We headed down the 101 into Oregon gazing at the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.  Oregon’s Pacific Coast is simply stunning with its towering vistas and crashing waves.  We cruised down the 101 taking in the charming seaside towns and craving clam chowder an absolute must eat on the Pacific Coast.  I can count on one hand the number of times we have dined out since starting our journey in July, and two of the times were bowls of creamy delicious fresh made clam chowder on the Oregon Coast.  We couldn’t resist.  Besides clam chowder another thing we loved about Oregon was the full service gas stations.  It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon so there are attendants that pump it for you and clean your windshield…Amazing! There were also lots of quaint farms with people selling bouquets of beautiful flowers at roadside stalls.  They make good cheese in Oregon! We had been eating Tillamook Cheese from the store and we actually drove through Tillamook at one point and we passed a field full of black and white cows and a big billboard from Tillamook Cheese Company saying “Meet our Cheese Makers,” so cute!

Our first stop was at Nehalem Bay State Park, right on the beach.  It was still raining, we weren’t far enough from Washington yet I guess, so we threw on our rain coats and climbed over the sand dunes to the beach to admire the views.  Even in the rain it felt good just to watch the waves crash and smell the salty air.  We spent one night here and then headed all the way down the coast to the Oregon Dunes for Labor Day Weekend.  The dunes were a sight to see and a mecca for ATV’s and Dune Buggy’s.  We stayed at Bluebill Campground and enjoyed a short bike ride to the beach everyday.  There were dune buggy’s everywhere and we couldn’t help but burst into a rendition of the President’s of the United States song “Dune Buggy” several times a day.

When we were cruising down the 101 to the Dunes we came across a beautiful area on the coast called Cape Perpetua and decided to head back up there after Labor Day for a few more days on the coast.  We stayed at Carl Washburn State Park, it became a favorite of mine.  From the campground you could walk through a forest that’s floor was thick with green moss.  If you’ve ever been to Graceland, picture Elvis’ Jungle Room! The forest trail turned into a tunnel of vegitaton and then the beach!  We watched crab after crab wash up on the shore as the seabirds swooped in to enjoy a delicious seafood fare. We saw the most beautiful sunsets here! The beaches along the coast here are mostly state or national parks so they are unspoiled by hotels.  From this location we visited Hecta Head Lighthouse and did some hiking at Cape Perpetua.  The pictures don’t do this place justice.  The rock formations and crashing waves really show the power of the ocean.  We drove from scenic spot to scenic spot one more beautiful than the next.  Devil’s Churn was especially beautiful and it was cool to see surfers braving the cold waves at Newport Beach.

It was hard to say good-bye to the coast but we had to head to a place I’ve been dying to see-Crater Lake! Crater Lake is an amazing spot that shows how volcanic activity can shape a landscape.  The water in this lake is said to be some of the purest in the world and you can see deeper into the water here then in most other bodies of water.  Light reaches down 460 feet it’s so clear.  It is one of the deepest lakes in America at 1900 feet. The water is an intense blue and the air is so clear and pure here you can see for 100 miles in any direction.  The surrounding mountain views are just as beautiful as the lake.  We took a hike up to Watchman’s Tower, a fire spotting tower they still use today to get a view of Wizard Island from above.  During the summer tourists can take a boat ride tour to the Island and hike there, the boat tours were already stopped for the year during our visit and we were pretty disappointed, but there was so much other cool stuff to see we got over it pretty quickly.  We took a bike ride on Grayback Road, a gravel road closed to motor vehicles.  It was quite a climb but really fun to cruise back down! We also hiked to a place called the Pinnacles.  The pinnacles are fossil fumaroles that were created when lava flow covered the riverbed in the Sand Creek Canyon, steam and gases were released from hot rocks underneath sheets of cooling volcanic pumice.  These towering spires look delicate but are actually really solid.  They made interesting shapes and some were together in groups or villages remind me of a Harry Potterish landscape.  Very cool! We also hiked to Pinnacle Falls, then went back to an overlook at the lake and spent an evening watching the sunset with a couple tall, cold Oregon brews.

While at Crater Lake we stayed at Farewell Bend Campground about 20 minutes outside the park along the Rogue River in the Siskiyou-Rogue National Forest. We had the best spot at the campground! Our spot had its own private beach area right along the river.  We set up our chairs on the shore and even got out the telescope one night for star viewing. The river was so clear and inviting I wanted to jump in but after dipping a toe I realized it was super cold!  The average temperature of the Rogue is 44 degrees.  Burr!  From our campground we could take a short hike to the Rogue River Gorge and see the power of the water moving through the gorge.  I recommend staying here if you visit Crater Lake.

Our final stop in Oregon was at Prineville State Park.  A different side of Oregon, we were now in the high desert.  A beautiful landscape but so different from the west side of Oregon, we had to watch for Rattlesnakes here. Luckily we didn’t run into any. This was a convenience stop on our way to Idaho because of its proximity to the town of Prineville for groceries and laundry.  It was a really nice campground though on the Prineville reservoir with the best shower I have had so far on this trip! Tons of water pressure and hot water and a private room.  We have taken some interesting showers during our travels.  That could be a whole other blog post on its own.

So we zigged across the Northwest and now we are zagging across into Idaho.  More adventures coming soon!




Washington-Part 2 Forks and the Olympic Peninsula

Onward from Mount Rainier we headed northwest onto the 101 scenic bi-way heading around the Olympic Penisula and Olympic National Park. As we cruised onto the 101 the salty sea smells from the Hood Canal begged us to stop and camp at Seal Rock Campground.  We pulled in and were lucky enough to find a spot with water views.  This place was absolutely charming with a boardwalk going through the woods and down to the rocky shore.  Crabbing and shell fishing were popular activities.  We enjoyed sitting by the water watching seals play in the surf and if the sky was really clear we could see Mount Rainer in the distance across the water.  We spent a day biking on the Olympic Discovery Trail, a bike trail that goes for 132 miles across the Olympic Penisula, from Port Townsend to the beach resort town of La Push on the Pacific Ocean, some of it is on the 101 but a good chunk is on a separate paved path that was formerly a railroad track line.  We biked an 8 mile chunk near the town of Sequiom. One of the highlights of the trail is that the Audubon Center sits on the trail. You can stop in and visit the museum full of taxidermied birds and other wildlife that are native to the area.  Well worth a visit for animal lovers and bird watchers.

After we left Seal Rock we continued on the 101 heading towards the west side of the Olympic Penisula to Klahowya campground in the Olympic National Forest. This was a great campground situated on the Sol Duc River in a rainforest setting.  The sites were huge and many of them were right on the river.  During the summer they do float trips along the river behind the campground.  We spent a day in search of waterfalls, hiking to Merrymere Falls and Sol Duc Falls, stopping to eat our lunch on the shores of Lake Crescent.  Both hikes were easy and went through enchanting rainforests that reminded me of Alice and Wonderland.  Merrymere Falls was a beautiful long cascade of water where Sol Duc was a powerhouse of pouring water coming from the Sol Duc River and bursting over the rocks.  Of course it was also raining and we were bundled up in our rain jackets. I have to say the people that live here full time are a hearty bunch. They throw on their rain jackets and go hiking and biking like it’s  a beautiful sunny day and it doesn’t phase them a bit! Even tent camping was no big deal for them, they just hung an extra tarp from tree to tree to give them a sheltered area. We followed suit, threw on our rain jackets and had a great time hiking through the forest!

From our camp at Klahowya it was also an easy 20 minute drive into the town of Forks. Being a Twilight fan I couldn’t resist going for a visit to the scene of one of my favorite stories.  The town has totally jumped on the Twilight bandwagon, made me wonder what they had going on before Twilight.  A quick stop at the Chamber of Commerce made for a photo opportunity with Bella’s trucks.  They have two models, one from the book, and one from the movie, they used a different model year for the movie.  Stopping inside the friendly folks give you a packet for a self-guided Twilight tour of the town.  While I was checking out the packet Ryan was snapping pictures of a herd of Elk that were checking out the small airstrip across the street.  We jumped in the truck and started making our way around the town checking out the Swan Residence, the community hospital where Dr. Cullen has a reserved space, the high school, the police station, the Cullen Residence, which is a bed and breakfast, and the outfitter store where Bella worked.  They even page her from time to time in the store! On the main drag of Forks you will find many shops geared towards Twilight and a few places that offer guided tours.  It was a fun stop (for me anyway, at least Ryan got to see some Elk) and a must see if you are in the neighborhood for Twilight fans.

That pretty much concludes our stay in Washington. It had something for everyone and the temperature changes amazed me.  One day we were sweating it out in the 90’s and the next freezing in the cold rain and 50 degree weather.  A great state that I think we will come back and visit again sometime.  If we had more time I would have loved to do some more biking on the Olympic Discovery Trail.  We saw so many people that were biking the whole trail, packing their camping gear on their bikes and stopping along the way at campgrounds.  It was a really nice set up for the adventurous biker.  So time to hang up the rain jackets and head for Oregon.

Washington- Spokane and Mount Rainier

It’s been awhile! I’m happy to report we are still on the road and having adventures, just no internet or phones most of the time. You can expect several posts in a row now that we are back online for a few days! So here’s what we have been up to. After several weeks in the mountains of Montana we were in need of a resupply mission, luckily just over the border was the lovely big city of Spokane, Washington. We settled into Riverside State Park for several days so we could have some cell phone and internet service, do the laundry, the grocery shopping, get my bike fixed (I sort of crashed in North Dakota and broke something on my bike, and also ended up with a nice bruise on my butt), etc. Spokane was a great city, very large but spread out with businesses mixed in with residential areas, and little neighborhood bars and restaurants gave the city a charming appeal. I am convinced that Washington runs on espresso. On every corner is a little espresso hut or coffee shop, even the tiny, no stop sign towns we passed through had at least one espresso hut. You can get your espresso served anyway you like it, Lingerie Espresso, Bikini Espresso, Guys in Underwear Espresso. There is probably even one with people dressed as clowns if that’s your thing. I’m not a coffee drinker myself but I enjoyed driving around seeing all the creative ways people were coming up with to make their espresso hut stand out from the rest. Spokane also gets the award so far for the place with the nicest people I’ve ever met. Everywhere we went people wanted to know what our plans were for the day, or what they could help us with, and they genuinely seemed to care what we were up to for the day. Maybe they are smoking the recreational marijuana, I don’t know, but everyone was in a really good mood in Spokane and it made it a great place to plug in and resupply our rig for a few days. It was also super convenient to have a State Park so close to town. The park itself had something for everyone, you could kayak the river, hike through the forest, or enjoy a scenic bike ride along the bluffs of the river. To escape the sweltering heat (it was in the 90’s during our visit) we spent our last few days camping right on the shore of Lake Spokane. The campsites were really close together, not our ideal, but you couldn’t beat walking 10 steps to the water to cool off or drop in your kayak. There was also a paved bike trail right from the campground.
From Spokane we headed west to explore Mount Rainier. We love camping in the National Forest areas whenever possible because they are usually pretty cheap and being in nature is what it’s all about for us. For our Mount Rainier segment we choose Little Naches Campground in the Wenatchee National Forest for our base. The town of Naches was a short thirty minute drive away and was full of fruit markets from the surrounding orchards. While we were driving back from the town to our campsite we came across a herd of Big Horn Sheep. They were kind enough to let us photograph them, they are a magnificent animal with their huge, curling horns. While we were at Little Naches we kayaked on Bumping Lake and rode our bikes along the scenic roadways and forest roads. The famous Pacific Crest Trail ran through forest as did many ATV trails and tons of campgrounds, many of them free, making this area a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.
As we drove up the mountain pass from Little Naches the views got more breath-taking as we climbed, eventually the commanding presence of Mount Rainier came into view. It towered above the rest of the peaks, covered in glaciers and surrounded by forest and meadows of wildflowers. We spent a day driving through the eastside of the park, stopping for pictures and amazing views. We made our way all the way to the upper northwest corner of the park for a very different experience. Here was a beautiful rainforest running alongside the Carbon River. The Carbon River road is perfect for bikers like us because it has been closed to vehicle traffic and is open now only for hikers and bikers. The rainforest was full of towering trees and rhododendrons so large they could swallow us. The smell of the rainforest is so unique to me, like a cross between a musty basement and the freshest air I’ve ever smelled, it really assults your senses. Hikers can take the 5 mile Carbon River Trail to a campground at the end of the trail where they can begin a journey on the Wonderland trail, a hiking trail that traverses Mount Rainier National Park and displays everything it has to offer, rainforest, mountains, rivers, and wildflower meadows. A beautiful place to marvel at nature!
Stay tuned for Washington- Part 2, Forks and the Olympic Peninsula!