UMPQUA SCENIC BYWAY
The beauty of an Oregon summer is that you can enjoy views that are never twice the same. So it is along two scenic byways you may have overlooked:two that are blessed with waterfalls, wildlife and camping opportunities.
The first is a roadway once traveled you’ll never want to leave for the Rogue-Umpqua River Scenic Byway reaches high into the Oregon Cascade Mountains with pleasant surprises at every turn.
Many begin their adventures at Diamond Lake, often called a “Jewel of the Cascades” because it offers plenty of camping elbow room to spread out and play, while fishermen cast for rainbow trout at one of the finest lakes in the state.
“The fishing’s been really good with limits the rule, said Rick Rockholt, spokesperson for Diamond Lake Resort.
“We’ve seen a lot of people catching limits, a lot of people catching big fish so there’s good fishing opportunity. Diamond Lake is back.”
The full service resort offers rental cabins for folks who wish to enjoy an overnight stay and rental boats for those who head to the water and play.
Plus, there are more than 450 US Forest Service campsites at three different campgrounds – many offer shore side camping.
“There’s fishing, hiking, mountain biking – many folks have discovered that there is a paved path all the way around the lake that’s about 12 miles long. Diamond Lake is at the apex of the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway and from here, you can go down the North Fork of the Umpqua River corridor and visit the waterfalls plus the world-famous blue ribbon fly fishery.”
There’s nearly two hundred miles of byway where the river is often by your side and provides glimpses into a water lovers playground that’s hard to avoid.
The Umpqua-Rogue Scenic Byway is blessed with a variety of hiking trails and many of those lead to spectacular waterfalls including Watson Creek Falls.
The trail is a half-mile long - uphill for the most part, but the good news is that it is all-downhill on the way back to your vehicle. Be sure to bring your camera.
This mountain byway unwinds to become another scenic route, the Umpqua Scenic Byway, west of Roseburg, that delivers you toward the coastline along the main Umpqua River.
Be Prepared for something special off Oregon State Highway 38: at first glance, what appears to be dancing antlers across the grassy fields of the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area.
The site encompasses 1,040 acres, is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It is managed with public viewing and education with an information kiosk at the O.H. Hinsdale Interpretive Center that offers information about Oregon's elk and the environment of the Dean Creek area as well as spotting scopes to enhance viewing.
The herd of 60 to 100 Roosevelt elk roams freely in the protected pasture, woodland, and wetland areas, sharing their habitat with other wildlife including bald eagles, Canada geese, beaver, and black-tailed deer.
The two Umpqua Scenic Byways offers roadways reaching from the coast to the Cascades and are filled with adventures for you to explore anytime.
THE COVERED BRIDGES OF LINN COUNTY
I am a big fan of Oregon’s little roads; you know, the ones without numbers.
Linn County has a few and sometimes these roadways let you set your clock back too – on a journey into unexpected bliss!
Bill Cockerell, President of the Covered Bridge Society of Oregon, recently joined me for an afternoon tour across Linn County to see and admire some of the county’s historic covered bridges.
“You think of a Covered Bridge,” noted Bill, “and you think of horses and buggies! You just want to relive that period of a hundred years ago…when times were slower. A romantic time, even if it is our minds – may not have been true, but it sure feels like it.”
It feels like a Huck Finn sort-of -world at Shimanek Covered Bridge – a gorgeous beauty decked out in “Navajo Red” colored paint and it spans Thomas Creek.
It is one of eight covered bridges in Linn County according to Cockerell, who said that most of the covered bridges were built in the 1930’s when big timber was abundant and cheaper to build.
“That ‘Navajo Red’ is the only one in Linn County of that color,” added Cockerell. “While inside this bridge it is painted white – that white on the inside, plus light coming through the louvered windows makes for better visibility and so it is safer.”
Safety is important these days because traffic roars past at a shattering pace – a far cry from slower days of the past century.
Still, there are other covered bridges that are off the beaten path and hint of bygone times.
For example, Hannah Covered Bridge is picture-postcard perfect!
This stunning whitewashed covered bridge was built in 1936 and offers a bit of a Norman Rockwell kind of American moment.
Cockerell said, “People just love this type of bridge because you can look out of it - you can see the fishermen downstream or people swimming too It really is nearly like walking across any uncovered bridge.”
Hannah Bridge may have you wondering, why did they cover the bridges in the first place?
Cocerell said it was simple economics!
“An uncovered bridge will last eight, ten years tops. But a covered bridge with a cedar roof could last forty or fifty years with proper maintenance.”
Not far away, you’ll enjoy a chance to relax at Larwood Wayside – only site in the state where a river flows into a creek.
It’s called Crabtree Creek and it is where you will find Larwood Covered Bridge and it was built seventy years ago.
Bill said that he believes the Covered Bridges of Linn County will last even longer.
“I think they’re here to stay – for another hundred years at least – at least I hope so!”
He also noted that Oregon has more (49 authentic) Covered Bridges than anywhere else in the country, so it is something all Oregonians should be proud of so folks should get out to see and enjoy them.
A PADDLE FOR PEACE OF MIND
Some getaways offer peace of mind with each stroke of a paddle and all you needs is a paddle, a life vest and a spirit of adventure at the new Beaver Creek State Park Natural Area near Newport.
It is unlike any state park you’ve ever visited before!
Beaver Creek is a relatively small 30-mile long coastal stream that is born in the Oregon coast range mountains and enters the ocean at another parkland called Ona Beach State Park, just south of Newport, Oregon.
We paddled stable, flat-bottomed kayaks through a stretch of the creek where the freshwater mixes with the salt.
Mike Rivers, a Park Ranger with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, told me that the creek is never more than six feet deep throughout its length, but it does rise and fall a bit with the tidal change.
The new State Park Natural Area is nearly 400 acres of freshwater marsh and uplands and a place where the creek’s namesake animal – also the Oregon state animal - has made a remarkable comeback over the past forty years.
Their signs were everywhere, from chewed up alder sticks scattered on shore to large semi-submerged logs where beaver teeth appeared like double chisel-type marks on the wood to several large lodges.
“This time of year, the lodges are overgrown with brush and other vegetation,” noted Rivers. “They’re pretty impossible to see from a distance, but in a kayak you can sneak up and check them out pretty close. It’s pretty neat!”
In fact, our paddling was highlighted with close up views to varied birds rarely seen so close and included hawks, eagles and egrets.
Rivers added that the parkland includes seven miles of boat-accessible hiking trails leading through meadows and forests.
At the top of a nearby knoll, the new Beaver Creek Visitor Center - accessible by land or water - will offer maps, photos and information about the wildlife in the area when the park officially opens to the public on October 1.
Mike Rivers added, “This is really a first for Oregon State parks and yet there’s a demand for this kind of recreation that doesn’t really involve any kind of development at all; just a minimum impact, a minimum footprint on the landscape.”
For folks who wish to make their visit a longer stay, South Beach State Park Campground is just six miles away:
“At South Beach,” noted Rivers, “we often find ourselves as a hub for recreation and overnight stays. We have over 250 campsites – all full service campsites with electricity and water at each site. We’ve 27 yurts with electricity, water and indoor sleeping facilities: a futon couch and bunk bed.”
But it’s out on the water where you’ll likely find me – where nature’s touch soothes the soul at an Oregon State Park unlike any I’ve been before.
“It’s basically wilderness in the state park system and we’re thrilled with it, said Rivers. “We’re thinking of our children and their children who will come here too. This is a fabulous area.”
”Visitors can sign up for Beaver Creek guided tours at South Beach State and these tours are led by a state park guide. The tours are offered daily between the 4th of July and Labor Day but special arrangements for group tours can be made at other times of the year.
You can also learn more about Beaver Creek guided tours through the private tour operator, Northwest EcoExcursions in Depoe Bay, Ossies Surf Shop in Newport and Central Coast Rental Watersports in Florence.
FISHING FOR KINGS
If you’re eager to catch a “King,” you arrive at the Garibaldi docks an hour before sunrise.
A longtime Oregon fishing guide, John Krauthoefer, (Firefighter’s Guide Service, 503-812-1414,) told our huddled group of anglers: “It’s the early bird who gets the worm, men! This has become such a popular fishery that if you wait and go late, you might miss the bite.”
In mid-October, thousands of salmon are migrating through dozens of estuaries like Tillamook Bay and swimming into their home rivers.
Birt Hansen, a longtime fishing partner, had joined John and me on Tillamook Bay where scores of other anglers had also gathered – we were excited, anxious and ready for action.
After all, low tide was about to turn to flood and it might serve up the biggest of all the salmon species called “King.”
John quickly baited up the rods and reels with plug cut herring.
John's a big believer that a plug-cut herring makes the best bait when fishing for Chinook. He makes a bevel cut with his razor sharp knife just behind the herring's head to make the bait spin when it's trolled in the water.
He explained: "This is their (salmon) natural feed out in the ocean and they'll eat it like candy. You just have to get it in front of one. That's the big trick. So just slowly drop down it down to the bottom. When you hit the bottom, bring it back up about 2,3 cranks of the reel."
We dropped our lines over the side and John began a slow troll with the tide.
As the tide turned to flood, signs of salmon life began to appear as nearby anglers hooked up. It happened to us too!
“Get him, get him,” Krauthoefer yelled.
Suddenly, I had my hands full with a hard charging king that had decided to head back to sea. Krauthoefer put his motor in gear and followed the salmon.
With a wry smile, he noted, “They're strong and full of muscle and they let you know that they're on the other end of the line.”
After a twenty-minute tug of war, the gleaming 20-pound salmon came to the net and it was scooped aboard.
“A beauty! That’s really a pretty one and they don't get any nicer than that,” noted Krauthoefer. “The only thing nicer is we got to get the gear back in the water and get some more.”
John added that a big ocean, coupled with a forecast of more squalls and storms; anglers must be on guard against a dreaded fishing disease:
“Don't get salmonitis!” he said with a chuckle. “That’s a disease where you get so focused on fishing that you forget about your surroundings. This area of the bar can be dangerous. You can get in trouble if you don’t pay attention at all times. Things change out here very quickly.”
It can be a he challenge to fish along the jetty – where the swells and the waves and the tide can combine to change conditions in a heartbeat.
We wore our inflatable PFD’s (Personal Flotation Devices) at all times.
John would not give us – or any of his passengers – any choice.
For him, the angler’s safety is personal.
“These are self-inflating vests and we wear them all day in my boats. I had a friend drown a few years ago and if he’d had one on, he’d be alive today. They’re very comfortable and you don’t even know you’ve got them on.”
Sport-anglers catch more than 12,000 King salmon on the bar, the bay and the five rivers that flow into the bay on their way to the sea.
So, special rules are in place to protect the Kings from over harvest. An angler can keep one King per day and five per season from Tillamook Bay or its rivers. In addition, anglers can also keep a hatchery Coho salmon.
Our luck soon changed too!
John’s rod doubled down from another fresh king salmon.
“Oh, just let him run if he wants to run,” noted Hansen. ”That fish was in the ocean five minutes ago so it’s full of fight.”
The battle was on as another twenty-pound King charged down to the bottom.
After twenty minutes, the shimmering silver Chinook came to the net and I lifted it aboard.
“That’s as pretty a king as the last,” noted Krauthoefer. “What a beauty and it's funny; after you've fished for years and years, your knees still shake when the fish is in the boat. It's a great experience.”
While Birt Hansen enjoys the fishing, he admitted that there are other reasons to go fishing for kings in Tillamook Bay: “The attraction to me is really the outdoors – just watching nature around you – the varied bird life and other wildlife that live here. Plus, the smell and sounds of the bay and the nearby ocean’s pounding surf – all of it creates lifetime memories.”
It’s always a challenge to catch a big salmon, but now that I had landed a dandy, twenty-pound chrome bright salmon, what to do with the catch?
A visit to Debbie D’s Sausage Factory in Tillamook provided the answer and plenty of good advice on how to care for the catch.
Owner, Debbie Downie showed me the easiest way to filet a big fish. She has filleted more than a thousand salmon during the past fifteen years at her homegrown business in Tillamook.
Her technique and expertise is based on tip number one: a sharp knife will make the job smooth as silk.
“I cut the fins off because when you go to filet it, your knife can get caught in that and then you get a little wow in the meat. I leave the “collar,” on – that’s the hard plate that extends from the pectoral fins up the sides of the fish; the collar gives you a good hand grip to hold on to.”
She smoothly slid her knife – the flat of the blade tight to the backbone - down the length of the entire salmon, flipped the fish over and repeated the same cut on the other side.
“And there is no waste on that at all,” she added.
As I looked over the with two gorgeous, crimson filets, she offered tip number two – smoke only red-meated fish rather than salmon that are past their prime.
She reached into a nearby tub of filets and pulled out a flesh colored salmon fillet, “This is one that was in the river – and look here, you can see how dark the skin is. The flesh is soft and there will be little flavor. People come in and think we can smoke and brine it back to health. I'd say, 'Oh no, this is sturgeon, she added with a laugh.“
As I watched her cut the salmon in to smaller chunks, I asked the accomplished pro, “When you go home at night do you dream of fish faces?”
“I do, I do,” she noted with a laugh.
Debbie Downie proceeded to show how she makes liquid brine. She started with 6 pounds of brown sugar, which she crumpled up with her hands.
“Here’s a tip,” she offered. “This has to be really, really fine – no clumps allowed.”
Then she added 2 ounces of granulated onion followed by a quart of soy sauce.
She thoroughly mixed the soy with the sugar and onion and added, “The soy contains all the salt I need to make the brine, so I don’t add anymore salt. You could also add granulated garlic at this point. Another option is to add sodium nitrite – that’s a color preservative – about a half an ounce for this amount of brine.”
Debbie guided us to her nearby massive smoker and opened the door. Smoke – she prefers alder wood for salmon smoking – poured out of the doorway – inside was a huge rack of finished product. Or nearly finished, that is!
“First, it’s time to vacuum,” she noted.
Debbie is a big believer that vacuum packing the product extends the shelf life of your smoked fish:
“Oh absolutely! Getting the air out is really the main thing because the air will freeze around your product and that's what makes it dry out and that's where you get your freezer burn.”
Her finished products attract customers from across the region’ folks who’ve discovered Debbie D’s secret for salmon smoking success: “You have to really take care of your salmon. Treat it with respect and care and you’ll be rewarded with a great treat.”