An Oregon Road Trip (with a little Norcal on the side)
It was supposed to be a quick weekend jaunt. A Portland getaway. Fly up, hang out, see friends, eat, return. In, out. Easy, peasy.
Of course, while I was there this time, I'd want to make a trip out to the coast. See a beach I'd seen a picture of, see another beach I'd pinned on Pinterest. Oh, and visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory where it seemed every family member of mine had been but me. And get to Multnomah Falls. I'd need a car, of course.
And if I'd be driving, I could drive all the way to Hood River. Presumably my friend living in Eugene would join me in Portland, maybe I could drive her all the way home? Maybe I could just drive to Eugene to start?
That, my friends, is how a two-day weekend trip to Portland quickly morph into an eight-day road trip. That, and daydreaming while looking at Google Maps and connecting the dots between a handful of places you've always wanted to visit (or re-visit). So without further ado, here's the day-by-day breakdown, along with where I stayed, visited and ate (which, let's face it, is the most crucial info in this post).
After renting a car in Mill Valley, I hit the road, heading north on 101.I stopped at Mariposa Market in Willits for a sandwich, which I ate at a picnic table outside, enjoying the 90 degree heat. I detoured through the magnificent Avenue of the Giants, the old stretch of road that puts you right in the heart of one of California's most spectacular redwood forests, then arrived in Eureka around 4pm. I settled in at my hotel, then ventured out to explore "downtown" Eureka and see its most famous Victorian buildings before meandering through Booklegger's great selection of used books and eating a delicious Italian dinner at Mazzotti's before calling it a night.
I headed north for a long day of hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, hiking a loop that had been highly recommended to me by friends who had camped and hiked there a month before. From the parking lot at the visitor's center, I set off through vast redwood groves along the James Irvine Trail, venturing down the short Fern Canyon Trail as we got close to the ocean. As ocean waters receded millions of years ago, they left this dramatic canyon, now covered with ancient ferns lining its walls. I ate some lunch at the beach, then walked along a fire road about a mile to find Miner's Ridge Trail to make my way back to the parking lot, making for a good 11 - 12 mile hike all round. While there were many tourists checking out Fern Canyon (which is accessible via the fire road), both the James Irvine and Miner's Ridge trails were almost completely empty (I passed three sets of people hiking on James Irvine and two on Miner's Ridge — not bad for 5 miles of walking).
After my hike, I drove back to Eureka for dinner with friend from the halycon days of working at the college newspaper, Marc, and his girlfriend. We enjoyed sushi and the view at Bayfront Restaurant, followed by uh-may-zing ice cream at Living the Dream next door. Then it was back to my hotel to rest up for a solid day of driving the next day.
Where I stayed: Red Inn Lion
I made my way out of Eureka mid-morning, heading back up 101. I pulled over at the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, but the entrance fee seemed pretty steep for a gondola ride through some redwood trees. (I did make use of their bathroom, however.) I enjoyed the gorgeous drive until I made it to Gold Beach, Oregon, where my mom lived in the early '70s before she met my dad backpacking along the Rogue River (who was living in San Francisco). I'd never been to Gold Beach before and it had always intrigued me — where was this place my mom called home before my dad entered her life and she moved to SF and I came along? I knew she taught school and lived a fairly quiet life in the hours outside school, either off backpacking by herself in the woods or working on one of her numerous crafting projects, knitting or doing embroidery or sewing to the sounds of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the background.
Gold Beach is pretty much just a strip of motels and apartment buildings and shops along a bit of 101, with dramatic, blustery beach off to the west and forest to the east. Once upon a time, it was a booming logging town, but now it seems a little sad, weathered from the salt, ocean and withering opportunity. Still, the beach was beautiful. As I drove through I checked out which restaurants had the most cars parked out front and settled on lunch at Barnacle Bistro, where I had an excellent tuna melt, made with fresh tuna and Oregon's famous Tillamook Cheddar Cheese on homemade ciabatta.
After lunch, I continued on my way north, winding up the coastline for another hour or so before heading inland at Reedsport to take Route 38 to I-5. I hadn't known what to expect from the map and was treated to one of the most spectacular stretches of road on my drive as I wound along the Umpqua River with vast stretches of forest lining the mountains behind it. At Drain (yes, Drain), I went north to connect to I-5, then had one of the more boring stretches of road on my drive as I navigated trucks and traffic for another few hours before arriving in Eugene where I was going to see my friend Catherine.
I arrived at Catherine's in the late afternoon and we headed out for Italian food at Ambrosia Restaurant & Bar, followed by ice cream (a recurring theme of the trip) at Red Wagon Creamery. From there, we headed to Rite-Aid where I marvelled at the rows of seeds for sale and fantasized about moving to Oregon with my hot (fantasy) boyfriend where we could grow tons of vegetables and fruits and I could spend my days making pickles and pies. #lifegoals
Catherine and I headed to The Kozy for a hearty breakfast, then hit the road, heading north on I-5 for a couple hours before heading west on Route 22 (then back on 101) to make our way to the world famous Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon! My family has always only ever had Tillamook cheese stocked in the fridge, usually in the former of a brick which will be carefully preserved as we make our way slowly through the cheese. At the factory, I gobbled cheddar cheese samples to my heart's content, watched the factory workers package the bricks of cheese coming out of a machine, and had a very good (but very rich) grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, along with a few cheese curds on the side. (Needless to say, as much as I love cheese, by the end of this visit I was literally sick of cheese!)
We then made our way up 101, stopping at Rockaway Beach and Cannon Beach to take photos and wander the large stretches of sand. And then headed on Route 26 back in the direction of Portland, where we arrived in time for dinner at Irving Street Kitchen, which served new American cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced produce, meat and fish (I had excellent halibut).
I have an aunt and uncle who live in Portland, and I had actually never visited them there. (And felt rather bad about not seeing them on my first trip to Portland in the fall!) They kindly picked me up at my hotel and took me for lunch, and even brought me a pint of Oregon strawberries that morning at the Farmer's Market. Oregon strawberries can't travel far so you can only enjoy them in Oregon, and let's just say that it being June and 100 degrees outside and these berries being ripe when picked, this little pint was a real treat. We visited their house in Beavertown as well as the top of a hill to check out the views of Mt Adams, Mt Bachelor, Mt Hood, and Mt St Helens, even catching a glimpse of Mt Rainier in the far distance.
After getting back to the hotel, I hopped on the tram to wander around Portland a bit on my own, first visiting Hap Gallery to see an artist friend from college's exhibition there (Damien Gilley's Spectacular), followed by a a hipster coffee at Stumptown (obvi!) and a beer at Rogue Ales.
Then it was off to Jake's Famous Crawfish where Catherine and I feasted on classic seafood dishes before meeting up with my friends Josh and Joy for some drinks. We started with a margarita in Autentica's backyard, then a drink at Dame, then checked out the Kennedy School, having our last drink in the Boiler Room.
Where I stayed: DoubleTree by Hilton
Catherine and I hit the road mid-morning to make the drive down the famous Columbia River Highway. We stopped at the Vista House at Crown Point. four waterfalls (Latourell, Shepherd's Dell, Bridal Veil, and famous Multonomah), and Bonneville Lock and Dam before stopping for lunch and a beer along the river at Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks. From there, it was a quick drive to our Best Western Plus in the charming little town of Hood River, where we had another meal (and beer!) at Full Sail Brewery and dessert at Mike's Ice Cream.
Part of my plan with visiting Hood River was to hike in the area, and the day before, I spent a few hours talking with a guy at the hotel reception about where I could go. I settled on a hike, only to look it up on my phone while eating breakfast to discover a bridge had washed away and most of the trail was now inaccessible. I quickly changed plans and settled on a new trail along the Columbia River Gorge. While the trail might be nice in other months, it was really hot and there were loads of spider webs on all the plants at ankle-height, plus with the sound of freeway traffic in the distance, it wasn't the experience I was looking for. After hiking along the trail for 45 minutes, I turned back and headed to hike to Tamanawas Trail on the base of Mt Hood. While it was incredibly hot outside, I perserved and was rewarded with a dramatic 150 foot-high waterfall gushing over a cliff. From there it was back to the hotel for a much needed shower and dinner with Catherine at Celilo (more locally-sourced, new American yumminess).
Where I stayed: Best Western Plus Hood River Inn
Our biggest day of driving yet! We woke bright and early to hit the road to make the drive all the way south to Crater Lake. Thankfully, heading through Eastern Oregon, we were treated to all kinds of interesting geography along the way, from the incredible view of Mt Hood and surrounding forest, dry canyons of Warm Springs Indian Reservation, endless volcanoes along the horizon in the west, and rolling green farmland, stopping for lunch at Deschutes Brewery in Bend.
It was my second time visiting Crater Lake (that I can remember) and it did not disappoint. The North Entrance Road had only just opened and there was still abundant snow surrounding the lake (yes, even in mid-June). We soaked in the views for an hour, then hopped back in the car to make our way to Klamath Falls where we would be spending the night. We enjoyed some Mexican food at Los Potrillos, then called it a night in preparation for another early morning.
I dropped Catherine off at the Klamath Falls Amtrak station and headed home, saying adieu to the last of the Cascade volcanoes as I filled the gas tank in Weed, giving Mt Shasta a wave as I said goodbye. And from there, it was back to the trucks and traffic of I-5 before pulling up in my parents' driveway in the mid-afternoon, as visions of Oregon berries and beers and beaches danced in my head.
Where I stayed: Klamath Falls Holiday Inn Express