Oregon Spring-time Bucket List

Spring is Oregon is marked by sunny days, flowers, fresh strawberries, and optomism. Here are three Oregon spring-time bucket list items not to miss!

Wooden Shoe Tulip-Farm and Vineyard

The Wooden Shoe Tulip festival starts in early March and runs through early May. The driving route to the festival is well marked from I-5 near Woodburn. With 40 acres of tulips, 100 acres of open space, and countless family activities, there is more than enough fun for everyone. Be prepared to purchase a ticket to park and enter and pay for food and kids activities. Even considering the costs, you won’t be disappointed!

Oregon’s Waterfalls Are Most Spectacular in the Spring-time

The Colubmia River Gorge is full of popular waterfalls but there are plenty of less well-known but impressive waterfalls around the state. Even the Willamette Valley even has hidden treasures to offer.

  1. Oregon’s Niagara Falls

Where to find it: Near Lincoln City

Why go there: An enjoyable hike leads to two beautiful fall.

Things to know: The drive includes a fair amount of time on a logging road but don’t give up – you will eventually find the parking lot!

2. Alsea Falls and Green Peak Falls

Alsea Falls is the better known of the two. You can find it only steps from the parking lot and you won’t be disappointed. Green Peak Falls is a different adventure.

Where: Near Alsea

Why: Alsea Falls is well known for a good reason. It is beautiful and powerful. Finding Green Peak Falls feels like an awesome adventure

Things to know: Look for the rope to help you scale the hill next to Green Peak Falls.

Oregon’s Spring Skiing!

Wether you are headed to Mount Hood or Mount Bachelor, you are bound to find some of the best blue-bird days around! Mount Hood boasts the longest ski season in North America and Mount Bachelor keeps the lifts turning well into the spring.

Mount Bachelor is easily camper van friendly. Thier huge parking lot is complete with electric hook ups and festivities. Bring your grill, sunscreen, coolers, sunglasses, lawnchairs, and friends and settle in for a few days! You won’t regret it!

Oregon Winter Day Trip

Oregon may not be as well known for winter sports as other states but don’t let that fool you. January is a great time for an Oregon winter day-trip!

Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are all great choices at Walt Haring sno-park! Here is everything you need to know!

Where is Walt-Haring sno-park?

You can find it just East of Willamette Pass on Oregon Highway 97.

  • From Eugene: Take 58 East to 97 South. It is on your right, just North of Chemult.
  • From Bending: Take 97 South and look for it just North of Chemult.
  • From Kamath Falls: Jump on 97 North

Is there a trail system?

Yes! There is a complex system of cross country skiing or snow shoe trails. The map shows these as groomed but we didn’t see any indication that grooming had been happening.

In any case, there is a big trail system. I recommend looking at the map and understanding that there are two main loops, however. Each loop varies in length from approximately .5 to over 2 miles and the first two loops are connected to all other loops by a subtle connector trail. We were having so much fun that we found ourselves over an hour an half away from the parking lot and still going further into the woods! The only way back was to keep following the loops out and wait to head back or to turn around.

I can’t remember the last time we turned around while hiking but today was the day!

What should I know about the trails?

  1. The trail is well marked by blue diamonds. Where the diamonds are absent, there are yellow ribbons in the trees. I could pretty much always see a marker ahead.
  2. The distances on the map are for each individual loop, not the distance from the trail head. I can’t stress that enough!
  3. Trail names and distances are absent from the trail markers after you get past the initial two loops. Trails are only marked by blue diamonds. No other trail markers are present.
  4. The first loops (upper and lower runner) start at the campground. There is a lot of opportunity to be in the sunshine. The loops further from the trail head are in the forest and a heavier canopy makes it shady and cooler.
Be sure to check out the connector between the closer loops and the further. Although it is all fun, once you take that connector, there is not fast way back!

What is the terrain?

It was relatively flat at the beginning and then hills and valleys as we got back the two initial loops. Views of Diamond Peak were limited by the trees had personalities and there wasn’t anyone else in site!

The snow was too sunbaked for skiing but it was perfect for snowshoeing, however.

Follow the blue diamonds through the old fire area and into the thicker forest.

Do I need 4 wheel drive?

I would say “no” but here is how it was plowed today. We were alone when we pulled in but two trucks and trailers arrived later and quickly got stuck in the unplowed part of the parking lot. I found this parking lot very interesting as it was plowed for driving but if you parked where it was plowed it blocked the road. In any case, we did not use our 4 wheel drive but can see where it may have come in handy!

Chains are required on Willamette Pass if you come from the West.

Parking lot is huge but was mostly not plowed.

What amenities are there?

  • A warming hut! A nice warming hut was just a few feet from where we parked. It is complete with a picnic table and wood stove. Be sure to come prepared with wood!
Warming Hut. Oregon Winter day trip!
Warming hut picnic table
  • Bathrooms. They were open but posted that they are not maintained in the winter.
  • Picnic tables. Besides the one in the warming hut, there were picnic tables near the parking lot and at every campsite, of course. There was too much snow on them for us but there were plenty around and I can see where they would be useful on a sunny winter day.
4 sets of bathrooms are near the parking lot. They are not maintained, however.

Next time, I am bringing wood and friends (post-Covid, of course) and setting up shop in the warming hut. A fire in the wood stove and dinner in the hut would be the perfect end to an Oregon Winter Day Trip!

Next up is further progress on our Sprinter Van Conversion. We are working with Roost Vans on our DIY conversion so be sure to stay in touch and see how it goes!

Check out Cresent Lake sno park and Santiam Pass!

Crescent Lake Sno-Park

We decided to follow yesterday’s wildly successful sledding trip with a second trip to the mountains. This time we headed towards Willamette Pass, hoping to get a parking spot at Gold Lake Sno-Park. We arrived around noon and there wasn’t an open parking spot in site so we pushed onward. Approximately 7 miles later we found Crescent Lake sno-park. The parking lot is smaller than Gold Lake but obviously much less popular. Among the half a dozen cars there, at least three were attached to snomobile trailers and one was clearly park for the long haul. I had intended to opt for snow shoes today but once I saw the groomed and relatively flat route, we decided to try the cross country skis again.

Here are a few things to know about Crescent Lake sno-park.

1. There are snowmobiles and plenty of space for everyone.

The kids loved seeing the snowmobiles on the trail. I liked seeing the signs marking distances to towns and services along the snowmobile trails as this was reminiscent of winter in the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you have a snowmobile, this may be one place to check out!

2. The terrain is perfect for beginner cross country skiers.

I am not talking about the kids here, they have picked it up just fine. My cross country skiing skills are marginal at best, however! These trails were perfect. We skiied on the groomed trails and in through the woods. I got tangled up a few times but nothing too serious. The kids progressed from beginners to experts as they provided me with tutorials about every kind of homemade nordic ski technique you can imagine.

3. The lake is a short distance from the parking lot.

The lake is a short 1/2 mile from the parking lot if you access it through the campground entrance. The kids spent a fair amount of time chopping ice chunks from the shore and toss into the lake. I warned them about breaking through the ice and ending up with wet socks. In the end, I was the only one with wet socks. They stayed dry and had tons of fun!

The boat ramp is also adjacent to the Crescent Lake Resort, which appeared to be closed for the season but still accessible to vehicles and a somewhat popular way to access the lake in the winter.

4. The other nearby sno-parks have thier own personalities and the Pacific Crest Trail is right there in the middle of it all!

Approximately 2 miles before Crescent Lake parking, there is Junction sno-park. It has an unbelievably huge parking lot, which happened to be mostly empty. I think it may be a hot spot of snowmobile parking but am not really sure.
Gold Lake was packed with cross country skiers and snow-shoers. The parking lot was much larger than Crescent Lake but was narrow and completely full. Don’t worry if you start into the parking lot and it feels narrow. Once you get to the end of the lot, there is a no-parking section that is labled “bus turn-around”. It worked great for us on this busy day!

Waldo Lake has a relatively small parking lot that I assume gets rather crowded. We stopped there to make dinner on our way out. It was dusk and there was only one other car but it was obvious that it is a popular spot during the day. The trail was wide and well packed from use. The kids grabbed the snow tubes and found some amazing sledding while I cooked soup in the van. Once it got dark, I pulled the van around to shine the headlights on the trail for them. They explored snow caves and hit some serious sledding jumps! I think Waldo Lake may be our next place to check out for a day but we may try to go early, late, or on a non-holiday weekday to avoid crowds.

The Pacific Crest Trail is right there for all of the PCT section hikers out there! My husband thru hiked the trail in 2004 and remembers Willamette Pass as one of his favorite sections! The trail was well marked but there was not any winter parking with direct trail access from the road.

These days of playing in the snow are keeping me going for sure! Remember to get your sno-park pass before you head out! You can learn more here!

Please follow our adventures~

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A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks

Oregon sno-parks are designated Winter Recreation Areas. You should purchase a sno-park pass ahead of time. Information about passes can be found here.

Ray Benson sno-park is near HooDoo Ski Area in the Deschutes National Forest and is one of the more popular sledding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing spots. The parking area is large enough to allow space, even on a busy day. The trail system is extensive and, although many people tend to flock to one area, there is plenty of room to spread out if you wish. Here are 5 ways to enjoy an afternoon at an Oregon sno-park.

There is tons of parking, remarkable views, and easy access to the trails.

1. Try out your new cross country skis!

Ray Benson offers a complex trail system. You can chose to stick to the groomed trail or venture into the woods. Either way, it is guarenteed to be a good time!

The trail is shared with snowmobiles, families snowshoeing, people hiking, and most likely some rogue sledders but don’t let that deter you, there is plenty of space. I chose the off-piste route on the way down as it turns out that I am still totally out of control on cross country skis. I wrongly assumed that somehow my skills improved since ten years ago when I last hurled myself, arms flailing, down a trail in Montezuma, Colorado.

2. Get some exercise with the reliable stand by, snowshoeing.

I can always count on snowshoeing for safe, effective, and fun exercise! Whether you are on the trail, off trail, or hucking a tiny cliff, snowshoeing is a guarenteed to be a good time. Remember your poles for the best work out and the best chance of making it back to the parking lot without tripping and taking a header.

3. Join the gang of sledders.

We steered clear of the crowds due to Covid but there was still plenty of amazing sledding. Our preferred vehicle are snotubes that were given to us by my grandma for Christmas a few years ago. If you chose a tube, consider inflating it to its maximum capacity. The extra inflation really steps the fun up the next level!

We chose to sled mid-day in the sun and again at 3:30 after the sun was behind the trees. The move from sunny and 40s to shady and 30s provided a super speed icy track to really put the sledding over the top for the kids while also just pushing my mom anxiety up a notch. Sledding was the biggest hit of the day for sure!

Even though the picture doesn’t do Oregon sno-parks justice, this is an intense sledding hill, complete with an icy sink hole at the bottom!

4. Set up for tailgating.

What is better than a campstove and chairs were set against the backdrop of moutains and fresh snow? Cheese and crackers, lunch hot off the griddle, and a couple of servings of hot chocolate with marshmallows seemed to keep my crew in top condition. Next time I think I will expand the menu and include myself when packing mugs for the hot chocolate.

Our first trip in the new Sprinter 4 x 4. We sat on boxes and spent the morning putting paneling back in for the trip but it was a success!

5. Come prepared to stay all day.

An afternoon at Oregon sno-parks require spare socks, spare gloves, different boots for different sports, spare hats, layers, windbreakers, down jackets, fleece … the list goes on and on. I never would have packed like this in Colorado but Oregon is different. The snow is wetter here. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. So, come prepared because everyone will want to stay all day and they minds well be dry and warm!

Please follow our adventures as we convert our latest Sprinter van into a camper for our family of 4!

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Social distancing and disconnecting.

The insulation is mostly installed but the paneling has not been put back. It was March 2020 and we were early in our time of social distancing.

I requested the day off. The kids are out of school and today is “Thrifty Thursday” at our nearest ski area. I really needed to clear my mind and couldn’t think of a better way than heading over the pass and making some turns.

I am happy to report that despite the exposed insulation and last minute packing, the Sprinter’s first ski trip was a huge success!

Social distancing via Sprinter

Not only do we use the Sprinter as a dressing room for changing our clothes but we also use it as a gym for stretching, a cafeteria for snacking, a restroom for washing our hands, a laundromat for drying our gloves, and an apres ski lodge for putting up our feet.

Bluebird days with spring snow conditions are some of my favorite days. Today did not disappoint!

For five hours, I didn’t have a cell signal. I didn’t get phone calls, emails, or see the news. As a health care provider, I feel that we acted responsibly in the face of the Covid-19.

This was social distancing at its best! We didn’t get closer than six feet to anyone; we wore PPE (gloves and googles as eye shields) the entire time! My kids washed their hands like they have a million times before and they didn’t mention scary rumors from school or tales of a virus.

I wish them clear minds and minds that are free from fear and anxiety that is even difficult for adults to process.

I hope our next few weeks are filled more Sprinter assisted social distancing.

We made it! Hoo Doo, Oregon. – and a great parking spot! Sprinter DIY
The insulation progress. Sprinter DIY
Spring conditions at Hoo Doo. A bluebird day.