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Should we visit Willamette Valley wineries in April or May?

Both April and May are great times to visit wineries in the Willamette Valley, but if I had to pick I’d lean toward May because it’s Oregon Wine Month and many wineries are offering special events and tastings that they don’t offer at other times of the year.

Depending on your preferences, you may or may not want to come on Memorial Day Weekend. Memorial Day is traditionally the kick-off to the summer season in Oregon Wine Country, and you’ll find lots and lots of special events and fun things going on at almost every vineyard and tasting room in the state.

That said, it may be more crowded that weekend that on other weekends this spring, so it just depends on if you want a fun, vibrant, busy atmosphere, or if you’d rather get a little more personal attention from the wineries you visit. The same holds true a weekday vs. weekend visit. Some of the small boutique wineries in the valley are only open on the weekends, but bigger places are open most days of the week — you’ll want to check websites or call ahead to check on their tasting room hours. On a weekend (especially if it’s sunny) it will be busier at the wineries. If you go on a weekday afternoon, there’s a chance you might be the only guests and will be able to have plenty of time to chat with the winery staff!

Another fun tip: if you’re traveling to Oregon via Alaska Airlines, there is a special program that allows Alaska Airlines passengers to ship Oregon Wine home for free!

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Are there yurts to rent near Crater Lake?

We love Oregon yurts! If you’ll be combining your Crater Lake tour with Oregon coast vacationing, there are a number of great state parks with yurts at your disposal (though reserve far in advance). If not, the closest yurt rentals are at LaPine State park, outside of Bend. However, this park has rustic cabins, not yurts (though you get the same amenities). On the other side of Crater Lake, the closest yurts are at Valley of the Rogue. Each are about 2 hours’ drive from Crater Lake, in different directions.

Where I can snowshoe with my pooch?

I’m glad you brought this question up, because I was a little hesitant to bring my dog along with me to Bend last weekend. Fortunately, U.S. Forest Service regulations allow dogs, leashed or unleashed, on the south side of Century Drive, en route to Mt. Bachelor. I’d highly recommend Wanoga and Edison Sno-Parks.

There’s also a dog park on the far right side of the parking lot at Mt. Bachelor. I’m not sure if this is affiliated with either of the sno-parks, but there are plenty of dogs playing and running around in this area, so if you’re up for skiing at Bachelor, a lunch break at the dog park isn’t so bad.

Wanoga Sno-Park is great, too. And it’s probably the only groomed, dog-friendly sno-park in Oregon.

Edison Sno-Park sits in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor. The mountain acts as a pretty great wind block but the trails aren’t groomed. When the snow is good, I’d recommend this area, but when it’s icy it can get a little treacherous.

I came across this site for you to look at, too. In case you have any more questions, feel free to email me back and I can help you find some more dog-friendly activities.
http://centraloregonmagazine.com/dog-friendly-ski-snowshoe-trails/

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Are there family-friendly places in Oregon to go zip lining?

The first few options for zip-lining that come to mind are Tree to Tree, Rogue Valley Zipline, and High Life Adventures, depending on which part of Oregon you’re traveling in.

Another recommendation that is family and kid-friendly is Camp Dakota Adventures. They offer 6 different zip lines as well as a Challenge Course for you and your family to navigate your way through the tress, over barriers and between ropes.

If you have any more questions, I’m happy to help, so please let me know!

Thanks a lot,

Kristen

When and where can I go hunting for Oregon truffles?

I actually just attended the Oregon Truffle Festival last month, which is an amazing event if you want to learn more about truffle hunting when it comes around again next January. I learned a little bit about truffle-hunting, but you’ll probably have to seek out a true pro for expert advice. Here’s what I can tell you:

*Oregon white truffles grow underneath Douglas fir trees. They like stands of trees that are between 15-30 years old. I am not aware of a white Douglas fir variety (though I’m not a botanist!) There is a tree known as the white fir, but that is a different species. White fir: http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_abco.pdf; Douglas fir: http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_psme.pdf

*They can be anywhere near the root system of the tree, so yes, they can be farther out from the tree. They can be anywhere from an inch under the soil to much deeper.

*They are in season now although it may be tapering off. They are ripe in the winter months and tend to be at their peak around January.

*As far as where to hunt them around Cottage Grove, I’d contact your local forest service office to find out about public lands where you can hunt them. You have to be careful about hunting them on private land—make sure you have permission from the land owner before you go out. Some private land owners have contracts with professional truffle hunters and lease the foraging rights on their land.

Cottage Grove Ranger District: 541-767-5000. Also, truffle hunting now requires a permit, so talk to your ranger about that as well.

Here is a great video that will give you a visual and a ton of good information about what Oregon truffle-hunting looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zkv0KKJbYg

The gentleman featured in the video is Jack Czarnecki, owner of Oregon Truffle Oil and an expert on Oregon truffles.

Another good resource if you want to learn is to go out on a foray with a professional hunter, like Kris Jacobsen of Umami Truffle Dogs in Eugene. (http://umamitruffledogs.com/) The other benefit hiring a truffle guide to take you out is that many of them use a dog to hunt. When you hunt with a dog, vs. raking, you are guaranteed to find ripe truffles, because the ripe ones give off the aroma that attracts animals. (Unripe truffles may ripen over time if stored in a container in the fridge, but ripe truffles have the true truffle aroma and are immediately ready for use).

I was lucky enough to go out on a truffle hunt at the truffle festival this year, and it was a really neat experience. Good luck to you—I hope you find some!

What is there to do around Rockaway Beach that is easily accessible for all ages and abilities?

Rockaway Beach makes a good base for exploring the coast north and south with several great accessible attractions for the elderly or those with mobility issues. A good day trip north would include taking in the amazing highway-side viewpoints on Neahkahnie Mountain north of Manzanita and a visit to Ecola State Park where amazing viewpoints are just steps away and paved walking paths lead to more stunning views. Cannon Beach and Manzanita are small beach towns that are easy to explore.

To the south of Rockaway Beach, the day trip to Cape Meares is my favorite, offering great views just off the parking area and paved paths that lead to a lighthouse. The Three Capes Scenic route can make an extended day trip including Cape Meares, Cape Lookout State Park and Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City.

One of the most popular activities in the Rockaway Beach area is crabbing which you will find just to the north on Nehalem Bay. Local marinas offer crab ring rentals and bait. You can crab from the docks or rent a boat, then have your catch cooked up dockside for the freshest crab dinner ever.

Happy exploring!

Gary

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on February 2nd, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Which state park has the best oceanside site for tent camping? Looking for great views and beach access.

I would have to go with Cape Lookout State Park on the North Oregon Coast. RV spaces are more toward the center of the park and the beachfront sites are dedicated to tents. You will find a link to the campground map on the Cape Lookout page of the Oregon State Parks website.

Happy exploring!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on August 15th, 2014 - Post Your Answer

What are the top sites we shouldn’t miss in Southern Oregon?

While in Southern Oregon, I recommend spending time in the quaint town of Ashland, taking in a Shakespearean theater production or dining at one of the many farm-to-fork restaurants. If time permits, a day trip to Crater Lake National Park is a must: the route from Ashland (or anywhere in Southern Oregon) will take you past Union Creek and several lava tube sections of the Rogue River. During the warm months, I recommend a day on the Rogue River, rafting or fishing, and in winter, various snow sports are on tap at Mt. Ashland.

If you’re into breweries, Medford and Ashland have several great locations, such as Caldera and Standing Stone, or if wine’s more your thing, I recommend a day on the Applegate Wine Trail (outside historic Jacksonville). If you let me know your interests, I know I could tailor my answer to you better!

Where can I find huckleberries around Mt. Hood?

Huckleberries generally grow in the mountains above about 3000 feet. There are some great spots around Mt Hood, and I have even gone over to the Wallowas to pick.

A free permit is required from the Forest Service, even if you are only planning on harvesting a small amount for your personal use. My best advice is to ask the rangers when you stop in the Ranger Station to get your permit. I usually go to the Zig Zag Ranger station to do this. All that is required is a valid photo ID.

Be aware that there are some areas off limits to picking, as they are reserved to Warm Springs tribal members due to treaty rights. These areas are generally well marked. The rangers can also help you with this, and even provide maps.

If you aren’t interested in picking, there is generally a stand in the parking lot next to Charburger in Cascade Locks that sells them during the season. You may also be interested in the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival.

However, my favorite place to find huckleberries is in one of the famous milkshakes from the Huckleberry Inn in Government Camp.

Happy hunting!!

What are some good hiking trails near Grants Pass?

Some of my favorite day hikes around Grants Pass are along Southern Oregon rivers and connected to mountain bike paths. Below are my top three.

Cathedral Hills Trail System:
This trail network is a great option if you’re short on time and want a trail head very close to town. It’s open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horses, and includes multiple loops, so it’s easy to adjust your hike to fit your schedule. The Outback Loop is 3.5 miles total, and a great route for viewing Madrone and Manzanita (beware, however, that you will encounter Poison Oak, too). From Grants Pass, Cathedral Hills is four miles out Williams Highway 238 on Espry Road.

Illinois River Trail:
For a more challenging hike, the Illinois River Trailhead to Pine Flat route is 5.3 miles, and follows the scenic Illinois River. You can find great swimming holes along the way in summer, but you’ll earn your dip in the water: the trail can be dusty and hot. In late May to July, wildflowers are spectacular here. From Grants Pass, take the Redwood Highway 18 miles to Selma Oregon. Take County Road 5070 (Illinois River Road) to 4103. The last few miles to the trail head are rugged!

Rainie Falls Trail:
For a cooler, southside hike, Rainie Falls follows the Rogue River from Grave Creek Bridge to the falls. The hike is 2 miles (and 2 more back) and is a great opportunity to see migrating salmon. It’s possible to swim at the falls, or better yet, eat a picnic lunch while watching kayakers and river rafters make the plunge down! From Grants Pass, take Exit 61 of I-5. Drive through Galice to the Grave Creek Bridge.

Enjoy hiking near Grants Pass!

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