Deston latest travel writing adventure picks a collection of Oregon’s top getaway spots for Alaska Airlines’ Beyond Magazine.
Heidi, the Saint Bernard that greets me at the front of the Timberline Lodge, almost perfectly embodies the alpine ethos of this historic hotel found 6,ooo feet up the side of Mount Hood. All that’s missing is a small brandy barrel hanging from her collar.
While I pat Heidi’s head, the lodge manager tells me that Timberline has often had Saint Bernard mascots on staff, a tradition stretching back to when the structure was built in 1937. And Heidi does, indeed, have a little cask that she carries on special occasions.
Located about 65 miles southeast of Portland and about 115 miles north of Bend, the Timberline area is one of Oregon’s quintessential getaway locations. The lodge has the charm and romance of a mountain chalet, and a wealth of history worthy of a museum. As I walk to my room, I am captivated by massive timber beams, colorful tile mosaics and carved-wood animal heads on the staircase. The lodge’s decor is trimmed with rustic ironworks-from ram’s head fireplace pokers to ornate gates and railings-all maintained by a Timberline employee who serves as a blacksmith. Sturdy and warm, the lodge was built to last by craftspeople during the Great Depression.
In winter, snow activities rule. What I love most is catching a chairlift right outside the door, skiing to my heart’s content and then relaxing in the lodge’s open, circular lobby with a hot chocolate. Others might opt for old-school hot buttered rum or a tequila-infused Huckleberry Beetnik house-specialty cocktail.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, local activities include snowshoeing, bicycling (when the snow subsides in the spring), shopping, dining and melting s’mores in the lodge’s Grand Fireplace. The lodge’s 70 rooms are on the cozy side, some with fireplaces and each with a television. Most guests choose to spend time in the public spaces where families, couples and solo travelers gather to share stories, read and marvel at the skiers and snowboarders cruising down the slopes.
For a side trip, many enjoy dining or shopping for sporting gear and apparel in Government Camp, the closest community, about 6 miles southwest. Timberline is also well-equipped to feed adventurers, with six restaurants on the property. Options range from fine dining in the Cascade Dining Room to beer and pizza at the Blue Ox Bar, accessed via a tiny stone archway tucked away downstairs. The lodge hosts live music, comedy shows and films. And speaking of film, the 1980 horror classic The Shining uses shots of Timberline’s exterior, though the friendly vibe here otherwise couldn’t be more different from that film’s hotel.
A trip to Timberline is a classic Oregon excursion, especially in winter. Yet the state offers many additional chances to experience diverse adventures. In Portland, visitors can find fun by hiking in Forest Park or kayaking on the Willamette River. Or they can enjoy superb vintages in the Willamette Valley wine country.
Other travelers head west to wander the upscale beachcomber’s town of Cannon Beach or revel in the wide-open glory of the Columbia River Gorge. Put simply, there’s something for everyone in Oregon.
Take a photo safari along the North Umpqua Highway of Waterfalls, near the city of Roseburg, and immerse yourself in a wonderland of richly green forest with brilliant cascades splashing onto mossy boulders- an iconic Oregon scene.
This route is a National Scenic Byway with easy-to-moderate hiking paths to 10 falls spread throughout the Umpqua National Forest. The trails range in length from 100 feet to 1.5 miles, and most have restroom and picnic facilities. One of my favorites is Toketee Falls, which is framed by sheer volcanic basalt rock walls. Toketee means “pretty” or “graceful” in the Native Chinook language.
Nearby is Watson Falls, Oregon’s third tallest, at about 293 feet. During the spring, Watson Falls can really gush, so you might get damp from the spray. It’s an easy, roughly half-mile hike from the trailhead. Nearby, stop to quench your thirst at one of more than 25 Umpqua Valley wineries around Roseburg. The region grows more than 40 grape varieties.
Smith Rock State Park: This haven for climbers and hikers is 9 miles north of Redmond. Its towering spires offer some of the most famous climbs in the country.
Forest Park: At more than 5,000 acres, this is one of the nation’s largest urban forests. It provides hiking, biking and horseriding trails inside Portland city limits.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort: Enjoy golf in the fresh ocean air of Oregon’s southern coast, near the city of Bandon. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Few experiences in Oregon are as serene as watching ships go by at the Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa in Astoria. Visitors sit by the window, warmed by the fire, and enjoy coffee and homemade cookies as they observe tugboats guiding ocean freighters into the mighty Columbia River. No matter what the season or weather, the hotel ranks as one of the most pleasant getaways on the Oregon Coast.
The hotel’s barnlike, bright-red exterior is what first charmed my eye. The old fish-cannery structure juts far out over the water, perched on still-solid, century-old pilings. Inside, the accommodations are far from rustic: The décor is modern, bright, and decorated with glass, polished wood and hardwood floors. And each room’s spacious clawfoot bathtub (or jet tub) has a river view.
In the evenings, the hotel has wine and hors d’oeuvres, featuring fish and cheeses from nearby Josephson’s Smokehouse. If you visit Josephson’s, you can taste fish smoked on the premises, with varieties such as Hot Smoked Pepper Blend Salmon and Wine-Maple Smoked Salmon.
Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies, and it’s a town well worth experiencing. To help you get downtown, the hotel offers chauffeured car service to local restaurants in its 1945 Cadillac.
Oregon Historical Society: Through January 31, this impressive museum in Portland is celebrating the city’s contribution to comic books in the exhibition “Comic City, USA,” featuring 15 artists and their work.
Portland Art Museum: This downtown institution located near the Oregon Historical Society is starting 2017 with an exhibition of Auguste Rodin bronze sculptures.
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum: When you’re driving along the gorge on either Interstate 84 or the Historic Columbia River Highway, this site is a great place to pull over and learn about the incredible scenery you’re enjoying. The center has exhibits about the Lewis and Clark expedition, the area’s geological history and ice-age floods, and other topics.
It takes a lot to get me up before dawn, but the prospect of starting an Oregon wine country tour with a hot-air-balloon ride was enough to roust me from my slumber.
The balloon liftoff site is just 25 miles southwest of Portland. Soon after arriving, my sweetheart and I were floating 1,500 feet above the beautiful Willamette Valley.
During the hour-long ride in our spacious gondola, we enjoyed views of a patchwork of vineyards below and mountains in the distance. Vista Balloon Adventures, based in Newberg, offers daily fights from April Fool ‘s Day through Halloween and is taking reservations for 2017.
Once on the ground, we enjoyed a hearty brunch and ventured off to tour a few of the hundreds of wineries in the Willamette Valley. In recent decades, Oregon wines have received national attention for their quality, particularly the Pinot Noirs. Visitors take tours, use designated drivers or, this being Oregon, ride bikes responsibly between tastings. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can enjoy complimentary tastings at 300 wineries, and may check a case of wine for free on Alaska flights from Eugene, Medford, Portland, Redmond/Bend, or Walla Walla, Washington. Visit oregonwine.org for more information. For those who wish to overnight in the wine country, book well in advance for The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, or tile Dundee Manor and Black Walnut in Dundee.
Cannon Beach: Beachcombing, souvenir shopping and dining at Sweet Basil restaurant provide pleasant preludes to snuggling up at an inn or against a beach log to gaze at majestic Haystack Rock.
C’est La Vie Inn: This Eugene jewel offers gorgeous gardens, sumptuous breakfasts and upscale comforts.
Crater Lake Lodge: You and your loved one can rest and dine in comfort looking out over one of the world’s deepest and most pristine lakes. The lodge is open seasonally starting in May, but Crater Lake National Park has year-round outdoor activities. – D.N.
My kids and I have visited amusement parks from the Midwest to California, and we have determined that riding the Oregon Dunes provides all the thrills of the nation’s biggest roller coasters. With its north end located about 6o miles west of Eugene, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America and offers an impressive vista of sand mountains with surrounding trees, lakes and streams.
The area has some of the most exhilarating all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding in the nation. My rented ATV was automatic and powerful enough to haul me up some pretty imposing slopes. As a first-time driver, I was happy to learn that I didn’t need a lot of experience to operate the machines safely. This is definitely a family sport. Rentals for four hours are a little over $200, with helmets provided. For those who don’t wish to gun the throttle themselves, there are guided motorized tours of the dunes. You’ll want to dress for the weather, which is often cold in the winter and spring.
Sunriver Resort: This high-desert oasis, about 16 miles south of Bend, is ideal for families to play and relax together. Swimming at the resort’s pools, biking, golfing and horseback riding are popular area activities.
Lincoln City: Between October and May, visitors comb the beaches of this town to find 3,000 custom-made glass floats seeded along the coastline. In summer, the area is a famous destination for flying kites.
Crater Lake Zipline: A short drive from the city of Klamath Falls, this is Oregon’s longest zipline tour, with views of surrounding forest, Cascade mountains and Upper Klamath Lake. The series of nine zips, open April through November, is a thrill for family members ages 10 and up.