Oregon's Best Road Trip for Eco-Lovers
A land of towering firs, crystal-clear lakes, and farmers markets, southern Oregon has long been ahead of the eco-friendly curve.
There's only one place to eat this far into the forest: a restaurant dating from the 1920s calledBeckie's, directly across the road from our cabin. Beckie's is down-home all the way, with pine-wood walls, antique cast-iron bar stools, and, according to the menu, a former owner named Cecil who had a glass eye and was "quite the lady." Dinner—chicken-fried steak for Alex, pork chops for me—is tasty, but the huckleberry pie steals the show. The crust has a made-from-scratch flakiness, and the berries, plucked from bushes on the slopes of the Cascades, pop with flavor.
Union Creek Resort
56484 Hwy. 62, Prospect, 541/560-3565, unioncreekoregon.com, from $48
56484 Hwy. 62, Prospect, 541/560-3563, unioncreekoregon.com/beckies.htm, pork chops $12
Crater Lake National Park
Off Hwy. 62, Crater Lake, 541/594-3000 (road conditions), nps.gov/crla, $10 per car
As we head out of the foggy mountains and into the more arid Rogue Valley, we make a detour to Jacksonville for a cup of coffee. We love the town so much that our pit stop turns into a half-day excursion. Jacksonville is a modern take on an Old West town: The façades of the 1850s brick buildings are still intact, but the spaces behind them have been transformed into modern establishments such as a sleek sushi restaurant that doubles as a jazz bar.
AtGoodBean Coffee Company, an organic-coffee roaster in an 1850s billiard hall, we strike up a conversation with the barista, Michelle. When she moved here 10 years ago, she says, the town was recovering from its long post-Gold Rush downturn. Then a second wave of Californians came in—this time young professionals, artists, and restaurateurs. "But the small-town vibe hasn't gone away," she says. "I know how half the people here drink their coffee."
We buy a pound of Dark Mountain blend—one of 16 varieties the shop roasts—and stroll down the main drag, California Street, looking for a place to get lunch. We scan the menu in the window atMacLevin's Whole Foods Deliand are taken aback: It's a Jewish deli, in a former tin shop. "We have to eat here, if only for the randomness of it," I say. The place is a two-person operation: Owners Jeff and Penelope Levin—who fell in love with Jacksonville when they visited from California in the late 1990s—cook and work the front of the house, respectively. Alex opts for the open-faced whitefish sandwich and a potato latke, while I order matzo ball soup and a tuna salad sandwich.
We jump back in the car after lunch and drive about 15 minutes east to Ashland. The town is home to theOregon Shakespeare Festival, which takes place every year from February to November, and life here positively revolves around the Bard. Elizabethan flags hang from the lampposts, and Shakespeare's face is on everything, from the walls of hotels to restaurant menus. The effect is a little kitschy, typical of a tourist town. But I'm hopeful; if more than 100,000 people flock here every year, the performances must be worth it.
Our first order of business is to go to the box office to pick up our tickets forOthello, one of three plays being performed at different theaters tonight. (I ordered the tickets three months in advance; in the summer, it's tough to buy them at the door.) Then we check in at our hotel, theMorical House Garden Inn, a restored 1880s farmhouse set amid a two-acre garden of lilies, jasmine, lavender, and peonies. The owner, Alicia Hwang, relocated to Ashland in 1999 from Beijing, where she had taught English for five years, and eventually bought the inn. Hwang has filled the place with art she's collected over the years: antique sculptures from Japan and Taiwan, brass works by a Canadian artist, vases by a local ceramist. (Thankfully, there's not a Shakespeare head in sight.)
Tickets in hand, we rush up the hill just before dusk for the show. We choseOthellomore for the stage than the play itself—it's at the open-air Elizabethan Stage, which is modeled after London's 16th-century Fortune Theatre, complete with a three-story façade of a half-timbered Elizabethan home as a backdrop. Right before the show, a crew member opens a window on the top story and raises a flag up a pole—the way the beginning of every play was announced in Shakespeare's time. The cast does a fine job, particularly the actor playing Othello, but the real highlight of the show is watching the sun set slowly over the Cascades as the actors recite their lines in the twilight.
Morical House Garden Inn
668 N. Main St., Ashland, 541/482-2254, moricalhouse.com, from $96