Prospect Hotel, mountain jewel near Crater Lake

Highway 62 north from Medford, Oregon gains altitude as my car climbs between wheat-colored hills past Eagle Point . When the last house of Shady Cove fades in the rear-view, the Lost Creek Lake reservoir is all there is. And nothing else. Except the sinking feeling that I could have made a wrong turn miles back.

Slowly, a roadhouse and then a few signs appear indicating to me that I’m not lost at all. I turn off the main road and pull into the parking lot fronting the 1888 Historic Prospect Hotel and Dinner House. There are more cars in the lot than I expect to see way out here . . .or maybe, the remote location is the reason they are here after all.

I round the corner of the generous porch and through the old door as the screen snaps shut behind me. From behind the counter, a smiling Fred and Karen Wickman greet me. They are the proprietors. It says so on their business card. But Fred says, that it only means he is the “grounds keeper, plumber, cook and chief bottle washer too!”

Up the narrow stairs, I find my way to a white-washed room with quiet garden view. A huge quilt-covered brass bed dominates this painted board and batten space tucked under the eaves. Now close your eyes. If you had a dear old aunt living in the country, what would her house look like? Yes, there is a porch swing, two friendly horses, a shady garden path, swimming hole, waterfall nearby, quiet country road, the best night‘s sleep ever and home cooked meals.

Rest is not in the cards, so I put on fresh clothes and wander downstairs to explore. I poke around the hotel, size up the library, walk the garden and follow the hotel’s hand-drawn map to the nearby Mill Creek and Rogue River viewpoint.

Later, I join Fred and Karen for dinner in the Hotel’s restaurant. After a quick flip through the menu, I ask how they can offer so many items when shopping in Medford is 43 miles away? It’s Fred who answers first,” down side is we have to go get it- the up side is we have to go get it.” It’s built in quality control he tells me.

The prime rib, salmon and vegetarian lasagna are a specialty. Breakfast comes with the room and is more than you’d expect. Fred is happy to share the recipes. Find the Wild Blackberry Cobbler or Whole Wheat Hazelnut French Toast online at their website. The kitchen turns out comforting portions of down- home food, done well. And everyone gets to try “ Karen’s Veggie Wedgies“- a combo of carrots, zucchini, mozzarella, feta, onion and egg in a wedge shape she first concocted for her own kids back in the day when sports practice and busy schedules dominated their lives.

We enjoy some Oregon wine as I listen to the journey that brought them here. Short story- Fred “was corporate” and Karen a nurse in California. Seeking a more fulfilling path and a quieter existence, they followed their hearts and were lead to this Prospect paradise. I ask Karen what Prospect Hotel’s philosophy is in brief and she shares this,” we are all about making people feel comfortable and relaxed.” I guess it worked for the visitor that wrote in the guestbook,“ never been to Oregon, never come this far. I‘ve got the house sold in my mind.” I wonder, did they ever make it back here?

As a better alternative to staying overnight at busy Crater Lake Lodge, the Prospect Hotel works out perfectly. To find out more about this lazy place to land while you explore the area , visit www.prospecthotel.com ( 541-560-3664, 391 Mill Creek Drive in Prospect).