We covered another 200 miles on Sunday, and I felt as if we zipped by many great stops: Castle Crags, Burney Falls, McCloud. We should have stayed a night in Shasta before continuing onto Oregon but our plan to meet grandparents in Portland and cousins in Seattle didn’t allow us to dally. No matter, we found a few sweet spots.
1) Whiskeytown Lake, outside Redding, Calif. Lake Shasta is gorgeous but you’ll find few beaches where kids can splash around on its shores. Whiskeytown, seven miles outside of Redding, is better for families with sandy beaches, shallow swimming lagoons, and easy hiking trails.
We walked a quarter-mile to Crystal Creek Falls and then got our feet wet at Oak Bottom Beach (pictured). We also checked out the Whiskeytown Dam that President John F. Kennedy dedicated two weeks before he was assassinated.
Hooray! The $5 park entrance fee was waived–National Trails Day!
2) Mount Shasta, Calif.
Typically, I point out everything that’s outside the window to my kids, as if I were driving a tour bus. But between Redding and Shasta, I decided to keep quiet. I was curious to see what my children would discover on their own.
We drove by Lake Shasta without them saying a word. The lake is full, practically spilling over, and its waters were crystal blue. But my kids were too absorbed in the soundtrack from Princess and the Frog to notice.
Neither mentioned the gigantic rock formations looming above the green mountains as we passed Castle Crags State Park.
When our front windshield framed Mount Shasta, my 7-year-old daughter finally said something.
“Look there’s Mount Everest!” she screamed.
“That’s not Mount Everest. That’s Mount Diablo,” my 5-year-old son “corrected” her.
I decided to speak up and give them a lesson in mountain geography at that point.
3) Ashland, Ore.
Seeing a play wasn’t in our budget, but the kids got their first introduction to Shakespeare in the Ashland Shakespeare Festival ticket office where there’s a display of elaborate costumes. We also stepped into the Elizabethan theater , where I tried to recite a portion of Romeo and Juliet that I had memorized in high school English class. “Why are you talking like that?” my daughter said. “You sound so weird.”
4) Rogue Creamery, Central Point, Ore. Cheese, glorious handmade, artisanal cheese is what you’ll find at this 75-year-old creamery. The cheese counter is piled high with a dizzying array of varieties from lavender cheddar to Crater Lake blue, and the people behind the counter generously offer samples.
You can also buy local wines, homemade pickles, salted caramels, fresh produce, and all sorts of gourmet items that make perfect picnic fixings. It’s the type of place you’d expect to stumble upon in the French country side–only it’s right here in southern Oregon.
My kids loaded up on free samples. They especially liked the fresh curds.
This former mining town is the first place gold was discovered in Oregon. Today, it’s one of eight cities in the U.S. named as a National Historic Landmark, and if you’re driving through southern Oregon it’s worth pulling off the I-5 to explore Jacksonville’s storied past.
Downtown looks like the set out of a Western movie with over 100 historic buildings. As my son said, “Mom, I think this is where cowboys live. We need to go find the cowboys.”
6) Wild Bunch 2010 art exhibit, Grants Pass.
“Mom, look! There are bears on motorcycles. I want to go there!”
“Huh? We need to get to our hotel.”
“Mom, there! Stop the car!”
My son would probably tell you that the highlight of our I-5 road trip was an exhibit of kitschy fiberglass bear sculptures riding motorcycles on display in a parking lot in Grants Pass, Ore.
I grumbled as I met his demand and pulled the car over. But once I started to take a look at the art pieces I was quite entertained. The picture above features the “Bearinator” — do you notice a resemblance between this guy and Arnold?
The exhibit will be on display through September 6 at various locations throughout Grants Pass.
7) Best Western Inn on the Rogue, Rogue River, Ore. Our hotel sat across from the Rogue River and the grassy park pictured above. We arrived in the late afternoon and walked over to the river where a fisherman let my son hold his pole. Later we walked across the bridge into town for pizza.
Hours in car: 3
- Gas: $25 (note: our car gets 35 mpg)
- Breakfast: free at hotel
- Lunch: $23 (Zoey’s Cafe, Ashland)
- Snack: $3 (Rogue Creamery)
- Dinner: $15 (Abby’s Pizza, Rogue River)
- Hotel: $110 (Inn at the Rogue)
- Miles: 500
- Hours in car: 9
- Expenses: $354.63