Ashland weather swings like a teenager's moods. One day, it's sunny and warm, the next it's cold and swathed in monotone gray clouds.
An easy fix for our valley's hormonal weather rage is to simply pack up your car and escape to somewhere else. One of the perks about this year's dry winter is that the roads to your favorite destinations remain free of icy patches and banks of unbuilt snowmen.
The Oregon Coast, a mere three hours away, beckons like a beautiful seductress, offering delicious fresh seafood and a chance to sprint down the beach like a child with a kite.
The typically mist-drenched seaside often is fog-free and relatively warm in the winter, giving Southern Oregon's beaches distinction as the "banana belt" of the West.
Each town along the south coast offers its own personality:
- Bandon is popular for its scenic rocks scattered across the beach and its many family-friendly activities, such as the West Coast Game Park Safari (541-347-3106), where you can pet a baby leopard and still hear the roar of the ocean. Bullards Beach State Park and Face Rock scenic viewpoint are also an attraction for kids and people who are kids at heart. The newly built Face Rock Cheese Factory at 265 Second St. S.E. allows you to sample fresh curds and browse the home-grown selection. Bandon is all play and no work — unless you call building a sandcastle work. Then your agenda might be full up for weeks.
- Brookings features many fine restaurants, including Wild River Pizza, the Rice Bowl and the Black Trumpet, a Euro-American place that's a must on your agenda. Nearby are extra-long, dramatically misty beaches such as Pistol River and Whaleshead, which are perfect for a run with your (leashed) dog, while Harris Beach is shorter but worthy of a walk with your camera. If you're more of an adventurer, hikes such as Natural Bridges State Park or Hidden Beach may beckon to you. You can also venture inland to the California Redwoods and the stunning Smith River, only a few miles away from Brookings and known to be the cleanest river in California.
- Gold Beach is a photographer's paradise, known for its beautiful sunrises, sunsets and cloud patterns, the seemingly endless beaches and forever-sprawling sky. The town's mantra is "Nature's Wild Side," highlighting its many opportunities for windsurfing, surfing, jetboating up the Rouge River seal spotting. If your "wild side" falls more into the level of scouring the beaches for a scavenger hunt, then you're in luck. Every February through April, Gold Beach residents hide hundreds of "glass floats" (tiny, colorful glass balls intertwined in rope) along Gold Beach's miles and miles of uninterrupted beach, from Kissing Rock (a large, prominent rock on Gold Beach's main beach, South Beach,) to the north Rogue River jetty. But if you don't love scavenging the beaches and would prefer to just stay in your car and stormwatch, Gold Beach is the place for you. It boasts many vistas and spots along Highway 101 where you can pull out and gawk at the raging sea.
Amelia Covert Zeve is an Ashland High School student. Reach her at email@example.com.