Road Trip to Oregon

I just got home from a week long solo driving tour of Oregon, a state I had not previously visited, and it was awesome. Me and my little orange Prius C took a 1500 mile break from life. No work, no obligations, and all new things to see. I took a lot of photos, walked and hiked many miles, and felt myself decompress from the monotony of day to day repetition of job, gym, home, job, gym, home. By the end of the week, I was still having a great time, and aside from missing my boyfriend, I didn’t want to come home. That is unusual for me when it comes to vacations, as I am usually ready to come home by day 4 or 5. With this though, I felt like I could keep going for another week, maybe another month, maybe forever! Well, it is not to be. I will be back to work tomorrow, on Monday, but before that happens, I wanted to write this post about what I did and saw while it is still fresh in my mind.

Ashland-Lithia Park
Sunset in Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon

On Sunday, I drove to Ashland, OR on I-5. The drive was as quick as it could be, and blissfully free of traffic. On the way there, I had my first view of one of California’s tallest mountains, Mt Shasta. I believe it was also the first time in my life I had ever seen a volcano. I crossed the Oregon border for the first time in my life, visiting a new state and the farthest north I have been on the west coast. I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown Ashland and Lithia Park, a beautiful city park. Ashland was adorable. I would have liked to have spent more time there. The next morning I was up before dawn and went out for breakfast at a place that had this beautiful view of Ashland and the surrounding countryside.

Sunrise in Ashland

Next, I headed to Crater Lake National Park on the way to Portland. The drive there was just lovely, miles and miles of forest and nice easy straight roads. For such a remote park, it was quite easy to access. The view overlooking the mountains around Crater Lake was perfect on such a clear day. I know I got lucky with the weather on this trip, it was all sunny blue skies and 60-70 degree temperatures. Often at this time of year Crater Lake can be snowed in, but no snow had yet fallen.

Crater Lake-view of southern OR
View from Crater Lake, looking south. Mt Shasta in the distance

The lake itself, which fills what used to be the top of a large mountain that exploded thousands of years ago in a volcanic eruption, was an amazing deep blue color. The water comes entirely from precipitation, mostly melted snow, making it very pure and clear. There was a lot I learned about the geology of Oregon in this week, and much if it had to do with volcanoes, a new and interesting experience for me having never spent any time in a volcanic landscape before.

Crater Lake-perfect blue sky
Crater Lake, a lake in a volcano with another volcano in the middle of the lake

When I left Crater Lake, I headed up to Portland. I found out I love Portland. As a person with celiac disease, I was in gluten free heaven. I never realized how deficient the Bay Area is in that regard, but in Portland, I almost felt like a normal person again. Everywhere I ate, I found that people knew what I was talking about with the need to be gluten free, which is not the case where I live, sadly. Even the grocery stores had better GF bread options. I would move to Portland for that alone. Monday evening, I had an amazing dinner at a Peruvian tapas place with a live Spanish guitar player providing wonderful ambiance.


Portland-fall colors
Portland OR, Mt Hood in the distance

I stayed in a really nice vacation rental apartment in Beaverton, hosted by a lovely older couple who gave me lots of good tips about things to do. I love meeting people who are obviously proud of the place they live and want to share it with visitors. I took their advice and headed east to the Columbia River Gorge on Tuesday morning to see the views and waterfalls.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

I stopped at two falls in the gorge, both easy short walks from the parking. What a beautiful place! My first thought upon seeing Latourell Falls was “it’s like Yosemite without the people and with more foliage!” It was early in the morning, which always reduces crowds, but I was amazed to see such astonishing waterfalls in peace and quiet.

Latourell Falls
Latourell Falls

Next I took a short trail to Bridal Veil Falls, another quiet and peaceful place at that time of day. With the soft light of the morning and the fall colors just starting to show, it was a perfect photographer’s place to see.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

I decided not to continue to the famous Multnomah Falls area due to a road closure which would have made visiting it a circuitous drive, and not wanting to deal with the crowds that would surely be at such a popular tourist spot. Instead, I headed back to Portland to Washington Park. First, I visited the rose garden, which was enormous and very impressive.

Portland-rose garden
Washington Park rose garden

Again it was a perfectly sunny day and I enjoyed one of my favorite activities, taking pictures of roses and stopping to smell them.

Portland-rose garden rose
One of many photos of roses I took that day

I wavered a little about going into the Japanese Garden because it looked quite busy and there was a fee, but I was so glad I decided to do it. I have been to many Japanese gardens, but this one was by far the nicest and largest I have seen. It was very peaceful, even with the other tourists milling about and I could have stayed there all day.

Portland-Japanese gardens
Japanese Garden

There were so many beautiful details and the fall colors added a lot to the green and mossy color palette. I would love to see what that place looks like in the fog.

Portland-Japanese Garden detail
Mossy stone in the Japanese Gardens

That afternoon I headed to the famous Powell’s City of Books, which was indeed a City of books. Wow! I love books and it was overwhelmingly cool to visit such a huge book store. Finally, in the evening I had Thai food for dinner and wandered around some little shops. It was a perfect day. I probably should have scheduled more time in Portland, the next day I headed south again. Before I left, I met a friend for coffee at a wonderful gluten free bakery where I had a slice of quiche and got some baked goodies to go.

On my way to Eugene, I went to Silver Falls State Park. What an incredible place that turned out to be! I chose to go there because I wanted to do a little hiking on this trip, but being alone, I didn’t want to go anywhere remote and I read that it was quite a popular place. This turned out to be true and even on a Wednesday morning, there were quite a lot of people. But, as with almost any 8 mile hike, people mostly gathered up near the beginning and spread out quite a lot once I got a few miles into it. So I got to enjoy some quiet solitude in nature, while also feeling like it was a pretty safe place to be alone.

Silver Falls fall colors
Fall colors at Silver Falls State Park

The falls combined with the fall colors created a sublime scene. Around every corner, there was a photographer’s dream composition. And there were 10 big waterfalls on the trail, a few of which had trails that took you behind the falls. Again, I felt like it was just as cool as Yosemite, and nowhere near as crowded. Silver Falls could easily be a National Park, but I’m glad it’s not since most people have never heard of it and that means it’s not completely overrun with tourists on a sunny October weekday.

Silver Falls State Park
Waterfalls and fall colors, photography dream come true

That evening I arrived I Eugene and I was beat. So I had dinner at “home” (the little cottage I rented) and spent the evening relaxing. Thursday, I walked around downtown Eugene and visited an art museum on campus before having another memorable gluten free dinner. There is a burger joint there, Dickie Jo’s, that has gluten free options and even a dedicated fryer. It had been years since I had a “fast food style” burger and fries. Such a simple thing, but it was a great treat since I can never have it, no matter how good it sounds.

Friday, I was time to start heading home. I decided to drive to the coast so that I could see something different than I had seen on the way up, opting to take 101 South instead of I-5. The drive from Eugene to the coast through fall colored forest and fog in the morning was beautiful. It was very foggy on the coast, so it was some time before I saw the ocean.

My trusty Prius C
My trusty Prius C parked along the coastal highway in the fog

When the ocean finally came into view, it was gorgeous and sparkling as usual. The drive along the Oregon coast in this area is not treacherous like it is on 1 in California. It was a nice easy highway drive with lots of places to stop and admire the Pacific.

Oregon coast
Pacific Ocean beach in Oregon

When I crossed the state line back into California, it was early afternoon and there was time to stop and see my friends, the redwood trees. Since I had just been to Redwood National and State Parks earlier this summer, I was already familiar with the area and knew just where I wanted to go. First I stopped at Jedediah Smith to visit the Stout Grove, which I am convinced has real magic in it. Visiting ancient redwoods is like time travel to me. They have been standing there for longer than my imagination can encompass. The late day light was lovely.

Jedediah Smith-Stout Grove
Stout Grove at Jed Smith

Then I drove south through Prairie Creek on the Newton B Drury scenic parkway. Wow! That is a gorgeous drive. It was getting dark by that point, so I didn’t have time to do any visiting with the trees, but I really enjoyed the view from the car. A lot of the trip was like that. I could have stopped to take pictures every few minutes, but then I never would have gotten anywhere, so it will just have to live in my memory.

Finally it was time to head home on Saturday. After staying the night in Arcata, I got up early and headed to Humboldt Redwoods Avenue of the Giants. There, I visited the Grieg-French Bell Grove, which I did not see when I was in Humboldt earlier this summer. Oh how lovely and peaceful it was early in the morning. I was the only person there, even on a Saturday.

Humboldt Redwoods
Humboldt in the morning

From there, I headed home. 101 south from Oregon is a much more interesting drive than I-5, but not as fast. I ended up coming back over the Golden Gate Bridge, which had its fair share of tourists doing the same thing I had been doing for the last week, gawking and taking photos of the beautiful foggy Marin headlands. I was tempted to stop myself, but I live here. I can go take that photo any time and I was feeling pretty worn out from the long week of driving.

C590DBC4-92D6-471C-80C1-E4C3E1B17585I had a great time on this trip and I really loved Oregon. Now that I have done this whirlwind tour, I have ideas about where I’d like to visit again and spend more time. Portland turned out to be just as cool as it seemed to me from reading about it, and I would like to move there some day when I am ready for the next change of scenery. All told, it was a perfect week and I loved every minute of it.









Prairie Creek Redwoods

I saved my favorite for last. We visited Prairie Creek Redwoods twice. The first time, we did a long, 15 mile, hike that started at the visitors center, where we saw the elk herd grazing in a meadow. From there, we took James Irvine to Fern Canyon. Fern Canyon was really cool. Just an unbelievable amount of green there. Then there was a mile of walking along an undeveloped stretch of beach, which was harder than it sounds. The sand was very soft and smooshy, which made every step an effort. Then it was back to the beginning on Miners Ridge. Just a lovely trip all around, with so many different things to see.

The second visit to the park was a shorter hike, but the part I liked the most, which I didn’t really capture in my photos well, was along Prairie Creek itself. The ancient trees there are so enormous and many of them are strange- gnarled and twisted. You get the feeling they must have some real stories to tell. And this park as a whole is very lush and feels quite wild. If there’s anywhere you feel like a dinosaur could appear at any moment, this is it.


Jedediah Smith Redwoods

The northernmost redwood park I visited this week was Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. There were beautiful trees here, some really massive ancient beings. I loved the Stout Grove, which was packed full of tourists and a bit too crowded for my taste in the morning,  but beautifully quiet later in the afternoon. When I had it mostly to myself, I wandered around it for a few hours, just taking it all in. The afternoon light slanting through the trees and down into the ferns was gorgeous.

I also quite enjoyed the banks of the Smith River, which was able to be crossed by footbridges, only in summer. The park ranger we spoke to told us the bridges had only just been put in last week, so we got lucky to be able to complete a hike that included both sides of the river. I hiked 12 miles this day and my friend hiked 16. I got to spend a lot of peaceful solitary time in nature, both gazing up at the trees and later looking out across the river. I found myself a quiet spot and hung out there for awhile, absorbing the peaceful scene. I enjoy hiking, but I also enjoy stopping and resting in nature. It is rejuvenating.



Humboldt Redwoods

I just got back from a hiking trip in the redwood forests of Northern California. We visited several parks and I plan to post one entry for each. First off was Humboldt Redwoods State Park, on the way to where we were staying for the week in Arcata. Humboldt reminded me more of Hendy Woods or even Kings Canyon/Sequoia in terms of the way the forests feel. It is more open and dry than the northern parks, with less ferns and more of that stately glowing light I associate with the other redwood forests I have seen. These parks are comprised of forests ofcoast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, unlike the redwoods of the Sierra Nevada which are Sequoiadendron giganteum. Although they are different trees, they have some similarities, notably, their gigantic size and reddish bark.

Humboldt is not on the coast, which probably accounts for much of the difference in the feeling of the forest itself. It seems more open. There is a famous scenic drive through the middle of the park, Avenue of the Giants. This is a pleasant detour from highway 101 and I can’t see ever skipping it when passing by here even if you don’t plan to hike or even get out of the car. The trees are beautiful and impressive and the forest has a wonderful fragrance. It feels more calm and serene than the forests we visited later in the week which seemed truly wild and lush. On this day we did hiked 8 miles.


Wildflowers of South Skyline

Wildflower season continues and the hills are still green, but they are showing signs of imminent browning. Soon we will return to the Bay Area of Golden hills, after this brief interlude of green. I wandered through four adjacent parks today, Monte Bello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, and Skyline Ridge.  Around every bend I was greeted by magnificent views and an abundance of many kinds of wildflowers. I’m focusing this post on the flowers, and may return with some vistas tomorrow or later in the week.


Yosemite in Black and White

Yosemite in April, and the weather was perfect. The waterfalls were raging and making rainbows in the mist. There was a half moon hanging in the clear blue sky in the afternoon. The rockface was shining in the sun, melting snow sending water pouring down. There were faces in the rocks.

I’d never been to Yosemite before, and I saw the famous landmarks and hiked up the side of a giant waterfall. Tonight I edited some of my photos from the first day in black and white, like Ansel Adams. I thought Ansel Adams was a woman until not that long ago. I never knew anyone named Ansel and it struck me as a woman’s name for some reason. Even though I have now seen photos of him and I know he was a man, I still have this residual feeling in my head that the photos were taken by a woman.

Well, a woman did take these photos:


Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin

The last time I visited Big Basin, I had not yet learned to shoot with a DSLR and was still taking pictures with my iPhone. High contrast nature scenes, like what you find in a shady forest with dark shadows and bright patches of sunlight, are one of the situations where phone photography falls short. So it was really fun to revisit this park with a real camera. We hiked out and back to Berry Creek Falls. Along the way, we saw blooming redwood sorrel, wake robin, canada violet, star solomon’s seal, and more forest flowers. It’s the perfect time of year for a waterfall hike here, right after the rain, wildflower season in full effect. Big Basin has some of the most beautiful redwood forest in the Bay Area.



Methuselah and Tafoni

I headed up to El Corte de Madera this morning, a park I haven’t been to in awhile. It’s a large park, with almost an overwhelming array of trail choices. First I stopped off on the opposite side of Skyline Blvd and took a look at a 1900 year old tree, aptly named Methuselah. Then I headed into the park. Usually when I go hiking I make a clear plan about what I’m going to do, sometimes with an option to make it shorter if I get worn out.  But today I just decided to choose whichever trail seemed more attractive when I came to a junction (and refer to a map of course to make sure there was a plausible way back). I found this quite enjoyable and ended up doing a 6.6 mile loop that took me to see the Tafoni sandstone formation for which the park is known and back to my car in a loop.

I got to thinking about how I tend to choose a loop at a given park and do it over and over again. Nothing wrong with that, but I realized there are a lot of trails I’ve never seen even within parks I have been to many times. So I decided I would start keeping track of the trails I hike on a big paper map I have of the whole area (from Redwood Hikes, by the way, excellent maps) and make an effort to diversify my trail selection. I am probably missing some hidden gems.