by Brian Barker
No two parts of Southern Oregon strike the same chord. Ashland is a refined piece of chamber music; Jacksonville, a down-home square dance. Organic farmers, Shakespearean actors, skilled artisans, and ranchers all draw their inspiration from a collage of verdant green pastures, sun-soaked foothills, deep blue alpine lakes, and a storied past that lies just beneath the surface.
Mount Scott, Crater Lake
For the best view of Crater Lake’s rippling shades of cobalt, cerulean, and indigo, skip the river of brake lights lining the park’s popular Rim Drive. Instead, point your boots up the mellow 2.5-mile approach to Mount Scott. At 8,929 feet, this is the park’s loftiest perch. The view from the summit squeezes in the entire caldera, with Mount Thielsen’s shark-fin peak and the Three Sisters as exclamation points in the refreshingly car-free perspective. (Campgrounds open through mid-October.)
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
Southern Oregon’s natural splendor isn’t confined to Crater Lake. South of the park, along Route 62, the 2.3-million-acre Winema National Forest, Upper Klamath Lake (the state’s largest lake), and the Sky Lakes Wilderness (where hundreds of high-alpine pools await) all beckon. If you turn west on Highway 140, near Rocky Point, you’ll spot Mount McLoughlin’s solitary 9,495-foot-tall cinder cone and the rustic Lake of the Woods Resort, home to a killer cobbler.
Schneider Museum of Art
For a respite from the typical “stay four days, see four plays” Ashland visit, check out this gem at Southern Oregon University. Exhibits of top-notch contemporary artwork, such as the quilts of Gee’s Bend, routinely pop up here. The building alone (designed by Pioneer Courthouse Square architect Will Martin), with its convex, mirrored façade turned toward the golden Siskiyou Mountains, makes a welcome stop during a stroll to the nearby Plaza—Ashland’s version of Pioneer Courthouse Square.
1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland; 541-552-6245; sou.edu/sma
Palace Café and Charcuterie
Consider this slick lunchtime hot spot a great place to start exploring Ashland’s hip Railroad District. A few blocks removed from the crowds at the Shakespeare Festival, savvy locals dine on tri-tip roast beef sandwiches with caramelized onions and salad Niçoise with roasted olives and Pacific ahi. (A small deli also offers pickled salads and house-cured sausage.) Down the block, the art galleries lining Fourth Street will keep your eyes entertained as you walk off your meal.
542 A St, Ashland; 541-488-4311; palacecafeashland.com
Jacksonville Pioneer Cemetery
This beautiful and well-maintained 32-acre graveyard is populated with some of the first citizens to be buried in the state. Dating back to 1859, the plots are divvied up by religious affiliation or allegiance to fraternal societies like the Improved Order of Red Men. Headstones range from a gorgeous white marble sculpture of a kneeling girl to lonesome wood markers. The most famous resident? Peter Britt. The final resting place of the noted pioneer photographer and Jacksonville luminary lies within earshot of the town’s beloved musical festival that bears his name.
N Oregon & E Streets, Jacksonville
Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden
The climate and well-draining soil of this new vineyard (the first grapes were planted in 2005) bear a likeness to France’s famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. Translation: expect to sample some really excellent vino here, especially Rhone varietals like the 2007 syrah, which swirls with hints of black cherry and cassis. The Spiral 36, a white table wine with rich oak and apple flavors, could be Southern Oregon’s answer to the Willamette Valley’s pinot noir, but for less than $20.
1665 Eastside Rd, Jacksonville; cowhornwine.com