Hike, Bike, Kayak ~ Eugene’s Triple Treat

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.  ~  John Muir

historic covered bridge
Currin Bridge – built in 1925. Only Lane County bridge with white portals and red siding.

If you are an RVer, by definition you are probably a nature lover, and we are no exception.  We feel blessed to be able to have these experiences and are finding Eugene to be a city that shares our passions – hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Eugene, city of ~156,200 residents and home to the University of Oregon, is known for biking, running/jogging, rafting, and kayaking.

Row River Trail

We read that biking is so popular here that in 2009 the League of American Bicyclists named Eugene one of the top 10 “gold-level” cities because of its “remarkable commitment to bicycling” and in 2010 was cited the 5th most bike-friendly city in America by Bicycling magazine.  Eugene is definitely being added to our come-back-again list.

Thanks to a tip from RV buddies Nina and Paul of Wheeling It, we hiked the Ridgeline Trail to the summit of Spencer Butte, an in-town hike on the city’s south side.

outdoor adventure
Spencer Butte summit

This 5.5 mile round-trip hike is fairly easy for the first 5 miles, with the last 0.5 miles a moderate scramble over rocks to the summit.  The views overlooking the city are quite nice and it’s a great place to share a picnic.  As we headed down I overheard a woman telling her young son about how rattlesnakes in the area like to sun themselves on the summit’s rocks.   It wasn’t more than 15 minutes later but what should I find right in front of me but a Northern Pacific rattlesnake. Since I wasn’t about to get close enough to grab a photo and he was just as anxious to get away from us, here is what he looked like. Terry and I agreed that we hadn’t really thought much about rattlesnakes since leaving Arizona but hey, why wouldn’t they want to hang out in a cool city like Eugene?

Dorena Lake

We managed to squeeze in another great bike ride, this time on the Row River Trail.  Although technically in a suburb of Eugene, Cottage Grove, it is an easy 20 mile drive to some great biking action.  If you choose to make the loop around Dorena Lake, you could be happily spinning for 34 miles .  We stopped at the 20 mile mark and enjoyed a picnic lunch along the lake instead.  This trail is nicely paved and takes you past not only the lake but great meadows, horse properties, and historic covered bridges – a fabulous way to spend a day!

Mosby Bridge – built in 1920

The McKenzie River flows beside the Armitage County Park where we are staying and was a very convenient and lovely river to kayak.   The put-in point we opted for was 8 miles upstream from us.  Class I and a few Class II rapids mark this stretch of the McKenzie, just enough to keep you on your toes, a gentle reminder to pay attention to hidden boulders, fallen trees, and swirling eddies.  We had a blast but with the swift current, our fun ended too soon.  Next time we would opt for another put-in point which would extend the journey another 15 miles and add several more Class II rapids we are told.

McKenzie River put-in point
Mama and her ducklings

If exercising is not your thing, Eugene has a plethora of offerings.  They are also known for their arts program so there is something here for everyone.

Luscious, mouth-watering wild blackberries

If you just want to chill and enjoy the fruits of summer, grab a basket and step outdoors.  There are wild blackberry bushes everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) just now starting to ripen.  August and September are the months and these luscious berries can be found growing along country roads, bike paths, rivers, and even in the Interstate 5 median!

Our time in Eugene has sadly come to an end.  With the biking, hiking, and kayaking available here, outdoor fun awaits right outside your door.  We are headed back to the coast for what is sure to be another grand adventure.

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Blues, Brews and a Farmers’ Market ~ Euguene, OR

Nathan James & his ‘tri-tar’

You know how it is when you are waiting for a special day to arrive and the excitement you feel when it is finally here?  It may sound silly but for me that day was the Lane County Farmers’ Market as I’ve heard so many good things about it.   It lived up to its billing and then some, being one of the best we have ever attended.  We love coming to a new town and getting the flavor of the area.  Even though we are just passing through, alighting for a short time, we like the idea of supporting the locals and the best way we have found to do that is by attending the farmers’ markets.  Buying local and eating what is being harvested now is important to us and the colorful fruits and vegetables displayed so beautifully just make us smile!

Gorgeous beets & carrots
Berries, berries & more berries
Dazzling sunflowers

This was the start to our day and what was to be the cherry on top was the Willamette Valley Blues & Brews Festival.  During our RV travels too often we find that we are not in the right place at the right time for some of the local activities.  We were in luck on this stop as Eugene was bulls-eye on for great fun!

The performers at the Blues & Brews Fest got better as the day progressed and we don’t think it was because we had sampled a few of the brews, which were also quite tasty!  A fave performer for us was Miriams Well, a soulful singer from Portland, OR, whose sax player was superb.  You can sample some of her music here.

Miriams Well

Nathan James and the Rhythm Scratchers from Seattle, WA were pretty amazing and downright funky.  Nathan had three custom-made guitars, all with washboards incorporated into them so the sounds coming from these instruments were something we had never heard before.  His ‘tri-tar’ was a washboard, axe handle, and three strings, just unreal!  You can get a sense of his style here.

With our fridge full of wonderful fruits and veggies, our taste buds tantalized by great craft beers, and rockin’ to some amazing blues bands, our day from start to finish was pretty darn awesome!  Hope yours was too!

Eugene street scene

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Biking Bliss ~ Eugene, OR

Terry watching the kayakers on the river

Our RV travels have taken us to Armitage County Park in Eugene, Oregon, where we have spent the first couple of days doing errands, you know those dreaded tasks that get in the way of having fun.  With errands out of the way we decided it was time to play, which translates into outdoor adventure (whooo hooo!).  Our sport of choice was to be biking so Terry started checking out trails in the area and soon discovered that Eugene is biking bliss!

We’ve learned that biking is an integral part of Eugene’s culture, which is clear when you hop on a bike and attempt to cross a street.  Drivers actually stop and patiently wait for you.  Alternative means of transportation and sustainability are encouraged in Eugene; bikes are easy to rent; and local biking clubs abound.  Weekly rides and biking events are many and miles and miles of beautifully paved paths branch out in every direction.

Willamette kayakers with interesting stacked rock formations in the river (foreground)

We settled on the North Bank Path which we picked up just a few miles from where we are camped, a delightful biking path meandering along the swift-flowing Willamette River, along Delta Ponds with its wonderful waterfowl, through dense forests, and golden meadows.

Canada geese at Delta Ponds, enjoying the sunshine

There are a choice of bridges that can be taken, dropping you off into downtown Eugene or the University of Oregon, which is what we did, spending a little time wandering the beautiful campus.

Lovely University of OR campus

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Island Park, site of the Blues and Brews Festival this weekend (oh yeah!).  From here we biked back to the downtown area, then on to the Amazon Creek Bike Trail, heading west of town toward the wetlands. Terry checked at a bike shop to get a better trail map (not available) and learned this was the route we needed to take.  After biking for a while I asked Terry how far to our destination and he said 4 miles, but 4 miles from where he wasn’t sure (minor detail).

Me along the Willamette River

This is another great biking trail along Amazon Creek, which has been widened and deepened over the years to encourage waterfowl to visit, so very pleasant riding.  After some time we still were not seeing the wetlands and we must have gone another 4 miles.  Out of nowhere, up pops the Euphoria Chocolate Company, as good an excuse as any to stop.  We browsed their cases and each decided on a piece of dark-chocolate sustenance, and although I would not label it euphoric, it was yummy.  We decided to point our bikes east and save the wetlands for another day, due to the time of day and what my seat was telling me after 6 hours on a bike.  There is supposed to be kayaking opportunity out there so perhaps we will be back.

Community gardens along the path – love it!

If you fancy hiking instead of biking, these same trails and more can be used to walk or run.  Pre’s Trail, named after Steve Prefontaine, long-distance phenom who sparked the 1970’s “running boom”, is a soft-surface path covered in bark chips ideal for running or hiking, and is part of this network.  If biking is your thing, you are certain to experience biking bliss in Eugene.

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