The Oregon Coast is beautiful, and it’s shame we didn’t get to spend more time exploring it. Like a lot of places so far in America, we need to come back one day. Without even looking around Yachats, we were on the road the morning after Crater Lake. The stretch of coast we did drive up was awesome, with the obligatory stunning lighthouse / cliffs / sea / yet another whale sighting vista stops.
Turning inland, we got to McMinnville, and stopped there to meet some friends we’d met in Fiji. Eric and Erin have just returned home to the US after almost 3 years living away in Korea and then NZ (see, it could have been worse mum). We had a great lunch with those guys, and then a tasty and super strong craft beer, before pushing on to Portland. So many people had told us how cool, fun and generally weird it is and in our 3 days there it didn’t disappoint.
We stayed in an AirBnB about ten minutes out of downtown, with an amazing woman called Judy. She was a brilliant hostess, cooking us breakfast each morning and giving us lots of good info and tips about the city. It was like staying with family or a friend, and the room and bed were super comfy too! We arrived in the early evening, and caught the bus into town. We knew Oregon was famous for crafty beers, but we didn’t know it was the 27th Annual Oregon Brewfest that weekend, right on the waterfront. So, new (and totally impractical for long term travel) beer glasses and beer tokens in hand, we sampled a few beers each and soaked up the atmosphere. Things could have turned ugly when Law asked for cider and I thought we’d be run out of town, but we managed to find a berry fruity ale instead!
The following day we explored the city, which was experiencing a bit of a heat wave while we were there. The views from the Rose Garden in the west hills were amazing, over the city out to Mt. Hood on the horizon. Downtown, we got ridiculously lucky and found a free parking space, and proceeded to spend the day ticking off all the touristy highlights.
The enormous Powell’s Books, which fills an entire city block almost, was amazing. We spent a couple of hours browsing and reading in there, and managed to limit ourselves to minimal purchases. A very cool place. From there we headed into the Saturday Market, full of craft things and people performing and generally keeping Portland weird. In the afternoon we had coffee at a cool little independent place, lunch from food carts and queued for about 40 minutes in the baking sun for the world famous Voodoo doughnuts. Totally worth it.
The next day, we got out of the city and had some fun in the nearby Columbia River Gorge. The river divides Oregon and Washington, and houses (of course) some amazing scenery. Having not gotten around to doing this in NZ, we decided it was now or never for white water rafting and we spent a few hours getting wet, cold and working out on the river. We went with Wet Planet Rafting, based on the White Salmon river just across the border in Washington. The half day trip was brilliant, lasting about 4 hours and really good fun.
The guides were great, bantering with us and each other, and making sure everyone was safe. The rapids weren’t too extreme, from class 2 to 4, and some of them felt pretty epic. At one point we had to get out and walk alongside a waterfall that was too high to go over, with the option to jump off a 20 foot ledge on the other side. Obviously I was straight over, and I was very proud of Mrs H for following suit and not wussing out like a few people did! The river was pretty cold and flowing quite fast, but the helmets, wetsuits and life jackets kept us alive!
At the end of the day, we went over the 10 foot high Husum Falls. This was optional, and the guides warned people it could all go upside down, but we braved it anyway. Just as the boat got vertical we hit the water with a shock, but everyone managed to stay aboard our raft. An awesome end to the trip. After this, we drove back the scenic highway along the river, passing by waterfalls and vista points constantly great scenery. At the end of the day, we were knackered and Judy, being the amazing hostess she is, cooked us dinner!
Nowhere near enough time there, but brilliant few days in Portland.
Moving on the next day, we hit the coast again at Cannon Beach for a picnic, then Ecola State Park. Amazing coastal scenery here and best of all was Indian Beach, the place that was used instead of Belles Beach at the end of Point Break! More than worth the $5 park fee. That night we stayed in Astoria, home of one of the greatest films ever made. It was still pretty hot out, but I made Law walk a couple of miles in the evening to find 648 38th Avenue. Why? Because this is the house they used in the Goonies! And for Film Studies bonus points, we passed by the Astoria Elementary School which is where Arnie worked in Kindergarten Cop! Geek overload.
The next couple of days, the last ones of our road trip with the car, were spent on the Olympic Peninsula. We quickly ran out of superlatives on this blog for scenery, but again this was just amazing. From Astoria we crossed the 4 mile long bridge into Washington, and cruised through the forests and logging towns until we got to Lake Quinault. After a bite to eat we had to take a dip in the stunningly clear blue water, flanked by the pines and spruces and with Mountains on the horizon.
That wasn’t it for the day though, and making the most of the glorious weather inland we stopped at the Hoh Rain Forest and went for a walk. The trails here pretty flat so while we discussed my impending joblessness and Law’s impending new job same placeness, we enjoyed the huge trees, hanging moss and glacial river. Nice.
Pushing on, we didn’t stop in Forks, the home of Twilight and a pretty grim looking town altogether, and got to our accommodation in another cabin in the woods. This one was the winner, thanks to the unexpected and deliciously homemade breakfast that awaited us in the fridge! That night, braving the grey mizzle and wind, we drove down the road a bit towards Rialto Beach. The weather just added to the wildness of the place, with huge cliff stacks and whole trees of driftwood. Huddling together and drinking our wine from a plastic cup, we spotted a pod of dolphins and watched them play about in the surf for the next half an hour. Another of those holy-crap-unforgettable-type moments.
Another long blog so far but we are nearly at the end of our trip so are fitting a lot in! This is the last bit, I promise. The following morning, the skies on the coast had cleared and we went back down to Rialto. It looked totally different in this weather, and with the tide low we walked to the end and climbed through the hole in the rock. It has a real end of the world primal feel with the cliffs and trees and I took a lot of photos. A lot. Also, seeing as we hadn’t done this yet in the states, despite passing by Venice and Malibu, I made us get in the sea. It was very, very cold!
After removing my finger from the camera long enough to drive, we turned east into the park. Lunch and another, warmer dip in Crescent Lake, and then up into the mountains to Hurricane Ridge. After doing the short trails around the visitors centre, and despite the relatively late time of the day, I convinced Law that a hike up Hurricane Hill would be a good idea. A sweaty mile and a half uphill later, and the panoramic views of the Olympic Mountain Range, endless forests, the Straits of San Juan de Fuca over to Vancouver Island and Canada (our next stop) and all the way out to the Pacific proved me right. The mountain goats wandering around helped make my case too.
This meant we got in late to Port Townsend which we’d like to have had a more time in, but the huge fish burgers and wine gave us a nice taste of the town and were a great final meal of our US roadtrip. The following morning, we drove down to Bainbridge early, caught the ferry to Seattle and said goodbye to the mighty Nissan Versa after 3180 amazing miles.