5 memorable Memorial Day outings
1. Stand-up Paddleboarding
Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of the summer boating and outdoor recreation season, so why not usher it in on your own two feet.
Medford outdoor stores such as The Black Bird Shopping Center and Northwest Outdoor Store may be several miles from the nearest lake, but they rent stand-up paddleboards so you can take this growing sport with you to area lakes — and even the Rogue River.
The boards are surprisingly steady, and it's not uncommon for paddlers to center a small, soft-sided cooler with lunch and refreshments on board then paddle off for a Memorial Day weekend picnic unlike the burgers and lawn darts of old.
The rental packages at these stores run at or less than $50 a day, which is a better deal than the hourly rentals at some waterside concessionaires, which allows you to take breaks without watching the clock.
Northwest Outdoor Store will let you test-drive one for free during a demonstration between noon and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Greensprings Spur Road boat ramp near Emigrant Lake's southern end.
2. Float the upper Rogue
The summer floating season on the upper Rogue River traditionally kicks off Memorial Day weekend, with an armada of rafts, inflatable kayaks and hard-sided playboats available for rent from numerous local liveries.
The river town of Shady Cove is home to more than a dozen places that will you rent rafts and kayaks, then shuttle you to the boat ramp at Cole Rivers Hatchery for the float down to the Shady Cove ramp.
Spring floats can be a good choice because there is a little more water in the river and a little less activity than in the heart of summer. Newbies would do well to bring along a veteran to point the way to go in places where the river forks. If not, keep an eye on the group ahead of you for guidance.
3. Hike the Ashland Watershed
Large swaths of Forest Service land and 14 miles of hiking and biking trails are back open after being closed all winter for commercial tree thinning to reduce wildfire danger and improve forest health in the woods above Ashland.
Hitting the trails on foot or bike will give you a good afternoon adventure as well as create a chance to eyeball the new-look forest, which was altered during the collaborative Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project.
Tolman Creek Road, which was closed because of log trucks all winter, is open again, and so is access to Four Corners and several trails there. If you're not one of the 50,000 visitors to the watershed annually, this could be the weekend.
4. Fish the surf
It's always a good time to visit the Southern Oregon Coast, but this is an especially good time to cast a smelly plastic bait into the vast Pacific and pull out a fish — right from the beach.
Fishing in the surf for — what else? — surfperch is a fun and surprisingly productive activity for Memorial Day weekend beachcombers.
Oregon beaches sport nine species of surfperch, but the lion's share of the catch are redtails, which are easily identified by their red or pink fins.
To get in on the action, use a steelhead-sized spinning rod rigged with a 2- to 4-ounce sinker on the bottom of a stout leader with up to three single-point hooks spaced along the leader between the weight and the swivel. Coastal tackle shops sell pre-tied surfperch rigs, or anglers can tie their own for less than a dollar apiece.
Soft plastic scented baits shaped like sand worms or shrimp work wonderfully.
5. Mountain biking
The most accessible family mountain-biking destination from the Rogue Valley can be found near the California border at Applegate Lake. Expect to find dirt suitable for all skill levels on the multitude of trails around the 36-year-old reservoir.
Casual pedalers should be satisfied with the gently rolling, 8-mile Payette Trail, which winds its way along the east side of the lake. It gives plenty of tree cover and sweeping panoramas of the water, then hooks up with the main road to make a loop along the lake's west side.
Those who want to explore a little more can take detours into the hills on the Calsh and Sinns Bar trails, and advanced riders will enjoy the climbs up to (and descents down) the Little Grayback or Cook and Green trails.
Hart-Tish Park can attract crowds, so if you want a little solace, keep heading south and across the second bridge, where the Applegate River enters the lake, to a large, grassy day-use area that's ideal for picnics.
Mail Tribune digital copy editor Forrest Roth contributed to this story.