Tripping with Tracie in Southern Oregon

Let’s start this first in a new series of blog posts with a BIG picture map of the USA. I’m usually posting about Scotland, Ireland, or some other location in Europe, but I’m going to start posting about my own area and different parts of the USA as I travel here as well.


This post takes place in Southern Oregon (on the map above). It is located on the left hand side of the map where all the blue markers are.

Below, the map is zoomed-in to just the state of Oregon. You can also see the general route that will be followed as I share what my friend Tracie and I did to entertain ourselves over the course of 4-day visit to my neck of the woods in and near Grants Pass, Oregon.



In this blog we will be exploring various towns in and around the Rogue River and Applegate Valleys – like Grants Pass and Jacksonville – and in addition we will take a 3-day tour west to the Pacific Coast, visiting various natural scenic highlights (such as the giant Redwood trees) and cruising up the coast on Interstate Hwy 101 through southern Oregon coastal towns (Brookings, Gold Beach, Bandon and Coos Bay) enjoying their splendid contributions to the stunning coastline views and sights, before closing the loop to head inland to Interstate 5 (I-5) to make our return trip back to Grants Pass.

img_3429Tracie and I have been friends since we were 10 years old and in the  same 4th grade classroom together. It was so great to see her smiling face come strolling through the gate at the Medford Airport on Sunday morning – we enjoyed a very happy reunion.

We were both very excited about our chance to get together and have some fun doing it. We started it out right with a nice drive back to my place enjoying the pastoral scenic route through the Applegate Valley. The late fall sunshine danced on the colorful fall foliage as we drove along, cruising past the many farms and vineyards dotting the surrounding landscape.

In no time at all I was welcoming her to my town, Grants Pass, and just in time for some lunch at the Taprock Restaurant located on the banks of the Rogue River.taprock



We really enjoyed our food and each others company and afterward I took her on a bit of a tour around Grants Pass.

We drove up through the older and more historic neighborhoods at the north end of town as I pointed out various houses where I had lived. She enjoyed seeing all of the craftsman style and turn-of-the-century Victorian homes. Afterward we drove back down 6th street through the center of town heading downhill toward the historic district near the center of town.


6th Street is one of the 2 major one-way routes running north and south through Grants Pass (the old Hwy 99 route before the I-5 freeway was built).  In the photo above is the view of 6th Street looking north to the foothills which form a natural boundary to the town. Below is facing south on 6th Street heading down through the old historic part of town toward the river.


We also took in some of the sights around town like the collection of old windmills that are gathered together from old farms in the surrounding county and some artful murals painted on the sides of buildings I particularly like.





The fall weather was so nice we also enjoyed getting out of the car and stretching our legs while we enjoyed a nice fall walk in a local park.  Riverside Park is just across the river from the restaurant, Taprock, where we ate lunch. It’s the oldest park in town and generations have grown up playing in its grounds, feeding the ducks, geese and pigeons that are ever present and enjoying its peaceful riverside splendor.




Another nice park is a little further downstream – All Sports Park.  It’s across the river from Tussing Park on the opposite bank; yet connected by a nice strong, broad, steel, pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the river. It also offers up stunning views. Fishermen, boaters, rafters, jet boats, & swimmers alike really enjoy recreating here on this river during the summer.

The parks are dog-friendly and have well-maintained, safe walking trails with scenic vistas in the surrounding landscapes to admire and immerse yourself in.

Tracie and I had a fine first day together driving through the Applegate, touring a bit of Grants Pass and enjoying the company of an old and treasured friend.

More fun and beauty was yet to come the following morning – we headed south and west out of Grants Pass toward the Pacific Ocean following Hwy 199.  As one nears the ocean after crossing the Northern California border, the road follows a narrow canyon tracking the course of a clear and beautiful river – the Smith River – one of the nations’ cleanest and most pristine rivers.  We made several stops along this route to enjoy its charm. Below is one example.


We passed a waterfall or two cascading down the rock faces of the canyon walls and eventually arrived at the intersection at Myrtle Creek where we turned left, crossed the Smith River and meandered into the giant Redwood groves beyond.


Just before entering the Redwoods, we came upon an old covered bridge.  There are a number of these little gems throughout Oregon and well worth a look when encountered along its many scenic byways.


Now this is indeed a very special place.  I recorded a video of it for you. The Redwoods are counted as one of my all-time favorite places on this planet to spend precious time in total awe while enjoying their majestic presence.

We strolled around the grove in silent contemplation enjoying their immensity, smell and ancient beauty.


Near the rivers’ edge where Stout Grove ends abruptly, you can look across the river at the Jedediah State Campground located on the right-hand bank of the river in the photo above.


During the summer months, when the water level is much lower, and therefore – slower, a floating bridge is constructed each year in order that campground guests can easily cross the river to walk through the memorial grove beyond. The bridge begins right on the beach before us and crosses over to those two rocks jutting out of the water on the opposite bank.

After thoroughly enjoying that magical place we climbed back in the car and finished driving through the giant Redwoods to the edge of the park on the narrow winding road headed toward the Pacific Ocean at Crescent City.

From deep forests to the beach in 10 minutes!  We stretched our legs again at Crescent Beach and visited the harbor where the seals and sea lions like to lounge on their floating docks in the harbor.

We were getting a bit hungry so we stopped to enjoy a seafood Chimichanga at a Mexican restaurant and then continued on our way north on Hwy 101, crossing back over the Oregon border. The first big coastal town is Brookings. We visited the harbor, jetty, beaches and watched the wet-suit clad surfers catching some waves.

Just north of Brookings is a nice campground and beach at Harris Beach State Park where my children and I have spent many a fine summer day combing the tide pools and building sandcastles over the years. Tracie thought it especially stunning and noted the great campground  nearby on the cliff top above complete with stunning ocean views!

We continued working our way a bit further up the coast to Gold Beach where we stopped for the day and  to spend the night. We got a nice cozy rustic room at ‘Ireland’s‘,  ate a wonderful dinner sampling some of the finer fare choices on the menu and a lemon drop martini at Spinner’s.

We finished the wonderful day of exploration by settling in and cozying up to a crackling & roaring fire and slept peacefully by the waters edge in anticipation of another fine day exploring more of this stunning coastline.


First thing the next morning – a walk on the beach. I love a good morning walk along the seashore to start my day.


After a nice home-style cooked breakfast of Eggs Benedict at Indian Creek Cafe we were bursting with enthusiasm and ready for more exploration along the Oregon Coast. I had some nice surprises in store for my dear friend – a feast for the eyes.

We crossed the bridge spanning the mouth of the Rogue River and visited the ‘cat houses’ or ‘kitty condos’ on the north jetty. Locals have constructed warm snug homes for the ferrel cats that live amongst the big giant rocks on the jetty.  Locals also feed them and I think the houses are just so darned cute besides being so utilitarian and a humane way of caring for the feline population.

The day was young and we ventured further north toward Bandon – our next destination.


As we approached the scenic fishing town of Bandon following along the Scenic Beach Loop we came upon “Face Rock” perched out in the water begging to be photographed…


the beautiful beaches and…


the mouth of the Coquille River where it meets the Pacific Ocean and the charming Coquille River Lighthouse on the opposite bank center stage of the photo below.


We spent some time strolling around ‘downtown’ Bandon visiting its many delightful shops and of course it included the taste sensation of sampling the irresistible samples at Cranberry Sweets! Bandon is known for its many cranberry growing bogs.



Back in the car again, we traveled further north along Hwy 101 to yet another lovely spot off the beaten track on Hwy 101 (and often overlooked). We turned onto the Cape Arago Hwy which encompasses three distinct and breathtakingly beautiful areas – Sunset Bay, Shore Acres, and Cape Arago State Parks – a scenic drive along a dead end road following a small peninsula which ends at Cape Arago.

First stop, Sunset Bay!




With the sun shining brightly we were rewarded with a fantastic vista in a natural bay.

We drove further down the road and stopped at the viewpoint to observe giant sea lions and seals perched out on the rocks at Cape Arago and marvel at the southern view of the coastline stretched out before us (below).



As we worked our way back up the peninsula toward Coos Bay, we stopped to enjoy one of my favorite gardens – Shore Acres.  Although it was late in the season and there wasn’t a lot in bloom at this time, we still enjoyed the immaculate gardens, many exquisite rose blossoms in the rose garden and got a sneak peak at the decorations and preparations being made for their Holiday Lights spectacular for the upcoming Christmas season. They host a winter wonderland of lights where the whole garden is lit up at night with holiday festivities; one of the best displays in Oregon.



The Caretaker’s Cottage…



Silly azaleas blooming out of season – they think its Spring!  (I saw this in Scotland as well this year just before I returned home!)



The exquisite pond never disappoints no matter what time of year you visit…




The inviting cove nestled just below the gardens…



Pine needles on the Mexican Pine gracefully flutter in the breeze like slender silken threads…



At the end of the day and near the setting of the sun, our grand finale of the day was spent watching the waves crash against the rocks along the cliffs of the former sight of the Simpson home; the people who originally built and owned this property before it was gifted to the state of Oregon. It is a wonderful spot to witness the magnificence and power of the incoming swells as they meet resistance from the rocks along the cliffs at your feet.

The waves literally explode into a spectacular water spray upon collision with the rocks at the shoreline – a natural beauty to behold – like a fireworks display.


We thoroughly enjoyed our day visiting various coastal towns while heading north on Hwy 101. As the daylight hours slowly faded, we turned inland, following the Coquille River east until we tied into Interstate 5 southbound and returned to Grants Pass that evening.img_3683

On the final day of ‘Tripping with Tracie,’ we treated ourselves to another nice breakfast at a local restaurant and then headed over to the historic mining town of Jacksonville before she caught her flight home that afternoon.

We marveled at the Nunan House Estate on the edge of town as we approached. It was an original “kit” or “catalog” house ordered through mail order at the turn of the century. The beautiful fireplace and chimney were later added and built by a local Italian mason.



Jacksonville was the site of one of the first placer gold claims in the area. It was founded following discovery of gold deposits in 1851–1852. It was also registered as an Historic National Landmark in 1966 and has preserved its over 100 mid-19th century unaltered commercial and residential buildings.  Below is a sampling of what it looked like during the gold rush and its inception.

Below is what you will see still standing and intact today.


There are lots of interesting and diverse gift and high-end clothing shops to meander through and of course they are all geared up for the holiday gift-giving season!


Jacksonville is also home to the Peter Britt Music Festival.  A very fine venue for enjoying top drawer musical entertainment ranging from Jazz to Classical and everything in between during the summer evenings in the stunning open-air hillside amphitheater. Magical!

As much as I hated to see the time with Tracie come to a close, I found I was saying fare-thee-well to my dear friend at the Medford Airport after spending another wonderful morning exploring together.  We had a grand time.

I’m so grateful she was my companion while exploring the sights of Southern Oregon to share with my blog followers and readers. It was a true pleasure making more memories with such a dear friend!  Thank you Tracie!


I hope you have enjoyed this latest edition of my travels.  If you’d like to see more of Oregon and the western states of the USA please comment and let me know.  I am open to suggestions of things you would like me to share with you!

Until the next time… keep making memories and don’t forget to dream big when it comes to travel adventures!





St. Machar Cathedral & Kings College Chapel, Old Burgh Aberdeen

“Hey! Wait just a minute; I thought you said you were returning home and wouldn’t be posting any new travel blog entries for awhile!” you might be saying.

I did say that after all, and honestly I thought I was done for the time being, but like usual, Lindsay had other ideas on the last day I was in Scotland, Saturday, October 29th. We didn’t travel far at all, in fact we stayed right in Aberdeen.  He took me around the University of Aberdeen campus showing me the various buildings, departments, etc., and then, after winding our way down an old cobbled street in Old Burgh Aberdeen, we stopped in front of this place, the King’s College Chapel.  It’s a special place for him, in particular, because this is where he and his lovely wife, Helen, were married many years ago.


img_2898We didn’t go inside to investigate but drove a bit further down the same street to visit a much larger Cathedral – St. Machar.

We arrived in perfect time as well; a wedding was just coming to a close and the bride and groom were getting a few last photo opps out of the way before zooming off for the reception in a beautiful Bentley waiting outside the gates for them!


First we strolled through all of the old headstones and around the outside of the massive structure.  This ancient site of worship was founded about 580 AD by Machar, a companion of St. Columba of Iona.  It became a cathedral church in 1131.  The present building dates from about 1350.

A fourteenth-century legend tells how God (or St. Columba) told Machar to establish a church where a river bends into the shape of a bishop’s crosier before flowing into the sea. The River Don bends in this way just below where the Cathedral now stands. Machar’s church was superseded by a Norman cathedral in 1131, shortly after David I transferred the See from Mortlach to Aberdeen. Almost nothing of the original cathedral survives; a lozenge-decorated base for a capital supporting one of the architraves.

The stones below were absolutely giant for flat stones.  They were about 5-6 inches thick and the slabs are much larger in dimensions than other flat stones. I can’t imagine how they placed them here so many years ago without the aid of a JCV!


Much of the beauty and character of the Cathedral is due to a number of ‘Building Bishops,’ amongst whom was Bishop Kininmund who built the fortified west towers and began the present nave.

Another Bishop (Lichtoun) completed the nave in the 1400s while a third Bishop, Elphinstone, completed the central tower and south transept.  They were busy boys! Bishop Elphinstone also the founded the University of Aberdeen and was for a time, Chancellor of Scotland!

Let’s head inside and check it out…


A fourth Bishop, Gavin Dunbar, in the 1500s raised the unique Renaissance heraldic ceiling which depicts the notable sovereigns of Europe and the noble and ecclesiastical households of Scotland.  He also added the twin spires at the west front of the Cathedral (where the bride and groom were standing).

This first window is located on the west side of the church and is absolutely huge.  It was difficult to get a good picture of it.


After I took the picture of the whole window, I zoomed in on the center figures (shown below) so you could see better detail.  These are seven saints represented here.  (Somehow I managed to not get a close up of one of them)

Below are two bishops’ effigies that used to be outside in the original portion of the cathedral.  They moved them indoors to help keep them protected and from further erosion from the environment.

An interesting tidbit of information here; after the execution of William Wallace in 1305, his body was cut up and sent to different corners of the country to warn other dissenters. His left quarter ended up in Aberdeen and is buried in the walls of this cathedral. I wonder where his bones lay within these walls?

Also of interest:  John Barbour, Father of Scots Literature, d. 1395, is also buried in this place in the ‘Barbour Aisle.’ He is the author of an epic poem called ‘The Brus’ – a Chronicle of the Wars of Independence and the life of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.’ His works were among the first to be published in Scotland, hence the name “Father of Scots Literature.”










There were a lot of interesting things in this church to look at as we made our way around. This was a particularly delightful clock, and of course the organs are always quite the sight to behold and hear (if you’re lucky!)

And then there were the many windows to behold…

Just outside the cathedrals walls a nice city park surrounds and leads to the River Don.


I left the next morning (really early in the middle of the night) to catch the first of 3 legs of airline flights.  Although it was a very long day of traveling, it was (and always is) worth it.

I plan on returning once again next spring and continue the adventures.  In the meantime however, I still plan on posting blog entries over the winter.  I have a lot of places to share which I visited last year: a month in Scotland, a month in England and  yep, a month in Ireland.  I also promised my many friends in the UK that I would start posting entries from places that are in my neck-of-the-woods so they can see what it is like where I live in the beautiful and scenic Pacific Northwest.

My long-time friend, Tracie, is coming to visit me in a few days and I think I’ll start writing the blog posts about Oregon as our adventures together unfolds.  Hopefully we’ll be visiting the giant Redwoods along the pristine Smith River as it winds its way to immense Pacific beyond, cruise north up the Oregon Coast on Hwy 1  and possibly even visit one of my all-time favorite gardens – Shore Acres near Charleston. So stay tuned if you would like to see what those places have to offer.