Part 1: Oregon

April 30-May 6

Wet. The wetness came first from our eyes as we left Seattle. Later, from the skies of the Oregon coast.

We looked west, to the Olympic Mountains standing majestic on their peninsula. We looked east, to the cascades, home of innumerable volcanic peaks. To the Sound, its waters the home to innumerable islands. To the city skyline, home to innumerable characters we’ve met in the time we called it our home.

It’s time to go. Our souls forever stamped with the memories made in the northwest. We are grateful.

One more victory lap as we make our way to the northeast. We’ll hit all the places we’ve lived and worked over the past four and a half years. Seattle, Santa Barbara, Phoenix. And make countless stops along the way, in familiar territory through past road trips from A to B to C.

“Time’s Always Leavin’ “ by the Lone Bellow plays on the stereo in Archie as we take I-5 south, Seattle in our rearview. Ain’t that the truth.

Our friends Alec and Hannah, who we’d met during our most recent stint in Seattle, were living just outside Portland. A few hours southbound on the interstate took us to Vancouver, WA, and we met up with them and Fitz the pup for a walk at Fort Vancouver and to a brewery for early dinner. It’s always great to see friends on the road, and we caught up for a few hours before setting out again, toward camp.

First night on the road is always a bit slow. There’s a routine to establish, a groove to catch. Beacon Rock State Park, on the Washington side of the Columbia River, was where we settled in. Only 1 other camper was staying the night. The birdsong was sharp, bright, and gentle as dusk faded away. Then silence, peace, sleep.

A mild morning, after a rough first night’s sleep in the Nest. We decided to stretch our legs on a trail that left right from camp, leading up to Little Hamilton mountain. Solitude and wet greens all around escorted us upward along flowy, cushy track. We approached the sheer castle walls of the mountaintop after a couple miles, and took the wrap-around route to the top. A bare, grassy knoll awaited us, with vistas out over the Columbia River Gorge. Fog filled the mountain-drainage cuts across the way. Waterfalls were just speckles of white lace among the massive cliffsides.

We moved down the river eastward, and left Washington via the Bridge of the Gods. It was sad to bid farewell. Wahclella falls and gorge cheered us up. Mossy, grassy slopes hugged the walls of the gorge. The falls at the trail’s terminus were swollen.

Perhaps a bit headstrong, we moved on down the road to Memaloose Hills and the endless wildflower fields for our third activity of day 1. Sunflowers, Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, and several others we don’t know, coated the hills in a haphazard, erratic fashion. “This place is like a fairy-tale,” another girl out for a walk said to us. Well put. The timing was right when we passed through town, and I am so glad Jamie’s always on top of the planning.

Tucker Park Campground in Hood River was our destination for the night. We had a couple beers at Solera Brewery in Parkdale, beneath the shadow of Mount Hood, before heading to camp. We’d stayed at the campground twice before. We’d be revisiting numerous places on this trip. This was no exception!

It was opening day at the campground, so we were one of only a few campers there. In the morning, we made breakfast, taking things a bit slow. No rush. Showered and changed, we set our bearing toward Bend, OR. It was a nice drive up through the Mt Hood National Forest, watching the vegetation slowly change from wet, green, and healthy, to dry, thirsty and tough as we came down into the Hood rain shadow.

Tumalo State Park campground outside Bend was another revisit. We set up camp and didn’t waste much time getting out in the high desert. Shevlin State Park has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to easily accessible trails. We went for a run with Charley through the dry, creekside singletrack before changing clothes for the evening and going out in Bend for my birthday. Jamie treated me to a delicious dinner at Spork and some gelato from Bonta (thanks for the rec, Lee!) as we walked along the Deschutes River in town.

It’s about 5 hours through the Umpqua National forest and across the I-5 to the coast from Bend to Bandon, our next stop. We’d break it up over two days.

But before leaving Bend the following morning, we refilled our foodstuffs at Trader Joe’s, and stopped by Sparrow Bakery for an Ocean Roll. It was delicious (thanks Katie!). Then it was a 30 minute drive up to Tumalo Mountain in the Deschutes National Forest, just across the highway from Mt. Bachelor and its ski area. We readied our gear and slapped on our snowshoes, while Charley just used her built-in snowpaw webbing. “You can really make your own way, just keep on the fall line,” said an older fellow getting his backcountry skis together. Sure!…what the hell is a fall line??

50F and sunny, we sweat as we tracked across weak snow, upwards beneath blue skies. Bachelor peeks through the pines behind us. We climb higher, Charley alternating between mush dog and mushing her body into the snow repeatedly. We reach the top 1.5 miles and 1500 ft later. The Sisters peer at us from the north, as clouds inch closer and the wind picks up. We stay for some photos and a moment of appreciation for Presence. The descent is brisk and we arrive at Arch about 45 minutes later, strip our gear and set out on our afternoon drive into the Umpqua national forest. Bypassing Crater Lake along the Volcanic Legacy Byway, we ascended up and over 5-6000 ft before plunging down a few thousand into the National Forest.

We found camp at a NF campground for $10. Before settling in for the night, we slipped up to the nearby hot springs for a soak in the woods. Only a few others were there. It was nice.

The morning of May 4th, we got an early start for our 3+ hour drive through the rest of the Umpqua and out to the coast to Bandon. Jamie had booked me a tee time at Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes, a well-known bucket list golf course on the cliffs of southern Oregon. We arrived plenty early- the property is massive, with 6 courses, all different in style and challenges. Sharp yellow gorse- an invasive, terrifyingly beautiful bush, lined the course. Thorns that seemed to come from the crown of satan lined the branches. Any ball lost in there was an automatic donation to the course.

“Hey, I’m Tim,” my caddie said as I prepped for the round by the clubhouse. “Looks like its just you and me out there, so feel free to play two balls or we’ll be stuck behind the group ahead the entire round.”

I obliged, and Jamie came and walked the course with us, taking photos and soaking in the views at the stunning property. It was 55F and cloudy, with a soft but ever-present ocean breeze. A spit of rain here and there. Charley was dry, napping in Archie and waiting for us to finish the round.

By the time we wrapped up, Jamie and I were tuckered out. We thanked Tim for the intel and stories, and set out with our dog to Sunset Bay State Park, a 30 minute drive south, to camp for the night. It was a wet night. We were hungry and worn out and our bones were cold. Our spirits dipped a bit with the collision of these maladies.

We woke at Sunset Bay the next morning, ready to turn the page on our sour attitudes. It was still wet and raw, but this road trip would inevitably ebb and flow as the weather can and will do over the course of a month. We’d have to be more resilient. The morning always seems to bring optimism and energy. Tomorrow comes despite today, mom still tells me, when I need to hear it. 

We ran the pack trail at Arago Bay that morning. It always helps to run in bad weather. For some reason, it’s less irritating than walking through the rawness. Deadfall marked the hilltop, as uprooted behemoths lie in a field like a graveyard of giants. Tall evergreens partially obstruct our view down to the Pacific, but it peeks at us from time to time. The trail brings us back along the bluffs, as we spot a colony of sea lions off the coast, among the sea stacks and islands. 

After a shower at the campground, we made our way into Bandon to take care of groceries and laundry. We drove south to Humbug mountain campground- it wasn’t to be a big driving day, maybe an hour in all.

The rains came back. Then stopped. Then came back. So it goes along the southern Oregon coast. We walked the old 101 trail from camp- the highway used to climb higher along and around a hillside- now it’s a nice, quiet and ferny stroll. We returned to camp for dinner, as the rains returned again. Our spirits dipped again. Oscillating spirits- that’d be our theme for Oregon.

Last full day in Oregon on May 6. I was warm in my bag. And dry. Charley was snuggling. Life was good, inside the Nest. Outside, raindrops slapped the plastic roof, falling off the branches of the overhanging cedar in erratic, arrhythmic fashion.

Our moods cloud up with the rain, lighten with the sun. I like rain, usually. It’s a bit different story when camping on long trips. Staying dry is the name of the game. I’d venture that we’ll have an inverse notion about sun and clouds when we reach the deserts of the southwest.

We went to Sisters Rock to stretch our legs after a quick breakfast at camp. It lifted our spirits. Succulents draped the higher reaches of the rock, out of reach of humans. A sea cave, dark and like a whale’s mouth, jostled below a crest we stood upon.

We hit some more viewpoints and short walks along the Samuel Boardman Scenic Byway: Natural Bridges, Secret Beach, Whaleshead Beach. We got to camp at Harris Beach in Brookings by mid afternoon. Walking the beach, the sun erased the clouds all around us. The islands and sea stacks were numerous, some intensely vegetated with dark green. Evening tide pooling and sunset was a relaxing way to unwind from the string of “tough” days on the road. 

In the morning, it’s time to move on to the Gold Coast.

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