Population = 156,185 (part of the Eugene-Springfield Metro area with 351,715), latitude 44º03’, longitude 123º05’, elevation 1,112 feet, average January low temperature = 33.5, Average July high temperature = 82, average sunny days = 155, annual snowfall = 6”, annual rainfall = 45.7”
Our first day in Eugene was a great introduction to the city. Unfortunately, we were still staying in hotels, and we had booked the Econo Lodge. The room stunk of cleanser so we opened the windows, turned the AC to max, and went for a walk. The urban forest here is amazing. We are walking through green tunnels, garnished with residential flower gardens. And we are not alone. All along our walk, there are lots of other people out for a walk, a bike ride, a skateboard roll, all enjoying the spring night, stopping for dinner and beers at the many fine restaurants and breweries. Our short walk took us to 3 breweries, set into the neighborhood like chocolate chips in a cookie.
The next day (after getting the hell out of that miserable hotel) we set off to explore the city. Our first stop was Hendricks Park, Eugene’s oldest city park. It is a short drive, climbing up a big bluff, passing though neighborhoods with charming homes and exuberant flower gardens. The rhododendron trees are enormous, towering all around and between the 200 year old skyscraper Douglas Firs. We lucked into the perfect weekend for a visit. Almost everything is in bloom. There is a flower for every color of the rainbow. Besides the rhododendrons, there are multitude of other flowers; fairy bells, camas, candy flowers, mock oranges, flowering currents, bald hip roses, trilliums, and a dazzling array of other flowering trees, vines, and shrubs.
Of course, after a hard afternoon of trail hiking, we have to find another brewery. Upon our arrival in Eugene, we stopped at the Visitor’s Center for local info and got copies of the Eugene Ale Trail guide. This shows 18 of the Eugene area breweries, with maps, addresses, and web sites. Each has a rubber stamp for your guide. Collect 8 stamps and get a free growler. That is my kind of treasure hunt!
Back to exploring Eugene, we ascended the road up to Skinner Butte Park. This butte lies between downtown Eugene and the Willamette River. From here you can see the whole valley spread out below. To our left, the University of Oregon (go Ducks!) along the riverfront. In front of us, a green carpet of urban forest with a few downtown offices peeking through. To the right, scattered rooftops of homes and businesses glimpsed between the many trees.
Amongst the many things on the “Things To Do” list from TripAdvisor, we found something unusual; a Raptor Rehab Center. It is a bit of a drive, South and winding through what I guess would be the suburbs of Eugene, a bit higher up the side of the valley. The homes are newer, the yards bigger, but still overflowing with the resplendent flower gardens we find everywhere here. The Raptor Center is perched on a hillside in the deep forest. There is a little “village” of cages for the birds, with mulched paths leading through them. These are large and beautiful birds; majestic bald eagles, solemn owls, colorful hawks. They gaze back intensely as we stop to admire them.
Stlll more exploring. Today, the first thing we check out is the Owen Rose Garden. This is an 8 1/2 acre park next to the river. Every kind of rose imaginable grows profusely here. Big ones with petals crowded into cupped blooms. Small ones with wide open blooms like daisies. And between the rose bushes, trees, and vines, are flowers of all kinds and colors. The scents are wonderful.
We have heard a lot abut the rocky coastline of Oregon so we decided to take a day trip to go see for ourselves. Our drive takes us through beautiful green tunnels of lush trees, past rivers, over foothills. When we get to Florence though, we find not rocks but sand. They have enormous sand dunes along the coast there. Not what we were expecting, but still very beautiful and majestic in its scale and sweep. We drive a little further North along the coastal highway and find more sand but also stunning views from the overlooks.
Eugene is one of those rare and beautiful cities that you just want to savor for a while. The center of the city is like a huge nature park with giant trees and flower gardens everywhere. There are always lots of people outside, walking, biking, hanging out on patios, enjoying the sweet weather and fine scenery. It all seems very civilized and relaxed, but still cooperative. I am amazed by the people on bicycles. They are everywhere, and have their own bike lanes, and they actually stop and yield at intersections. Compared to the spandex geeks in Minneapolis who routinely blow through stop signs with an imperious glare at us lesser mortals who drive cars, these are urban angels. I am happy to share the road with people like this.
Put Eugene on the short list. We will be back to this town for a much longer stay someday.
Next up: Portland, OR