I visit one of the most gorgeous towns in Oregon, see a theatrical production in the famous Shakespeare festival, and stay in two of the most beautiful accommodations I have seen as of yet.
Now, I know that Oregon isn’t a popular “must see!” dream destination. You won’t find it near the top of many people’s bucket lists. I didn’t really know what to expect either, making the long drive up the west coast.
However, this particular vacation is one that I’m glad to have experienced. Tall trees, clean air, and beautiful mountains make me feel lucky to live in the northern portion of the west coast.
We had a long, long drive up California. Luckily, it wasn’t a dull one. We passed through shaded redwood forests and charismatic small towns. One stop that my dad was particularly excited to drag us to was Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz.
Mystery Spot is a collection of buildings that were built in the 1940s on a steep hill. Because of the building’s unconventional tilt, the location is home to numerous visual illusions. Water poured into a trough looks as if it’s flowing upwards, a ball placed at the bottom of a ramp looks as if it’s rolling the wrong way, and people standing in order of tallest to shortest look as if they are all the same height.
The most fun of these illusions to play with is the fact that it always seems like you are leaning to the point where you’re about to fall.
Unforuntately, when I looked through the camera, I found that my mom had taken the photos incorrectly, so the illusion didn’t work quite right.
But you get the idea.
We also visited the Trees of Mystery, which was a place you could park and look at the gorgeous Redwoods. There was also a fudge shop and a giant statue of the American Folktale characters Paul Bunyan and Babe.
Overall, the drive was very picturesque, with sparkling lakes and tall trees paying homage to summertime.
Eventually we made it to…
Tu Tu Tun
Our first stay was Tu Tu Tun Lodge, located along the Rogue River.
The lodge was quaint, and gave an old-America rustic feel. This was the first hotel I’d ever been to that didn’t provide TVs in the bedrooms: nature was our only entertainment. That being said, this hotel was nowhere near shoddy. The pool was luxurious and the grounds were unlike anything we had ever experienced. The grounds were full of green fields full of flowers, lounge chairs, fancy covered porches, and views of the glittering river.
There was also a garden full of flowers and vegetables (used in the hotel’s restaurant of course) that was fun to explore.
I took pictures of ladybugs and chewed on mint leaves.
Also on the grounds was a small apple orchard. Even though it was summer and the apples were not yet ripe, I enjoyed strolling underneath the shady trees. Here was where I completed a bucket list item: feed a wild buck!
This old buck was familiar with the inhabitants of Tu Tu Tun, and the caretakers of the grounds had even given him a name: Bob. Not very creative, I admit, but sweet nonetheless. The workers had told us that it was ok for us to feed the deer by hand. I even got to gently pet his back a bit.
We drove to the top of a big hill to take a popular hiking trail near Gold Beach. Unfortunately, we weren’t expecting the sudden extreme climate difference between the top of the hill and the bottom. As soon as we opened the car doors, a flurry of wind pummeled into us, sending accumulated roadtrip trash ripping through the air. Cold mist surrounded us, and we immediately felt like turning back. However, we decided to press on.
Once we were within the trees, the wind was significantly less bothersome, although the moisture and cold didn’t cease.
Luckily, the moisture meant our trail was full of ferns and flowers, and everywhere we looked was blooming with life.
We even came across a banana slug or two!
The sun started to peek through the low hanging clouds, and the hike became a bit more comfortable. We passed by a few small trickling waterfalls, spilling into pristine forest pools.
At one point, we broke through the trees and came across a vista point, roped off for safety.
Here we got to see the Pacific Ocean. As soon as we got near the cliff face, a huge roaring wind smacked us silly. The wind currents must hit the cliff and travel angrily up its side. It was fun to feel such a ridiculous amount of wind in such a small area.
Soon the trail started to slope downward, and we began descending toward sea level. The thick trees began to part to show us views of the bluer-than-blue water down below.
The trail got steeper and steeper until ropes were provided for our balance.
Eventually, we made it to a cold lonely beach, surrounded by cliff faces.
It felt amazing to be the only ones experiencing such a beautiful place. We stopped here to eat some sandwiches we packed.
Speaking of eating, another cool aspect of Tu Tu Tun was the restaurant near the lobby. The Lodge really was set up as if it were a Lodge: homestyle kitchen and dining room, a big roaring fireplace in the living room. One of the evenings, we got to eat dinner at some big round tables with other guests. They sat us with strangers as if we were family, and we got to eat our local meals while watching the sun set over the Rogue River. I had a butter fish dish that was amazing.
Rogue River Rapids
The most extreme moment for us on our trip was taking a speed boat up Rogue River. Not only was this a high speed vessel, but we would be taking the boat over rapids. Don’t try this at home, kids.
The boat picked us up right at the lodge, on a dock provided by the hotel.
The ride was gorgeous, if anything. We went right through a national park. The guide pointed out a few bald eagle nests high up in the trees, and at one point we even saw a raccoon cleaning its food on the banks of the river. We also waved to some campers setting up by the water side.
Eventually we made it to the rapids.
The boatman steered the skinny speedboat around in dizzying circles, always seeming like we were just about to crash. We rode our own wake, bouncing up and down and getting sprayed in constant rushes of water.
Getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and retreating into nature is amazing, but it gets old for me very fast. I enjoy variation. So when it was time to hit the road again, I didn’t complain much. We made the relatively short road trip to Ashland, Oregon, where we were to stay in a guesthouse.
We drove by the town of Ashland and wove up a twisting road above the city.
We passed by ranches and horses and yellow fields.
Eventually, we turned onto the driveway of our destination and were greeted with colorful Tibetan prayer flags waving in the wind.
The houses were modeled after East Asian architecture, with bridges, zen gardens, and Buddha statues. The man who built the houses gave us a tour. He had traveled all over Asia and was a devout Buddhist. He even included an alter within the layout of the house.
The tea drawer in the house was extremely well stocked, and I spent a lot of time drinking vanilla tea and sitting in nooks in the house.
My favorite part of the house was a huge moon door that lead to the entrance. It made me feel like I was in a Hobbit Hole.
Speaking of which, the giant TV didn’t have cable, but it did have the entire extended LoTR trilogy on dvd. Much to the excitement of my brother and I, and much to the annoyance of my dad.
The kitchen was large and had sparkling abalone tiles. The deck was huge and gave us a view of the city as well as the blue snow capped mountains in the background. It was gorgeous.
We could also explore the lush grounds surrounding the houses.
The gardens and trees were beautifully maintained.
On the property was a large metal structure. The caretaker of the house explained to us that it was once part of a stage used in The Shakespeare Festival’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He asked them if he could have it when they were done.
We climbed all over the rusty thing.
We went downtown a few times to explore. It was full of trendy cafes and vintage boutiques and pretentious hipsters. It was awesome.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The play we watched was called Cinderella/Medea/Macbeth. Or maybe it was called Macbeth/Medea/Cinderella. Whatever order, it was a combination of those three classic stories.
I was expecting a similar show to Sondheim’s Into The Woods: classic stories and familiar characters combined together into one cohesive plot that deviates from what we expect.
Boy was I wrong.
Instead of three stories melded seamlessly together, the show really was three plays in one. As in, Cinderella was acted out on stage. At the same time Medea was acted out on stage. At the same time Macbeth was acted on stage. Three different casts, three different time periods of english and costume. The characters barely reacted with each other. The only time I remember in which one plot nodded to another was when Medea brandished her knife, and Macbeth saw the “floating knife” that she held.
The producers didn’t take any liberties with the storylines. It was confusing and a bit pointless. Three people talking at once for an entire two hour show. In the last 15 minutes, the climax of each story, all the actors left their costumes behind. And every single actor/actress wore black shirts and black pants. Just like stagehands. I get that they were trying to be artsy, but it just made everything MORE confusing. You couldn’t tell the characters apart. I didn’t really get it.
That being said, I know that people travel from all different parts of the country to experience the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. I am very lucky to have been able to see three different shows for the price of one.
Oregon was gorgeous, and the weather was just right for my preferences. This definitely won’t be the last time I make a visit up north.