Friday, July 18, 2014

Off the Beaten Path in Southern Oregon

Mount McLoughlin and Lake of the Woods
Ashland is in the southernmost part of Oregon, in the Rogue River Valley. It is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is a charming little western town with old brick buildings lining a creek. Victorian homes grace tree-lined streets. Most people go there for the world-class plays but there is much to explore in the nearby landscape.

My sister, Shelley, picked me up at the airport and we went directly into the mountains to a lake called Lake of the Woods. A friend had lent her his cabin for the weekend. Lake of the Woods is an old resort. A large log cabin houses the restaurant and bar. A smaller one features the general store that isn't terribly "general", it sells mostly snack food and things you might have forgotten to bring for a weekend at the cabin, like toilet paper!


The lake is packed with cabins dating back to the early 20th century. The cabin we stayed in was built in the 1920s and has been repeatedly updated. It sits on a narrow lot, just a few feet from other cabins on either side, right at the edge of the lake. A modern series of floating docks extends out beyond the weedy waters into an area that is deep enough for swimming. There was a canoe that we took out for a brief spin but the water was choppy and the going slow. I took a three mile hike on some trails that led around the lake. They were labeled with orange diamonds indicating their use in the winter as cross-country ski trails. Photos of the family inside the cabin showed four generations enjoying the cabin at all times of the year.

My sister had purchased a "Queen Chair" for me, a floaty with a back and arms, and a hole at the knee so you can put your legs through if you want to kick and move around. Two of her friends showed up with their chairs and we created a flotilla of sunburned Queens!

At the lodge, there was a bonfire that heated up the whole area, not a difficult job since the daytime temperature had been in the 90s. Every weekend the restaurant puts out a huge bar-b-que spread.  A local band played folk and country tunes at the bandstand while a few people danced. Others sat around picnic tables in a large open area between the lodge and the store to visit and catch up. Most of them have known each other for years as they've spent time at their respective cabins. But there is also a trailer and tent campground. The marina and store cater to water skiers and sail boaters. My nephew worked at the marina and it was great to see him in action, and at the cabin for breakfast the next day.


Shelley's job involves raising money for the county library system. In Eagle Point, a large music festival is held every year and the proceeds go to the Friends of the Library. It's held on the grounds of the Butte Creek Mill, a grist mill, built in 1872, that operates entirely by water power.

Bob, the charming owner, is more than happy to give tours, and if he's not around, there is a video of him explaining how the water drives all kinds of machinery, including a washing machine. The store and building next door are filled with antiques, many of which date to my own childhood. Yikes!

The Mill is still in full operation, running the enormous stone grinding wheels on a twice weekly basis. In the store they sell the flour they've ground plus a number of other locally produced products.

Eagle Point is a small town with a rich history. Ginger Rogers had a ranch nearby with a dairy. The Rogers's milk bottles fetch a tidy $150 each in the antique store.

These are not the kind of places you'll find in the guidebooks, but they're worth ferreting out for an insider's introduction to the southern Oregon lifestyle.

The grinder with tubes to feed grain from
upstairs into the hopper. 

Juke box with tunes from the 50s and 60s.
Push three random buttons
and see what plays!!