Lane County and Yachats Oregon: Covered Bridges, wineries, and B&Bs
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Covered Bridges of Lane CountyThe southern Willamette Valley, encompassing Lane County with the cities of Eugene and Cottage Grove, offer a wonderful combination of cultural attractions in town and outdoor adventures. Among the county's most popular attractions are the 20 picturesque covered bridges that span the countryside. These covered bridges were the first to be built on a large scale in Oregon and are still maintained, more than any other county west of the Mississippi. The driving tour of the bridges is delightful and relaxing with the most northern bridge of Deadwood, located about an hour from the southernmost bridges of Stewart and Office.
The fascinating history of the covered bridges illustrates the different uses for the bridges and the history of the area as well, such as the Chambers Bridge located in Cottage Grove. The Chambers Bridge, Oregon's only covered railroad bridge, brought logs to a local mill. Today, visitors can walk through and photograph the bridge in a bucolic setting and enjoy a lovely picnic at the adjoining park.
Among the most scenic drives is to Currin Bridge, located on Laying road near Cottage Grove. Currin Bridge was built in 1925 and is a pedestrian-only bridge that appears straight out of a storybook, with forested hills in the distance and laid-back country roads. If you drive to Lowell Bridge, located south of Eugene, you'll find the widest bridge in the county that crosses a small section of Dexter Dam Reservoir. Lowell is open as in interpretive tourist information center and has a marvelous model of the bridge inside; the bridge and reservoir make excellent photos as well.
For additional information on Lane County covered bridges and driving maps, visit www.eugenecascadescoast.org/covered-bridges
The movie Animal House was filmed in Eugene, Cottage Grove and surrounding areas. On August 18, 2018, Eugene is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Animal House with a roster of fun events, such as the Toga Party that is sure to be a blast; make sure to bring your toga! The hilarious bar scene with Otis Day and The Nights was filmed at the frowsy roadhouse, the Dexter Lake Club, located a few miles past Lowell Bridge. For additional information, visit www.eugenecascadescoast.org
King Estate Winery in the southern Willamette ValleyOregon's renowned Willamette Valley wineries draw visitors from across the globe for wine tasting tours and to seek out exceptional wineries. The King Estate winery, located in the southern Willamette Valley, is a magnificent European-style winery that sits at the pinnacle of 1,033-aces with breathtaking views.
From the moment you arrive at the entrance to the estate, the fertile vineyards that terrace the hillsides and surround the lovely chateau are phenomenal. Established in 1991, this family-owned and operated winery takes their stewardship of the land seriously and with dedication to organic practices, achieved the rare designation of Certified Biodynamic* in 2016. In addition to sustainability, the King Estate continues the old-world traditions of artisan winemaking and they are known for their outstanding Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
The gorgeous wine tasting room at the King Estate with its rich, mahogany wood-finish architecture and semi-circle island is an ideal setting for experiencing the winery's varietals.
Make sure you try the 2015 Domaine Pinot Gris with its wonderful fruity notes and balanced acidity. And, the 2013 King Estate Hyland Pinot Noir that is medium-bodied and expresses heavenly, complex notes of blackberry and strawberry aromas with a subtle vanilla-coffee flavor on the palate; a beautiful wine that is an excellent representation of the estates' Pinot Noir selections.
The celebrated King Estate restaurant is a popular with visitors who love to dine on the winery's veranda with its sweeping views of the vineyards, orchards and surrounding valley. The restaurant features award-winning cuisine, using regional food products and ingredients that are often sourced from the estate's gardens and orchards. Moreover, the estate's wines pair perfectly with the seasonal dishes offered on the menu. Suggestion: if you love lamb, try the succulent seared chop with potato confit and foraged chanterelle mushrooms in a rich and savory huckleberry jus and pair it with an estate Pinot Noir.
If you visit, especially during the warmer season, plan enough time to stroll around the lovely King Estate grounds and take a tour of the winery; it is an impressive experience and not to missed. In addition, the winery features numerous events throughout the year; check the event schedules on their website. For additional information, visit www.kingestate.com.
YachatsOregon's Coastal town of Yachats is located just two-hours west of Eugene on Highway 126. The route offers travelers another sublime drive past rural settings and through the beautiful, Sisulaw National Forest. If you're on your way to the coast and enjoy hiking or even a light walk, there are numerous trails located just off highway 126. For an easy and short 2-mile hike with beautiful waterfalls, stop off at Sweet Creek Falls. The drive to the trailhead takes about 15 minutes on the county road but the hike is worth it. The trail is a favorite with towering fir trees, wild flowers and fern-lined paths that meander past the waterfalls; a tranquil paradise and accessible year-round.
Yachats is a small costal community located a few miles north of Florence, Oregon. Both coastal towns are charming, have divine seafood restaurants, independent shops, great beaches and are less crowded than Oregon's northern beach towns.
B&BsLane County offers an excellent array of accommodations from Hotels to B&Bs. Situated in the heart of Eugene, the Oval Door B&B, located on Lawrence Street, is a suburban dream. The Oval Door, a period-style designed home is serene and comfortable, especially with its lovely setting on a neighborhood tree-lined street. Gracious proprietors Brian and Nate Foster provide a small library, gorgeous rooms with tasteful decor, superior amenities, such as a replete hot coffee and tea service cart next to the guest rooms - available 24/7 and full breakfast with three different made-to-order choices daily. The B&B is walking distance to shopping, restaurants, cafes and bakeries.
There are many ocean-front hotels and motels within the towns for visitors to relax and marvel at the jade-colored Pacific Ocean from their room windows. However, there is a special B&B that sits secluded on a bluff overlooking the ocean and has a fascinating and rather mysterious past; the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B.
The Heceta Head B&B is located 13 miles south of Yachats on Highway 101 and is just a quarter mile down from its namesake the Heceta Head Lighthouse. The B&B used to be the home of lighthouse keepers and was built in the late 1800s. This splendid Queen Anne-style home served the light house keepers and their families well, but was isolated, lonely and it was hard on the occupants with many of them moving on to other jobs. As the highway was built in the '30s and the light station received electricity, the isolation was at an end. In the early '60s, the Heceta Head Lighthouse was automated and lighthouse keepers were no longer needed. Finally, in 1995 the Forest Service established the Heceta Head B&B through two amazing innkeeper-chefs and were able to preserve the house, history and open the home to the public for accommodations.
Today, the Heceta Head B&B provides charming and romantic Victorian era-themed rooms and tranquil location. Two of the rooms, Mariner's I and II, have unparalleled views of the ocean and the cliffs to the south. Downstairs, guests can avail themselves of a kitchen, or relax in one of the two parlors that sport fireplaces and just watch the ocean through the windows while sipping a hot cup of tea.
The B&B also provides a gourmet seven-course breakfast that lasts for about an hour-and-a-half. Executive Chefs, Mike and Carol Korgan create new menus each day and the breakfast is geared around great food and conversation with a bit of history for color. Many guests ask about the house's history and if its haunted. It is reputed by numerous occupants and guests over the years the B&B is indeed visited by a ghost named Rue. Apparently, doors open by themselves, items are moved and the spectral figure of an elderly woman seems to appear, than vanish in a mist (no malevolent hauntings reported). There is a history of who Rue might be and it is a fascinating tale that guests can read about or maybe even experience at the B&B.
The grounds at Heceta Head are perfect for a stroll and there is a path that leads down to the beach, as well as a short path up to the lighthouse. There are tours of the lighthouse (check online Schedules) but one of the best times to visit is evening. With a flashlight in hand, walk up at dusk for amazing views and sunsets and watch the beams from the lighthouse cast their glow across the ocean and forest.
*Biodynamic relates to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning and views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem.
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Patrice Raplee is an accomplished travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for award-winning travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in national magazines and newspapers such as Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, Beyond and the Seattle Times. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.
Photos by Patrice Raplee.