Leaving Portland we headed south on I-5 toward California but first we stopped for a while in Ashland, Oregon near Medford. We had never been in this area and it had many surprises. First, the town of Ashland is famous for its months long Shakespeare Festival. Second, the downtown Lithia Park is wonderful and definitely a “do not miss.” Third, the area has many historic buildings, especially in the town of Jacksonville namesake of this large county in Southern Oregon. Fourth, there are about 20 wineries in the area and some grow the same Tempranillo grapes that is common in Spain where we lived many years ago. The final surprise for us was the tall mountains in the area that are a part of the lower part of the Cascade Range.
We stayed at the very nice Emigrant Lake County Park which is a few miles outside of town. This had been recommended by several bloggers that we follow and it did not disappoint.
We spent an afternoon in Ashland walking around Lithia Park adorned with amazing Fall foliage. The park has water features, ice skating, a Japanese garden, and playgrounds for the kids. There are plenty of trees, bridges, water, and trails to enjoy. This popular spot was quite busy even during a weekday visit.
We sat on a park bench and listened to a cellist for quite sometime. He was excellent and seems to really enjoy being in the park entertaining passersby. Daniel Sperry is his name and he even has a website so that the community can know when he plays in the park. When asked why he was there that afternoon, he replied, “When you are surrounded by all this goodness, I just had to come to the park today.” He was right, it was a glorious day to be in Lithia Park.
Celia and I then headed for a local coffee shop. Noble Coffee is not close to the park but it gave us an excuse to walk around town. We passed an historic hotel in town now called the Ashland Springs Hotel. It opened in 1925 during a time when the Lithia Springs were drawing significant tourism to the area.
We also visited the small town of Jacksonville near Medford. It was recommended as a place to visit because almost all of the town is designated as a National Historic District. There are over 100 historic buildings in town!
Jacksonville is a town that you can enjoy by just walking around and taking in the historic buildings. We also had a nice lunch in the historic section. We talked to a local that was from California which is common in this area. Partly because the influx from the state to the south, he said the average price of a house was over $600,000. We saw some listings in the windows of the some of the real estate companies and they seemed to confirm what we had been told.
We wanted to checkout some of the forested areas of the region and took a day trip to Lake of the Woods and Willow Lake. The long drives to these locations are through extensive lush forests and remote areas. The tall evergreen forests seem to continue forever and are definitely part of the attraction of this state. The common license plate in Oregon is the Douglas Fir on a mountain skyline.
The Lake of the Woods resort looked to be long closed for the season but we were able to look around and eat lunch overlooking the lake. Later we found out that it is still open on the weekends until January 1. We did get to chat with a young couple with two children who were eating their lunch there as well. It turns out that they were traveling for months as a family taking in some of the beautiful sights in our great country.
There is a lodge, store, marina and other facilities at this location. It looks like it could be pretty busy in season but it is vacant this time of year.
We knew from photos we had seen that from Willow Lake we would have a good view of Mount McLoughlin (see previous post on the Father of Oregon). Like many of the mountains we have seen in the last few weeks, this steep-sided stratovolcano did not yet have a snow cap. This 9,493 ft. peak made for a pretty site framed by Willow Lake.
Willow Lake is also a Jackson County park and campground. The campground layout is very haphazard and I don’t think you would want to stay in a Bighorn sized rig there but you could fit in a few sites. The camp host that we met was one of the friendliest anywhere and is staying for the winter. I am sure he will have plenty of “me-time” as the weather turns frigid.
We truly are piddlin’ around as we stayed much longer than we thought we would in the Ashland area. One incentive to linger was that it was going to be much colder in Northern California due to a cold front coming though the area. The forecast of 4 degree lows farther south was enough to keep us in Ashland for an entire week. Our goal is to stay in “shorts weather” as much as possible.
I can see us coming back this way and staying for a while. We really liked the Emigrant Lake Campground and its proximity to Ashland.
Next up, we head to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.
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