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Best of southern Oregon, from redwoods to Crater Lake

September 15, 2015

Best of southern Oregon, from redwoods to Crater Lake

By Terry Richard | The Oregonian/OregonLive
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on September 15, 2015 at 5:00 AM, updated September 15, 2015 at 5:05 AM

Home to one of the world's most beautifully rugged coastlines broken only by raging rivers spilling into the sea, southwest Oregon is a bit of a blend. It mixes the wet climate of the Willamette Valley country to the north with the warm Mediterranean climate of California to the south. Don't ask questions. Just enjoy.

Best big trees: About 800 years ago, the giant redwoods became some of the first Californians to slip across the state line and set up home in Oregon. There's been no stopping Californians ever since. To see some of Oregon's tallest redwoods -- including one 286-foot giant -- head for Loeb State Park, 10 miles east of Brookings, then hike the path to the redwood grove in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Best wild river: The Rogue is a mere brook compared with the upper Klamath River. When the operators of Boyle Dam turn on the turbines each morning, the ensuing flood creates 15 rapids rated class 3 on up to class 5 in a five-mile stretch of the Klamath. Rafters from Ashland and Klamath Falls go into a frenzy.

Best lighthouse: Another highly contentious pick. On the theory that a lighthouse must have a spectacular setting, it's hard to quibble with Cape Blanco Lighthouse near Port Orford. On Oregon's farthest west point, where it's buffeted by 120 mph winter winds, this lighthouse is the highest above the ocean (245 feet) and the oldest (1870) in the state. It still emits light through its original first-order Fresnel lens, 22 miles out to sea.

Best secret place: It's tempting to leave this category blank (otherwise it wouldn't be secret). But no matter how often Blacklock Point gets mentioned, it always seems to be empty. This headland, seven miles north of Port Orford, is in undeveloped Floras Lake State Park. Go to gawk at two miles of 80-foot high beach cliffs, the waterfall that crashes to the surf, the Pacific sunset, the beam from Cape Blanco lighthouse.

Best baby blue: When the sun is shining high overhead, there's no better blue than what gets reflected off Crater Lake, Oregon's only national park. The like is so deep, more than 1,900 feet, that all the light in the spectrum gets absorbed, leaving only blue. At least that's how I interpret the phenomenon. Do visit in late winter, too. If possible it's even more blue then than during summer.

Best I-5 detour: Take Exit 76 the next time you're in southern Oregon. First, drive a quarter-mile west to the old Wolf Creek Tavern, where Clark Gable and Jack London stayed. Now a state park B&B, its has been closed for remodeling but will be better than every when it reopens. Then, drive east under the freeway and up into the hills, passing the historic mining town of Golden, to a trail and views atop mile-high King Mountain.

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