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What is the best way to see Jordan Valley by car?

This is a really great question! I actually took a driving tour through this same area of Oregon at the end of October last fall. So, for starters, I’d say that time is one of the best to go. I don’t think you’d want to go any later than the middle of November (too cold!) and no sooner than August (too hot!).

If you start your road trip near Burns, you can drive through both Malheur and Mud Lakes (they’re not really lakes, more or less dried up lake beds). This area of Oregon is completely different from any other I’ve experienced but it was mesmerizing how big the sky was and how nice the people were. From there, you can continue southeast on the 205 through Frenchglen. I’d recommend staying at the Frenchglen Hotel. It’s a quaint hotel that was built in 1916 by a meat-packing company but now hosts five rooms for guests. Just across the road from the hotel is an awesome wildlife and bird viewing area. I walked around in there for about three hours and didn’t get bored once. Even in late October there were plenty of critters to see and there was a family of bald eagles nesting about 50 yards off the road. It was incredible! After leaving Frenchglen a fun option and short drive to the Pete French Round Barn is really cool. Otherwise, you can drive up to the top of Steens Mountain and look out at the Alvord Desert about 300 feet below you, stretching out for miles.

Other options would be to bypass the mountain road and take a dip in some of the local hot springs. Mickey Hot Springs and the Alvord Hot Springs were great and it only cost $5.00 to check them out and drop my toes in.

If you continue taking HWY 205 SE you’ll find yourself among one of the most jaw=dropping places in Oregon: the Alvord Desert. You can drive over and through it, you can camp in it, you can do just about anything you want to do there. It’s similar to the Salt Flats in Utah but way, way more intensely beautiful. And if you take the Fields-Dieno Road all the way back up to HWY 95 East, you’ll get to the Jordan Valley with some time to spare.

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Can you suggest a trip that allows us to see lots of boats?

There are several choices for good port or fishing towns on the Oregon Coast. On the North Oregon Coast, you could consider Astoria with its working riverfront ranging from fishing boats and international commercial ships to recreational boats and cruise ships. There’s a lovely river walk that allows you to take in the views of boats on the river and in port. The river walk passes a combination of working waterfront businesses and brew pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, along with the amazing Columbia River Maritime Museum that would be a must stop for you. For a luxury stay, you could book a room at the Cannery Pier Hotel that is built on the river pier of a former cannery and you could watch the river traffic from your room. Other options include Victorian bed and breakfasts, downtown boutique hotels or traditional hotels.

On the Central Oregon Coast, I would recommend Newport with its large bay front port on Yaquina Bay. It’s a fun place to walk, offering a unique combination of commercial fish processing along with tourist shops, restaurants and attractions. You’ll find some bay front accommodations and other local attractions are nearby including two historic lighthouses and the world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium. On the bay front, there is a small maritime museum. There are beautiful stretches of beach nearby too! The short day trip to Depoe Bay would allow you to visit the worlds smallest navigable harbor, as well as look for whales at the oceanfront Whale Watch Center.

There are several interesting choices on the South Oregon Coast. I love the character of the small fishing port of Charleston southwest of Coos Bay. Just minutes from the port is a string of three beautiful State Parks on Cape Arago. The Cape Arago Lighthouse can be seen from various viewpoints nearby. Accommodations near Charleston are more limited, but you will find many choices in North Bend and Coos Bay, a major shipping port. I love the town of Bandon for its amazing beach with dramatic rock formations. It has a small port on the Coquille River, but it would make a great base for exploring north to Charleston and south to Port Orford, a small fishing port, but home of the only dry dock port on the West Coast where boats are lifted directly in and out of the ocean’s waters by crane. Bandon makes relaxation time in the evening easy with an Old Town area and riverfront boardwalk where you will find some of the community’s best shopping and dining.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on March 29th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Are sites in the Gorge accessible to people with limited mobility?

You will find that there are TONS of accessible sights along the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway, including Multnomah Falls. There is an elevator in the historic lodge there and a wheelchair ramp to the main viewing area. The trail is paved all the way to the bridge, but it might be a little steep for someone with limited mobility.

Other waterfalls easily accessible are Latourell, Wahkeena, and Horsetail Falls. All of those areas are paved, and easily seen within a short distance from the road.

Also, make sure to stop at Vista House at Crown Point. There is a wheelchair ramp into the building, and an elevator inside to access the lower floor.

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 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!!

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