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Independent editor invites readers to submit their vacation stories for publication

PMG PHOTOS: PHIL HAWKINS - The North Fork of the Willamette River is a cool place for a 9-year old to dip his toes in the water. Getting away from the newspaper can be tough. With a relatively small staff and a new issue that is published each week, I often find myself staying home to tend to the Woodburn Independent while my wife and son take advantage of the summer months to travel around the Pacific Northwest and visit relatives in Idaho.

But with our wedding anniversary in August, we vowed to take some time off to celebrate, escaping to woods to bask in Oregon's ample scenic beauty. I've been a lifelong resident of the state for all but a few years in college and am quite familiar with the sheer variety of biomes that Oregon has to offer. From scenic ocean landscapes, bountiful valley farmland, rocky mountaintops, high desert and deep woodland glades, I often take for granted just how abundantly diverse this state is.

My wife, on the other hand, is an Idaho native who moved to Oregon after her undergrad and has lived with me ever since. Not only is she much more of an outdoorsperson than myself, but she also has the advantage of viewing Oregon from an outsider's perspective. Idaho itself has a unique variety of outdoors activities and gorgeous landscapes, which helped fuel her love of nature growing up.

She brought that enthusiasm for exploring nature's beauty to our relationship and is always eager to see new places in Oregon, discovering hidden gems around the state that are not so hidden if one simply takes the time to look for them.

One such place is Oakridge, a relatively small town along Hwy. 58 heading out southeast of Eugene. I've passed through the community a few times and know the name mostly from high school sports, where the Oakridge Warriors occasionally clash with the Kennedy Trojans in the state playoffs.

Our anniversary camping trip took us to the hills behind Oakridge, a delightfully stunning region where the headwaters of the Willamette River are cold and fast moving, but shallow and small enough to cross on foot.

The area is guarded at its entrance by the tiny town of Westfir, a former logging community that is the last sign of civilization before taking the winding roads upwards into the hills that splinter off into mazelike passages along the riverbank.

Along the road heading into the mountains, we saw numerous weekend campers like ourselves who had simply pulled off to the side of the road, found a spot along the river and set up shop. Our destination was about 20 miles up the North Fork Road to a small site called Kiahanie Campground.

With just 19 sites, no trailer hook ups and no reservations, it's doesn't get very busy throughout the year, according to the camp hosts we met. Indeed, on a Saturday afternoon in peak camping season, we counted just 11 spots taken.

Folks missing out. The majority of the camp sites are along the river itself grant access for campers to head down to the banks and skip rocks, build cairns and lay out in pools that previous campers have built out of the abundant river rock. With towering conifers in every direction, the temperature remains brisk, even in the August heat.

PMG PHOTOS: PHIL HAWKINS - Campers at Kiahanie Campground help construct pools, cairns and streams out of river rock.It was a wonderful respite, and I highly recommend anyone planning an upcoming camping trip to consider the area, which stretches some 50-plus miles from Dexter Lake to Odell Lake.

In fact, along the way, I came across an idea to share with vacationing readers from an issue of the Register-Guard, which we purchased to read and help light our evening campfires.

The RG's sports section had a section devoted to readers who could send in a photo and their vacation story in 300 words or less. I thought it was a wonderful way for the paper to connect with the community and help share the various spots in Oregon that we often overlook due to the utter size and scope of the state's outdoor wealth.

I am not too proud to borrow a great idea from another publication, so I would like to end this column by inviting readers of the Woodburn Independent to share their vacation stories throughout the year, and we will be happy to edit and print them to share with the community.

I look forward to hearing from readers and hear about potential vacation destinations to put on my ever-growing list.

Phil Hawkins is the editor of the Woodburn

Independent. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What I did on vacation

Follow the format below in approximately 300 words and provide the Woodburn Independent with a high-resolution photo and caption, and we'll print your favorite vacation destination.

Name:

Destination:

How did you get there?:

What did you do?:

What's the best thing about the trip?:

Email: [email protected] media.com


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