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Trip Report 2012 Southern Oregon Trip Report

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In early September 2012 my husband and I spent 8 lovely days touring southern Oregon. I had been wanting to see this area of Oregon for a while (we had already been to Sunriver, the Columbia Gorge, Portland and the coast north of Florence), so when friends moved to Ashland I decided now was the time.
We flew to Medford on a Friday night arriving at 11:00 p.m, picked up a rental car at the small but efficient airport, and stayed at the Rodeway Inn which was adequate for the night. Saturday we drove north on Interstate 5 and then south on Hwy. 199 to Cave Junction. On the way we stopped at the Burl Gallery Woodyard Shop, which consists of a cluster of hobbit-like buildings with slopping roofs and a collection outdoor wood and metal sculptures. The shops sell burl wood objects, pottery, leather and jewelry made by local artisans. We then stopped at Taylor’s Country Store, famous for its cured meats, where we picked up sandwiches and drinks for lunch to take to our next stop.
We continued driving to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park just over the border in California. Here we ate our lunch at a beautiful picnic area at the north end of the campgrounds that overlooks the Smith River. We then walked on level trails south along the river and crossed on the Summer Footbridge to the Stout Memorial Grove of redwoods. This is a beautiful stand of giant redwoods that is also accessible by car. The views of the river crossing the footbridge were lovely and the entire walk was easy. At the suggestion of guide books, instead of continuing on 199, we drove to Crescent City via Howland Hill Road from Stout Grove, which is a dirt road that takes you through redwood forests.
In Crescent City we stayed at Lighthouse Inn on Hwy 101. The room was large and comfortable and overlooked a park and the harbor. We had dinner at the Chart Room, a local fish restaurant. Although we had to wait 25 minutes (spent walking on the jetty to view the boats), the food was excellent and reasonably priced. We shared an order of clam chowder in a bread bowl and a fried seafood platter with fries for less than $25.00.
Sunday morning we hit the road to drive north to Gold Beach. I recommend stopping at every sign for a viewpoint along this stretch. Along the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor (download a map), we stopped at Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint and walked the 3 mile roundtrip trail to House Rock Viewpoint, then stopped at the Indian Sands, Natural Bridges and Arch Road viewpoints. All of these offer gorgeous coastline views of the beaches and rock formations; all are different and some require a short easy walk to get the best views. We had lunch at Arch Rock (Subway sandwiches picked up in Brookings), which has a lovely picnic area. Between Cape Sebastian and Gold Beach there is a turn-out at a beautiful beach with black rocks jutting out of the sand and water. The beach has a lot of drift wood and is a great place to stop, also.
We arrived late afternoon at our lodging for 3 nights, the fabulous Tu Tu Tun Lodge, which is about 7 miles up the Rogue River from Gold Beach (thus avoiding the fog that often covers the coast). What a wonderful place! The grounds are lovely, with an apple orchard and lawn that attracts deer, a lawn that slopes down to the Rogue River, and rooms that can include a fireplace and private outdoor hot tub. Every room has a private deck and view of the river. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The room rate includes a service charge and no tipping is permitted. You can purchase a meal plan (dinner and breakfast) on a daily basis, which I strongly recommend because the food is 5 star quality and there is nothing comparable in Gold Beach. Dinner begins with a bell ring at 6:20 to call guests to hors d’ourves on the lodge patio. There is one seating at 7:00 at round tables for 10 at which guests are seated by the hostess. We enjoyed meeting people from Washington, Oregon, California and Britain, most of whom were multi-year repeat visitors. Dinner consisted of soup, salad, main course (fresh salmon, rib roast) with sides, and dessert, all served family style. They served fresh luscious popovers each night. There is a full bar and wine available at extra cost. Breakfast included fresh fruit and breakfast breads, plus eggs, oatmeal and pancakes. I highly recommend this place.
While at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge, we took a 64 mile scenic trip up the Rogue River on Jerry’s Rogue Jet boat which was fun, even though we did not spot any wildlife. If you really want to see wildlife, like bears, you will have a better chance on the 104 mile trip. Another day we drove an hour north to Fort Orford Heads State Park which has a 3 mile easy scenic loop of more of that gorgeous Oregon coast. On the way back we stopped at Otter Point just north of Gold Beach. A short walk takes you to a wind-swept point of sandstone rocks with views north and south. Incredible!
Leaving Tu Tu Tun was hard, but we had a lot more to see and do. We drove north to Bandon, an old time fishing por, and had lunch at Tony’s Crab Shack on First Street (recommended by a guest at TuTuTun), which was full of locals. After a short walk through the old town shops, we continued east on Route 42 which took us through beautiful valleys and farms. We headed to Roseburg to meet old friends for dinner, and then continued south on Hwy 5 to Grants Pass for two nights at the Lodge at Riverside (comfortable and included light breakfast).
The next morning we left at 8:30 for the short drive to Merlin on the Rogue River and the start of our half-day rafting trip with Rogue Wilderness Adventures (part of a package offered by the Lodge at Riverside). We were surprised to find that we were the only two passengers in the 10 person raft, so we had a private 3 ½ hour guided float down the Rogue through Hells Canyon (where the famous cliff jumping scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed). It was a beautiful day and the small rapids were fun, not scary. If you want higher level rapids, take the longer float trip farther down the river. After the float trip we went into old town Grants Pass for lunch and walked around. Not much is happening here.
Friday morning we met our Ashland friends at the pick-up point in Gold Hill for our ziplining adventure with Rogue Valley Zipline Adventure. We were lucky again as we four were the only people on this trip, which included a short tour of an old gold mine on the property. We had two guides, one who hooked us up to the zipline (5 different lines, each longer than the previous) and the other who stopped us at the end of each line. This was fun, but for the price I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much with the usual 14 persons in a group.
We then followed our friends to their lovely home on a hill that overlooks the valley near Ashland. That evening we had dinner at New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro just north of Ashland. The name of this place is deceiving, as the food is very French and delicious. The proprietor recommended a very reasonable bottle of zinfandel to accompany our rack of lamb.
Our last day we took the backstage tour of the theaters in Ashland which we had booked in advance on the internet with our tickets to As You Like It that evening. The tour was excellent, and gave us a good history of the Shakespeare Festival, access to backstage at the theaters, and an understanding of how the plays are produced and staged. After lunch we walked through town and up the beautiful Ashland city park that winds its way up a canyon along a stream. That evening we had dinner at Coquina (recommended) before the play.
As you can tell, this was a circular route that took us through redwoods, beaches, rivers and beautiful countryside. This trip could definitely be shortened (for example, the direct drive from Medford to Gold Beach is about 3 ½ hours), but we wanted to take our time. We usually had late afternoons to ourselves to relax and read. This was a beautiful and relaxing trip.

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