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Quick trip to Prineville Reservior

Quick trip to Prineville Reservior

EXPLORING PRINEVILLE RESERVOIR STATE PARK

It’s Memorial Day weekend and the weather forecast is looking optimistic in Oregon! We decide, like every other Portlander, to escape the city for a long weekend camping trip, pack a LBR Explore Oregon hoodie and hit the road. Within 15 miles, in either direction, we have hundreds of destinations and paths to choose. We head east and travel through a twisted highway lined with pointed firs, into Central Oregon. About 10 miles outside of Prineville and near one of the state’s best lakes is an outdoor mecca complete with camping sites, cabin rentals, fishing and water recreation. We post our "tent" and partake in some of the favorite things to do at Prineville Reservoir State Park.

 

R&R Along the Reservoir
Set within the rolling desert foothills, the reservoir offers a breathtaking panorama of Central Oregon’s stunning scenery on a large lake that hosts bass, trout and crappie alike. The water level is best during late spring/early summer and drops in late August. Prepare for stunning sunsets with pinks, purples, oranges and blues. There are many ways to get your boat into the reservoir and plenty of room for swimming, fishing and kayaking. With no speed limit on the reservoir, it’s an ideal place for recreational water sports including water skiing, tubing and jet skiing. Block the sun with a LBR Explore Pacific Wonderland trucker hat!

Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway
While the drive through the Crooked River Canyon is considerably simpler, it’d be a disservice for avid bikers to leave out the new scenic bikeway. This 37 mile out-and-back ride begins at Rimrock Park and starts off flat and easy.  As the path begins to narrow, you are squeezed in a rocky canyon, while taking in views of subtle color changes within the rock formation. The trail drops you into another valley of breathtaking rock formations and large trees. The River runs alongside the path to deep caverns. Suddenly the path takes an abrupt climb as you enter the turnaround with just 20 miles to go to reach the end of the route. The view at Big Bend Campground is possibly one of the most thrilling experiences of biking anywhere in Oregon, overlooking the river and numerous rock formations of varying color and shapes. Check out this LBR Night Rider t-shirt for the occasion!

Waking Up to Wildlife
Within the campgrounds of the Prineville Reservoir State Park and amongst its magnificent visual beauty, are the sounds and sights of wildlife. During the day, be on the lookout for chipmunks, deer, jackrabbits and eagles. Wake up in the early morning hours to softly singing songbirds. After laying your head down to sleep, prepare to be awakened by coyotes, owls and Canadian geese. Be sure to wear your hiking shoes when walking along the campgrounds as there are a number of side trails and moderate rocky hills to climb and catch glimpses of wildlife. You should most-definitely take a LBR tote for your snacks, camera and everything you need :)

5 Billion Star Hotel
The night sky soars above the campground, offering a spectacular view of the celestial world above us. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Prineville Reservoir gives access to a few large telescopes on Saturday Nights. Every year in May the State Park holds an annual star party to kick off the summer season. Within the observatory, you can gaze into the clear sky and view planets sharing the night with clusters of stars and galaxies without the obtrusion of light pollution.  This year, Jupiter dominates the night sky and leaves you with a celestial experience not to be missed.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden | Portland Oregon

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden | Portland Oregon

I've heard about this place for some time now, but since an acquaintance mentioned planning his wedding here, I knew it was something worth seeing. I'm not familiar with this part of the city at all, so we actually did one of the "Walk There" walks and started at Eastmoreland Park and then onto the Gardens themselves.

The gardens is enchanting the way that it's all in a sort of canyon, and the noise of any traffic or any clues that you are still in the middle of the city are drowned out by it's location and it's three waterfalls.

This Garden, is every bit as beautiful as our famed Portland Japanese Garden. Bring a camera, a loved one, even your dog is allowed. Share it with friends. Here's some of our photos and below is information about the garden.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
One of the world’s finest collections of rhododendrons and azaleas in an idyllic woodland setting, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a unique seven-acre garden containing an outstanding collection of rare species and hybrid rhododendrons, azaleas, and other lesser known ericaceous plants, as well as many companion plants and unusual trees.

This internationally recognized garden is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. March through June, when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in full bloom, the garden is spectacular. A spring-fed lake surrounds much of the garden, attracting countless waterfowl to nest and feed in this natural habitat. In fall and winter, trees and shrubs add their own color and interesting structure.

Visitors stroll by three waterfalls via two picturesque bridges and wander down shaded paths to Crystal Springs Lake. Feeding grain to the ducks, marveling at the reach of the fountain spray, exploring the garden, and watching the sun set over Portland’s West Hills are favorite pastimes. Long regarded as a photographer’s dream, this tranquil setting makes it easy to forget that downtown Portland is only minutes away.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden was jointly established in 1950 by Portland Parks & Recreation and the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. Volunteers from the Rhododendron Society, Master Gardeners, and other experts care for the plants and maintain the garden year-round.

For Birdwatchers
94 species of birds are seen in the garden, among them the Great Blue Heron, Townsend’s Warbler, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Chestnut-Back Chickadee, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and the American Coot.

Garden Hours
April 1-September 30: 6:00am-10:00pm
October 1-March 31: 6:00am-6:00pm

Entrance Fees
• Admission is free to all from the day after Labor Day through the month of February.
• A $3 admission fee is charged between 10:00am-6:00pm, Thursday through Monday, March through Labor Day.
• Admission is free for children under 12 and Friends of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Annual Events
The Early Show and Plant Sale are held on the first Saturday in April. The Early Show is a judged showing of choice specimens of early blooming rhododendrons and azaleas.

The Mother’s Day Rhododendron Show and Plant Sale are held on Mother’s Day weekend when the rhododendrons and azaleas in the garden are at the peak of their glorious color. This is a judged showing with awards offered by the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. An exceptional selection of plants are on sale, as well as books, and free cultivating information, including pruning, is available.

Information courtesy PortlandOnline.

L. L. Stub Stewart State Park | Oregon

L. L. Stub Stewart State Park | Oregon

Just 31 miles west of Portland, L. L. Stub Stewart State Park offers camping, picnicking, hiking and biking. If you like trails, this is the park for you. Explore more than 20 miles of trails. Bring your horse or bicycle and spend hours exploring the far reaches of the park. A quiet spot to yourself? Relaxing is easy in the 1,673 acres of lush rolling hills, forest and deep canyons. Here's some of our photos from a recent trip for my birthday!

Dogs. Yes. On leash, but...one of the largest off leash areas of any state park with views of the coast range that are simply uneatable.

Camping. Quadruple yes.
• Car camping (better in loop "Dairy Creek Camp West").
• Hike in camping sites are amazingly secluded and away from the car campers. The hike is a graded road and there are carts you can borrow to help you transport your things. A group fire ring is used for all hike in campers.
• RV camping with horses? Hares Canyon Horse Camp is your destination there.
• Camp in a cabin? Yes. The Mountain Dale Cabin Village sits on the hilltop with some amazing views.

Bikes. Oh boy, yes. Bikes are everywhere in the park, and that's because Stubb Stewart sits at the 10 mile mark of one of the most scenic bike trails in the area; the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. This, I'm convinced, is a huge reason people like this park. A never-too-hard ten mile ride and you're in the quaint town of Vernonia, grabbing a pastry or microbrew before your head back. Easily done in a day by most.

Hikes. Indeed. The Hilltop Day-use Area with its views of the Coast Range is perfect for a family gathering. Two trailheads, one at the north end and the other to the south, are gateways to hours of exploring. Get a trail guide here.

Golf. Not really, but Yes! An 18-hole disc golf course is open east of the Hilltop Day-use Area, near the Hooktender Horseshoe Trail. Bring your own discs and score cards. Campers also can play a 3-hole course near the campground amphitheater.

Wildflowers. Where we were there in late June, there were 3 colors of foxglove and at least 3 colors of lupine everywhere.

Did you know the phrase "Happy Camper" originated in Oregon? Well, that's what we've heard...I guess that's why it's one of our favorites!

 

Belknap Hot Springs

Belknap Hot Springs

We recently took a weekend birthday trip to Belknap Hot Springs. We usually like to camp, but we had already winterized our little trailer, so we got a lodge room and brought our little 4-footed friend, Rogen along for the ride.

ACCOMODATIONS
The reviews on the lodge and service were not so great, so we arrived with somewhat low expectations. When we pulled up, we saw huge timber beams at the front of the lodge and wood carvings of bears on the benches outside, where people were taking selfies. People were having fun, so thumbs up already. We checked in, with great, friendly service (contrary to reviews), and headed to the room. The room had a lot of potential with a huge stone fireplace on the back wall. It was not wood burning, but instead filled with a small electric heater. Its cord couldn't reach any outlets though. The bed was comfy, and the bathroom was doable, but if you're a clean-freak, like me, you'll find things to activate your OCD. It's no Hilton, just be warned. It's a spa lodge room straight from the 80's.

Because there is also a campground here, and there's not really any food close-by, we will surely opt to camp here next time (oh yes, we're going back). Bringing our own food and accommodations. The campground was fantastic looking, with some great sites. It is perched up on a hill behind the lodge and also houses many cabins (that seem to have better reviews). The upper tier has another, smaller hot pool, access to the McKenzie River trail, fields for play and a Japanese garden to explore. It would have been the perfect trip if we had the trailer. That said, it was still pretty magical. Read on.

GROUNDS
This place is beyond-words beautiful. The grounds are so expansive and there are so many trails that it's really easy to get lost, even within the campground. We crossed the bridge to explore some of these upon arrival. We came across many hike-in campsites that were so secluded that I'm sure you'd never even know anyone else was out there next to you...even with the leaves off the trees.

There's a secret garden, which, oddly and awesomely, they tout, but don't tell you where it is, or show it on the map. With the light getting low, we headed past the camp sites and found grassy fields in the middle of no-where, and trials that split upon split upon split. It was getting darker and we weren't too sure of where we were, so we started to head back. We ran into a huge cement turret overlooking a stream, seemingly for no reason. Then I saw a cement wall, all covered with ivy and moss, and I screamed "Hang on!". I ran past the wall to reveal the beauty of the secret garden. It's so huge, you'd wonder how we (or anyone) missed it. It's truly secret, so I only shared a couple photos.

HOT SPRING POOLS
Okay, so the room was meh, but the pools are what we are here for, right? Well, the pools are magical. There are two pools. One pool is at the main lodge and the other is up the hill with the trailer sites and cabins. The lower pool is larger. We never made it up to the upper pool, but the lower pool was perfect for us. During the day, steam rose up and the rain came down, keeping us the perfect temperature. In the evening, the pool lights change color and create a really dreamy atmosphere with all the steam rising in it's varying colors. It's a bit more mellow past 8pm or so, as the kids have gone to bed, and the day users are mostly back on the road. Adults had beverages. I asked about that, because the literature stated "no alcoholic beverages at the pool", but the front desk said it's a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of thing. So red-cup it! Don't bring glass, so much stone, and bare feet.

HIKE TO THE BLUE POOL
There are quite a few trailheads around Belknap Hot Springs if you're up for some activity. The trailhead for the Blue Pool hike is just a couple of miles away, as is Tamolitch Falls. We see a lot of waterfalls being so close to the Columbia River Gorge, so, we opted for the Blue Pool. I've always wanted to see this. Check! Easy hike along the river with a little bit of scrambling over lava flows and some puddles. Like 200 feet of elevation gain. There were people running the trail, as well as mountain biking and hiking. We hit a great sunny afternoon and the view was worth it. You can hike down below, but once again, we were running low on light, so we turned around.

Hope this helps you get more familiar with just one more of Oregon's wonders. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer! 

The Top 5 Coolest Sights to See in Oregon

The Top 5 Coolest Sights to See in Oregon

Independent, intriguing, and so damn green—Oregon inspires us everywhere we look. Whether you’re hitting the road solo or showing off for out-of-town friends, here are a handful of the Beaver State’s must-see sights.

1. Powell’s Books
Make this book-lover’s mecca your starting point. Dubbed the “City of Books,” Powell’s SW 10th & Burnside headquarters calls itself the largest new and used bookstore in the world. It takes up an entire Portland city block and houses about one million books. Be sure to pick up the color-coded, room-by-room map. The in-house coffee shop let’s you browse through the books you find.

2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
One of Oregon’s natural wonders is just a 40-minute drive east of Portland. Meandering through the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia Gorge features a chorus line of 75 photo-worthy waterfalls. Multnomah Falls is the big mama at 620 feet high—also the most crowded with tourist. Trust us: a day hiking or biking in this Pacific Wonderland is a welcome break from the Portland bustle.

3. Oregon Coast
There are lots of beach towns along the Oregon Coast. But for the best scenery, history and seaside splashery, we suggest these two "shore" things:
Cannon Beach. Browse the small shops on the town’s cute main street then stroll the beach to get up close and personal with historic Hay Stack Rock. Spy the massive rock’s nesting seabirds and explore its tide pools. Cool Instagram images lurk here.
City of Astoria. Just 20 miles north of Cannon Beach lays historic Astoria. Perched on the mouth of the Columbia River, this famous rest stop of Lewis & Clark has undergone a huge urban revival of late. Hit one of the town’s great new brewpubs for lunch. Take the Riverwalk Trail for a car-free view of the city’s waterfront. Visit film locations from “The Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop” movies for quality selfies.

    4. Crater Lake National Park
    Seeking more jaw-dropping views of nature? Head to Oregon’s (and America’s) deepest lake. An ancient mountain exploded like the Death Star to create this perfectly round, sapphire-blue body of water. Hike, camp and look for signs of Bigfoot, who is often sighted here in South-Central Oregon. You can stay in an historic lodge, too. May the camera be with you.

    5. Ashland
    All artsy with no fartsy, Ashland is an active little southern Oregon city that hosts festivals all year long. The big draw is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival held every winter. You can also catch film festivals in the spring, a classical music festival in summer and much more. There’s no better way to add instant drama to your Oregon travels.

        Visit any one of these hot spots and you’ll see why Oregon fuels so many creative minds. Welcome to our unique corner of the country!