Kickin’ it in CJ


Cave Junction is a three-stoplight town nestled in a valley of the northern Siskiyou Mountains in Southern Oregon. It takes five hours to drive down from Portland and is only 20 minutes from the California border. With one grocery store, two thrift stores, a pizza parlour, 89 churches and countless rivers, swimming holes and hiking trails, coming back to Cave Junction feels like stepping back in time. Not much has changed in this town since I left for college in 1998.

And I like it that way. This town, while plagued with typical small-town problems, always feels a little like Shrangi-la to me. I moved to Cave Junction in 1985, just in time to start first grade. The people I met that first day were part of my 76-strong graduating class in 1998. My mom, older brother Ahimsa and little brother (born in 1989) and I spent summers swimming and camping and picnicking and our winters sledding, baking and making snow cream.

Whenever I get the chance to come home and visit, it just feels good. I am sitting on my mom’s couch right now, drinking coffee she brewed and eating a piece of zucchini bread from the loaf I made last night. I’m heading home later today, but since I arrived Sunday, we packed in a lot of fun.

As soon as I showed up on my mom’s doorstep Sunday afternoon, the two of us took off to Little Greyback, a campground and swimming spot 10 miles up Cave Hwy. (Aside: Cave Junction is so named because it is the gateway to the Oregon Caves, a national monument made of marble caves 20 miles up Caves Hwy. Second aside: my mom sold homemade jewelry in the gift shop there when I was a kid.).



As soon as we arrived, we kicked off our shoes and waded into the cold cold river water.



We kicked back and relaxed in our chairs. I read an old Vanity Fair magazine and my mom and I sipped on a bottle of Hornsby’s cider.

Hornsby Vanity Fair

Uncharacteristic, because we usually drink wine or bubble together, but I think they were left in her fridge and she wanted to get rid of them. River Sippers it was.


That area is so nice. The caretakers, friends of my mom, have really made that place something beautiful.



(This is my mom. This is her twitter picture. Yep, she’s now on twitter. Follow her here and say hello—it’d make her day!)

After spending a glorious few hours at the river, she made us a simple dinner of sweet chili tofu, brown rice and stir-fried veggies. I used my picnic blanket dress as a backdrop for this picture:

tofu dinner

In case you think I’m ignoring my little brother, he was at a friend’s house and wouldn’t be back til Monday.

After dinner, my mom and I took Storm, her rescue dog, for a walk around the Elementary School’s track.




(Isn’t she GORGEOUS?!)



Then it was time to come home and drink mom’s homemade rose cordial with a glass of bubbles.

champagne cocktail


On Monday, we went thrifting. I bought three retro glasses for the bar at my house, five books, a belt, and a mirror for $4.75.

We stopped by Carlos’ for lunch and after two servers and a conversation with the owner, found out the the corn chips are cooked in vegetable and animal fat but they have a ‘Vegetarian Menu’ that is actually vegan. I ordered a taco with black beans, corn, lettuce, mushrooms and salsa. My mom ordered a chili relleno. (She’s been a vegetarian since 1973.) The whole bill came to $7.45. I couldn’t believe it was so cheap, so tipped $5 to make it seem more like a lunch tab I am used to. Sure, my financial brain could use a little fine-tuning.

After lunch, we headed to The Forks, a swimming hole just a mile from town. Another few hours spent just relaxing by the water.



Once we got back, I made salsa with my mom’s garden tomatoes.



My little brother Jesse arrived back shortly after we did. I took us up to the Pizza Deli for dinner. It’s been called Wild River Pizza and Brewing for probably ten years, but it will always be the Pizza Deli to me.

I love the pizza here because it’s cut into tiny little pieces and because they have SPROUTS. And they recently added vegan cheese to the menu.

Check it:


After dinner, Jesse and I took Storm for another walk.

Storm Wolf Dog

Cave Junction

Isn’t it lovely down here?

Yesterday, Tuesday, we just took it easy.(Well, that’s all I’ve been doing.) I hung out in my mom’s garden for a bit, though haven’t got any hammock time in yet.




Then the three of us packed up for the river—back to The Forks!





And I actually got in the river this time:


Being home in Cave Junction with my family feels so warm and welcoming, every single time. I’m rejuvenated, and though I’m happy to be heading back to Portland this evening, it will be bittersweet. I’m never here for quite long enough.

My mom’s headed to China tomorrow for a week, just for a visit. NBD. I’m thankful I made it down to spend time with her before she’s off on a big Beijing adventure with one of her girlfriends. And I can’t wait to see pictures.

Aaaaaand, I’m off to go enjoy the hammock before heading to the Greyhound station this afternoon.


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About Janessa

I'm a travelin' vegan gal, event planner & writer who loves eating, drinking, hiking, biking, reading, writing, loving, scheming, learning, laughing, champagne-ing and gerunds.
  • Wow, great post! I love all the pictures and stories and prices! Ohmygosh, so cheap! I absolutely adore the pictures of you and your mom puckering up, it’s absolutely adorable. Frame it! I’m glad you had a good trip! See you soon!!!

    • We were being fish! 🙂

    • Janessa

      Everything is less expensive in Cave Junction except for the Grocery Store–a package of Earth Balance cost $5.88. *Faint*

  • That dress is so.cute!! Sounds like an awesome vacation.

    • Janessa

      Thanks, Geanna! It WAS an awesome vacation!

  • Abby

    Loved this post Deary!! Your photographs are beautiful and I love that you wore those wedges to the river. That’s the Nessa I know and love!!

    • Janessa

      Thanks, beautiful!!

  • What a sweet adventure you had! I would love love love to visit the Oregon Caves. When we first arrived in Portland last month, someone we met at Stumptown our first morning said that the very best thing about Portland is that it’s in Oregon, because Oregon is the most magical of all the states. I haven’t been anywhere yet, but from pictures and stories, it certainly seems to be true! Can’t wait to explore all over the place. Those rivers look so serene, and the lush greenery….wow. And I agree with TheSpicyVegan, that pucker face picture is definitely frame-worthy!

    • Janessa

      I am glad you moved to Oregon–there’s definitely so much to explore! And congrats on getting a job! 🙂

  • I miss the Illinois River soooo much! I have a grip of photos of myself and my various compatriots in that exact same spot at the Forks. CJ and its surrounding areas certainly had its small town problems, but it’s got small-town charm, too. Going back as an adult, you see all the small things you took for granted as a kid – swimming holes, climbing trees, fresh air, cheap Carlos’ food, and ZOMG that pizza. Every time I go to visit my mom I try to stop at the Brewery in Grants Pass and pick up a pizza there.. tiny little squares of deliciousness!

    • Janessa

      That pizza is seriously the best pizza in the world. I want to eat pizza in tiny little squares forever!

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