Accommodations, culture, destinations

24 Hours in Ashland

This weekend, I spent the night in the lovable, quirky city of Ashland, Oregon. It’s part college town, part hippie town, part art town, part outdoor town, and part I-don’t-even-know town.

My first stop was the Ashland Commons, which was nice enough to let me stay in a private room overnight. It was a very interesting hostel.The hostel was an apartment complex, so each apartment unit has two to three rooms and at least one private bathroom, along with a kitchen and living area. Unlike many hostels that display blank walls, each room is beautifully decorated.

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After a quick stop at the Ashland Food Co-op to get some natural snacks, I headed over to Lithia Park. It had been raining all day, but it finally let up as I arrived at the park. The 93-acre park typically has some nice nature trails, but because everything was still so soggy, I stayed on the paved path. I walked past playgrounds, tennis courts, a stage, a stream, and fountains. The highlight was spotting some deer in the woods by the tennis courts. As I walked closer, I realized there were five deer, and two of them were babies! The adult does kept their distance, but the babies stayed put even as I walked five feet from them!

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The low of the park was the water that Lithia Park was named after. The park entrance features a fountain display of Lithia water and even a drinking fountain with the same water. This mineral water is supposed to be healthy, but even health nuts would stay away from this stuff if they smelled it first. Ew!

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It started raining again, so I decided to end my stroll through the park and visit some of the local downtown shops. I loved the outdoor shop, with sales on all kinds of tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, and anything else needed for outdoor adventure. I’m sure they get a lot of business since the Pacific Crest Trail is only a few miles away. Another good business for the area was a costume shop, since the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is just a block away. The costume shop was really busy when I went, probably because Halloween is right around the corner. Although I walked away from all the stores empty-handed, I had to at least try on the fox onesie!

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After window shopping, I crossed the street to Martoni’s where I had their signature macaroni and cheese. I then walked back to my car through the Shakespeare theater area, and spent a lovely night at Ashland Commons. It was so relaxing, I stayed there for half the next morning! After a visit to Ashland Christian Fellowship, I headed back home, just as the Oregon liquid sunshine started plopping onto the windshield!

Note: This post was made possible in part by Ashland Commons, which offered me a free night’s stay. I would have loved it just as much even at full price! 

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#ThrowbackThursday, day trip

Throwback Thursday: Last Time at Crater Lake

All the photos must be altered. Every picture I’ve seen of Crater Lake looks unreal. Even when you go and see it for yourself, it takes some time to convince yourself that no, you mind is not playing tricks on you, that beauty is actually there!

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Since I grew up about 75 miles away from the deepest lake in America, one would think that an adventurous person like me would be there all the time, right? In actuality, I only remember going three times: once when my cousin visited, once to go snowshoeing with my youth group (and everything was so white you couldn’t even see the lake, so I’m not sure if that counts), and once as my last hurrah before moving away from Oregon.

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All of these pictures were taken the last time I was at Crater Lake. I went with my parents, and we drove around the entire lake and stopped at interesting and informational viewpoints along the way.

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Like I said about when I went snowshoeing, wintertime at Crater Lake means lots and lots of snow. In contrast, I could probably count on my fingers the snow days I had as a kid. I suppose in Oregon, all the snow gets stuck in the mountains! As we drove around the lake, I realized there were long poles on the sides of the road. That helped people know where the road was in the winter! Even though we went in July, there is so much snow in the winter, we found piles that weren’t even melted. Of course my mom had to encourage me to play in the summer snow!

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I suppose that many people out there did not study Crater Lake as intently as we did in my school, so here’s a little history about it: Crater Lake was originally Mount Mazama, a volcano that erupted and blew the top off the mountain. Over the years, the bowl shaped that was left behind filled with water, until it became the deep, blue lake that we know and love today.

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There are two notable islands on Crater Lake. Wizard’s Island is the large island seen at the top of this post. My favorite one is ghost ship. Whenever I’ve been able to see the lake, I’ve been able to see this ship-shaped island, but it’s named because supposedly it has a tendency to disappear in fog.

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Now that I’m back in Oregon, I really need to go to Crater Lake again. I’ve read about lots of long hikes that can take you down closer to where the lake actually is. Plus, pictures just don’t do this scenery justice! A few of my friends also want to go, we just need to plan a time that works for all of us. Hopefully we can get to it before we need snowshoes!

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#ThrowbackThursday, Accommodations, destinations, tour

Throwback Thursday: Rafting the Rogue River

In honor of the ever-popular hashtag, this website will now celebrate Throwback Thursdays by featuring trips I’ve taken anytime in the past- from a couple years ago, all the way back to when I was a couple years old! It may be every Thursday, or it may just be on Thursdays that I feel like searching through my archives- I don’t know yet. 

School recently started for many colleges. That means an official end to all summer activities. No more summer camps, no more walking the beach in flip-flops… and no more rafting. The Rogue River in Southern Oregon closed to all rafters around the same time that the local colleges kicked off. But a few years ago, I found out I could go to college AND go rafting at the same time!

In order to get my college degree, I needed to get three health credits. These could come from traditional health classes, such as First Aid and Nutrition, or they could come from Physical Education classes. I decided that Phys Ed would be a stress-releasing way to break up the more rigorous classes. When signing up for classes for my final quarter, I still needed to get one more health credit. When I saw a whitewater rafting class among the course listings, I immediately wanted to go. Instead of a standard twice-per-week class, I could go on a three-day rafting trip down the Rogue River. It cost an extra $400 fee, but knowing I may never have this opportunity again, I decided it was worth the money. (I later learned that this was an incredibly good deal since the trip was comped by the school and volunteer guides. So if you’re looking for a less-expensive rafting trip, call your community college and see if you can join them on a trip!)

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The trip was in early May in order to align with the school’s schedule, and also so we could go during a legal rafting time without having to get a summer permit. That meant, in order to stay dry and warm, I had to bring the right clothes! I hardly ever shop for new clothes, but I spent an entire day buying under armor, a rainsuit, wool socks, water shoes, sunglasses, and a special poly-spandex fabric blend of pants to go with a rash guard suit I already owned. I never would have thought I’d spend so much money on such a ridiculous-looking outfit, but it was definitely worth it!

00000005  0000000800000007Cabin by Rogue River

Three days is a long time to be on the river, but fortunately the Rogue River is so unique, there are a lot of unique stops along the way. We stopped every day for lunch and a couple of other attraction/bathroom breaks. We stopped at a few hiking trails, historic buildings, and even farms! I never realized how much was along the Rogue, and so much of it is difficult to get to by car!

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One of the best parts of the trip was that we got to stay in beautiful lodges each night! The fed us such large meals and offered fun activities to wind down the day. At the lodge we stayed in the first night, I looked through a scrapbook they had, and learned that many celebrities had come to Southern Oregon to go rafting and stay at this lodge. Today I don’t recall any of the celebrities except for Laura Bush. The second lodge was so remote that it was only accessible by river! Some of us had a campfire that night, and the staff made sure we knew to put the fire completely out when we were done, because if a fire did start, there would be no way for a firetruck to get there!

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With so many people taking this class, we had quite a few rafts, each one owned by an experienced guide. I was in a small raft with two other students and our fearless leader Jen. She did an excellent job at getting us through the rapids, and when the water was calmer, she captivated us with interesting stories about her rafting experience.

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Jen rowed the raft most of the way, but she was nice enough to let us get some hands-on learning in the lower-class water. I was actually surprised at how little we were required to do, especially since this was a physical education class! Rowing was completely optional, and we were only required to take a short walk around some class 5 rapids, since our school’s policy would not let students raft over those. At the end of the trip, we did have to take a one-page test about rafting vocabulary and operations. Since I got an A in the class, I guess that proves I learned something!

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Even though we weren’t allowed to raft through the class 5 rapids, we were allowed to go on all the lower classes of rapids, including some pretty intense class fours. Looking back at these pictures, I realized I only took pictures in the calm water. That’s probably because high-class rapids require everyone’s attention in case something goes wrong. Plus, they’re just fun to ride over!

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While whitewater rafting was a fun, educational, new experience, the most memorable part of this trip for me was the scenery. I can’t think of a better way to end this post than with some snapshots of these gorgeous (not to mention completely unedited!) views.

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day trip, hike, saving money

Looking for Bigfoot

Do you believe in Bigfoot? Up until several years ago, I never even thought of the possibility of this creature’s existence.

At the time, I worked part-time at a now-defunct gift store called All About Oregon. On slow days, I tried to get to know the merchandise better, which included thumbing through all the unique guidebooks. In one book, I discovered that there was a Bigfoot trap somewhere in the mountains. I laughed at the concept. But soon after, All About Oregon started selling Bigfoot merchandise. We were even given a cast of what was believed to be a Bigfoot footprint, so we displayed that on a table surrounded by books about Bigfoot, a map of Bigfoot sightings, and various other Bigfoot souvenirs. My curiosity increased along with the rest of my coworkers. I even wanted to take a road trip to find the alleged Bigfoot trap deep in the woods, but instead I moved to the Midwest, where Bigfoot does not live.

Before I go on, I should give a big of background on Bigfoot. There are hundreds of legendary creatures around the world, and Bigfoot is the one that is native to the Pacific Northwest. Also known as Sasquatch, these large, ape-like animals are thought to be very intelligent, and also very smelly. Although most people think the people who are adamant about Bigfoot hunting are simply crazy people, but there are even research groups who have been intrigued by the possible skunk ape. In fact, the North American Wildlife Research Team wanted to study Sasquatch, so they built what is known as the world’s only official Bigfoot Trap inSouthern Oregon, just a few miles from the California border. This was a small shack with a steel drop-down door, and was baited with raw carcasses. After several years of attempted trapping and only being able to catch bears, the door was secured open and became an obscure tourist attraction.

Collings Mountain Forest Near Bigfoot Trap

I had completely forgotten about the Bigfoot trap, until a few days ago when I was perusing RoadsideAmerica.com. This is one of my favorite travel websites because you can search for unique, and often free, roadside attractions near your home or along your travel route. A little over a year ago, I planned a road trip where all my stops were inspired by attractions I found on Roadside America, and before I travel, I’ll often visit this site to see what quirky things are near my destination. I was searching for attractions in Southern Oregon last week when I rediscovered the Bigfoot trap. I immediately started making plans to go.

Collings Mountain Trailhead with Bigfoot Trap

Who else would be better to visit the Bigfoot trap with than my coworkers who got interested in it with me in the first place? Two of my former coworkers from All About Oregon, Megan and Steph, along with Megan’s daughter River, joined me on this day excursion. It was a long, peaceful trip through farmland and forest. After driving quite a few miles along the Applegate Highway, we arrived at the Collings Mountain Trailhead, just across the street from a beautiful view of Applegate Lake. There are actually no signs at all to inform visitors that there even is a Bigfoot trap in the area. The only clue the road signs give is that the Collings Mountain Trailhead sign includes a picture of a foot. Most people would assume that this symbolized a walking trail, but Bigfoot hunters know that this is the way to find Bigfoot.

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It was supposedly a half-mile hike to get to the part of the trail with the Bigfoot trap, but because this trailhead also had trails that went to the summit of Collings Mountain, as well as trails for biking and horseback riding, the several forks in the road confused us quite a bit. I was glad to have brought a GPS with me, with the coordinates for the trap already plugged in! However, with the mountains and thick forest interfering with the GPS signals, we did up going on the wrong path once, but soon realized that we had walked too far.

Bigfoot Trap Caretaker's Shack

The first man-made feature we found was a completely-destroyed cabin. This was the shack that the trap’s caretaker lived in. All that remains are a few boards on the ground, but through close observation you can somewhat gather what it must have looked like. After walking just a little bit further, we finally saw the Bigfoot trap off in the distance!

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Because it hasn’t been refurbished for years and doesn’t officially belong to anyone, the trap itself has turned to a sort of log book where visitors have vandalized. We enjoying crawling under the door and being “trapped”, and just being amazed at the notion to build a trap in the middle of nowhere to find a creature that may or may not exist!

"Vandalizing" the Bigfoot TrapI was prisoner of the Bigfoot Trap!

While the Bigfoot trap was the point of our trip, we had a few other things we came to do. I wanted to introduce the other three to one of my hobbies: geocaching. In the near future, I will be dedicating a post all about geocaching, but when I describe it to people who have never heard of it, I say “It’s like a worldwide treasure hunt for grown-ups!” Since finding Bigfoot proved to be too difficult, I figured that maybe we could at least find a few geocaches. I plugged in the GPS coordinates for the cache closest to the trap. Like I had mentioned before, my GPS was acting really jumpy in the area, so this one proved to be a challenge. Based on the cache’s description, we’re pretty sure we found the tree that the cache was hidden near, but we did not find the ammo can that contained the geocache. But not to fear; we had more geocaches to find!

On the Trail of Bigfoot Geocache

As we walked back towards the car, we were also on the lookout for another geocache. The GPS worked better in this area, and although this was still a tricky one to find, we went in the right direction. This was not only River’s first time to geocache, but she was also the first of us to find the geocache container!

On the Trail of Bigfoot Geocache

This was a really nice geocache, except for the fact that some of the items inside got a little damp. We all signed and dated the logbook, and then we each traded a small trinket we bought for an item inside the cache. We then closed up the container, hid it back where we found it, and continued back toward the road. As we were walking, I realized that almost all the hikers who go on trail must have Bigfoot on their mind, regardless of whether they’re Bigfoot believers or Sasquatch skeptics. I joked that if I had a large expendable income, I would get a few life-sized figures of Bigfoot and hide him just far enough away from the trail that people might catch a glimpse. Everyone else agreed that they would do the same thing. I’m surprised no one has done that yet!

There was one more small geocache across the street from the trailhead. Steph found it wedged behind the railing. Once again, we all signed the log and traded items. From here, we enjoyed the view of the lake, and then got back into the car.

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A few miles down the road is the McKee Bridge. It is the longest of the four covered bridges in that county. While it hasn’t been open to cars for a long time, it was unfortunately also closed off to pedestrians a couple years ago for being unsafe. They have since raised the money for repairs, but because the repair work hadn’t begun yet, we could only get up to the opening of the covered bridge.

McKee Bridge

As we walked back to the car, Steph and Megan were discussing that they had a favorite restaurant in historic Jacksonville, which was the closest town. They then turned to me and asked “Jes, do you like sushi?” I don’t like sushi, but I agreed to go to Umi Sushi. I found out that there are actually fish-free options for sushi, so I decided to be adventurous with this new cuisine and order a bento box with avocado rolls. (River was even more adventurous and got eel sushi!)

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Overall, it was a crazy day of unique adventures. Although we didn’t find Bigfoot, we did discover new things not too far from our Southern Oregon home!

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