It’s always a strange feeling to visit one’s own past. Whenever I return to the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, that’s what I feel like.
As I tell people, I was born and raised in California, but cultivated in Oregon. I went to school in Ashland and have many fond memories of working as house staff in the world-class Oregon Shakespeare Festival, drinking beers on the back porch of our little shared house in Talent, spending late nights studying in the Hannon Library (interrupted by a snack and coffee run from the not-so-glamorous 7-Eleven across the way), spending too much time ensuring that I’d visited every coffee shop in the area, exploring the lakes in the hills around Ashland, and so many intangible memories tied to tangible landscapes and restaurants. Like so many other memories, no doubt I make it out to be more glamorous and gloss over the negatives – finding mold in apartment, taking a political science teacher that was nothing short of obnoxiously self-absorbed, having a run in with the law, etc.
Still, visiting southern Oregon is nothing short of charming. Our packed weekend began on Friday night as we drove north into the darkness, stopping in Yreka for supplies and running into one of Kiva’s old friends, then eventually finding our way at our home for the night – the wonderful and inviting home of Kiva’s mother. We spent the night drinking a few beers, and I found conversation flowed out of me in a way that is unusual around my lover’s mother.
The next morning, we had breakfast and conversation at Great Harvest Bread Co. (well-known for their lunches), did some errands, and parted ways. Kiva and I meandered to
the Luna Cafe, a hotel restaurant that has a fifties flair to it. Here, we met up with Anna Lisa, both Kiva and my former supervisor at the Ashland YMCA. (Kiva and I met working the front desk there, so I suppose I owe a little something to that job for introducing us). Anna Lisa is a character – so full of life and light. I’ve always gotten the sense that she grew up tough and didn’t take crap from anybody, and was always the sort that could
really connect with a random stranger. It was nice to catch up with her and hear about the updates at our old work, hearing about her son meeting the blues/rocker Jack Broadbent, and Anna Lisa’s joy at moving out of her cramped apartment. It was a lunch full of laughter.
After this, we headed up 66 away from Ashland. We stopped by and checked into our lodgings, the Green Springs Inn and Cabins, and unloaded a few things. We knew we could lose sunlight, so we decided to do a hike that we had full knowledge could turn into a sunset hike. We decided to do the Rogue Valley classic – Hobart’s Bluff.
Hobart’s Bluff is a relatively easy 3-mile round trip. After a short drive up 66, there is a turn off to the right that enters the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Save for a few potholes, the gravel road is easy to maneuver and after a handful of miles you come to a clearing and the trail head. There were only two other cars here, and the sun was drooping low, so we hurriedly packed our backpack with snacks and our headlamp, and set off.
The trail soon connects with the well-known Pacific Crest Trail – the stuff that dreams are made of. We ambled along, talking about cars, our future, anything that came to mind. We passed one twosome heading in the opposite direction – no doubt eager to be heading back to the warmth of their car. The trail forest we were hiking through soon cleared and we glimpsed the views of rolling, forested hills.
Much sooner than we anticipated, we arrived at the summit. Standing at a gentle 5,502 foot summit, the rocky outcropping offered views of the Rogue Valley, the perfectly mountain-shaped Mt. Mcloughlin, the blunt crags of Pilot Rock, and of course, the looming and snowy peaks of Mt. Shasta.
Now that we had no cover of trees, we found the cold wind had picked up considerably. We stopped, ate a light snack and got some water, took a few photos, then decided to get the hell out of Dodge.
As we hiked down, we realized that we were just barely going to make it back to the car before the sun completely set.
After a short drive, we were back at our mountain lodging for the night. We had sprung for a cabin of our own, the cabin by the name of Pilot Rock. Complete with a wood burning stove, loft, granite-tiled bathroom, and outdoor hot tub, the place was not far from a resort. We had dinner at the restaurant on the property, then retired to our cabin. Now that the sun had fully set, the air outside was cold, no doubt inching closer to the freezing point. We blasted the little wall heaters and started a roaring fire, and of course braved the cold to sit in the hot tub (which was almost too hot!). With some leftover wine from dinner, we had a very pleasant evening indeed.
The next morning, we had an unexpected surprise – it was just beginning to snow. Whereas the day before was pleasant and warm causing me to wear shorts this day, Sunday turned out to be quite chilly. After straightening up the cabin, and making some coffee to go, we headed back down the hill. We were able to catch up with one more old coworker, eating at Ruby’s which is well-known for two things: 1. Amazing breakfast burritos. 2. The best place to eat when you’re hungover. It is definitely a classic Ashland eatery, so it was nice to catch up with Christa as we filled each other in on what we’d missed – new jobs, same relationships, new ambitions, etc. We ended up talking with Christa until we realized the cute, hail-shaped snow we saw earlier was turning into much fluffier and larger flakes. Knowing that driving down Siskiyou Pass loomed in Kiva and I’s future, we humbly excused ourselves and took it as nature’s cue that it was time for us to depart.
Although the horror of black ice and chain restrictions loomed large in our minds, we found that not much of the snow stuck. It was actually pleasant to drive through, as we listened to stand up comedy, old radio shows, and specially curated playlists. Although we had spent two nights and only one full day in the area, it felt like we had packed a lot in. It was nice to step back into a world that I once knew so well. Got to reconvene with the familiar – old friends and family and hikes, while exploring the new – first time staying at the lodge, and yes, we checked out the new downtown location for Case Coffee. I wish all my weekends could be just as full as this one.
Until next time, never stop adventuring.