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Exploring the Willamette Valley's Backcountry and Byways With the Journal of Lost Time

By Matt Wastradowski

In 2021, we teamed up with the creative minds at The Journal of Lost Time (a digital publication showcasing memorable experiences around the world) to produce a series of short videos showing off the Willamette Valley in all its glory-our quiet waterways, dramatic waterfalls, farm-grown fare, world-famous wines, and more. As the creative team explored all corners of the Willamette Valley and West Cascades, a common thread emerged: "The Willamette Valley feels like home."

We couldn't agree more; there's just something about the valley's slower pace, Instagram-worthy sights, and friendly atmosphere that makes everyone feel right at home. 

The team's latest video showcases the region's wooded backcountry and relaxing byways, with stops at the scenic Abiqua Falls, The Kitchen at Middleground Farms, and the stylish Vintages Trailer Resort. (If you're curious to see more of The Journal of Lost Time's work, learn about the first two videos here.)

If you'd like to have your own adventure in the far reaches of the Willamette Valley, here's an overnight itinerary that begins with a trip to Abiqua Falls. As you crisscross the valley, we hope you enjoy the same experiences as The Journal of Lost Time-and have just as many memories to take home with you.

We know "off the beaten path" has become a cliché at this point-but it still rings true in some cases, and never more so than at Abiqua Falls. The waterfall plunges into an electric green pool below, surrounded on both sides by an amphitheater of columnar basalt, and owes much of its popularity these days to going viral on Instagram.

The Journal of Lost Time crew hiked to the base of the falls and gravel biked along nearby roads, enjoying a backcountry experience in the midst of a verdant forest just outside Scotts Mills. A short hike winds around maple and fir trees before dropping to the Abiqua Creek riverbank; the trail then follows the creek upstream a short while before arriving at the base of the picturesque falls. A rope helps with some of the descent, and you'll likely want to leave your dog and small children at home for this one.

If you want to visit Abiqua Falls, we're excited for you to enjoy a memorable outing-but we also want to be frank about the experience. The 0.8-mile, round-trip trail to and from Abiqua Falls has just less than 200 feet of elevation gain, but when the trail loses elevation, it does so quickly. The slope can be steep and difficult in the best of times, and can be a slippery mess whenever it rains (which, in this area, is often). You're also hiking on private property, so stay on the trail at all times. And keep in mind that directions via mobile apps are notoriously unreliable-and that the approach to the trailhead is along an extremely rough road; here's how to drive safely to the Abiqua Falls parking area. Before heading out, research the trail and see how to take precautions to give yourself the possible chance at a fun hike.

By this point, you've worked up a sweat on the trail. If you brought provisions, head north for an hour to the Hardy Creek trailhead, along the banks of the Molalla River, for a scenic picnic. 

For that matter, you have a lot of options for enjoying the Molalla River Recreation Area (in the heart of which the Hardy Creek trailhead sits). The forested gorge, bisected by its namesake river, is an outdoor paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrian riders, paddlers, and campers-not to mention picnickers, who can grab local food, beer, wine, and other items in communities such as Molalla. Towering foliage, a crystal-clear river, basalt rock formations, and a hidden vibe all help make the Molalla River area a fun place to explore all year long.
Learn more about outdoor recreation along the Molalla River corridor.

The Willamette Valley is all about farm-to-table fare; our many farm loops and food trails make it easy to grab food fresh from local growers, for instance. But that home-grown ethos is never clearer than at The Kitchen at Middleground Farms, roughly an hour north of the Molalla River corridor in the northern Willamette Valley.

Housed in a refashioned cattle barn, the restaurant approaches every dish through the lens of "local." Some ingredients come from an on-site garden; eggs and dairy products are produced by 25 hens and a small herd of goats; and everything else comes from nearby producers.

The Kitchen At Middleground Farms' innovative dishes can be enjoyed in the farm's gazebos and greenhouse, as well as at the chef's table if you want a close-up look at how the magic happens. You can also sign up for classes that discuss the ins and outs of the Willamette Valley's acclaimed culinary scene-how to pair wines with local dishes, a deep dive into the farm's roots, and more.

You've had a long, busy day-so head west for about 40 minutes and unwind with a little fun at The Vintages Trailer Resort in the heart of the Willamette Valley.

Choose among 35 fully restored trailers, some of which date back to the 1940s and all of which include outdoor grills and loaner cruiser bikes. Amenities vary from trailer to trailer-but may include an open-air soaking tub on your private deck, private bathrooms, plush bedding, cushy sofas, and (of course) vintage-inspired decor.

The resort's on-site general store sells artisan foods and locally crafted beverages, while its 21-and-over lounge boasts fire pits and comfortable seating for communing over a memorable day in the Willamette Valley.

You got a good night's sleep after a busy day, rode your cruisers around The Vintages, grabbed breakfast in nearby Dayton, and are ready to explore more of what the winery has to offer. Before heading home, drive just 10 minutes north and enjoy wine tasting at Domaine Drouhin Oregon-the quintessential Willamette Valley winery.

For more than 30 years, the Drouhin family has grown wine grapes in the Willamette Valley-with a family winemaking legacy that dates back to 1880. The family planted its roots in the northern Willamette Valley in 1968 and is today known for its estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay.

If you're interested in a taste or two, make a reservation and sip within eyesight of the Drouhin's four-level, gravity-flow winery-or on an expansive outdoor seating area, which overlooks 235 acres of wine grapes and the Willamette Valley's rolling hillsides.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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