Crook County staycation
Want to go on a vacation but don't have the funds or the time to get away?
Consider what some consider the latest buzzword, a "staycation" — a short trip away from home in both time and distance.
And what is great about it, is that sticking close to home can benefit our local economy and is an excellent way to re-discover your own backyard.
Central Oregon is often considered Oregon's playground with so much to do, and with the great outdoors being just minutes away from our front door, why not get out and explore what our area has to offer. No need to spend money on airfare, amusement parks or overpriced tourist traps when Crook County has more than a days' worth of adventure just waiting to be explored.
If you prefer to stay in town, there are several activities and regular events to attend.
Take part in the Self-Guided Heritage Walk of landmarks and sites put together by the AR Bowman Museum. The brochure of more than 35 historical locations is available at the museum or the Crook County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and gives a detailed history on many of the homes and buildings built in Prineville dating back to 1870.
The heritage walk can also be done in conjunction with the Prineville Charm Trail, where two dozen local businesses sell charms relating to their business to be collected and put on a bracelet. From retail outlets to restaurants, the Charm Trail is a great way to discover businesses you may have never stepped foot in before.
If you'd like to venture a little further out of town, consider the Crooked River Wetlands Complex. This area, most used for birdwatching, has a flat, paved path that is accessible to all. It has 5.4 miles of new walking, running and hiking and biking trails, 3.25 miles of which are paved for use year-round. A covered pavilion with two picnic tables and restrooms make for a wonderful gathering place, and dogs are welcome on leash. Kiosks surrounding the area speak to land use, wildlife, geography and more.
For those up for a hike, consider the Barnes Butte trail. Accessible from the Ironhorse subdivision and just minutes from downtown, the trailhead begins at the old ranch house and takes you to the top of the butte. There is no shortage of wildlife in the area, and if they are on leash, dogs are welcome. The last half mile includes some steep and rocky terrain, but the views are worth every step. On a clear day, there are 360-degree views of the rimrock, the Ochocos and the Cascades.
For those who want to leave the "city" and get beyond cell service, take the time to visit our own quieter version of Smith Rock by heading out to Steins Pillar. Natural beauty at its best, Steins Pillar is a place one can hike to appreciate amazing rock formations, but also the Mill Creek Valley. Best seen May through October, this is considered "moderate," but take note, it is mostly uphill and curvy, so be sure to take rest stops when needed and plenty of water. The trail travels 2.3 miles through thick forest, and at the right time of year, an array of wildflowers. It then descends on a path of stairs for approximately a half mile to the base of the pillar.
If you are still seeking ways to get out and explore, an activity that continues to gain popularity in our area is rockhounding. Turn into an amateur geologist and take the time to get out and collect rocks and mineral specimens from Crook County's natural environment. Considered the rockhound capital of the world, Crook County boasts numerous rockhound sites and mines. Maury Mountain area, White Fir, Bear Creek Butte and Lucky Strike Mines are just a sample of the areas popular for rockhound enthusiasts. Maps can be purchased at the Prineville — Crook County Chamber office along with information on safety, land use, ethics and the history of rockhounding in our area.
And if you want to make it like a real vacation where you don't have to cook a meal or wash a dish, splurge a little and end the day at one of our numerous dining establishments in town. Many offer locally grown and raised food, craft beer, live music and outdoor seating.
If you hit the timing right, you can also enjoy the rodeo, horse races, the fair or Picnic in the Park for some extra entertainment.
If a fancy vacation doesn't fit into your budget, consider exploring what is right out your front door. Why take a plane, train or automobile when there is an abundance of things to do right here in Crook County? Adventure awaits.
Kim Daniels is the executive director of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at 541-447-6304.