Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for...Zis is Zee End

Well, fellow A-Zers, we've done it.  We've reached the end of the month long A-Z Blogging Challenge.  It's been fun; I had more fun utilizing a theme this year as opposed to last year when I had a free-for-all method.  I think I'll do this again next year!  Today's Oregon destination is, again, my creative fix.

Zis is Zee End:  Fort Clatsop

Located near the mouth of the Columbia River on the Oregon Coast, Fort Clatsop was the encampment from the Lewis and Clark Expedition from the Winter of 1805-06.
Taking just three weeks to build, the fort is now protected under the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical parks and is also known as the Fort Clatsop National Memorial.  Heavily damaged and decaying due to the weather in the area, in 1955 a reconstruction of the original fort, using sketches from William Clark's journal, was built to celebrate the sesquicentennial; this fort lasted for another 55 years before it was destroyed by fire in 2005 just weeks before the fort's bicentennial celebration.  In 2006, a new, more rustic and rough-hewn fort was built on the site by over 700 volunteers and a celebration was held in December of that year.

When Lewis and Clark left the area to return to St. Louis, they gave the fort to Chief Coboway, the leader of the Clatsop Indians.  The tribe used the fort for security purposes, but soon it became an important location for fur trading in the Pacific Northwest and was utilized by the Hudson Bay Company and the American Fur Company.

Today, the fort is used as an educational tool and preserved as part of Oregon's history.  It is open year-round, aside from December 25th, and is worth a visit.  There are live reenactments, ranger-led activities, exhibitions, and great walking trails.

Another fort that is perhaps my favorite is Fort Stevens.  If you like military history, it's pretty awesome :)  Check it out!
Thank you for sticking this out with me, fellow A-Zers!  It's been a blast.  Until next year :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for...You've Arrived

We're coming to the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and, I'll admit, my last few posts are going to have to enter the "creative" sphere.  So bear with me.  Today is all about the letter Y, so here's my solution...

You've Arrived:  The Oregon Trail

When the Willamette Valley was being promoted as "the promised land" in the mid-West and East of the US, hordes of people started moving west.  Most travel was done in covered wagons pulled by oxen and loaded with supplies and family heirlooms.  Sadly, most of those heirlooms would be tossed along the trail when the wagons encountered poor weather, swollen rivers, or the Rocky Mountains.  The end destination for these families was Oregon City in the Oregon Territory.

The journey was a harrowing 2,000 miles of rugged terrain.  Originally only able to be traversed on foot or by horseback, thanks to the mountain men and fur traders from the early 1800s, the route was slowly widened and improved to allow for wagon passage.  The heyday for westward travel was between 1846-1869 and some 400,000 people utilized the trail.  In 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was installed, the trail faded into the history books.  Today, I-80 follows most of the same course as the trail and passes through towns originally established during the Oregon Trail. 

My mother's paternal side of the family was one of the many families who came west on the Oregon Trail.  They left Missouri with a caravan of other families and were considered one of the lucky ones who actually made it to the West.  They settled in the Central Willamette Valley and were one of the largest Oregon Trail families in the area.  (Note...this is not a picture of my mother's family...that I know of).

There used to be an interpretive center called The End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City that was dedicated to the Oregon Trail, complete with giant covered wagons.  Unfortunately it closed due to insufficient funds, though there is a group attempting to bring it back for the educational value it offers the community and those visiting.  I remember driving along I-205 any time we were going to the airport or Washington and looking for those wagons.

In addition, the Oregon Trail Game was what made elementary school awesome for those of us lucky enough to play it.  Oregon Trail days were the best.  Played on an old-school computer with an actual floppy disc (the real floppy ones), you created your team, named your family members, and loaded up your wagon with supplies.  Unfortunately, most people in your make-believe party would die along the way, some from diarrhea or drowning or a broken bone, and you'd lose oxen and supplies to flash floods or raiding Native Americans, but when you made it to the Oregon Territory and claimed your plot of land you were elated!  The graphics were terrible, but the fun was awesome.  They've even revamped the game and it's now available for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii.  I see a purchase in the future :)

X is for...X Marks the Spot

Whoopsidaisy...Guess my Saturday (and Sunday) got away from me and I forgot to post my X topic!  So here's to a little catch up :)  X is for...

X Marks the Spot:  Shanghai Tunnels

See what I did there?  Sneaky sneaky.  Anywho, moving on.  In the Oldtown/Chinatown area of Portland, there is a magical underground network of tunnels that are less...magical and more maniacal.  Comprised of a network of underground tunnels connecting the basements of several hotels and bars along the waterfront of the Willamette River, the Shanghai Tunnels were originally built to move goods from the ships docked along the waterfront into the basements of their respective destinations in order to avoid streetcar and pedestrian traffic.

During the height of the shipping days in the Willamette Ports, unsuspecting drunks in the bars above the tunnels would suddenly disappear into the floorboards (through a strategically placed trapdoor), finding themselves on a ship bound for China when they would awaken from their drunken stupor; hence, how the tunnels got their name.  Other means of Shanghaiing men and women into the tunnels ranged from knocking them out, drugging them, or physically restraining them.

Shanghaiing became a commons means to fill the slots on board ships in the large ports along the West Coast when men were abandoning the trade left and right for the riches of the Gold Rush.  San Francisco, Port Townsend, Astoria, and Portland were some of the most notorious for shanghaiing men; Portland soon became the most infamous and crimps, those who practiced Shanghaiing, would use any and all means to fill the ships with bodies.  The most successful of the crimps could make up to $9,000 a year in the late 1800s (nearly $260,000 in today's market).  

When stricter laws were placed on those entering the shipping service, Shanghaiing became a more difficult means of cash and, therefore, soon lost favor.  Men who worked on the ships had to be conscious when they boarded and sign up in the presence of a shipping commissioner to ensure that they were not being coerced into signing up, a law that had not been required prior to 1872.
Today, there is only a small portion of the tunnels that are open to the public.  The majority are boarded off or used by local businesses as storage areas.  You can go on tours of the supposedly haunted tunnels, though, or watch the Ghost Adventures episode :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for...Willamette Valley

There are only a few more days left in this year's edition of the A-Z Blogging Challenge; this makes me happy and sad at the same time.  Happy that I can take a break from posting everyday (except Sundays, of course) and sad that this wonderful event will be over for an entire year.  Alas.  Today's letter is the glorious W...here's an Oregon W...

Willamette Valley

The most populated region in the state, the Willamette Valley is surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges and is located in the northwestern part of Oregon.  It is the most fertile region of the entire state and produces many of the local crops.  In accordance with the abundant ability to produce crops and other necessities, it's fitting that the largest population of the state in located within the valley; also, most of the largest/principle cities are located here.  
Largely inhabited by the Kalapuya Native American tribe in the 19th century, the area was "discovered" in 1807 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived; settlers began to move in to the area, becoming fur traders and mountain men, and the tribe died out as a result of a widespread fever.  In the 1820s, the area was heavily promoted on the East Coast and in the Mid-West as a "promised land," thus sparking the great exodus to the West in the latter part of the 1800s.  The heavy drove of settlers to the area, especially the Willamette Valley, caused the Oregon Territory to reach statehood status much faster than other developing states.  

Climate wise, the valley experiences cool, wet winters, dry, warm summers, and is relatively mild throughout the year; often described as a cooler and wetter Mediterranean atmosphere, most precipitation is experienced as rain, falling mainly between November and February.  The area also has a rather long growing season, averaging 150 to 180 days.  The majority of crops grown in the valley are grass, berries, and vegetables, as well as hazelnuts and the majority of Christmas trees sold in the US.  The valley is also well-known for its production of hops, used throughout the US, but perhaps most well-known for its greenhouse and nursery stock.   Linn County, a central area, is the grass seed capital of the world...beware if you are an allergy sufferer.      

In recent decades, the Willamette Valley has become a large producer of grapes and award-winning wines.  With a cooler climate than California, the valley has become home to some of the most expensive pinot noir wines in the world, as well as highly regarded pinot gris, and has over 200 vineyards.  A popular outing for a lot of people in the area, locals and visitors alike, is to go on the many Wine Tours throughout the valley.  

Regardless of what you're in to, the area has something for you.  

Blog on, fellow A-Zers and happy Friday!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for...The Vortex and Voodoo Doughnuts

The week is nearly finished, fellow A-Zers, and I'm looking forward to the weekend!  Today brings us to the letter V in our month-long alphabet challenge and I love what this letter represents in Oregon.  I'm actually going to go with two things today (cheater).  Without further ado...

The Vortex

In in the hills outside of the small town of Gold Hill, just north of Medford, there is a wonderfully mysterious site for the adventurous where brooms stand on their own, things that are smaller appear larger and vice versa, and where balls roll uphill.  The Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery is, essentially, a roadside attraction that is full of optical illusions which cause visitors to question the laws of physics.  The proprietors proclaim that the strange occurrences are due to paranormal properties, but I'll leave that up to the individual to decide.  The building on the property, a gold assaying office originally built in the early 1900s, slid off of its foundation in 1904 coming to rest at its current odd angle.  Since that time, strange things have happened to those visiting the site.

Prior to the building of the assaying office by the Old Grey Eagle Mining Company, the odd nature of the land was noticed by the Native Americans.  Their horses would refuse to cross into the vortex and they began referring to it as the "Forbidden Ground".  In the 1920s, John Litster, a geologist, mining engineer, and physicist, conducted many experiments on the land and opened it to the public in 1930 so that they, too, could experience the odd properties that prevail.  He continued to conduct experiments until 1959 when he died.

Open from March to October, visitors can challenge their beliefs and experience the effects of a concentrated vortex.  Upon walking in to the relatively small area, you naturally change the way you stand and unconsciously lean toward magnetic north; nowhere within the vortex do you stand erect.  The other odd things that experience in this place have to been seen to be believed.  It's worth the trip.

I visited the Vortex in 2003 and it was awesome!   

Voodoo Doughnuts

Another V Oregon institution is Voodoo Doughnuts.  The flagship store opened in 2003 in Portland on SW 3rd Ave and quickly garnered attention due to its unusual doughnuts, oddball decor, and pink to-go boxes decorated with their logo and voodoo priests.  The brainchild of Tres Shannon and Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson, Voodoo has become a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, especially those leaving the surrounding bars at two in the morning.  Their most famous doughnut, the Bacon-Maple Bar, is only one of their over 1000 offerings.  You really can't go wrong with any doughnut selection from Voodoo...aside from the, now defunct, NyQuil Glazed Doughnut or Vanilla Pepto Crushed Tums Doughnut (yikes).  Some of their many toppings include a variety of cereals (Cap'n Crunch, Fruit Loops, Coco Puffs, etc), candies (M&Ms, Skittles, Chocolate Chips, Butterfinger, etc), random things (bacon, Tang, marshmallows, Oreos, peanut butter, etc), and more traditional fare (glazed, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, cream, etc).  Really, the possibilities are endless!
Since their opening, Voodoo has expanded to include another Portland location on NE Davis Street and in Eugene on the corner of Broadway and Willamette.  In addition to delicious doughnuts, you can also legally get married at Voodoo.  Your reception is guaranteed doughnuts and coffee :)  They also offer special occasion ordering options.  Always fun.

You can also purchase Voodoo themed attire and other odds and ends at any location or through their online site.  In addition, they've partnered with Rogue Ales, a local brewery, to create two Voodoo inspired ales:  the Bacon Maple Ale and the Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Ale.  Interesting?  Yes.

Happy Thursday, fellow A-Zers!


U is for...Unique Amusement Parks

We're winding down to the end of the alphabet in the A-Z Blogging Challenge and venturing in to trickier and trickier letters.  Today's Oregon site is...

Unique Amusements

Enchanted Forest
I remember this being my all-time favorite place to go as a kid...aside from the beach, of course.  The brainchild of Roger Tofte, Enchanted Forest is located along I-5 just south of Salem in Turner.  This was THE place to have your summer birthday parties at if you were from the surrounding area; alas, mine was almost always in a skating rink because March is unpredictable in Oregon.  Consisting of various rides, mazes, slides, villages, etc, Enchanted Forest is a fairytale inspired amusement park.  There's a Crooked House, a Rabbit's Tunnel, an Alice in Wonderland Maze, and so much more.  I remember being terrified of the Witch's Slide because you entered through her mouth and she's not the most pleasant to look at, but it was awesome just the same.  The Haunted House also terrified me.  You're welcome to bring your own snacks/lunches to the park and utilize the public eating area, but there are concessions available as well.  In addition, there are a number of rides you can enjoy ranging from Ice Bobsleds, a Water Log Ride, and more, as well as fairytale-inspired plays put on by the staff.  It's family fun for everyone!  During the winter months the park is closed and they have limited openings when weather is a factor, but they're open all week long during the summer months.
Wildlife Safari
Located in the town of Winston in Southern Oregon, Wildlife Safari was and still is an awesome place to visit.  Created by Frank Hart in 1972, the non-profit park is comprised of over 600 acres dedicated to education, conservation, and research for rare and endangered species.  Guests are able to drive through the entire park, housing over 600 animals in free rein exhibits; it is the only drive through wild animal park in Oregon.  Stopping and taking pictures is allowed everywhere aside from the bear cage.  Other animals that are cordoned off are the tigers, lions, and cheetahs.  There is also a petting zoo on site, along with a gift shop, cafe, playground, and open-air train that you can ride around.  Wildlife Safari is also a well-established breeding facility for cheetahs, which they supply to multiple zoos throughout the world.  It's really a wonderful family outing that allows you to view animals from around the world.  Nearly 150,000 people visit the park each year.

Oaks Amusement Park
A more traditional amusement park, Oaks Amusement Park is located along the Willamette River in Portland and is America's oldest continuously operating amusement park.  Opened in 1905, the park was conceived as an accompaniment to the Lewis and Clark Centennial Expedition and it attracted over 300,000 people during its first season.  Comprised of rides, arcades, a skating rink, a dance pavilion, and picnic facilities, the amusement park is open year-round.  Space can be rented for birthday parties or other celebrations; such rentals often include a "free rides" bracelet that allows the wearer to enjoy any ride on the property as much as they like.  Arcade games are generally a dollar for one round and the skating rink is a separate purchase.  The park has also hosted several outdoor concerts throughout its years and an annual Oktoberfest.  Anybody can enjoy the park and there is no entrance fee to access the park.  People often bring picnics and sit under the massive trees along the river without paying a dime.  It's an easy, inexpensive form of amusement for any family.

Sorry this is a day late, but enjoy nonetheless.  Blog on, fellow A-Zers!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for...Tillamook Cheese Factory

It's a beautifully sunny day here in Oregon...the perfect day to not be at work.  Alas.  I'm a little later than usual in my posting for today, but I have a good excuse :)  I spent most of my day stuffing envelopes at work (not a good excuse) and then giving away free books to promote literacy for World Book Night (a GREAT excuse).  I love this organization!  Check it out.

Moving on to today's T inspired Oregon landmark...

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Oh, cheese.  Glorious cheese!  The Tillamook Cheese Factory is, fittingly, located in Tillamook, Oregon along the Oregon Coast and Highway 101.  Founded a little over 100 years ago, the Tillamook Cheese Factory is the 44th largest dairy in the US and is sold from coast to coast, though more so in the West.  Making everything from their signature cheese products to butter, ice cream, yogurt, and sour cream, the brand won the gold medal at the World Cheese Championship Cheese Competition for Best Cheese in 2010 for their Tillamook Medium Cheddar, beating 59 older cheeses.  

The factory itself is open daily for self-guided/self-paced tours to the general public.  Admission is completely free and samples are abundant (that's the best part).  Going through the factory allows visitors to see the cheese making process, complete with the history of the company and region, the actual working machinery and it gives visitors the opportunity to try multiple kinds of cheeses.  Once you've gone through the factory and the cheese sampling line (you can go through as much as you like), you exit into the cheese gift shop where you can purchase any of the products produced by the factory, as well as multiple souvenirs.  Once you've made it through this portion (purchases are optional, of course), you have the opportunity to have a delicious scoop or two of Tillamook Ice Cream.  All of the choices are fresh and range from Peanut Butter Pistachio to Boysenberry and Marionberry and from your run of the mill Vanilla, Chocolate, or Strawberry...all with actual berries, nuts, and other accompaniments.  This is totally worth the lines.  Yum! 

Daily, the factory produces 167,000 pounds of cheese every day and over 1 million pounds in a week.  The factory has the capacity to age 50 million pounds of cheese at any given time.  Definitely shoot for a visit if you're ever in the vicinity.

Happy Tuesday, fellow A-Zers!

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for...Shakespeare Festival

Today we move closer to the end of our A-Z Blogging Challenge and encounter the letter S.  There are a lot of things in Oregon that could qualify for this letter, but I'm going with something that spreads a little culture to everyone...
 Shakespeare Festival

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is renowned and awesome.  The festival takes place in Ashland, Oregon in the southern part of the state.   Originally conceived in 1893 as part of the Chautauqua adult education movement, the theater could accommodate up to 1500 spectators in an outdoor arena.  Soon, a domed stage was built on the site.  When the stage fell into disrepair, the Chautauqua movement faded away in Ashland.  However, in 1935 a drama professor, Angus Bowmer, at the Southern Oregon Normal School (today's Southern Oregon University) wished to use the location to present Shakespearean plays.  He was given limited funds ($400) to put on two plays as part of the city's Independence Day celebrations and required to add a boxing match to supplement the certain deficit of funds.  Bowmer agreed and production moved forward billed, optimistically, as "The First Annual Oregon Shakespearean Festival".  The first plays were Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice; Bowmer directed and played the lead in both plays.  The event was a huge success (the boxing matches weren't necessary, but still occurred) and the event has continued every year since that day, aside from 1941-1945 when Bowmer served in World War Two.
Today, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival occupies a four acre plot adjacent to Lithia Park and is comprised of three theaters and multiple support buildings.  Since its founding, the Festival has gone on to include other productions, but at least five Shakespeare plays are required to be performed every season; it has staged the complete canon of Shakespeare three times since 1935 (the first completion was in 1958, followed by 1978 and 1997).  Since 2000, the company has begun including one new play every season as well.  Running from February to early November, the company puts on between 700 and 800 productions of eleven plays in the three main theaters.  The company consists of about 325 full-time personnel, including over 100 actors, 175 part-time personnel, and nearly 700 volunteers.  Between 375,000 and 400,000 people attend the festival every year.

For this years lineup, go here :)

Happy Monday, fellow A-Zers!

R is for...Rafting

So I'm a little late on my posting for R in the A-Z Blogging Challenge because I decided to get out of town for the day and didn't schedule a posting prior to leaving.  Ah well.  Here's today's Oregon topic:


I know there are some great places outside of Oregon to raft, but we actually have quite a few rafting opportunities throughout the state.  I'm partial to white-water rafting on the Deschutes River out of Maupin, but that's just me.  There's also some great white-water rafting on the Rogue River.  If you're looking for something a little tamer in the rafting sphere, check out the Willamette River or the North or South Santiam.  Always be careful of undertoes (big in the Santiam Rivers) and submerged trees.  Essentially, there are multiple locations throughout Oregon where rafting is an option. 

There are tons of companies throughout the state who organize and lead any type of water excursion you want to partake in.  You won't be disappointed in any that you choose.  Along with white-water rafting, you can choose to canoe, kayak, float, or take a jetboat ride down many of the rivers.  For jetboats, I would definitely recommend the Hellgate Jetboat Excursions on the Rogue.  Sit in the front and enjoy the ride :)

That's it for today, dear readers.  Sorry it's so rushed...