SW Oregon - part 1

Broken Top and the Three Sisters from the top of Pilot Butte

Craig Chaquico is one of our favorite musicians. Sandy and I have seen him in concert several times in the past few years. Sandy checks his website regularly to see if any new concerts are scheduled nearby. In late March she saw that he had added concert dates in Talent, Oregon on April 13th and 14th. It was only two weeks off but it turned out that we could take a three day weekend trip and see the concert. This semester there have been more Saturday events than usual and I needed to cover most of them. So I had a comp day or two coming. We bought our tickets online and were ready to go.

We left Boise at noon on Friday. Our plan was to spend the night in Bend, Oregon. We got there, checked into our hotel, and then headed downtown to look for somewhere to eat. The downtown area was small but interesting and we had quite a few choices for dinner. We settled on the Pine Tavern. We had a nice dinner with a view out the back to the Deschutes River. After dinner we took a short walk on the greenbelt along the river near our hotel. Bend seems like a nice town and we might return sometime in the summer so that Sandy can check out the quilt shops in the nearby town of Sisters. It's close to good hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness. We also have some friends we know from HP who have a summer home in Sun River who it would be fun to visit. We'll probably be back.

Crater Lake and Mt. Scott on a beautiful sunny spring day

We got up early the next morning, had a quick breakfast, and drove over to Pilot Butte. We wanted to get a morning hike in before starting our drive for the day. Pilot Butte is an old cinder cone on the east edge of the city of Bend. It's in a state park and has a trail which climb 500 feet to the summit in about a mile. From the top there is a spectacular view of the Oregon High Cascades. We could see Mt. Hood far to the north, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and other peaks. It was a beautiful clear morning with expansive views and the morning light was excellent for photos.

With a short hike under our belts we were ready to start the long drive to Medford/Ashland. It took us a while to get out of Bend. It's small enough that it doesn't have an elaborate freeway system but big enough to take a while to drive through on city streets. Eventually we reached the open highway. Our next stop was Crater Lake National Park. Sandy had never been there before and it was a perfect sunny day - too nice a day to pass up a chance to see the park which often suffers from bad weather. Our first problem came when we reached Highway 138, the turnoff for the north entrance to the park. A sign said that there was no access to the park. We pulled off the road and spent some time studying our maps and checking our smart phones. It turned out that I had been sloppy in my planning. Yes, the park was open all year but not all the park entrances were open all year. The north entrance was closed until summer. Not a big deal but we did have to drive almost all the way to Klamath Falls and then enter the park from the south, about a half hour of extra driving.

There is still plenty of snow at Crater Lake

As the road climbed up into the park we hit a lot of snow. The road was clear - it hadn't snowed for quite some time. But Crater Lake gets an average of 533 inches of snow every year - that's almost 45 feet! When we stopped at the visitor center, even though it was a warm spring day, the snow was about twelve feet deep. We had to enter the building through a 50 foot tunnel from the parking lot. The first floor was still completely buried in the snow. The rangers told us that it had been a very light snow year - that's why there wasn't much snow left on the ground!

We did get a chuckle out of listening to some other visitors. Another car got there at the same time we did. It had California plates and the couple that got out were both wearing shorts and had a toddler with them. They walked into the visitor center ahead of us and asked the ranger if there were any easy day hikes at the lake. Somehow the ranger managed to keep a straight face while she answered "Ah, no, there's fifteen feet of snow at the lake." Gee Toto. I guess we're not in Southern California anymore.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

The road was only plowed as far as the lake. There is a rim drive that goes about two thirds of the way around but it doesn't open until summer. From the parking lot we could at least climb up onto the snow and get a view of the lake. Lots of people had tramped the snow down so it was hard and easy to walk on. The view of the lake was gorgeous, with the sunny blue sky, the deep blue of the lake, the bright white snow and the dark-colored rock. Crater Lake is almost 2000 feet deep, the deepest lake in the United States, which is what gives the water it's dark blue color.

After admiring the view and taking lots of pictures we went to the lodge. Again we had to enter the building through a long tunnel because the first floor was buried and only the upper floors were poked out of the snow. There was just a small cafeteria but we were hungry so lunch tasted really good. We also checked out the gift shop. I got a tshirt (of course), a Crater Lake wine glass and a hiking guide for Oregon Wilderness areas. Then it was time to move on.

Only the upper floors of the buildings stuck out of the snow

We drove to Ashland, which was where we were staying, and checked into our hotel. It was midafternoon and Sandy still wanted to try to visit Goodwind Creek Gardens. It's a nursery in the Applegate Valley near Ashland. Sandy had bought lavender plants and herbs from them by mail order many times. We called to ask how long they would be open. The guy who answered said "I don't know. Maybe 5 oclock." That was pretty vague. We didn't know exactly how to get there or how long it would take, but we decided to go for it.

It took us about an hour to get there. It was a nice drive though. And it turned out that we drove through the Applegate Valley, the main wine producing area near Ashland, on our way there. We noted the location of various wineries for the drive back. When we got to the nursery it was obvious that they didn't get visitors there very often. They must do most of their business via online and catalog orders. But the guy there sure knew his lavender. It seemed that any color or shade or size or variety of lavender that Sandy named, he could tell you how many plants he had, what conditions it liked, how hardy it was. Sandy spent about an hour going through the greenhouses picking out plants. The advantage of driving is that we had plenty of room to take everything that she picked out home.

Sandy picking out lavender plants at Goodwin Creek Gardens

On the way back it was close to 5 pm just as we got to the wineries and we were afraid that we would miss our chance to do any wine tasting. We stopped at the first one we came to, Red Lily Vinyards. They had very pretty grounds and an elaborate tasting building. They also still had a lot of cars so we figured that we weren't too late. But when we went in the building it was actually a problem. They were quite crowded, we couldn't get close enough to do any tasting, and they had mostly reds anyway. We gave up and just left. A short way down the highway was a small house with a sign for Devitt Winery. They had a little electric sign that said open even though there were no cars. We pulled in the driveway and a gentleman came out of the house. We asked if he was open and he told us to come on in. His only white wine was a Viognier but it was good. We chatted with the winemaker a while and bought a bottle of his Viognier and a bottle of his Aggie Dog Red blend. Much better than the crowd scene at the other winery and we ended up with two good bottles of wine. We were content to drive back to Ashland where we had dinner at the Great American Pizza Company, "Ashland's Favorite Pizza For 20 Years". There would be plenty of opportunity for more winery visits tomorrow.