswell Chronicle’s special parade insert which includes a parade route map, don’t worry about chairs and coolers– didn’t need them after all – but DO bring a bag for candy, be prepared to park several blocks away and walk in, arrive early for the pancake breakfast dished up at Harry Holt Neighborhood Park, leave the pets at home and plan to spend the afternoon in town. The music on the main stage features two regional bands – The Traceys and The Men of S.U.R.F.’ and after the parade there are plenty of food and family activities in the park. The Creswell Grange hosts a hometown fair, the Creswell Historical Museum is open, the Young Eagles program offers free bi-plane rides to children ages 8 – 17 years old and there is a special Cars and Stripes car show. And while you are in town, don’t miss a favorite foodie stop at Creswell Bakery. Finish the day off with the fireworks display.IMG_7306

 

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Fields of Dreams: Greetings From Westfir!

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   As the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region transitions into summer the snow in the Cascades has melted and been replaced by a rainbow hillside of wildflowers! Follow along with Adventure Specialist, Gabrielle Lent, as the explores the snow melt meadows of Tire Mountain, just outside of Westfir.           Tire Mountain 09

Greetings from Westfir, home of Tire Mountain and its game-changing fields of wildflowers! Hillsides vigorously dotted in pink, blue and yellow, creating a mosaic of primary color amongst tufts of grass, alongside sun-bleached logs and mossy cliff sides. Parts of the walk are shaded by tree canopies and around every corner lay a meadow awash in sunlight and bloom. The most accurate comparison I can draw for this real life experience is Robin Williams’ pTire Mountain 01erfect heaven in What Dreams May Come. My pictures are okay, but really, only an oil painting could replicate this scene with justice.

From Highway 58 I turned left for Westfir, heading straight at the stop sign by Office Covered Bridge and onto Forest Service Road 19. At the junction of FS Road 19 and 1912 I made a left to cross the Willamette River via a one-lane bridge, continuing up a very windy, well-kept gravel road for a little over six miles before reaching the designated parking area for the Alpine Trail.Tire Mountain 08

Fun fact, the path to summit Tire Mountain is an off-branch of the Alpine Trail, a hot favorite for mountain bikers.

I arrived late on a lovely Sunday afternoon and the eight car lot was at capacity. Riding solo, the presence of other explorers offered me comfort and confidence I may not have been afforded if I’d felt I was alone in the forest. I was surrounded, like a tourist.

I began my ascent, feeling inclined to talk with other hikers on the trail. I greeted each new face with a smile, asking the question, “Did you do the whole hike?” Surprisingly, most people did not. Like me, they seemed to have come for the vast meadows and sprawling mountainside views. Apparently, there is no view from the summit, but I’d heard through the grapevine that on this particular day there were fire ants, and there were a lot of them. This did not appeal to me and I by choice I did not reach the top.

Tire Mountain 10                While snapping some shots of a glorious and thriving ground bouquet, a citizen noticed me and my camera. We began talking and as it would turn out, Tanya, was a botanist and blogger for the website WesternCascades.com, which will most likely dictate my next adventure.

It was exciting to meet a sister enthusiast out on the trail. I showed Tanya the pictures I’d taken that day and she helped me to identify some species, including one of my favorite finds – Orange Honeysuckle – a fading, tubular blossom which grew from a crawling vine. She was a peaceful laTire Mountain 03dy of the land and had I not been venturing alone, we may never have met. It’s nice to get outside!

In total, I came across four very impressive field sites, each bursting with a medley of flowers I had not yet seen this season. I feel as though I could return a hundred times and have a hundred new experiences. As a hiker on my feet, I smelled the wild roses and pondered life. As a mountain biker, I may have done the same. Tire Mountain is the best hike I’ve been on in a long time. Like Hall and Oates, it made my dreams come true.

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Experience the Eugene Symphony’s Concert in the Park

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Follow along with Web Content Manager, Taj Morgan, as she takes her daughter to experience a summer concert in the park with Eugene Symphony. 

*All tickets for the Eugene Symphony in the Park concert at Cuthbert Amphitheater on July 16 have been distributed. However, check with the Hult Center Ticket Office closer to the event, as patrons may return tickets they are unable to use. Additionally, Eugene Symphony will perform a similar program with free admission at Cottage Grove’s Bohemia Park on July 18 and no tickets are required for entry. For details and more information, please visit Eugene Symphony’s website.

I’m not musical. But when the Eugene Symphony holds its annual free concert at Cuthbert Amphitheater, I want to be there!image006

Last year when my daughter was five years old we went for the whole beautiful experience – blanket on the grass, warm summer air, afternoon sunshine turning into dusky twilight, friendly camaraderie with other concert-goers, delicious local food paired with a glass of wine and oh, yes… the music!

Every time I tune into classical music on the car radio, I must confess it is with the hopeful motivation that my daughter will respond to it in a way I never did. I dream that she will be inspired. That it will imprint upon her soul and elevate her thought patterns. Okay, maybe some of that Baby Mozart marketing got to me (although we are screen time avoidant so I’ve never bought the videos).

image004So here we are, a tad early browsing the food selection, when we meander by the Eugene Symphony’s “Petting Zoo.” Look, a petting zoo! I announce to my daughter who immediately wants to see the animals. Well there aren’t animals to pet, but there is a range of mysterious and intriguing instruments to try out. At first she regards them like she would a snake – gazing intently but refusing to hold when offered to her. Starting with a few wind instruments like the clarinet, I demonstrate with a few feeble puffs and crack myself up. Yes, this is fun for adults too.

The percussion section breaks the ice as she recognizes noisemakers that we have at home in the toy basket. Comfort level established, we return to the wind instruments for successful engagement. And then she spots it – the violin. Another young girl is dragging the bow across the strings with gentle coaching from the symphony volunteer. “I want to do that!” she announces.image003

When it’s her turn, it is like magic. She glows. Granted the sounds aren’t great but her absolute joy in tucking the violin under the chin and positioning the bow surprises me. We move on but then she asks to play the violin again. And again. We dutifully complete the rounds of all the instruments, getting a stamp at each station. But during the musical exploration she returns five times to that violin.

Feeling that we’ve had an excellent “overture” already, we settle down on the lawn for the concert. As the first melodies float through the air, my daughter sits up straight and attentive. This means something to her now. She believes she can do this too. It is relatable.

What I love about the annual Eugene Symphony in the Park is just that – this experience is accessible to all of us in the greater community. The program includes easily digestible pieces from Broadway favorites and pops to familiar classical selections.  The range gives the novice a delightful taste and the mastery is there to please the aficionado. The Eugene Symphony has been conducting free concerts in the park for seven years as commuimage007nity gift. And last year, to celebrate their 50th anniversary, they expanded their free musical outreach to Roseburg and Cottage Grove.

They also reached into the heart of our family. It just so happened we stumbled upon a child’s violin at a yard sale the next day. I think I got the message. But thank you, Eugene Symphony for delivering it. Without your generous sharing, we might never have heard it. And yes, the music has made a soul imprint.

 

 

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Fresh Blooms and Old Growth – An Oakridge Report

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Journey to Oakridge/Westfir with Adventure Specialist, Gabrielle Lent, as she covers more ground on her weekly wildflower roundup!

A domino effect took place in our office. In one weekend, two of my coworkers journeyed separately to a “new” hot springs, posting pictures of their individually shared experiences, sparking my human curiosity. I too decided to make the day trip to this lesser known pool with the hope of finding wildflowers as a frontrunner motivation. With a book and a water bottle, I hit the road on a hot day and rambled out to Wall CreeOakridge 2k Warm Springs.

Taking I-5 South toward Oakridge I took Exit 188A and drove for about another 35 miles to reach the traffic light at Crescent Street, heading to the City Center. Going right, 1st Street soon becomes Salmon Creek Road, FS Road 24. After nine miles a junction popped up and I made a left, finding the Warm Springs trailhead quickly and easily. There was one other car in the parking area so I prepared myself to share the pool. Hot springs are fairly communal and if you’re not prepared to share, this is not the adventure you’re looking for.

Oakridge 4As I began my short walk to Warm Springs, birds chirped from the surrounding forest canopy, light dancing between tree leaves. The walk unearthed no flowers but the shimmy of creek water welcomed me and the drive felt worth it. When I reached the pool, its color reminded me of a hybrid between a blind man’s pupil and a fresh blueberry – murky, cloudy, a hazy grey-purple. At this particular time of day, a family of three and their dog inhabited the pool. I smiled, but not wanting to marinate in dog water I continued on. Warm Springs, it should be mentioned, is not a full-force hot spring. It’s a warm spring, and water temperature reaches about 96 degrees at its hottesOakridge 3t.

I read my book just beyond the pool, crossing a clearing and situating myself by the creek. Time passed, my mind began to wander and I hungered for a bigger day. I had originally set my sights on Blair Lake but my good old Accord couldn’t seem to grip the uphill gravel road.

Leaving Warm Springs I continued along FS Road 24 and at 12.5 miles I came to the junction of FS Road 2421 and 2422. Following 2421 for about seven unpaved miles to FS Road 393 I would arrive to the trailhead for Joe Goddard Grove Trail, an old growth forest interpretive area I took an interest in.

Oakridge 1It was on this unpaved road that I encountered most of my flowers for the day. I spied roadside rhododendrons shooting up between pine branches, purple flowers meandering among the old growth forest floor. Goddard Grove is a wonderful spot for seclusion and anonymity. I recommend it for a super secret picnic or a cool place to see examples of 1990’s blowdown. However, the road is rough for compacts, so be aware. Cell phone service is not available.

If I’d had more time I would have stopped at Brewers Union Local 180, a fixture in the small community of Oakridge serving English-style cask ales and delicious Buffalo tempeh nuggets. I didn’t, so beerless, I returned home.

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One Day, Three Falls – Exploring Brice Creek

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Tucked in the forest of Cottage Grove, the Brice Creek corridor contains multiple easily-accessible waterfalls for visitors to enjoy. With numerous small pools to cool off in and plenty of shade from the old-growth forest the Brice Creek corridor is the perfect place to spend the afternoon as summer starts to heat up.

And as the weather gets hotter, the wildflowers popping up in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region have began to transition to the summer varieties. Follow along with Adventure Specialist, Gabrielle Lent, as she ventures into the forest on her weekly wildflower hunt!

To find wildflowers this week I decided to venture where the green grass grows. From I-5 South I took Exit 174 toward Cottage Grove and set my sights on three mild afternoon hikes near Brice Creek, all of which resulted in waterfalls. Driving 19 miles down Row River Road I would soon reach the junction of Layng Creek and Brice Creek Roads. Following Layng Creek for another nine miles, I came upon Road #17 and in 500 feet found the parking lot for the first of my mini-quests, Spirit Falls.

Recent rainfall had left the entire grounds Inside Out Flower in Cottage Groverejuvenated and full of life. Electric-green ferns seemed to harness the power of natural light in newly unfurled tendrils, glowing neon in their youth. Inside-out flowers darted up between the soft, ground-covering plants and wild roses held their faces level with our waists. Seeing some fallen petals on the pRhododendrons in Cottage Groveath, I suddenly remembered the importance of looking up. In my search for wildflowers I have become accustomed to keeping my head down and if not for these retired blossoms in the dirt I might have altogether missed the rhododendrons growing above me, their hot pink bubblegum pops adding a fun flourish to a lush world of lime hues.

Butterscotch Iris in Cottage GroveWhen we reached Spirit Falls, it was gushing. Down on the banks of its coursing stream, butterscotch-colored wild iris’ were found among the clover and rocks. We would see many more of these iris’ on the trail to Pinard Falls, though because this path was much cooler and more shaded, the rhododendrons had not yet bloomed.

I was happy to have saved Moon Falls for last. Of all the day’s falls I found it to be the most interesting; a towering 125 feet high with a network of old growth trees growing out of the water that coursed from the fall’s pool. As we marveled at its immovable permanence, we were joined by two other groups of walkers. It was now 6 p.m. and this was the first time during our trip that we’d encountered other people. If they were locals they must have known something we didn’t, leaving us with the feeling that 6 p.m. is witching hour at Moon Falls.Lupines in Cottage Grove

 

Trailheads leading to each of the individual falls were about a mile walk; half mile to and from, making for three miles of walking in total. Not a crazy amount of hiking for the length of drive time but a lovely and worthwhile exploration none the less.

Foxgloves in Cottage Grove

 

 

As we pulled away from Brice Creek, tall Foxgloves stood on the side of the road like floral queens majestically reigning in purple, waving goodbye. On our way back through town we stopped  for a delicious meal to wind down from our time outdoors and caught the end of the Cottage Grove Farmer’s Market. The little town was warm and bustling on a late spring evening and returning to I-5, we caught the orange sunset over the Southern Willamette Valley.

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A Wonderful Wine Weekend with Pinot Bingo

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As Oregon Wine Month is winding down, don’t miss out on spending Memorial Day Weekend out in the South Willamette Wine Country. Many wineries have planned ahead for a weekend full of  live music, special food  menu items and many other special activities.

Need a little help deciding which wineries to visit first? Make sure to grab your copy of Eugene, Cascades & Coast’s Pinot Bingo game cards for some added inspiration! Read on, as Vice President of Stakeholder Relations, Andy Vobora, take his wife out to achieve their first “Pinot Bingo.” 

160322_TRLC_PB-0808Friday the 13th produced rainfall reminiscent of the downpours my wife and I experience while visiting our granddaughters in Texas. Waking up Saturday morning to a similar forecast in the South Willamette Valley we decided it would be the ideal day to visit the wineries to pick up our wine club new releases. Like my black lab Zoey, who has her favorite spots to lay around the house, we would again venture out to our favorite “tried and true” wineries.

playing pinot bingoLike a lightning bolt from the night before, it occurred to us that we could have additional fun to be beautiful with the vineyard backdrop. We pulled into Sweet Cheeks Winery minutes before they opened and were surprised to find multiple cars already in the parking lot. Once inside we learned that a wedding party was setting up for, you guessed it, an outdoor wedding! A bold decision for the middle of May in Oregon, but sure to be beautiful with the vineyard backdrop.

We wished them well and before departing, we scanned our Pinot Bingo cards for the nearest and most strategic tasting room to advance us toward that coveted first bingo. Sure enough, Silvan Ridge would immediately help my wife in her pursuit. It would aid me in working toward the second and third level prizes, so by taking our Eugene, Cascades & Coast Pinot Bingo game cards and begin working our way toward completing a bingo.

It would aid me in working toward the second and third level prizes, so my only instant gratification would come from tasting a very good (91 points) 2012 Pinot Noir! I could handle that. While we were enjoying the wine, three visitors inquired about our game cards and soon, they too, were plotting the rest of their day in pursuit of a Pinot Bingo!

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With subsequent stops at Sarver, Bennett, Valhalla and Pfeiffer, my wife earned her first Pinot Bingo that day. We had so much fun that on Sunday, we followed up with visits to Noble Estate and the Viking Braggot Company (which is a “pairing” destination). The Pinot Bingo game got us out of our routine and introduced us to wineries we’d never explored before. We tasted top notch wines and learned a lot from talking with the winery owners. We are still working toward winning “bottle” bingos and “full cellars” (which is the completion of the card); so we may be venturing out again soon. Meanwhile, cheers to the winery staff whom brightened our outlook on such a rainy weekend!

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Blooms on McKenzie View Bike Loop

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Spring is popping up from all edges of Lane County. Follow Adventure Specialist, Gabrielle Lent, on her bicycle voyage into the countryside where she spends a sunny afternoon exploring country roads, spotting wildflowers and picnicking by the river. 

Wind combed my hair through the vents of a helmet as my Kiva sandwich and I set out to cruise the McKenzie View Scenic Bike Loop on a bright Thursday afternoon with our tour guide, my dad. Starting in the Whiteaker Neighborhood we accessed the Ruth Bascom Bike Path by way of the River House and continued north to Delta Ponds, passing Marist High School, heading toward the intersection of Delta Highway and Green Acres Road.

On this stretch of path a blue-topped fire Fire Hydranthydrant caught my eye. Nestled in a gently rustling field, its yellow base seemed to bloom in blue. It was so cute; a rare urban flower growing up among others, more finite.

Going left on Delta Highway we reached Ayers Road and made our way through the residential streets near Gilham Elementary School. Taking a secret shortcut offered in the curves of a cul-de-sac, we reached Dale Avenue which fed us onto County Farm Road.

Wild SageI had a hot tip about a field of wild sage and kept my eyeballs peeled, looking for it. Soon, a soft-tufted purple sea presented itself behind the gates of Camp Harlow, not the wild patch I was hoping for but a beautiful manicure none the less. Gazing upon it, lyrics of a song by The Mountain Goats entered my mind and made me smile in appreciation of sage.

From County Farm we hit Coburg Road. Silently positioned across from Armitage Park I spotted the actual field of wild sage I was hoping for. Though slightly smaller it lay equally radiant, peacefully purple. We crossed the river via Armitage Bridge and made the first right onto McKenzie View Drive, weathering the slight inclines and savoring the slopes, riding to its end at Hill Road.

My sandwich was ready for me, so for lunBeaver Habitatch’s sake we hooked a left on Old Mohawk, a road not part of the loop. A scorched piece of earth from a recent controlled burn exposed a dirt path leading to a riverside beach. Here, I ate my sandwich. As I listened to the water flow, I reflected on a musing made by my dad during the day’s course. “You can forget just about anything, riding out here.” Feeling good with two clear minds (and one happy tummy) we mounted up and headed home.

Pink Flower To return, we rode Old Mohawk to Marcola Road, connecting to 42nd Street and riding Jasper to Clearwater, a natural area that is always a sensory delight. On this particular day, the rushing current of the river glinted like diamonds in the sun – what I like to call, “Little Mermaid water.” On the banks of the broken river that lay on the north side of the path, yellow iris’ rose wildly from tall grass. Enamored with the scene, I came close to running over a gopher snake basking in the warmth of the asphalt beneath my wheels. It was the second sizable snake I’d seen that day.

In total, our ride clocked in at about 36 miles. It should be stated that for the amount of time we spent on roads with cars, passing traffic was incredibly respectful of our space and safety which made the ride that much more comfortable. If you’re looking for a great way to spend a spring day, I suggest you follow these country roads, brace yourself for reptilian encounters, pack a Kiva sandwich and allow three hours to explore this area in bloom.

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Rhododendrons in Full Bloom at Hendricks Park

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Bursting with spring color, Hendricks Park is the perfect urban escape for any day of the week. Find out why Eugene’s oldest city park is so special and share your favorite Hendricks Park activity!

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Photography by: Thomas Moser

Located in the heart of Eugene, Hendricks Park is Eugene’s oldest city park. Known for its world-renowned Rhododendron garden, spring is the perfect time to visit this gem in the city. Towering Rhododendron plants, surrounded by walls of Douglas-fir trees show off dazzling displays of color in the springtime sun.

 

Photography by: Thomas Moser

Photography by: Thomas Moser

Just minutes away from Downtown Eugene, this park is great for both quick weeknight excursions and lazy Sunday afternoon picnics. Take a walk on one of the park’s many pathways and experience the buzz of spring with birds singing, lime green leaves budding and wildflowers peaking up from the ground.

Photography by: Thomas Moser

Photography by: Thomas Moser

 

Hendricks Park provides guests with a different experience throughout the seasons. Make sure to visit Hendricks Park soon to experience springtime with all its accompanying colors and stay tuned for blackberry picking and picnics in the shade of the giant trees when the weather heats up for summer.

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Wildflower Spotting as May Rolls in

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Follow along as Adventure Specialist Gabrielle Lent highlights what wildflowers are blooming in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region.

Sun is shining as rain still falls in the weather-balanced ecosystem of our Willamette Valley. The flowers we’ve been waiting for have arrived and they look fantastic. This week includes a drive out Highway 126 west toward Florence, where one can see Fern Ridge farmland marked with Wild Iris flowers.

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Pansies on the forest floor

Closer to the ocean, you’ll begin to notice the bold pink blooms of Rhododendrons. A short walk through the Carl G. Washburne Campground displays their seasonal loveliness.

From here embark on the China Creek Trail, a half mile loop filled with lush green ferns, rippling waters and the vibrant yellow decoration of swamp cabbage growing in the marsh.

Birds are awake and snakes are too, coming out of winter hiding and catching rays in the wide open spaces of the Fern Ridge Bike Path. Camas blow in the wind as dime-sized violets flank the pathways, a pretty little patchwork of purple and yellow in a sea of tall green grass.

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A Calypso Orchid

Larkspur near the Ruth Bascom Bike Path is particularly lovely on the Southbank stretch between Alton Baker Park and the Autzen Footbridge, with the restored habitat close to the Knickerbocker Bridge also beginning to see new life.

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Trillium

Along the Ridgeline, especially near the Martin Street Trailhead, flowers are growing strong. Even Skinner’s Butte is covered from bottom to top with delicate spring blooms.

My favorite find this week was unexpected. I’ve been waiting for a real, live field of flowers and next to the railroad tracks under the Chamber’s Overpass, I found my first field. Here in this space, California Poppies live harmoniously beside an affluence of Camas.

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Springtime Camping at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

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Spring time in Oregon has officially arrived. Snow caps are melting, sunshine and rain have begun playing peak-a-boo once again and Oregonians are coming out of hibernation with sleepy eyes and pale skin. Read about Tourism Coordinator, Katie McGuigan’s, adventure to Dunes City for her first camping trip of the season. dunes_honeymanstatepark(5)_katiemcguigan

Located just over an hour outside of the Willamette Valley, the Oregon Coast offers the perfect escape for spring camping. Bags packed the night before, we watched the clocks from our desks until 5 p.m., when we headed straight for the Coast for our first camping trip of the season.

Arriving at Honeyman State Park around 6:30 p.m., we quickly set up camp before heading out to the sand dunes. ATV’s and dune buggies hummed in the distance as we climbed the sandy slopes into the sci-fi -esque dunes.

dunes(2)_katiemcguiganWith 500-miles of sand dunes, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, is a vast and unique landscape. Only after climbing to the top of the tallest dune around were we able to fully experience the eerie vastness of the dunes. Tracks left behind by the ATV’s were our only sign of civilization and even though we dunes(4)had only ventured about 10 minutes from our campsite we were able to experience a calming solitude. This solitude lasted only a couple of minutes before the distant echo of the ATV’s grew louder and we were surrounded by a rowdy group of ATV riders speeding across the dunes.

After a warm campfire (regretfully without s ‘mores) we settled into the tent for a comfortable night that didn’t even drop below 50°F (it was 34°F that night in Eugene). The next morning we enjoyed one last campfire before making our way to Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters for a good old fashioned cup of Joe.florence1

Being relatively early, the little old town of Florence appeared to still be asleep. However, once we turned the corner to Siuslaw Coffee Roasters we saw the bustle of walking groups, students and the old beach town regulars. Sipping our coffee we were able to sit out on the riverfront porch and overlook the Siuslaw River Bridge, which we learnedsiuslawcoffeeroasters_florence(2)_katiemcguigan was constructed in 1936 as part of Oregon’s Coast Bridges Project.

After we consumed a suitable amount of caffeine, we powered up and headed north on Highway 101. Enjoying the rocky coastal views and scanning the ocean from Highway 101’s multiple scenic viewpoints for grey whales we enjoyed the next few hours agenda free before heading to Darlingtonia State Natural Area.

Although Darlingtonia comes equipped with picnic tables and easily-accessible pathways common in many Oregon state parks, this park is still unusual because it is the only Oregon state park property dedicated to the protection of a single plant species.

darlingtonia(7)_katiemcguiganWhat is so special about this plant? The Darlingtonia californica, commonly known as the Cobra Lily, is the only type of pitcher plant (yes, a carnivorous plant) that can be found in Oregon. Although this park is frequented by science enthusiasts and botanists, the common public often overlooks this hidden gem on the Coast, making Darlingtonia State Natural Area a darlingtoniawayside_katiemcguigan (7)must-see.

Even though we visited the Coast for less than 24 hours the “Coastal Experience” was easily accessible to us. In less than 24 hours we were able to comfortably enjoy multiple state parks and natural scenic areas with coffee in hand.

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