By Tom Adkinson
The big-city appeal of Portland means it gets plenty of visitor attention, but meandering through the small towns and two-lane highways of southern Oregon provides a completely different set of diversions.
If you fly into the region at Portland, I-5 funnels you into this corner of the state in only about three hours. At that point, you can get off the interstate for the most part and wander. You’ll find plenty to see and do, especially as autumn colors begin appearing.
Wheel off I-5 near Roseburg to admire the beauty of Abacela and taste the wines that come from its Fault Line Vineyards. The vineyards are named for a fault in the Klamath/Coastal Range and vary from flat to having a 43 percent slope.
Head east about a hundred miles and gain considerable elevation to see one of North America’s wonders, Crater Lake National Park. The surface of the 30-square-mile lake is at 6,178 feet, while the rim of the surrounding caldera ranges from 7,000 to 8,000 feet. It’s a long slide down if you get too close to the edge.
Coming down from Crater Lake National Park, check out the Rogue River Gorge, where mountain waters rage through a chasm 500 feet long and only 25 feet wide at a rate of 410,000 gallons a minute. That’s enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool every 60 seconds.
Park your car just once in Central City near Medford for what’s been called the “Trifecta of Yummy.” Fill your picnic basket at Rogue Creamery (artisan cheese), the Ledger David Cellars Tasting Room (wine) and Lillie Belle Farms (specialty chocolates, led by lavender sea salt caramels).
Soak up some history and do some small-town shopping in Jacksonville. This walkable town sprang up with the excitement of a gold rush in 1851, but things are calmer now.
Enjoy an artisan pizza or some stuffed mushrooms and an array of wines at Dancin Vineyards, one of the prettiest and most romantic vineyards and wineries you’ll find anywhere. It’s between Jacksonville and Medford.
The area’s cultural magnet is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which delivers much more than works by the Bard of Avon. Its multiple performance spaces are in Ashland, where the famous place to stay is the Ashland Springs Hotel (dating from 1925 and on the National Register of Historic Places), The famous activity in town is bracing yourself for a sip of water for the fountain at Lithia Park. The water is high in supposedly curative lithium, but it takes courage to get past the taste and aroma.
Travel Southern Oregon is the source of visitor information about the entire region.