The first time we visited Oregon was way back in the fall of 2012. We had left Vermont only a few months prior and made a beeline west with a goal of making it to the Pacific Ocean. After a quick exploration of the Olympic Penninsula, we slowly traveled down the Oregon coast hitting up as many state parks as we could. During that time, we not only fell in love with the Oregon coast but also with Oregon state parks. (I even wrote a whole post about why we love these parks so much). Six years and hundreds of state parks later, and I can still say that Oregon has one of the best state park systems.
So when we finally got a chance to stay at one I had been hearing about for years, L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, I had pretty high expectations. The problem with high expectations is that they have nowhere to go but down. I won’t go as far as to say I was disappointed in the park, but it was far from the heavily wooded park with private sites that some of the photos I saw led me to expect. The reality is that this somewhat new state park (it opened in 2007) consists of two mostly open loops of sites. All the sites are large and widely spaced, and some of the outer edge sites are really nice with a lot of trees, but it’s going to be 20 or 30 years before the forest grows up enough to make this into the wooded state park that I had envisioned.
Our site was smack in the middle of one of the loops. We had no trees and no privacy which was kind of a bummer since I was looking forward to some “alone” time after a week at a private park followed by four days at a music festival. On the positive side, all the sites have full hook-ups and thanks to the giant recycling station we finally got rid of all those yogurt containers and seltzer cans we had been carrying around. Is it just me, or has it become harder and harder to find places to recycle over the past few years?
Away from our scorching hot, surrounded by dead grass campsite, the rest of the park was amazing. Miles of trails wound through the dense, fern-filled forest. We rode our bikes on the smooths rolling single track and hiked to an overgrown viewpoint.
We also road the paved, Banks-Vernonia trail to the wooden trestle train bridge one day.
When we checked into the park, the very enthusiastic ranger loaded us up with pamphlets and magazines about the area. Since we’re not the normal tourists or retirees who have all day to explore, this kind of material is often of no use to us, but he was so eager to share it all that I felt bad saying no. Well, it turns out that one of the magazines had a really cool map of the area with icons marking things like wineries, farm stands, and even a barn quilt trail.
That last one caught my attention because my mom recently started making barn quilts to sell at their apple orchard in Vermont.
Barn quilts have a long history and recently have been experiencing a comeback of sorts with these really cool pieces of art popping up in rural areas all over the country. In simple terms, a barn quilt is a piece of wood painted to look like a quilt block. Like traditional quilts, the variations of barn quilts are endless and a simple Google image search results in a wide array of colorful blocks. The barn quilt trail in the Tualatin Valley features 45 locations. On our last full day in the area, we set off on a drive to see a few of them. Despite the nice map, finding these barn quilts proved to be more difficult than anticipated.
We somehow missed the first couple, spotted a few more in passing but couldn’t find a place to pull over and take a photo, and then came across some at businesses that were closed for the weekend.
Overall, we didn’t see as many as I had hoped, but it was still a fun outing. Along the way, we stopped at a few farmstands to pick up some peaches and a pint of Royal Crown Blackberries (the best variety ever). In a search of some refreshment on the way home, we ended up at a place called Craft Pour House in Beaverton where we shared a flight of tasters. Since this was to be our last day in Oregon for a while it was only fitting that we ended our time here with some local beer.