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Archive for April, 2004

After a quick stopover in Bend, OR, we continued up Hwy 97 to Madras, then turned northwest and followed Hwy 26 through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. An easy drive, with beautiful scenery, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves approaching Mt. Hood.

Having researched almost every lodging and dining facility throughout central Oregon, we headed for Timberline Lodge. What a magnificent building. Had we not already had reservations elsewhere for that evening, we would have checked right in. Timberline Lodge was built in 1937 as part of the Works Progress Administration. It was hand-crafted by local artists, using local materials, and features amazing stonework and woodwork. The hallways and lobby areas are filled with artwork and historical displays. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was there to dedicate the building when it opened.

This is an all-year lodge and, as we found at Crater Lake, there was quite a bit of snow. More than once we were passed by cheerful visitors on skis, returning to the nearby Wy”East Lodge after a run down the slopes.

Though we didn’t stay the night, we did manage to get into the dining room for lunch, where we had soup and salad and looked out the window at the winter scenery.

From there, we backtracked a few miles on Hwy 26 in order to pick up Hwy 35, which wound north through the Mt. Hood National Forest, dropping up into the town of Hood River.

Now, I have to admit that it’s probably becoming clear that I have an obsession with lodging. I suppose I always have. I love the feeling of getting away and being able to pretend for a night that another place is really your own. That aside, much of the freelance travel writing I’ve done over the last few years has been about lodging, especially historical lodging. This is why I often change locations daily, in order to gather more for my “I have stayed there and this is what it was like” list.

In addition, being a starving freelance writer most of the time (the two definitely go together, regardless of how glamourous it may sound) I specialize in places that are relatively low-budget. I actually prefer this, since I think it’s a cool trick for most people to find a way to escape without breaking the bank. I really have a passion for finding lodging that’s a great deal and passing that information on.

Having now explained that, it will make sense when I say what a treat it was (using Dad being with me as an excuse to splurge) to stay the next two nights at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Sigh. I doubt I can do the place justice. But it’s exceptionally nice, a very elegant and classy place. And the location can’t be beat, situated on a bluff overlooking the Columbia Gorge.

The hotel is built on the former site of the 1800’s Phelps Mill. A hotel by the name of the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel was built there in 1904, but torn down in 1921 when Portland lumber baron Simon Benson replaced it with the current building. Though it opened with high acclaim and attracted many celebrities, the Depression years hit hard and it was sold and used as a retirement home for many years. Restoration efforts in 1977 turned it back into the luxury accommodation it is now.

We got a decent rate for a room on the garden side. We shared the room, but it was half of a suite, so there was an attached hallway with a bath off to one side and a closet to the other, which included a small refrigerator (stocked, of course, with honor bar things to raise the bill, but I brought in my own Diet Coke from the car, as always.

The rooms are not large, which is common for historical hotels. But they’re immaculate and comfortable, with luxurious sheets (honestly, I think this is becoming my favorite amenity.) The gardens are beautiful, so we didn’t feel slighted over the big spenders on the river view side.

The hotel offers a complimentary champagne and caviar reception in the downstairs lounge from 4:30 – 5:30. I don’t do either of those bubbly or salty things, but Dad enjoyed a glass of champagne while we sat on the outdoor patio and admired the river. There’s a great area of rock paths along the edge of the property and also a waterfall alongside the building. Pretty breathtaking.

Our first night there was a little chaotic, unfortunately, because there was a wedding on the lawn outside, followed by a reception inside. I was probably a little tired from driving, but was a little irked later that night by what I assume were inebriated wedding guests slamming doors late at night. Our luck to be on the same floor.

It would be better the second night. I finally fell asleep, prepared for the day of sight-seeing that was to follow.

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Our tentative itinerary covered 724 miles over six days. We would drive half of those miles the first day, leaving the San Francisco Bay Area around 10AM. This plan was to allow more exploring and photography time on the remaining days of the trip.

We made one lunch stop along the way at a Black Bear Diner. The food isn’t gourmet fare, but it’s decent and not terribly expensive. In addition to picking up an order of blackberry cobbler to save for later (you never know when the midnight munchies will strike,) we had fun taking pictures of the carved wooden bears. This was really my reason for stopping there, as I had only pictures taken two years ago, with a lower resolution camera.

To be honest here, I have to confess we stopped at not one, not two, but THREE Black Bear Diners, in order to find all the bears I remembered. My father is obviously a very patient man.

We arrived in Jacksonville, OR around 6PM and checked into a historic hotel that has long been on my wish list: The Jacksonville Inn. This is a highly acclaimed accommodation, built in 1861 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Their regular rates are fairly expensive, but they offer an excellent corporate rate. I had been able to book two rooms for less than the regular price of one.

We unloaded our bags quickly and then zoomed up and down California St., Jacksonville’s Main Street equivalent, catching a few photos with the last of the sunlight. Hunger caught up with us before long and we returned to the inn’s absolutely charming outdoor patio for dinner. My choice: Chicken Marsala. Dad’s choice: Bouillabaisse. Both excellent.

Like most historic hotels, the guest rooms are upstairs and the common areas down below. In addition to the outdoor patio dining, the inn has an elegant dining room and bar on the lower level, as well as a gift shop and huge wine stock. The entire building is beautifully restored and immaculately maintained.

We turned in for the night, with Dad in a spacious, back corner room with two exposed brick walls, a very large bath and a primo close location to the table where coffee would be served in the morning. (Note: I considered this a very cool thing that they did here, putting the coffee out on a table in the upstairs hallway, as opposed to having guests come downstairs to fetch it.)

My room was halfway down the hall, with a smaller bath, but I chose it between the two because it had a writing desk and a comfortable “feel” to the furniture arrangement, something I never can explain. Why the writing desk mattered, I have no idea, since inevitably I end up on the bed, pillows smashed behind me and laptop on my lap. The rooms all have phones and televisions hidden in drawers and armoires, so there are modern amenities to go along with the feel of history.

I slept really well. The bed was super comfortable. I woke up early and tiptoed down the hall to find not only coffee, but a plate of biscotti. This before a full breakfast – included in the room rate – which was served a bit later in the dining room.

I really liked this inn and will definitely be putting it on my list of favorites. It was a great first night, a good beginning for the trip.

Jacksonville itself is an interesting, historic town, built up as a mining community after gold was discovered in the local area in 1851. It flourished until 1884, when the railroad opted for a route through nearby Medford. Local activity moved that direction, which turned out to be an advantage to history buffs, as it helped preserve the town from continued development.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966, Jacksonville is one of very few towns in the country to hold this honor. This distinction helps preserve the town as it was in its heyday and offers visitors an opportunity to take a trip back in time.

We checked out, took more photos, and then headed up to Crater Lake. As we climbed in elevation, small patches of snow started to appear alongside the road. By the time we reached the lake itself, it looked like winter. Huge snow banks behind the snow plow stakes. One look at the lodge explained why it wasn’t open yet for the season. (I had checked into staying there when planning the trip, but it opens May 26th.)

Besides getting winter-ish photos, the tall snow banks made it easier to hike out a little closer to the lake view for pictures. Those “Danger – Do Not Go Past This Sign” markers were pretty well buried under snow. It was worth pushing my luck a little. I’m happy with quite a few of the pictures.

The lake is gorgeous, a beautiful blue, every bit as beautiful as I’ve been told. Very peaceful (especially without summer tourists around.) Dad said in “the old days” the lake was said to be bottomless. The National Park website informs that sonar readings were taken in 1959, setting the deepest section at 1,932 feet. Deep enough for me. I’m even more glad I didn’t fall in.

I adored the lodge, of course, being partial to historic buildings. It was built in 1915 (actually over a period of time, between 1911 and 1915) and has a long history of falling into disrepair before being rescued in the 1990’s with a fifteen million dollar restoration. Since I couldn’t see the inside, I guess I’ll have to find a way to go back.

We finally headed out and cruised northbound to Bend, OR, where we spent the night in a fairly blah place (they can’t all be fabulous, after all…) Just a stopover to rest up before continuing north again the next day.

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