Saturday, July 6, 2013

A welcome return to Oregon's Mid-Willamette Valley

June 30- July 5, 2013
Lebanon, Oregon
Mallard Creek RV Resort

A belated Happy 4th of July to everyone. Hope you celebrated a special sense of freedom in your life on this annual holiday. Something we are celebrating is the freedom to change our plans on a whim. Yay! We were going to spend this week in Northern California but decided to head north to the Willamette Valley to get to cooler temperatures. The best bonus related to this decision had nothing to do with escaping the heat; we were able to stay at a great RV park near my youngest son.

This park, Mallard Creek, is a major destination for avid golfers as it ranks in the top 50 RV Golf Resorts. The monthly rate of $1200 includes unlimited golf for two people. For golfers, this is quite a good deal. We, however, are not golfers, but were lucky to score a weekly rate of $259 for non-golfers (and no sales tax in Oregon.)  The park is absolutely lovely and its elevation is a little higher than the valley so our highest temps here have been 88 while others on the West Coast have been suffering with temps in the high 90s. We lucked out. No bugs, a great breeze, and cool nights—three of the main reasons we trek all the way across the country to come back to our beloved Oregon for the summer months.

We lived in Corvallis for more than twenty years, but during most of that time we were raising families and working, so we had less time to take full advantage of the wonders of nature that are here. Coming back here in the motorhome opens up whole new vistas for us. One of these little gems of nature happens to be just a few miles from this park. Years ago, I had a reading assistant who worked with me who made a hand drawn map for a hike she recommended at McDowell Creek. She was part Native American and told me this place had special spiritual significance. I kept her map in the top drawer of my teacher desk for almost ten years!  When I was retiring and cleaning out my classroom, I recycled the map with a promise to the universe that I would indeed do this hike someday.


Someday arrived a few days ago. Ironically, Vic used to drive right past the sign for McDowell Creek Park everyday for almost twenty years when he commuted to work from Corvallis to Sweet Home, yet he had never been stopped to check it out either. When I told him I wanted to go for a hike here, his interest was piqued as he had been curious about this area for a long time. With temps forecast to be in the high 80s, we chose to do a morning hike as we didn't know how much shade there would be on the trail. We were happy to discover most of the hike was quite shady and cool.

McDowell Creek Park turned out to be only about five miles from our campground. When we started on the trail, the first thing we saw was someone panning for gold. I can’t imagine finding much in this area, but I guess it might be a fun pastime in a pretty setting.

The trails were a little confusing as we had no map, but no matter which way we ventured, we were delighted with a memorable walk which included two waterfalls. The dogs were even able to stop and play in McDowell Creek to cool off and get a drink along the way.

Hiking is a renewed interest for me and not really something Vic used to do. He used to golf, fish, cross-country ski, and run (and officiating football and coaching basketball were also quite time consuming in those days). I have to acknowledge fellow bloggers Pam and John, Lisa and Hans, and Gay and Joe for inspiring us to get out on the trails. We are slowly working towards maybe half of what they do, but we are excited to be adding this outdoor activity to our travel adventures.

mcdowell creek sign

Most of the trails were through an old growth Douglas Fir rain forest—lots of ferns, moss, wildflowers and even ripe thimbleberries. I must have been in a similar environment in a prior life because the lush forest and the sound of the water cascading over rocks feels like an ancestral kind of home to me.


I took way too many photos of the creek and falls, but the most outstanding features were the refreshing sounds and smells.


The shorter falls were the 40-foot Majestic Falls on McDowell Creek and the more impressive falls were the 120-foot Royal Terrace Falls on Fall Creek.

Royal Terrace Falls with a rise of about 120 feet

We hiked lots of rock steps to get to the top of  Royal Terrace Falls, but it was worth it as there was an impressive viewing bridge at the top of the falls.

Another wonderful feature on our hike were the wildflowers. I neglected to get photos of the white forget-me-nots, pink phlox, daisies, and bachelor buttons. I thought I would catch them on the way back and found myself distracted by the water. I did get this photo of my favorite wildflower of the day: foxglove.

After a couple of hours of wandering around on the trails here, we headed back on the lovely country drive to our campground. Along the way we stopped at the Marks Ridge Winery, one of the only wineries in this immediate area, but alas it is only open Wednesday-Sunday and this was Monday. Rumor has it that their pinot noir is the kind I like, rich and earthy.  With over 300 wineries in the Willamette Valley, we will have plenty of opportunities to do some serious wine tasting during our stay here this summer.

The rest of our week we focused on spending some quality time with my son Jesse, visiting with friendly RV neighbors, and enjoying the amazing weather.  Jesse and his roommate golf at this course quite often and managed to get in 24 holes on the 4th while I made a special holiday meal for the four of us.

On the 5th, I drove Jesse to the Portland airport for a flight to Omaha where he is working for the next few months. He was pretty bummed about leaving this great weather and not being able to spend more time with us while we are here, but the good news is he will still be there when we travel through Omaha in September on our trip back to the East Coast. Another big plus for our life on the road.

As I write, we are on the road en route to Southern Oregon for a family reunion that includes seeing Vic’s daughter and the grandsons again. This time I vow to get in the water with them no matter how cold it is! Laissez les bons temps rouler.


  1. Oh SIGH, no bugs, great breezes, cool nights. You've sold me. I love your header picture. And there are never too many pictures of creeks and falls. What a gorgeous hike. This goes on my list for sure. No wonder your friend recommended it to you so long ago. What a lovely picture of you and your son.

  2. Oh, my legs are aching to join you! What a wonderful hike! I love listening to the water as I hike, also. So if there aren't any saguaro, or rocks, then I want rushing water. The good breeze, no bugs, and cool nights sounds heavenly:)

    So glad you got to spend some time with your son. It is nice to not make plans and reservations ahead so you are able to change visits around as new places and ideas pop up. I can't tell you how often we completely change what we thought we wanted to do. Good that you will be able to see Jesse again in Sept.

    Enjoy those grandsons and the reunion!

  3. What a beautiful post...every picture and every word of it! We have been on some spectacular hikes...nothing quite like that one though. I would call that a WOW! day. Like Pam said, we would have loved to join you. Our pups so enjoyed the hikes we took them on when they could play and cool off in the streams...great day for them too! We had originally planned to go to Oregon, but changed plans. Maybe next year we will be there too!

    So happy you had a visit with your son.

    The foxglove are gorgeous and I do love your new header photo! Happy trails...and happy family time!

  4. What a beautiful hike. It reminds me so much of the Georgia mountains, in fact one of those waterfall pictures looks almost like my new blog header picture. That foxglove is gorgeous and you captured it well.

    1. I thought of your beautiful stream and waterfall photos from the Georgia mountains when I was editing my own photos. I am looking forward to seeing that part of the country next fall.

  5. I like hikes that have entertainment value ... or rewards like the waterfalls you encountered. Rushing water, chirping birds ... yes, my kind of hike.

    1. I must admit I like to know I am hiking toward a reward also. I am starting to realize there are always rewards if you pay attention.

  6. Such a nice refreshing hike. Wayne and I certainly enjoyed the last two summers we spent in the Willamette Valley. And BTW, there are never too many waterfall and rolling stream photos.

  7. That looked like a lovely hike. Enjoy your reunion! Judy & John


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