Oregon and Washington are two of the most beautiful states, and we definitely wanted to hit a couple of highlights, but by the time we’d reached Oregon we started feeling pretty ambitious. A week prior I didn’t think we’d make it to the California border, and now we’d done the entire coast and were feeling pretty good. If you haven’t been reading this series from the beginning, my ultimate goal was to make it to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks after seeing the Pacific Ocean. It’s a pretty roundabout, crazy-pants route. It was starting to look like we were actually going to make it. We’d skipped a few stops, like San Diego, and we were unable to visit Lake Tahoe or Yosemite because of wildfire. Everything from this point on, between where we were in that moment and making it to Glacier, was just icing on the cake. So now we had to decide how many more stops we wanted to make. Did we want to take our time in Oregon and Washington before travelling due east toward Glacier, or did we want to go big? We’d been toying with the idea of dipping our toes into Canada. Specifically, Banff National Park. (I know. So basic. Sue me.) Naturally, we’d brought our passports and notarized letters from our husbands stating their permission to take the girls out of the country, just in case of the unlikely event that the road trip was a wild success.
The southwestern tip of Oregon is not exactly close to Banff. But close is such a relative term. Compared to Oklahoma, I was so super close! Distance wasn’t the only obstacle to our route planning. In August 2018, it seemed like the entire west was on fire. Banff, Glacier, and Yellowstone were all on fire, but at that moment, the parks remained open. We faced the very real possibility that we would waste too much time getting to Glacier and Yellowstone, only to find them closed by the time we made it. Worse, we worried that we might be risking our actual safety, but I was vigilantly watching the fire updates and keeping tabs on road closures and safety conditions in my travel and camping groups on Facebook.
In the end, I remembered that I wasn’t going to waste time on worrying about things I couldn’t control. We were in Oregon, and we had to at least check a few items off. 1. I wanted to camp on the coast. 2. We wanted to visit Multnomah Falls 3. We wanted to spend a few hours in Portland. And so, we did.
We were already riding along the coast, so as soon as we crossed into Oregon I was ready to find any campsite. We were sick of the car and I knew from our surroundings that any site was bound to be stunning. I think we just routed to the first campsite that came up on Google. When we pulled up, I couldn’t believe our luck. This had to be the prettiest place in all of Oregon. It cost something like $9 a night and honestly, if I didn’t love Daniel so much, I’d literally still be there. The sites were dispersed amongst the redwoods and the berry patches, directly across from a perfect Oregon beach, complete with gray driftwood and rocky formations. There were water spigots and a few bathroom/shower facilities between the tent sites. We were warned by the ranger upon entry that we needed to be vigilant here in bear territory and, you know, it made us a little nervous but I was so amped up I was like “I will punch a bear with my bare hands, I ain’t scared.” I’d probably been drinking too much coffee. I was literally giddy. I couldn’t stop laughing. There is nowhere I’d rather be than standing barefoot between ancient redwoods while listening to the waves of the Pacific crash against the beach, breathing in that salty sea air.
Our first night in Oregon, we were bundled up all cozy in our sleeping bags with our sweaters and wool socks, drifting off to sleep, when Brooke and I were startled by the sound of heavy footfalls. We lay there frozen, listening to the steps going in a slow circle around the camper, accompanied by what sounded like the opposite of a snort. It sounded like a large animal exhaling forcefully and I later learned it’s called “chuffing” and it’s what bears do when they’re nervous. After a minute or so, Tigo (my standard poodle) was alerted and barked his heart-stopping bark, and the bear immediately ran away. We were finally able to fall asleep again, only to be jarred out of our sleep once more by a small animal with little ears scratching frantically at the camper door, almost pulling it open. I could only see its silhouette through the door. At first I thought it was a baby bear, but it was probably a racoon. I was just so stunned that I very loudly asked it “what in the hell was going on here?” and that was enough to send it scampering back into the woods. Somehow, we managed to sleep soundly the rest of the night.
We didn’t go anywhere else in Brookings. We cooked our meals on the camp stove, took long walks, let the girls and the pets go off on walks. We played cards and hiked down to the beach. I never wanted to leave. But we were on a mission, and somehow Brooke snapped me out of my enchanted state long enough to pack up and get on the road.
For some reason, I can’t remember why, we only ended up driving a few hours before we were really exhausted again. Really tired of the car again. So we ended up at this amazing wooded Thousand Trails RV park near Florence, Oregon which was stupid expensive but the sites were so beautiful. Shady and cool, plus it didn’t hurt that there was a playground, pool, hot tub, game room, and laundry facilities. We needed to do laundry and the kids needed more time to play in the woods. In the grand scheme of our “itinerary” the two nights we spent there were “wasted days” but all of us remember them as two of our most fun, relaxing days. There were plenty of families around and we felt safe letting the kids and dogs wander a little (and the cat wandered a lot, as always) and we swam, cooked some more, popped popcorn, and played endless games of cards. I remember sleeping so deeply in the woods and just feeling….good. We also ventured into the town of Florence to eat some super fresh sea food and walk around the pier. We also bought peaches at the farmers market and grabbed some coffee at a little hole in the wall place that had water dishes for our pets. We stopped in a little local shop to buy flavored oils, jams, and spicy green olives (and some other garlicky, spicy pickled things.)
While we were packing up the camper to head out, I started texting my mom’s cousin in Spokane, Washington. I hadn’t seen him in ten years, and I didn’t know if he’d want to see us, but it felt weird to know I was going pass through Spokane so close to family in a few days and not at least tell him we were in town. To my surprise he responded immediately and told me he’d love to see us, and that we were welcome to stop by his house if I’d just give him a few hours heads up..
We got on the road again and booked it toward Portland and Multnomah Falls. We passed through Portland, planning to circle back after we’d seen the falls, but as we were nearing the falls the brakes started whining. They’d been a little shaky now and then since Northern California and I figured we’d have them checked once we got to a decent sized town. Knowing the falls weren’t going anywhere and that there’s no time like the present, we turned around right then. First, I had to find a doggy daycare for the animals. I have an app for that, of course, and I found this sweet lady and talked her into keeping both dogs AND the cat, even though she doesn’t keep cats, as a rule. Once they were at daycare and having a blast with several doggy friends, it was time to deal with the brakes. I called around to a few places until a Meineke told me they had room for my camper in the parking lot. We unhitched and sat in the waiting room for a while. He came and broke the news that the brakes needed to be replaced and two of the tires. It was a big expense, all at once, but one I had certainly planned for. I was honestly pleased they’d made it this far. It was obvious the owner felt really bad for us though, and he kept apologizing. He seemed to think we might think he was ripping us off, and tried to find a way to, without offending, offer to FaceTime our husbands, but having put the van what we put it through, I was fully expecting a change of brakes at the very least. He gave me a free oil change. We asked him directions to the nearest bus stop so we could explore Portland for a couple of hours and he was like “this is not a good part of town and I can’t let you walk to the bus stop.” Fortunately, he told us, he has a million kids so his car was big enough to accommodate all of us. He drove us to the metro station and said he’d call us when it was time to make our way back. We only had a couple of hours so we ate, got some coffee, and just walked around. I don’t really feel like we saw Portland, except that I eavesdropped on hilarious hipster conversations while sipping Portland coffee and got hit on by a 17 year old girl with rainbow hair on the metro, and we were given organic, fair-trade chocolate and fresh from the farmer’s market fruit by the super cool, eclectic old lady who babysits dogs in sweaters in a super wealthy Portland neighborhood. I’m just not a good city tourist. Brooke is, fortunately, or else I never would have been able to even navigate the public transportation. I pretty much hung on her shirt tail the whole time we were there. I left the dogsitter and the Meineke rave reviews on google and yelp, of course.
After we picked up the pets we booked it for Multnomah falls. Due to rockslides from a recent fire, you can’t hike up the entire thing anymore, but we hiked up as far as we were allowed to and took pictures. It’s really beautiful and I’m sorry I’m not a better photographer, but as usually maybe you’ll just be inspired to go see it for yourself.
We left Oregon, with new brakes and tires, and headed for Washington where we saw all the most important things. My amazing friend Holly and her fam, my mom’s cousin Craig, and of course Mount Rainier National Park. But that’s a story for next time