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