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Ashland for Shakespeare, Crater Lake for Pictures, and Bend for Chatting
June 18-24, 2016Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Written June 19+
OK. We returned to the road, at least for a short one-week trip to Oregon. We have three destinations: Ashland for Shakespeare, Crater Lake for pictures, and Bend for a visit with Connie. As usual, I'll document as we go along.
Saturday: Fresno to Ashland is about eight hours of driving, plus meal and other breaks. This is our limit for driving. No more twelve-hours drives of our youth! In our European days, we seldom drove more than three or four hours, but the size of the American West forces longer drives.
Along the way, we enjoyed blue skies and a mix of puffy and streaked clouds. Marianne remarked that she had never thought to paint such a sky, so we made a few pictures to provide a future model.
Of course, the major travel marker in far northern California has to be Mount Shasta. Even at the end of Spring, there was still plenty of snow to make the classic volcano peak spectacular from every side.
In Ashland, our first stop was our rented cottage. Cute, clean, and convenient. Val, the owner, was most enthusiastic as well.
The next stop was dinner. After passing on our first choice (too expensive for a simple after-drive meal) we went to Hearsay and enjoyed some local red wine and a "mixed grill" dinner. The Cabernet was very good and the steak-prawn-fish grill was simple, but tasty. However, we may need to experiment with some of the more imaginative items on the menu.
After dinner, we walked over to the Oregon Shakespeare Theatre "Green Show", an outdoor venue where shows are provided to warm up the pre-theatre (and no-theatre) crowd. This evening, the stage was covered with spectacular moves by the Lula Washington Dance Theatre.
Sunday started out very slow indeed since we really had nothing planned before 8pm curtain time. After my early trip to Starbucks, we leisurely had breakfast at Brickroom in Ashland's center square. Nice place. From there, it was wandering through the dozens of tourist-centered shops and businesses. Last year, we had seen it all, so we were able to avoid standard tourist purchases, although Marianne did find an interesting driftwood-framed mirro for her art hut.
In fact, the day was so slow that we ended up catching up on reading, drawing (Marianne), and napping (me). I am sure other people are more active when they travel, but we have become accustomed to spacing out our activities. To each their own.
We returned to Hearsay for a pre-theatre dinner and enjoyed the colorful dining room and the tasty food. This too is our travel pattern: a focus on food. On this trip we are combining it with a huge decrease in exercise and activity generally. Probably will not do good for our weight management, but even retirees get vacations.
Our next treat was The Green Show. This free performance is very much a tradition for the Shakespeare Festival and the Sunday performance was by the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, a youth orchestra that has traveled to Ashland for most of their 50 years in business. Real tradition and real talent.
Finally, it was show time. Our chosen play was "The Winter's Tale", a complicated story of royalty, betrayal, death, tragedy, and redemption. Isn't that what Shakespeare is normally about? Sitting in the balcony of the old-style open theatre makes anything special, but I will admit this was my annual quota of the Old Bard's work, especially less-famous work such as this. No pictures were allowed of the show itself. Too bad, since the costuming was both imaginative and colorful.
Monday was a full day, for our travel style anyway. We were heading to Bend and wanted to pass through Crater Lake National Park on the way, so we needed an early breakfast at The Breadboard. The place gets high scores for friendliness but only adequate marks for their pancakes. It's still a recommended location, just not a recommended menu selection.
From there it was a bit of freeway driving to Medford and then highways into the valleys and national forest. Once we hit the forest properly, Marianne needed to hug a tree to fit in with the locals.
Our first stop was at Natural Bridge Park, a quick detour off the highway. There we learned how the Rogue River runs through the volcanic tunnels hiding beneath the forest. Interesting story and the river called out for pictures -- too many, but what else did we need to do?
Next stop: Crater Lake and more pictures. First, the required panorama. I took a half-dozen panoramas and none were bad, simply because the lake itself is so spectacular. And a closeup of Wizard Island, because it too is so famous. I probably would have taken more pictures, except most of the rim road was still closed for winter snow.
Other than pictures, there wasn't much for us to do. We did have a nice lunch at the lodge, a much simpler dining room than we have found at other national parks, but still fun and tasty. For background, we asked about reservations and they said rooms open one-year in advance and are often booked within hours. The other option is to wait for cancellations, specifically 48 to 72 hours ahead. We checked and there were some rooms available, but only suites well beyond our need and budget. Maybe next time.
Otherwise it was just walk and peer over the edge. Admittedly, a pretty spectacular edge.
We left for Bend via the north entrance and were treated to wonderful scenes from snow at the top to a pumice desert and mountain views lower down.
We drove only about an hour-and-a-half and settled in at The Woodsman Country Lodge, a motel different from Motel 6. The hunting and fishing theme was everywhere, from antlers on the walls to carved bears in the gardens. In our room, everything was the same, rustic theme. The Lodge is recommended for friendliness and comfort as well as the exceptional decorative imagination. Even if your personal style runs in a different direction, do stop by here if you are ever in Crescent, Oregon.
Tuesday morning started next door with a country breakfast at the Mohawk Restaurant, surrounded by stuffed animals and vintage Jim Beam commemorative bottles. One has to see it to appreciate it, but at least this time I took a couple of pictures. The food and service were good as well, so this should definitely be a stop for travelers to this part of central Oregon. Really.
From Crescent it was only a 45-minute drive to friend Connie's place on the south side of Bend. This is one of our favorite places to visit! Good company, quiet, and a wonderful view of woods and Mount Bachelor in the far distance.
After the first hour or so of chatting, we moved the conversation to a collection of shops in an old industrial park named and located at "50 SE Scott Street". We started with lunch at The Sparrow Bakery, as good a bakery as its location was funky. After more chatting (I think that is the major activity for our Bend stop), we looked through a couple of the shops, but got out without a purchase. Success, by my standards.
That brought us to the end of our planned activities, but somewhere along the conversation Connie had mentioned a field trip about volcanoes, so we decided to jump right in and head south of town. We turned off Highway 97 at the sign for the Lava Lands Visitors Center.
Inside, a friendly volunteer was waiting for questions and Connie asked him the most detailed and thorough inquiry, essentially asking for everything he could tell us. He loved it and proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes explaining The Newberry Volcano and its network of cinder cones and lava flows. It was fascinating, but there was so much information that I have no intention of repeating the lecture here. If you are interested, go to the website or, better yet, visit.
Our volunteer lecture ended only because the bus arrived to take us up to the top of the nearby Lava Butte cinder cone. This 500-foot high cone arose from an underground lava flow from Newberry Volcano, or 20 miles away and is typical of over 400 eruptions sourced from the lava under the ancient volcano.
On top, the view was spectacular, with essentially all the Oregon Cascade peaks visible, from Mount Hood down past Crater Lake.
On Wednesday we started with breakfast at "home". We had a table of fresh, local fruit, delicious bread from The Sparrow Bakery, and a wonderful forest view. I can see why Connie likes the Bend life, I know we do!
But we needed to be tourist-productive as well and this would be a volcano day. We had at least four hikes "planned", or at least thought out, and we needed to get started. (We only made two of the four. Intentions don't count.)
Our first destination was the Lava Cast Forest Geological area. We got there via the eight-mile gravel road shown at the top of the map. The map also shows the two lakes that now occupy the caldera of the Newberry Volcano, our later stop of the day. Newberry is a huge "shield" volcano, not high like Mount Hood or Crater Lake, but spread over 2000 square miles, including underneath the city of Bend. Pretty amazing.
I was taken with all the photo opportunities. The rugged rocks were as expected, and the "casts" as Connie had forcast, but the flowers and trees working to survive in the 6,000-year-old lava field made a story all by themselves. I will tell the story with pictures, as best I can, but you need to come here to have the right feel.
After all this exercise, we felt justified in a hearty lunch-dinner. Yesterday's bakery folks had recommended SPORK, a strangely-named, very-Bend, small eatery. The dishes were a fusion of Asian and the Wild West. My favorite was the corn: on the cob , smothered in spiced butter, and covered with chopped onions. Not what we find in Fresno.
Then, it was early to bed as we prepared for the two-day return drive.
Thursday had little plan to it, other than to complete the five driving hours to Redding California. This actually let us consider distractions along the way, but there were not many. As we approached Klamath Falls, Mount Shasta started to loom in front of us, a guide we would see for the next several hours.
In "K Falls", as my old college buddies used to call the town, we pulled off the road to check for attractions. The local visitor's center offered a number of suggestions, many more than we had expected or had time for. Their lobby was a start for art with these painted birds by Bev Fairclo-Ott.
The other two suggestions were just around the corner, starting with the Klamath Art Association Gallery. The simple building held the offerings of local artists and the association was celebrating fifty years since its 1946 founding. Admission was free and the collection was ... more than worth it. I would be more expansive in my description if photos had been allowed.
Just across the street from the Gallery was the Favell Museum. Unlike the gallery-neighbor, there was a $10 charge, but also unlike the Gallery, the collection of Western and Indian art and artifacts was quite remarkable and the charge well worthwhile. The museum started as the private collection of Gene Favell, a local businessman and civic leader. It included more arrowheads than I had ever seen on formal display, several dioramas of authentic Indian clothing, and statues and paintings of a romanticized West. No photos were allowed, so you will have to visit yourself, to see the breadth of the collection.
By now, we no longer had lots of time, so we had to pass on other Klamath attractions. Maybe next time. We headed down the road, with Mount Shasta guarding our southern flank. From this side, there are two peaks and some of the mountain's five glaciers were clearly visible.
We still had one "can't miss" stop suggested by the Klamath Falls visitor's bureau: The Living Memorial Sculpture Museum. If fact, it is easy to miss the entrance (about 13 miles short of Weed, CA), despite the docent's assurance of "good signage". However, even if you have to turn around as we did, the Sculpture Museum truly is worth the time.
The Garden is the product of Viet Nam veteran and artist Dennis Smith. It was started in 1988 and now contains a dozen sculptures and monuments to his own memories of war. Laid out on 136 acres of desert, under the watchful eye of Mount Shasta, the place is both quieting and disturbing, as war memorials should be, I suppose.
Friday was simply a six-hour drive home. Flat country. Freeways and summer-Friday-afternoon traffic. It made us happy to be home in Fresno, even if we are facing the start of summer weeks above 100F. At least that's my expectation. We'll see.
John and Marianne
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