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When we think about Oregon, we can’t help but think of green forests, miles upon miles of rivers and streams, and snow-capped mountain ranges. Oregon remains one of our nation’s states that has been largely unspoiled by the smoky ravages of industry, and is a prime spot – and emigration destination – for many people anxious to escape the big city life. While it’s true that it rains quite a bit, there are plenty of sunny days to enjoy the outdoors, and a lot of rainy day activities to keep us entertained the rest of the time.
Our trip through Oregon starts off in Portland and takes us south on the I-5 from beginning to end. While in Portland, we shouldn’t miss the chance to tour through the art galleries and craft centers in the city’s Cultural District. Portland also has some of the finest restaurants to be found anywhere, and has a music scene that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Brilliant musicians play live music of all styles in various clubs around town; check the local paper to find someone that suits your own taste. Since Portland is known as the “City of Roses,” if we find ourselves in the area in June, we should check out the Rose Festival, which features a grand parade and hundreds of species of fragrant roses on display. It’s a treat for both eye and nose.
For adventure in the rugged outdoors, there’s nowhere better than nearby Mount Hood. In addition to possessing a breathtaking view of surrounding towns and waterways, Mount Hood has several mountain biking paths and hiking trails with difficulty levels ranging from easy to challenging. Mount Hood has four skiing areas, and is the only place in the country where you can ski or go snowboarding year-round. There’s plenty of opportunity to break out the rod and reel in any of Mount Hood’s nearby lakes and streams, so let’s try to bring home some of that delicious salmon or steelhead.
Heading south on the I-5 for a little over 40 miles brings us to the historic town of Albany, founded in the 1800s. Albany is proud of its history, as evidenced in part by a hundred-square block area containing an eclectic collection of buildings constructed between the 1840s and the 1920s. Along with the antique shops and museums, there are plenty of parks and chances to enjoy various outdoor sports like skiing, sailing, and water skiing. It’s an excellent place to pull over and stretch our legs, or stay for a day or so and enjoy the warm sunshine.
Roughly 60 miles down the southbound I-5 takes us to our next stop, Eugene. In addition to camping in the surrounding wilderness area, Eugene has several points of interest for the visiting traveler. One highlight is the Oregon Air and Space Museum, which counts among its displays a F-4 Phantom jet and a WWI-era German Fokker triplane of Red Baron fame. There are museums of art and natural history to tour on rainy days, along with several venues for the performing arts, where we might catch some local drama or musical theater. There are also several picturesque covered bridges in the area; you’ll want to pick up a local map to find their exact locations. Eugene also plays host to several folk festivals throughout the year, so there’s always something to keep us occupied no matter what time of year we visit.
A beautifully scenic drive south on the I-5 shows us a little more than one hundred and thirty-six miles of gorgeous country before we reach the city limits of Grants Pass. When you see the area’s natural wonders, you’ll realize it’s well worth the trip to get there. There’s whitewater rafting, hot air ballooning, and miles of forest hiking trails and streams to drop a hook and line. At night, a thriving music and culture scene keeps us active until the wee hours of the morning.
Our final stop of Ashland lies a bit less than 40 miles to the south on the I-5, and is situated 15 miles north of the California border and a short drive from Crater Lake. Ashland has several historic buildings, from Victorian houses to pioneer dwellings. The town is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs from late February to early November. Local trails offer a stunning view of the Siskiyou Mountains and Mt. Shasta; be sure to enjoy an exhilarating jet boat ride down either the Rogue or Klamath River. Afterward, check out any of the local wineries for a relaxing glass of the local vintage, while watching a dazzling sunset you’ll never forget.
No matter what time of year we visit, Oregon is a great place to see one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces. You’ll be hard pressed to find a greener place this side of the Emerald Isle itself!