It was a festive night at Kamp Angst that evening as we celebrated yet another gathering at this place that means so much to us. Coming here was the first trip Joanna and I took as a couple not long after we moved in together in 1981 and we’ve returned almost every year with a few exceptions. None of us are that young anymore and as the years take a toll we are reminded when we meet that time is a merciless mistress.
We’d stopped at Ray’s, the market on 191 in Selma to pick up a 12-pack of Henry Weinhards beer, one of my favorites from the 1980’s, impossible to find on the east coast, and they were still cold by the time we stood together in the kitchen area at Angst and launched into an evening whose pattern had been set our first visit; drink, eat and talk until it was time for bed.
Dinner that night would be a selection of canned fish from the Trader Joe’s down in Medford; two kinds of trout (one smoked), salmon, mackerel, and herring along with an assortment of fresh veggies and toast to accompany. We opened a couple of bottles of Foris wine (Flyover Red and a Cedar Ranch Pinot) as Tom used to do marketing work for them and was paid in wine, a treat we take advantage of each time we visit.
We set out the next morning for Grants Pass with a few things to accomplish; get the Honda to Tom’s mechanic for an oil change (that light had come on) and have them check out the air conditioning, breakfast at a local spot, hit the Waters Creek Trail for a four mile hike, drink some beers at Wild River Brewing, and pick up steaks at Cartwright’s to BBQ for my birthday back at Kamp.
The hike went well, an easy flat 3 ½ miles and we returned to pick up the Honda to find that the air conditioner was now working again, the problem a faulty relay. Next up was a couple of cold beers at Wild River, one of the first micro-breweries in southern Oregon, founded in the early 1990’s as Steelhead Brewing in the Shady Oaks Pizza Deli in Cave Junction, a place where we’d often get dinner when we visited during that timeframe.
It was nice sitting at the bar, chatting with the friendly barkeep as we sampled a few and I began the celebrations with a couple of pints, the Black Hops IPA and a Belgian Tripel.
From there we hit Cartwright’s on the way out of town, selecting the steaks and sitting outside with a draft from their tap wall. Back at Kamp Angst it was another fine meal and a bottle or two of Foris Wine.
Our next and last day would be a long one beginning with a long hike at the Oregon Caves. We drove over Bear Creek Road to Highway 46 and then up to the Caves and the Big Tree Trail. This would be a longer hike, about four miles with over 1,300 feet of elevation gain and we started out ascending a goodly portion of that change.
Our destination on the loop was the Big Tree, thought to be the widest Douglas fir in Oregon at 41 feet in circumference near the base and estimated to be 600 to 800 years old.
Tom thought it had lived so long because it had lost its top; the heavier trees become higher up the more prone they are to toppling over in storms, confirmed by the number of downed trees we encountered.
We continued on the loop away from the Big Tree and as we were getting closer to the finish, turned off on the Nature Trail that took us up a steep ascent to a summit with a great view of the surrounding country side.
This area, as many in the west, has been hit hard by fires and a large one was burning to the north, dirtying up the sky and obscuring the horizon. We walked down the steep incline to the entrance to the park for lunch at the coffee shop/deli at the Chateau.
The caves were discovered in 1874 by Elijah Jones Davidson and 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designated millions of acres of forest lands for protection, including what became Siskiyou National Forest, which surrounds the cave. In 1923, the US Forest Service signed a contract with the Oregon Caves Company, based in Grants Pass, to run the cave tours and improve the park accommodations, which included the Chalet, a building with a kitchen, dining room, gift shop, ticket sales area, and a dormitory for women on the Oregon Caves Company staff, that was completed later that year.
Management of the monument was transferred from the Forest Service to the National Park Service in 1933, and a six-story hotel, the Oregon Caves Chateau, was completed at the site in 1934. Gust Lium, a builder from Grants Pass, oversaw construction of the Chateau and some of the park’s other buildings, which he designed in a rustic style. We settled in on one side of the U-shaped counter of the coffee shop and ordered, a beer apiece for Tom and I, a handmade root beer float for Joanna, a delicious chicken club sandwich for Joanna and I to split and chicken salad version for Tom.
We made our way back to Kamp Angst, relaxed a bit, and then the four of us drove into Grants Pass for our last dinner, a nice meal out at The Twisted Cork. One of the down sides of living in a rural area is the lack of quality restaurants. The few we’ve gone to over the course of our thirty plus years of visiting have been scarce and none still exist today.
So, we started with a round of individual glasses of wine, a Malbec, a Sullberg Rose, and a Sauvignon Blanc and would settle on a bottle of Plaisance (a local winery) Pinot for dinner. Joanna and I split a cup of the soup of the day, a Poblano and Corn variation that was honestly one of the better soups I’ve experienced. Joanna ordered the Halibut with a fresh strawberry-basil salsa and I an imaginative Southwestern Cobb Salad (field greens, grilled chicken breast, egg, blue cheese, bacon, cherry tomatoes, black bean relish and chili lime pepitas with cilantro-lime ranch).
The food and service were all very good and I’d look forward to another meal there the next time we visit. Curiously, the prices were closer to what we’d pay in Charlotte, a little less than a bit metropolitan area like San Francisco, but still a bit more than I would have thought you’d pay in Grants Pass. This is just an observation and really, one can never really ever account for what any individual restaurant may charge. And for the quality of the meal we received, I’d pay it again.
Kathy was our designated driver on the ride home and after arriving, we stayed up a few more hours drawing out our time together, knowing that an early start the next morning lay in front of us. It’s always bittersweet leaving Angst as we look forward to the next chapter in the adventure while leaving a piece of our hearts behind. We’re already making plans for our next visit there.
Waters Creek Trail: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/oregon/waters-creek-intrepretive-trail
Wild River Brewing: http://www.wildriverbrewing.com/
Oregon Caves: https://www.nps.gov/orca/index.htm
The Twisted Cork: http://www.thetwistedcorkgrantspass.com/