Family-Friendly Oregon, the AKontheGO Way

Fruit stands!

Precious, that’s what it is. Retracing highway miles and steps walked by AK Dad and me, years and years ago. After too many summers of saying “I wish we could…” we finally are.

Beginning in our favorite Pacific Northwest city of Portland, and looping south, east, north, then west, AKontheGO is taking our youngest traveler on the vacation road trip of our respective childhoods. Along the way, we’re finding interesting sights, fabulous people, and a lot of middle-age nostalgia.

Baling hay under the summer sun along old Highway 99 in Oregon.

I’d like to thank the good folks at Travel Oregon for their assistance; even though we knew where we wanted to go, it sure was easier having someone else outline the mileage, attractions, and total number of days. All we had to do was point the rental car in one direction or another, and off we went!

He likes this place.

Hayward Field at the University of Oregon and the history of a legend.

AK Dad has a love affair going on with the city of Eugene, home to the University of Oregon Ducks, of course, so it was a no-brainer for AK Kid to want to go there, too. We spent the night at the lovely Valley River Inn along the Willamette River and walked campus for several hours, toured by dear AK Dad, who fairly wept when his offspring mentioned that it would only be nine or so years until he could attend.

The scenic Mckenzie Highway is worth the extra time!

Hiking Belknap crater and lava fields. Amazing.

For me, a highlight was driving the narrow Mckenzie Highway, a stretch of recently-renovated road that offers unique views of mountain passes, beautiful forests, and the amazing Belknap lava beds. Even though temperatures hovered near 88F, we savored every lovely minute of the day, ending up near Sisters, Oregon, and the town of Bend, our destination for the next few days.

Vintage vehicles at the High Desert Museum.

Learning to play the 1904 way!

Renting a home right on the Deschutes River, we’re close to parks, running trails, downtown Bend, and myriad restaurants and pubs. Today, we drove about 15 minutes south to the stunning High Desert Museum, a living history facility that strives to offer both historic and contemporary views into the relationships between people and the High Desert landscapes. “High Desert,” by the way, is a unique environment stretching from southern British Columbia all the way south to the Great Basin areas of Nevada and Utah. It’s stark. It’s rich. It’s absolutely teeming with life, and we spent three hours exploring its beating heart with three curious kids. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., May 1-October 1, it’s a must-see for anyone visiting Central Oregon.

More living history, for the sake of forests.

A very nice USFS ranger retiree, and kids with Smokey Bear comic books. Cool.

On the boundary of the museum sat little white bonus round, especially for me, the daughter of a former fire lookout and forester. The High Desert Ranger Station is a U.S. Forest Service station built in 1933, serving as a base for USFS rangers to manage 1/2 million acres of forest and range land. The building has been moved several times, but finally has a permenant home on the museum property. Do not forget to stop by and meet the volunteers (all former USFS employees), learn about fire danger and lookout duties, read old books, and receive your own Smokey the Bear comic book. Yes, I swooned.

What a weekend it was. What a week ahead it will be!

~EK

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