Great Drives: Oregon's New Scenic Tour  September 2006

Weekender: Eugene  May 2006

May 2006  
Weekender: Eugene
by Cameron Walker

The University of Oregon's hometown welcomes farmers, foodies, and free spirits.

Eugene has always been fertile ground. The town’s earliest settlers were farmers who dug its rich soil, while more recent arrivals, such as the late author Ken Kesey, have dug its nonconformist spirit. Situated 110 miles south of Portland in the Willamette Valley and home to the University of Oregon, Eugene is a hotbed of creativity, outdoor adventure opportunities, and culinary delights.

For a panoramic view, hike to the top of Spencer Butte at the southern end of town. From the Willamette Street trailhead, take the one-mile summit trail to the 2,054-foot butte’s flat-top and look out over downtown Eugene, the University of Oregon campus, and the Willamette Valley.

From here, head downtown to the Lane County Farmers’ Market, where organic produce rules. “I can’t think of anywhere in the world that’s more fertile and abundant than Eugene,” says Stephanie Kimmel, founding chef of Marché. Her downtown restaurant showcases local products such as lamb from Cattail Creek Farm and mesclun from Horton Road Organics.

Across the street, the Saturday Market brings together local artists including Queen Irene, who sells dresses made from neckties, metalsmith Shane Schaeffer, whose stainless-steel frogs dance and ride unicycles, and musician Rich Glauber, who riffs on an antique accordion named Syd.

Discover more of Eugene the way the locals do--on two wheels. A short pedal east of the markets brings you to the U of O’s parklike campus and its more than 3,000 tree varieties. Look for the big leaf maple, an Oregon native likely planted circa 1884, outside Deady Hall. Across the way, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art features regional artists and a significant Asian collection. A few blocks to the east you’ll find the university’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, which houses dozens of American Indian baskets made before 1900.

Hardworking cyclists deserve a stop at Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company’s tasting room, in Eugene’s funky Whitteaker neighborhood. Try the pinot noir rosé.

Finish off a day of pedaling at Prince Pückler’s ice cream shop. Order a scoop or two of marionberry ice cream and you’ll find Eugene’s bounty never tasted so sweet.

Quick Tip:
Celebrate the centennial of Hendricks Park, Eugene’s first public green space, with a stroll through its garden of more than 6,000 rhododendron plants. 1800 Skyline Blvd., 682-5324.

If You’re Going:

Pick up AAA’s Oregon & Washington TourBook and Eugene city map. Contact the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County Oregon, (800) 547-5445, Area code is 541 unless noted.

Marché Restaurant, 292 E. Fifth Ave., 342-3612,
Prince Pückler’s, 1605 E. 19th Ave, 344-4418
Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company, 907 W. Third Ave., 684-9643,

The Campbell House $119-345. 252 Pearl Street, (800) 264-2519,
The Oval Door Bed & Breakfast Inn, $85-195. 988 Lawrence St., 800-882-3160,

Copyright 2006, Cameron Walker.  All rights reserved.