Klamath Falls not like Dad remembers it

dscn4052Many years ago, my parents visited Klamath Falls, Oregon. Dad wanted to check out the place where his mother, Clara, started her teaching career around 1912. He had heard stories of the one-room schoolhouse, of Native Americans coming to the door, of the farm family she lived with, of students who were bigger than she was and nearly as old. My father asked around and was given directions to the school. He and Mom visited the vacant schoolhouse and talked to a neighbor who shared lots of information about it. Dad tells this like it was last week, but it may have been 50 years ago. Klamath Falls has changed a bit.

I rolled into Klamath Falls around 2 p.m. after my explorations along Highway 58, detailed in Monday’s post. The rain had stopped, and the sun was out. I had traveled the last few miles along Upper Klamath Lake and looked forward to communing with nature in a smallish town. Uh, no. With more than 20,000 residents, it’s plenty big. Taking the downtown exit, I found myself in the midst of brick buildings, traffic and one-way streets. The 12-block Main Street gave way to newer buildings and an area that looked just like every other strip-mall-laden city of any size in the west. McDonald’s? Check. Dollar Tree? Check. Staples? Yep. Bi-Mart, Sizzler, Elmer’s, Dairy Queen? All there. Thick traffic with cars turning and darting in front of each other? Check. Holiday Inn Express up ahead. I checked in.

dscn4061On my two days in Klamath Falls, originally named Linkville when it was founded in 1867, I felt a duty to report to my dad what I saw. I toured the old downtown on foot, taking pictures. Except for the modern courthouse and city hall, most of the buildings were old, dates from the late 1800s and early 1900s etched in the brick and stucco above establishments that now housed thrift shops, lawyer’s offices, art galleries, etc. Quite a few buildings were vacant. The shops were trendy, but I saw plenty of pickups and local men in cowboy hats. Or, as the booklet from the visitor and convention bureau put it: “While there’s a flair for the Western in Klamath Falls, a whole new urban vibe is visibly underfoot.”

I guess I’m an urban vibe-er because one of my favorite stops was the coffee shop, A Leap of Taste, where I stopped to listen to music by a band of three guys and a woman about my age playing folk music. I drank designer tea and ate the best gluten-free oatmeal-raspberry pastry I ever tasted.  Around me, tattooed teens stared at their tablets and laptops, ignoring the musicians, and a young couple on the sofa bounced their baby to the beat.

img_20160907_161757732_hdrOther highlights: the Klamath County Museum—not your mother’s boring lineup of black and white photos but a fascinating collection of old appliances, cars, gas pumps, clothing, dioramas depicting the Indian wars and the Japanese internment at nearby Tulelake, and more, more, more. One wall showed pictures of the area’s old schools, including the one where Grandma Clara taught.

Down the road, I also stopped at the Favel Museum of Western Art and Native American Artifacts. Also wonderful. One of the featured artists, Michael Gibbons, is a friend who goes to my church. Small world.

Beyond that, I discovered Lake Ewauna and a bird sanctuary with herons, egrets, gulls and pelicans. Ah, nature. A large park there provides places to sit, sprawl, and relax. Just watch for the bird doody.

img_20160907_160903749_hdrI toured the Linkville Pioneer Cemetery. I love walking among old graves, imagining the lives of the people buried there. This cemetery is the resting place for lots of soldiers who fought in past wars. I had a heck of time finding the cemetery. I did the downtown loop five times, constantly fighting one-way streets that went the wrong way, before I rechecked the map and learned I was going the wrong way. I swear if I were Lewis and Clark, I would have ended up in Portugal.

In the new section of town, I skipped the chain stores and visited Basin Book Trader, a massive collection of used books for which locals trade their own used books. I scored three titles I would never have been able to afford or probably even find anywhere else.

Another delightful find: Nibbley’s Café. Bright and sunny, waitresses friendly, food delicious and served in huge portions. Many of the diners were seriously overweight. No wonder. Good thing I only had time to eat there once.

I don’t do the stuff the tourist guides boast about. I didn’t need to visit the Kla-Mo-Ya casino or one of the four golf courses in the area. I had already been to Crater Lake. I was definitely not zip-lining. But it’s all there for folks who like it. Drinking tea and listening to music is more my speed. But hey, in October, they have the Klamath Basin Potato Festival. I might be interested in that.

Soon my two days were up, and it was time to think seriously about heading south toward San Jose. Highway 58 turns into I-97 at Klamath Falls. Driving south, that would take me to Weed, California, where I could jump onto I-5 and take my usual route to Dad’s house, where I would tell him what I had seen in Klamath Falls. He would continue to see it the way he remembers it from many years ago.

Before San Jose, I had one more stop: Lava Beds National Monument, which I’ll talk about next time.

Ever been to Klamath Falls? Tell us about it.

 

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Highway 58 detour worth every mile

img_20160906_101219591For 20 years, I’ve been driving back and forth from my home on the Oregon coast to San Jose, California, where my family lives. I usually take I-5, a straight shot inland, or, if there’s snow in the mountains, I take Highway 101 along the coast. See the same things, stop at the same places, no time for side trips, tempting as they are. It takes me about 13 hours.

This time was different. I scheduled in extra time for a vacation. Just outside Eugene, I left I-5 and headed southeast on Oregon Highway 58. I wanted to see some of the sights I’d seen in the winter on the train and take a little time for myself.  I wanted to see waterfalls and lakes. I wanted to hike in the high country. I wanted to sit by a river and write poetry. I wanted to see the tiny towns along the way and end up in Klamath Falls where my grandmother started her teaching career a little over a hundred years ago. So I did.

Everything published about Highway 58 emphasizes that it leads to Crater Lake, and yes, you can get there that way, but I had already seen Crater Lake several times. I was seeking new territory. Over the next few posts, I plan to share some of that country with you. Did it bother me to be a woman traveling alone? Maybe it should have, but no. I enjoyed my freedom.

Things didn’t start off great as I left home on Labor Day. It killed me to leave Annie, who is not a good traveler. Assuring her she’d have a great time with her dog sitter, “Auntie Jo,” did not keep her from following me around with her tail hanging low. Then I discovered the restaurant where I had my heart set on eating lunch–Eats & Treats in Philomath, so good–is not open on Mondays. So I forged on, taking a different route to Eugene, only to get miserably lost. Thank God for GPS. I ended up eating lunch at the kind of diner where they vacuum around your feet while the waitress hollers, “Whatcha gonna have?” The chicken tortilla soup with two chunks of chicken and four tortilla squares floating on top set my stomach on fire.

dscn4040But then I got out of the city and encountered the first of two covered bridges on this route. The Lowell Covered Bridge is located at the Dexter Reservoir. Ah! Water, trees, blue sky. Also a restroom. I took pictures of the bridge and sank onto a bench to stare at the lake. Now we were on vacation.

Down the road, I came to the Office Bridge. It has openings for both cars and pedestrians. Walk or drive through into a big park with covered picnic areas and hiking trails. I could have sat there and stared at the Willamette River flowing below forever. Note that the directions I got online were wrong. I kept looking for West Road. I think it was a typo. Simply take the Westfir exit off 58 and follow the signs for three miles. There’s a store and a resort there for those who want to stay a while.

img_20160905_154516584Having gotten a late start and gotten lost a couple times, I hadn’t really gotten far from Eugene, but that wasn’t the point. I spent the night in Oakridge, population 3,200. I toured the “downtown business district.” It was pretty quiet on the holiday. Everything was coated in dust from months of no rain. Relaxing at the Best Western (yes, they have one), I noticed the phone book: six yellow pages for business, 32 pages total. The phone book is published by the local newspaper, the Dead Mountain Echo, not a bad local weekly. Why would anybody stay here, I thought. But I learned it’s a hub for mountain bikers, of which there were plenty, and folks also make beer there. They even have a Keg and Cask festival in August. Being only two hours from Eugene if you don’t mess around, Oakridge has a small-town feel with access to big-city amenities.

At dinnertime, I was surprised to find a Mazatlan Mexican restaurant in town and even more surprised that the food was fabulous. Shame on me for stereotyping small towns.

In the morning, surprise! It was raining. What? I had all these hiking plans and this list of stops: hot spring, waterfalls, trails, lakes. Rain? The guy at the gas station was deliriously happy to see water coming out of the sky and hoped for lots more. Sure, but today? I get plenty of rain at home. Never mind, we Oregonians carry on.

Somehow I missed the McCreadie Hot Springs–darned online directions again–but I found the biggest waterfall. Cascading 286 feet, Salt Creek Falls is the second highest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah being the highest. It was worth the wet walk. Oh my gosh. The trail took me along the creek until it suddenly fell off a ledge and there were the falls, so big, so white, falling deep into a canyon below. My camera can’t portray the way it made me feel. Deep breath.

From the waterfall, I started off on one of the many trails, but it was just too wet, and I feared I would slip and fall into the creek. Nobody knew where I was. Bad idea. Back on the road. Waldo Lake, Diamond Peak, the Willamette Pass Ski Resort, Crescent Lake, Odell Lake, the turnoff to Crater Lake, and finally Klamath Falls, where I pigged out on a Reuben sandwich at Elmer’s and checked into the Holiday Inn Express. Back in civilization again. But that’s another story. If you’re in the mood to wander, check out Highway 58. There are lots of trains, more waterfalls to see, campgrounds and picnic areas, and places to ski. (Bring chains in the winter.The Willamette Pass is over 5,000 feet.)

BTW, I hear truckers take it south to California because it’s faster than I-5. Not the way I did it.