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Applegate Trail Interpretive Center has stories to tell

Editor's Note: Day Trippin' is a recurring feature that gives readers a chance to play tour guide and tell us about a nearby getaway.

The Applegate Trail Interpretive Center is a well-kept secret along Interstate 5 in Sunny Valley. Most people who are traveling along that corridor have probably seen the sign and thought, “I should visit,” but never make the time.

The good news for the Rogue Valley is it’s a short, 35- to 40-minute drive from the intersection of highway 62 and I-5. Traveling north, take exit 71 and turn right at the off-ramp. You will see a two-story building that looks like an old western stage stop on the right side of the road after you drive 0.1 miles. There’s plenty of parking, and as with most museums, photos and recording devices are prohibited.

We were greeted by Betty Gaustad, the owner and operator of the museum, who introduced us to Darryl, a 90-year-old local resident. He gave us an excellent overview of the Applegate Trail and how and why it came to be. Darryl is a treasure in his own right, having had two great grandparents who came across the Applegate Trail.

All the displays in this little museum are professionally done and displayed. Make sure you take 10 minutes to watch the movie about the Applegate Trail and the crossing of Grave Creek. Throughout the museum there are actual artifacts from pioneers who traveled the trail, including diaries, utensils, tools, photos and textiles.

The museum tells more than just the Applegate Trail story. It has displays of the railroad and gold-mining era that are well done and informative. We left knowing much more than when we arrived, and with a better understanding of the story of the region. And, most importantly, a better appreciation of the struggle the pioneers faced.

Allow an hour or so to read and absorb the information presented. The museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s closed from Nov. 1 to April 1. It’s a good idea to call first to ensure it’s open, at 541-472-8545. The address is 500 Sunny Valley Loop. Entrance fees are $5.95 for adults, $4.95 for seniors and teens, and free for children 12 and younger.

When you leave the parking lot, if you turn right you'll drive through the historic covered bridge over Grave Creek. Fifty yards beyond that on the right is a memorial to Martha Leland Crowley, whom you learned about at the museum.

If you are up for another museum, one that is totally different in content and displays, on your return trip south down I-5, stop at the Crater Rock Museum, at 2002 Scenic Ave., in Central Point. It’s a couple miles from the turnoff from exit 35 onto Scenic Avenue. The museum has Smithsonian-quality specimens of gems and minerals, as well as fossils, lapidary, scrimshaw and archaeological artifacts. This one is open Tuesday through Saturday all year long. Allow at least 2 hours for this museum. Call 541-664-6081 for more information.

Patty and Chuck Albin live in Medford.

The Applegate Trail Interpretive Center contains artifacts from pioneers who traveled the trail, including diaries, utensils, tools, photos and textiles. Photo courtesy Patty and Chuck Albin