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MailTribune.com
  • Wolf Creek Inn is the I-5 corridor's original rest area

  • Once upon a time, actually about 1853, in a land not far away, a stagecoach stop christened the "Six Bit House" first appeared in the woods surrounding Wolf Creek. With its white clapboard walls and curtained windows, it must have beckoned like Heaven through the firs.
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  • Once upon a time, actually about 1853, in a land not far away, a stagecoach stop christened the "Six Bit House" first appeared in the woods surrounding Wolf Creek. With its white clapboard walls and curtained windows, it must have beckoned like Heaven through the firs.
    For a paltry 75 cents, the inn provided weary travelers a room with a bath, meals and respite from a long and jarring ride in an unforgiving conveyance over the dusty Applegate Trail, the Southern Oregon section of the Oregon Trail.
    We're fortunate to have this restored page of history in our own backyard. We recognize it today as the Wolf Creek Inn — just an hour north and a quarter mile off I-5 exit 76.
    The inn has undergone a few transformations, but in 1883, the current Wolf Creek Tavern was built for local entrepreneur and orchardist Henry Smith. Nearly every important person in the Pacific Northwest would have stayed there, because it was one of few such establishments along a grueling 16-day ride in a stagecoach from the Barbary Coast of San Francisco to the bustling sea-merchant town of Portland.
    On a recent afternoon, I treated my dear friend Lane to a birthday celebration at Wolf Creek Inn. We enjoyed glimpses of a wild and woolly past through the portal of original photos hanging on the lobby walls and snapped several of our own. We wandered the grounds and admired the gnarly character of 125-year-old apple trees, which reportedly continue to put out the goods for delicious pies. I intend to investigate further come fall.
    An aside: While there, I learned firsthand that the wolves, which apparently did roam the area historically, were replaced with the wild cat of the hills. This seemingly innocuous little fellow sidled up to us like an amiable host, not only inviting us to pet him, but also jumping into our laps. Since I'm a solid cat lover (I love dogs, too; cats just drool less), I continued to stroke and fawn over him, thereby becoming his next gullible victim. While he gazed up at me with pure admiration in his sleepy eyes, he deftly and without warning turned and laid his incisors into the fleshy part of my hand. So when you visit, ignore the cat who feigns friendship. I understand he's had his shots.
    During the 1930s, movie stars came to the inn to escape the demands of a Hollywood back lot. One such visitor was Clark Gable, who enjoyed Southern Oregon getaways often and particularly liked fishing the Rogue River. Other names in the guest book include Carole Lombard and Orson Welles, obviously celebrities with good taste. In 1911, famous writer Jack London stayed at the Wolf Creek Inn for several weeks and completed his novel "Valley of the Moon" in a room on the second floor that retains its original historical flavor.
    From 1975-79, the Oregon State Parks and Recreation acquired the property, restored it to its original dignity and listed it on the State Register of Historic Places. Visit them online at historicwolfcreekinn.com.
    There are nine inviting guest rooms for world-weary travelers or those of us who just want to stay at the oldest continually operating hotel in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, I recently took advantage of a Limelight Deal offering just that. Normally open all year, they'll close from Oct. 1 through March 30 of next year for extensive updates. And don't miss the upcoming Crawdad Festival. On July 19, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., you can feast on buckets of the little iron-clad beasties, along with potatoes, corn and sausage. A summer buffet will be available for the crustacean-challenged.
    I hope to claim the room that inspired Jack London 103 years ago. I wonder if there's any literary magic in the air to help me polish my novel until it shines like a nugget amid the slush piles.
    Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.
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