From the Mountains to the Sea: The Oregon Coast

Leaving the warm confines of Mary and Roger’s home just outside of Portland, we headed over the mountains into the high desert to camp in Bend, Oregon for a couple of nights.  Unfortunately, our arrival coincided with the day the government shut down.  While this didn’t hurt our camping plans in Oregon (the state has a fantastic park system), it did mean we were blocked from visiting several of the places we wanted to check out.  For starters, we weren’t able to see much of Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  We headed over there on the morning of the shut down, hoping to see a bit before the monument was fully closed, but we only got so far as one back road that had not yet been gated.  We had been looking forward to it since we enjoyed Craters of the Moon so much, but instead we spent the day checking out the great town of Bend.  We spent the morning at the fantastic town library.  While we intended to read with Van, he spent the entire time playing with the library’s toys and the many, many other children who were also at the library that morning.  While we were both big fans of Bend, we decided that two nights was the limit because the temperature was dipping into the twenties at night.  Even with the long underwear, hat, sleeping bag, and blanket, Van was still a little icicle in the morning.  We now know that camping in the thirties, while not ideal, is completely doable, but camping in the twenties is something we’ll try hard to avoid.

Instead of heading south to Crater Lake, which was our original plan before the government shut down, we headed east on the Cascade Lakes Highway toward the coast.  And what a beautiful drive it was!  I’m disappointed we missed Crater Lake, but so happy we were able to travel on this majestic road.

The Imposing Mount Bachelor

The Imposing Mount Bachelor

Our Route

Our Route

Utter Stillness and Silence

Stillness, Silence, Breathtaking

We woke up in the high desert, traveled through snowy mountains, and ended our day at the rugged and windswept Oregon coast.

View of the Pacific Ocean

View of the Pacific Ocean

Windswept, Indeed

Windswept, Indeed

We packed a lot into those four days, from an after-hours lighthouse tour (thank you to the gracious lighthouse keepers that showed us around after we let ourselves in to the open door, not realizing it was not open for tours at that time – oops!), to a fantastic tour of the historic Hughes House at Cape Blanco State Park, as well as beach walks, rock throwing, and wave watching.

But even with a hobble in Alan’s step, we were still able to appreciate the unparalleled beauty of the Oregon coast.  Because the state granted public access to all of its beaches back in the 1960s, Oregon is a great place to view accessible and unspoiled coastline.  And we were not alone.  There were lots of other folks, including many bicyclists, making their way down the coast.  You can’t drive more than a few miles before hitting another excellent and affordable state park.  We were practically tripping over great places to picnic and camp.  If only traveling were always this easy…

The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast

How to Dry Out in Style

After several kind invitations to please think about coming earlier than planned due to the non-stop rainstorms we’d been camping in, we finally decided to take my sister-in-law’s parents up on the offer.  We were planning to stay for three nights, but with the weather and the fun we were having (and their amazing hospitality), three quickly turned into six.  While we did get out twice for some sightseeing, once in Portland and once in the gorgeous areas east of Portland, we spent most of the time hanging out, playing, eating, and talking.  We left feeling amazingly thankful for their generosity and having had a really great time getting to know them better.  They are no longer just my sister-in-law’s parents, they’re family.  Thank you so much, Roger and Mary, for a wonderful, warm, and dry week with you.  We cannot express just how much that time lifted our spirits.

Mary, Van, and Roger - fast friends!

Mary, Van, and Roger – fast friends!

Hours of Entertainment

Hours of Entertainment

Especially When You Do This!

Especially When You Do This!

Helping Mary with her Grading

Helping Mary with her Grading

There was just one downside to our visit.  According to Roger and Mary, they have a beautiful view of Mount Hood from their living room window.  Problem was, we never saw it!  We think we believe them, but we can’t be entirely sure…  Guess we’ll just have to visit at some point in the future!  By the way, the last picture below is from their beautiful garden.  The broccoli was particularly photogenic, but Van can vouch for the fact that the corn was excellent.

Fur Trappers, Mexican Food, and Waterfalls: Welcome to the Willamette Valley

Making Friends in Portland

Making Friends in Portland

Van has turned in to a ham.  You take out the camera and he immediately starts making his “smiley” face, which in reality is a cross between a smile and a grimace.  In fact, you don’t even need to take out the camera for him to start posing with that camera-ready grin on his face.  When we were exploring a beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, he pranced around the bushes and hedges, posing every few minutes and directing me to take out the camera.  One hand on hip, the other resting on a bush or touching a flower, and a smile plastered on his mug.  But he’s a twenty-first century boy.  His favorite part is running up to you after you’ve shot off a few photos so that he can see the photos you just captured.  Instant gratification, indeed.

Instead of tons of photos of the gorgeous Willamette Valley, we have tons of Van.  You’ll just have to take my word for it that the Willamette Valley is absolutely one of the most beautiful spots in this great country.  Were it not for the mild winters, it would definitely be on our short list.  We loved, loved, loved it!

Van the Ham

Van the Ham

Our first discovery was the amazing Mexican food to be had in Woodburn, Oregon.  Apparently the town is known for having outlet shopping (we saw the shops from afar), but much, much better than that is the main street a few miles to the east that is chock full of Mexican restaurants and grocers.  Seriously excellent and authentic food.  If you’re looking for Tex-Mex, this is not the place.  It was so good we ate it two nights in a row.  If you find yourself anywhere near Woodburn, you owe it to yourself to check out Luis’s Tacqueria or one of the other gems that line the main street.

Then we realized that our nifty museum memberships could get us in to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum for free.  Along with a personal tour of a B-17!  We spent a long, fun day checking out all of the planes (including the Spruce Goose) and catching up on the history of the space program.  Alan didn’t need any catching up, but it was a great refresher for me.

When we weren’t eating yummy food or touring planes, we spent our time outdoors amidst beautiful farmland and waterfalls.  We camped for several nights at Champoeg State Park where we were entranced by the disc golf players and their professional looking gear.  No casual players here!  But even better was the small museum and historical farm.  Van couldn’t get enough of the smell of the hops.  Future homebrewer?  A mother can dream…

Van Testing the Hops

Van Testing the Hops

At the Rogue Brewery Hop Farm

At the Rogue Brewery Hop Farm

But the best part of Champoeg was the fur trapper rendezvous that we happened upon. Actually, Van was personally invited by two fur trappers in traditional French-Canadian trapper clothes the night before (must have been the smile he flashed them).  We walked two miles to get there, some of it through some pouring rain, but it was well worth it.  We had an up close and personal look at fur trapping, homemade birch bark canoes, dutch oven cooking over an open flame, and guns used by the fur trappers.  We spent a long time speaking with each of the folks at the rendezvous and came away with a much greater appreciation for this part of our history.

Once we said our goodbyes (only temporarily) to the Willamette Valley, we headed up to the Columbia River Gorge for a few days of exploring.  It rained – a lot – which means we didn’t take very many photos.  But we did see the gorgeous Multnomah Falls in an uncharacteristic break in the rain.  We also spent a cozy afternoon wandering around the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood and taking a detailed tour from the resident park ranger.  My favorite was curling up in front of the roaring fireplace to dry ourselves out.  But oh how I longed to stay at the lodge and write in my journal at a desk tucked into a nook in the main room.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

We left the area thinking that the Willamette Valley would make a wonderful home. Unfortunately, not for us.  Finding a place that felt so right but for its mild winters reinforced to me just how important snow (and lots of it) is to us.   The mild winters knocked it off of our short list, but if you’re one of the more sane among us, perhaps it should be on yours.