Summer Color in the Coburg Hills

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What better way to spend the 4th of July than scouting the red, white, and blue flowers dotting the Coburg Hills? Follow along with Adventure Specialist, Gabrielle Lent, as she explores Horse Rock Ridge on a short hike right outside of the Eugene/Springfield area!

On the Road to Horse Rock4th of July I skipped lakes and rivers, heading out Marcola Road past Shotgun Creek Recreation Area. I followed every right hand fork in the road until the truck began to climb uphill, passing by a stockpile of rock and an OHV site, landing at a small, unpaved parking area marking the trail head for Horse Rock Ridge and beginning my journey.

My first trip to Horse Rock had been a drizzly February afternoon, complete with grey skies, big clouds and thunder clapping over the valley below. On this returning trip, everything was summer. The once lush green moss that coated the ridge line and offered traction to shoe bottoms was weathered to a slick and crispy golden grass, now dotted with an array of purple flowers and the vibrant orange of Indian Paintbrush – the superstar of the late-season wildflower bracket.Purple Flowers at Horse Rock

Indian Paintbrush at Horse RockViews from the ridge line were vast, looking out over the Coburg Hills and Cascades. The three mile out-and-back trek saw changes in terrain, morphing from wooded forest to an open flower-filled meadow. The summit is a large rock that appears to be held in place by the sheer will of an average sized tree. This little spot is a great place to stop for water or hugs, though there are many wonderful places to soak in the scene along the way.

Horse Rock Ridge is a quick and pretty hike for all ages and abilities with an elevation gain of only 600 feet and a drive that is entirely flanked by sugar peas, foxgloves, lupines, daisies and OHV trail head turnouts, making for the best 4th of July I’ve ever had without fireworks.

 

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Lowder Mountain Wildflowers

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As the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region transitions into summer the snow in the Cascades has melted and been replaced by a rainbow hillside of wildflowers!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 she explores the Western Cascades and Lowder Mountain.

I have been having a lot of fun in the Western Cascades. This week I made the trip to Lowder Mountain where spring is warming to summer, ushered in by the blooming of high altitude flowers in hotter weather. Indian paintbrush and Tolmie’s Cat Ear currently run rampant at the summit.

To reach my destination I traveled east onLowder Summit 01 Highway 126 to Blue River, cEcho Day Use Area 02ontinuing right on the Aufderheide until arriving to Cougar Resevoir.

My, did that water look inviting – a liquid sapphire glinting in the sun. I wasn’t there to swim, however, and turned left to cross the dam.

 

Passing Echo Day Use Area I soon came to Lowder Mountain’s secluded trailhead. The lack of other cars in the gravel lot made this access point feel very deep forest as I realized that no service is a real thing. I had two and a half miles ahead of me making for a five mile out and back trek. I crossed my fingers for no snakes and began to walk.

The trailhead for Lowder also marks the start of Walker Creek and beyond that, Quaking Aspen Trail.

Lowder Mountain

 

Over the course of my chosen path I would gain 900 feet in elevation, making this a relatively flat and easy hike.

This being said, the trail was slightly overgrown in some areas and my ankles did have to do some bush pushing.

For your comfort, I recommend higher boots with thick socks to keep debris from climbing inside of shoes.

Reaching the top of Lowder Mountain was kind of obscure, the reward of this hike being the walk itself and not the summit. The apex can be found at the end of a lightly worn path branching off to the right just before the path descents and is interrupted by a rippling stream.

The flat rock surface of cliff is covered inLowder Summit 03 succulents and colorful blossoms knit together like a Pendleton blanket.

It seemed so sudden but the sun began to set. I headed back down the mountain, returning to my car, never once bothered by anything more than the gentle sound of birds in trees.

Driving away, the motion of my wheels flushed a pheasant or two out of the brush. Something about seeing their bodies so close to the ground made me feel better about the snake population, like maybe there wasn’t one. I smiled as the songs on the radio took me home.

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A City Built on Track Culture

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Nothing quite compares to the roar from Historic Hayward Field during track & field events. Known around the world as “TrackTown”, Eugene has hosted top tier track events multiple times, including the NCAA Championships, the Prefontaine Classic, IAAF World Junior Championships and the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In fact, 2016 will mark the sixth time Eugene has hosted the Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field! With many well-known athletes, such as Ashton Eaton and Alexi Pappas connected to Eugene it is no wonder Eugene has become well-known as a running capital! 

Venture around the city and learn about the legends, monuments and places that make this city proud of its athletic history.

Track & Field Legacies

Steve Prefontaine – Well recognizepres_rock_by_nicole_nelsond for competing as a long-distance runner, finishing in fourth place during the 1972 Olympics in Munich Germany, Steve Prefontaine was respected for his hard work as an athlete and a community member, and has since been memorialized in Eugene following his tragic car accident in 1975.

Bill Bowerman – A former Olympian, UO Track Coach and co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman is at the pinnacle of track history in Eugene. During his career Coach Bowerman trained many famous athletes, such as, Steve Prefontaine.

Phil Knight – Nike co-founder, Phil Knight, first experimented with running shoes at Hayward Field. At the time a middle-distance runner with UO Track, Phil Knight famously ran with the first pair of Nike shoes, created when Coach Bowerman took a placed a pair of rubber-sole running shoes on a waffle iron to create the grip on the bottom of the shoe. Since Nike, Inc. was established in 1968, this partnership has paved the way to Eugene’s title as “TrackTown.”

Powell Plaza-Hayward Field1 by Kayla Krempley (1)Track & Field Monuments

Historic Hayward Field – Built in 1919, Historic Hayward Field has drawn many crowds for world renowned track events over the years. Many world-record holders have trained here, including Steve Prefontaine and Ashton Eaton.

Pre’s Rock – After Steve Prefontaine’s was tragically killed in a car accident in 1975, running enthusiasts continue to honor him by visiting his memorial, Pre’s Rock, located at the site of the crash.

Footwear 307 Liu 009

Photo by – Jack Liu

*Located at the intersection of Birch and Skyline, pedestrians should use caution along the road

World’s Oldest Running Shoes – It’s not just the first Nike running shoe that is celebrated here – The Museum of Natural and Cultural History displays ancient footwear unearthed by UO archaeologists during a 1930s dig in Oregon’s high desert caves.

One of the shoes discovered the the Fort Rock Cave is made from sagebrush bark and is 10,000 years old (twice as old as the pyramids)!

Oregon’s Fastest Runners – Think Olympic athletes are fast? Head to the museum’s beautiful natural history exhibit, Explore Oregon, to learn about the evolution of horses, some of the fastest mammals Oregon has ever seen.

Running Trails

A little rain doesn’t stop runners here. With over 42 mi/67.59 km of shared use running trails, runners are out no matter the season!

Pre’s Running Trail – Follow in the footsteps of legendary track star Steve Prefontaine on this soft, bark covered path located by Alton Baker Park. From this scenic 3.4 mi/ 5.5 km path runners can choose to connect with other Eugene/Springfield trail systems, including the Willamette River Trail.

Amazoamazon_trail_runner_by_nicole_nelsonn Trail – The flat cedar chipped Amazon Trail is comprised of two main trail sections looping through the residential area of SE Eugene and giving runners multiple routing options between the two connecting trails. The 3.5 mi/ 5.6 km Rexius Trail (south section) follows the Amazon canal amidst lush native landscape and also connects to the Martin Street trailhead of the Ridgeline Trail on its far south end. The Adidas Oregon Trail offers 1 mi, ¼ mi loop and a 1,500-meter loop through scenic park settings with picturesque views of Spencer Butte.

Ridgeline Trail – Sprawling across thHiking Spencer Butte in November by Stacey Malstrome skyline of Eugene the 12-mile Ridgeline Trail is the perfect urban escape for trail runners and hikers. Seven easily accessible trailheads allow visitors to choose from a variety of routes. At 2,065 feet, Spencer Butte is the highest point on the ridgeline trail and a popular summit to Eugene and the Willamette Valley.

Beer Trails

Track is in our blood and in our beer. And what better way to cool down from a day of cheering on your favorite athlete than a pint of beer from one of our local craft brewers?

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After you’ve learned about Eugene’s track culture make sure to check out the Eugene Ale Trail. Eugene, Cascades & Coast’s “beer passport” features 14 craft breweries, at 18 different locations, helping visitors 08-12oz-Bottle-SR-BRUN-335x1000experience the culture of the area off the track.


Beer Run

Brewed to celebrate Eugene’s running history, Ninkasi’s “Beer Run IPA” is a must for any running enthusiast. And there is no better way to earn this beer than going on a 5 mile loop run with Ninkasi’s running club! Meeting every Wednesday at 6 p.m. the run starts & finishes at the Ninkasi Brewing Tasting Room (272 Blair, Blvd., Eugene OR 97402). Those who attend will even receive a complimentary pint after finishing the run.

 

 

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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 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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