The Redwoods of Jedediah Smith State Park and A Bit of Theatre in Ashland

Mileage today:165 miles. Total: 2,263 miles

We set off from Brookings at about 915. Said goodbye to the Pacific. Next time we see it, we’ll be in British Columbia, Canada.

Getting very slick with the car loading now!! Our final destination was Ashland, Oregon which is NE from Brookings but there is a massive and impenetrable wilderness in the way, so we had to go south into California and then pick up Rt 199 which heads NE but to the east of the wilderness. Fortunately it also takes you to the edge of Jedediah Smith State Park and the Smith River recreation area. Both areas of exceptional beauty.

Jedediah Smith SP gave me the chance to tick off a bucket list item which was to see a forest of coastal Redwoods. The giant trees of the Pacific Coast. I don’t know how we’ve missed them before….. well… we did try and go to Muir Woods from San Francisco once but the parking situation was horrendous and we gave up. So….. this was too good a chance to miss. And what a treat it was. You had to drive about 10 miles inside the park on a gravel one track road to get to the trail heads. Plenty of giant trees along the way and the road twisted and turned to avoid them, sometimes steering a very narrow gap between two giant trunks…. And down to the right hand side the winding Smith River. The park protects over 10,000 acres of primeval redwood forest and an undergrowth of azaleas and rhodedendrons and ferns, climbing over giant fallen logs.

We parked at the trailhead for the Grove of the Titans, which is a new trail through old forest to a stand of enormous redwoods. It was about 1.8 miles roundtrip and a lovely walk through the woods. Quite astounding the size of these trees and the sheer girth of them. Apparently they are very resistant to all manner of dangers ie termites, beetles, wind, fire etc and as a result some of the trees we saw were in excess of 2000 years old. That means they started to grow when the Roman empire was still at its height…… They grow to over 350 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter. Certainly some of the ones we saw today were mind bogglingly huge. So glad we visited here. At several points we had to walk under a sort of “bridge” formed by a felled tree and once along a tunnel. Amazing place. It was entirely free to enter. So very glad we got to see them at last.

After that we continued on 199 as it wound through forests, steadily climbing towards Grants Pass in the distance. We turned off before that along Rt 238 which wended its way through a very countrified route, past smallish farms at first in a huge and lovely valley. We reflected how pleased the settlers must have been when they came through the pass after their horrendous journey to see the valley beneath them – perfect farming, homesteading land. The little settlements reflect their feelings in their names: New Hope, Wonder….. Applegate….

We had lunch beside the fields of an alpaca farm. Those comical animals peering at us across the hedge!!! The further we went the more the farms turned from animals to grapevines. Acres and acres of vineyards. Oregon has become a notable wine producer. The part we drove through today is the Applegate valley and no doubt we will be in others later in the trip. There were quite a few offering tasting rooms but we didn’t partake on this occasion.

Our next stop was the small town of Jacksonville, which is on the National Historic Register because of the large number of Victorian buildings still in existance. It’s a gold rush town which has re-invented itself as one of the coolest small towns in America. Every summer they hold the Britt Festival in one of the parks which is a very large music festival over multiple nights and weeks. Unfortunately there was nothing on tonight, or we’d have definitely chosen to go to it.

The town itself is very very well preserved and attractive. Still got the main street with the brick shop fronts. It’s a lot like some of the gold rush towns we visited in Colorado in 2019. Same era I suppose. We had a good walk round. Went into quite a few of the interesting boutique shops and browsed. Some nice looking restaurants too. I must mention how hot it was. When we left the coast this morning, it was in the upper 60s. In Jacksonville it was 94F and felt boiling.

We went on about anothe 6 miles to Medford where we are staying at the Fairfield Inn tonight. It seems brand new. Very nice. By then it was 97F. Phewee!! We were glad to have a lie down in the cool.

Tonight we drove 10 miles or so south to Ashland, the Stratford upon Avon/Broadway of the West Coast. There has been a history of theatre here since the turn of the 20th Century but the Oregon Shakespeare Festival really took off in 1935 and since then it has grown and grown. Ashland now has quite a few theatres presenting live shows with professional actors and direction for an eight month season. The plays, of which there are about 11 per season are a mix of Shakespeare and contempory plays, some musicals. Ticket prices are really reasonable. Anyway, when we looked at what was on tonight, we weren’t overwhelmed with the main offerings which sounded a bit…. errr…. wokerish. However, we really wanted to attend a show, and the Oregon Cabaret Theatre was presenting The Full Monty, the musical based on the original film, so we decided to go for that. The Cabaret theatre is a converted Baptist Church, converted in 1986, and it runs a full repertoire of shows. A lovely space with a ground floor laid out club style with tables and an upper balcony level. We were on a table for 2 in the centre front row which was a bit scary but actually nothing to worry about. Dinner before the show was on offer and we availed ourselves of that. It was ok, good to average. Bob had a dessert which was served in the interval and was a delicious creme brulee.

The show was really really good. The songs weren’t particularly memorable but the performances were excellent. We really enjoyed it, it was very funny but quite touching too. We got back to the hotel about 11pm, so quite a long night as we were there at 630 for dinner and the show started at 8pm. Well worth seeing.

To know more about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival