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Byline: Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Spring arrives tomorrow, but most Oregonians will have to wait until work or school ends Friday to embrace the annual rite known as "Spring Break." With no classes scheduled next week at area public schools or the University of Oregon, it's an opportune time to cure "cabin fever" with a healthy dose of outdoor recreation.

Spring break promises to be even more fun than usual this year because the earlier switch to Daylight Savings Time will result in nine extra hours of daylight during the break (at least for those folks who aren't up at dawn every day).

That's like having a whole extra day to play.

Many Oregonians have been planning their spring vacations for months. Which is why flights to distant destinations where the weather is certain to be balmy are full, and all yurts and cabins in Oregon State Parks Department campgrounds are already booked. (Lots of tent sites and first-come, first-served sites with hook-ups are still available, however.)

But, fear not, there are still plenty of things to do in Oregon next week - including day trips and overnight outings that fit nicely into a weekend if you're not lucky enough to have the entire week off.

Here, just to get the planning process started, are several suggested short Spring Breakaways:

Ski & Tee

Longer daylight hours this year will make it easier to double up on two favorite spring activities - skiing and golf. Hit the slopes first thing in the morning and, when the snow starts to get a little soft, head down the hill for a late afternoon round of golf.

With sunset at 7:30 p.m., you can tee off as late as 3 p.m. and still finish 18 holes before dark settles over Tokatee, Aspen Lakes or any one of a number of courses in the Bend area.

Ski resorts in the central Cascades next week will be celebrating the last big hurrah of what has been a big ski season. Hoodoo and Willamette Pass will both forgo their normal midweek off days next week, meaning daily operations Thursday through April 1.

Hoodoo will extend its hours, with the lifts operating until 6 p.m. next week (until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday nights, when night skiing is offered). Willamette Pass Ski Area will offer night skiing on Friday and Saturday nights for the next two weekends.

Most, but not all, golf courses in Central Oregon will be open for the entire spring break, so be sure to call ahead.

Kite the Coast

March is typically a windy month, and no outdoor activity is better-suited to wind than flying a kite. Almost any community on the Oregon Coast has a kite shop that can set you up and direct you to a great spot to launch your kite.

But Lincoln City is the place to be next week for kite lovers who want to hedge their bets against rain or other inclement weather (not unheard of during spring vacation week in Oregon).

Not only does Lincoln City offer great outdoor beach kiting, but it also will host the fourth annual Indoor Kite Festival March 30-April 1 at the Taft High School gymnasium.

"Kiting is a way of life here," Barton Howe, special events coordinator for the Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau, said in explaining how the city came to host an indoor kite festival in the spring. (It already hosted summer and fall kite festivals).

And, no, the indoor kites are not kept aloft by fans.

"Really, it's ballet, almost," Howe said. "They keep these kits in the air through the motions of their arms and bodies - it's the human energy they're expending that keeps these airborne."

Admission of $2 per person or $5 per family is good for the entire indoor kite festival. Details:

Walk Around the Rock

Officially, the thunderegg is Oregon's state rock. But the most popular recreational rock is probably Smith Rock, site of a state park of the same name.

Located a few miles northeast of Redmond, Smith Rock State Park is known as a rock climbing mecca, with several thousand different climb routes available.

But you don't have to be a rock climber to have your spirits lifted by a visit.

The park is also a great place to hike or mountain bike (although some of the trails are quite steep). Hikers are afforded 3-D views of rugged rock faces bathed in ever-changing light and vistas of the Crooked River. They also have a good chance to spot golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otter or beaver.

Smith Rock State Park is located just east of the community of Terrebonne, on Highway 97. There is a $3 day-use fee for those who don't have an annual state park day use permit. A walk-in bivouac camp (no fires allowed) is available for $4 on first-come, first-served basis.

For more details, including a downloadable map of the park trail system, see:

Bag a Bull Trout

Lake Billy Chinook is the only place in Oregon where it's legal to catch and keep a bull trout, the largest trout native to the Pacific Northwest. While bull trout populations elsewhere are in distress, those in the lake formed by the waters of the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolius rivers are thriving because they still have access to ideal spawning habitat in the Metolius drainage.

The bull trout season just happens to peak in late March and April, making it an ideal spot for spring break angling.

The limit is one per day, with a minimum size of 24 inches for keepers. A fish that size weighs six or seven pounds, but many anglers toss those back in hopes of hooking one that tips the scales in double digits. The state record bull trout (over 23 pounds) was caught in Lake Billy Chinook.

Trollers were reporting good catches of bull trout last week, with one outfitter claiming to have boated (and released) 20 bulls before noon one day.

Fishing is best in waters 20 to 30 feet deep close to shore in the reservoir's Metolius Arm, where the bull trout congregate in preparation for moving into the Metolius River. The fish spawn in cold tributaries to the Metolius.

A Warm Springs Tribal angling permit, available in Culver, and a state fishing license are required to fish in the Metolius Arm.

Cycle the High Desert

The wheels will go round 'n round anywhere in the state, but many mountain bike trails west of the Cascades are still too muddy to ride without making a mess out of rider and trail alike.

On the other hand, spring is the ideal time to ride many of the trails on federal land in the High Desert east of Bend.

With popular summer bike routes west of Bend still snowed in, Central Oregon free wheelers head for the desert. The Horse Ridge area - about 15 miles east of Bend on U.S. 20 - is a good place to start. The riding is mostly on desert jeep roads that will become too dusty to enjoy in a couple of months, with some single-track trails available.

Take a South Slough Safari

By land or by seawater - or by both - the South Slough National Estuarine Reserve on the south side of Coos Bay is an interesting place to visit in spring.

The 4,700-acre reserve offers good hiking, prime canoe and kayak paddling, and the opportunity to explore a complex and fascinating habitat rich with plant and animal life.

Follow the wooden walkway that winds through an area where freshwater and saltwater marshes do slow waltz to the rhythm of the tides and be greeted by a scent that explains how this came to be named "Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk."

The main hiking attraction is the Estuary Study Trail, which begins at the reserve interpretive center, just off Seven Devils Road 4 1/2 miles south of Charleston. The center is a good place to pick up a trail guide and interpretive materials and to browse the educational displays that explain how estuaries work.

For more information, see the South Slough's Web site:
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Title Annotation:Recreation; You don't even need to have the full week off to enjoy one of these short outdoor escapes
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 20, 2007
Previous Article:Chain saws in hand, work crew blazes a trail through imagination.

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