The rustic Green Springs Inn, a backcountry mecca since 1981, is cutting out its full-service restaurant food and “simplifying” down to its popular burgers, burritos, quiche, pies, salads, baked goods, beer and coffee, in part because of the impact of wildfire smoke.
Nestled on Highway 66 some 17 miles east of Ashland since it was opened by Barbara and Ron McHugh, the inn will continue making food from scratch, using locally grown produce and meat, but it will be items made beforehand, says owner Diarmuid McGuire, who in 1994 bought it with his wife, Pam Marsh, now a state representative for the Ashland area. They raised four children there.
However, says McGuire, “The smoke season hurt everyone. Southern Oregon was all basically uninhabitable. ... It knocked us down. The four or five months of summer is when Southern Oregon makes its income. The rest of the year, you just keep alive. Smoke put a lot of stress on that pattern.”
The inn is near Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and plentiful camping sites, but warmer, drier weather has kept lakes low and skies smoky, making McGuire face “the reality that business is seasonal, not full-service, fine dining, 12 months a year.”
When the couple arrived from media/political jobs in the Bay Area in 1994, their children played in 4-feet-deep snow, he says, but that hasn’t happened since.
“The dramatic changes in the environment scare the s--- out of me. The snowpack and water supply in the Rogue Valley are melting away, year after year. These forests are the lungs of the planet and it should be everyone’s number-one priority to figure this out.”
Ironically, the inn, which sits near the crest of the Cascades and rents out eight rooms in its lodge plus nine vacation cabins, was often in clear skies during the smoke siege, but, he notes, locals and tourists got in the mindset that the outdoors wasn’t an option, so they didn’t try to seek relief up in the mountains.
The Green Springs Inn restaurant will undergo a four-day remodel this week, removing the counter and installing a big bakery section, featuring its house-made pies and other goodies. Customers will order at the counter, cafe-style. It will reopen Friday, Jan. 11.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.