SW Oregon - part 2

Sandy does her Rocky pose on the summit of Grizzly Peak

Sunday was the concert but it wasn't until eight in the evening. That gave us the whole day free and the weather forecast was good. The Ashland Outdoor Store had a nice section on their website that described local outdoor activities, from rock climbing to kayaking to day hiking. We picked out a hike that we wanted to try - the Grizzly Peak Loop. The mountain was quite prominent from the valley. We had a great view of it right from the parking lot of our hotel. The hike was a moderate six mile loop with less than a thousand feet of elevation gain. It looked to be easy to reach - the route to the trailhead started from the highway less than a mile from our hotel. The route went to the summit altough the description said the good views were all from other spots along the trail. We got an early start and when we reached the trailhead, even though the weather was perfect, we were the only car there. That surprised us a little for an area as outdoor oriented as Southwestern Oregon on a weekend with good weather. I guess we were just the early birds.

Ashland, Rogue Valley and Coast Range from Grizzly Peak

We parked the car at the end of the dirt road where there was a small parking area and a toilet. The road continued but was blocked so cars couldn't go any further. We started to hike along but only got a few hundred yards before we hit some bad muddy patches where snow higher up the slope was melting. I managed to get pretty wet going through so Sandy waited while I scouted ahead. Just a little further a huge tree was down that completely blocked the slope. Something wasn't right. This didn't seem like an "easy and popular local hike".

We backtracked and sure enough there was a trail that started off behind the toilet. We had missed it. This was a nice trail so we started on up. We had only lost about ten minutes. No harm done other than my one foot got soaked. Good thing I'm a tough mountaineer. The trail climbed steeply but in a little less than an hour seemed to top out. I looked to the side of the trail and saw a pile of rocks in the middle of the trees. That was the summit. Both of us went over and climbed to the top. Once a peak bagger, always a peak bagger. But I have to admit that it was the least impressive mountaintop that I had ever been to. And I've been to the tops of lots of mountains.

View of Mt. Shasta 75 miles to the south

The rest of the loop hike took us another two hours. For about a mile the trail came out onto a slope where there had been a forest fire years ago so we could see in all directions. We had an impressive view of the Rogue River Valley from Medford down to Ashland and could see I5 heading south into California. In the distance we could see Mt. Shasta, 14,179 feet high, about seventy five miles to the south. Very nice. The trail went back into the woods and descended back to the parking lot. Although we hadn't seen anyone on the trail there were now a half a dozen cars parked. It looked like several groups were just getting ready to start out. As we came down the last few steps of the trail we had a nice view of 9.495 foot Mt. McLaughlin, a Cascade peak that I had climbed back in 2005. We hopped in the car, drove back to the hotel, and were showered, changed and ready to go again by noon. We had done a good hike and still had the whole day ahead of us to explore the Ashland area.

Everyone is starting out just as we get back to the trailhead

Our first stop was a game store. I found out the night before that Funagain Games was located in Ashland. They are a prominent online game seller, and my friend Mary Beth had ordered from them several times. I thought I would check out their store presence. It was disappointing. Their store front was about the size of my office at work. In back they had a large warehouse and a number of gaming tables, but when I tried to go back there I got chased away. Oh well. At least Sandy didn't have to wait long for me.

Luckily for me the only quilt shop in Ashland was closed on Sunday so Sandy didn't have a comeback. So it was on to the wineries. The first one that we went to was Weisingers of Ashland. We were lucky to hit them on their customer appreciation day when they were clearing out some of their older vintages. We got a great deal on a mixed case of their Viognier and a blend that they called Trois Petite Cepages, a mixture of Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer. Now we could ask our friends "Have you tried Weisinger's Trois Petite Cepages? It's really quite nice." It's important to tilt your head back and look down your nose as you say that.

Wine tasting at Stone River Vineyards

Besides getting a good deal on some excellent wine, there was a nice view of Grizzly Peak across the valley. I could clearly see where we had hiked through the forest fire burn. Sandy also got a great artsy shot of the winery with her iPhone that somehow I missed. She let me include it in this post with my photos.

Next we headed north to Talent, the small town where the concert would be. Stone River Vineyards was in a semirural subdivision, in a regular neighborhood. It wasn't exactly where you would expect to find a winery. There was a childrens party going on in the yard with several young kids playing in a bounce house. I was ready to join in but Sandy reminded me to act the part of the mature gentleman. Again we got to taste some excellent wines, had a nice chat with one of the owners, and bought half a case of wine to take home with us.

Finally we went to Pebblestone Vineyards. It was basically adjacent to Stone River out the back. We just had to drive about two miles around to get to the other side. The tasting room was in a little old red house that was quite picturesque, although the light was exactly wrong for taking pictures. We found some more wines that we liked. This area was turning out to be perfect for Sandy since it seemed the two most common whites that all the wineries featured were Viognier and Pinot Gris, two of her favorites.

Sandy's nice photo of Weisinger's vineyard

That was enough wine tasting before lunch. It was already about two oclock and time to find something to eat. On the way to the Applegate Valley the day before we had driven through the town of Jacksonville, a historic area with a number of shops and restaurants. When we got there we were surprised to see that the quilt shop there was open, even though when we had checked the hours the day before it said that it was closed on Sundays. We went in and Sandy had a long chat with the lady who owned the store. A very long chat. Sandy actually said that she felt bad not buying anything, but the store had mainly completed quilts rather than fabric, so there really wasn't anything that she was interested in.

We had lunch at the Bella Union, a historic building which has been restored to a restaurant and bar. It's namesake, the original Bella Union was a saloon built on the same location that was destroyed by fire in 1874. They had a very nice shaded patio out back and we had a very enjoyable lunch there.

Afterwards we figured there was time for one or two more wineries. We figured that after our morning hike it was mandatory that we go to Grizzly Peak Winery, on the lower slopes of the mountain. Unfortunately it turned out that we got there just too late as they closed at 4 pm. We had more luck at nearby Dana Campbell Vineyards. They had a very nice view of the valley from their tasting room. It would have been a nice place to sit and spend some time with a bottle of wine and a snack tray. Maybe next time. We had no regrets as our day had been great.

Lunch at the Bella Union in Jacksonville

And the best was still to come. We had a delicious and very inexpensive pizza at The Grotto, which was conveniently located right across the street from the theatre. It felt like a real, authentic, Oregon hippie-style pizza place.

And we saved the best for last. The Camelot Theatre in Talent was very small - it only seats 160 people. So there was no such thing as a bad seat. The stage was at about the same level we were and we were only about twenty feat away. So it was more like having a concert in your living room than in an auditorium. As always, Craig Chaquico did an incredible job. His first set he played solo with backup musicians on recording (band in a box). The second set he did with a local band, The Rogue Suspects. Any show that he plays Return of the Eagle is a good show.

We had the whole next day to drive home. Another great trip.