Explore. Dream. Discover. – Oregon Road Trip

A few weeks ago my mom, step-dad and I were scheduled to visit Spain and Italy for nineteen days. Unfortunately, my mom ran into some health complications and we were forced to postpone our trip. This delay left me with a three week long hole in my schedule and quite possibly the only real opportunity for me get out of town. But wait, where could I go? Money and time to prepare were to be my restricting factors. That ruled out a plane ticket to Costa Rica or Hawaii and with rising gas prices I was forced to look in the western reaches of my map. Immediately Glacier National Park popped into my head, yet as quickly as it entered it dissipated when I realized that the park would be inundated with snow this early in the summer. Next thought, California. With friends dotting the coastline and the opportunity to surf SoCal was rapidly becoming my the destination of choice. As I began to think more about the purpose of my trip I began to shift my direction. Here I was, set to touch down in Europe, a place I had never been to see sight I had never seen. Now I was set to visit a state that I was in only a few short months prior and had frequented numerous times throughout my college years. Then it hit me, why not explore Oregon a bit more. Lush forests, rocky coastlines and miles upon miles of epic mt. biking. It sounded like the end all be all ticket. Now all I needed was a quick look at the weather to see if all the pieces would fall into place. I should have known better. The forecast called for 50* temps with ample amounts of rain..  More and more I was beginning to think that this whole trip idea wasn’t going to transpire. Frustrated and depressed I picked up a book that my step-dad had gotten for me several months before. The book was entitled “Force of Nature” by big wave surfer Laid Hamilton. It was almost as if some magnet pulled me to this book. On the opening page there is a rather inspirational quote by Mark Twain. It reads, ” Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Right then and there I loaded my car with a great anticipation of coming home with a story, rain or shine.

With a rough outline of how my trip would pan out and a fully loaded car including delicious snacks, I slammed the trunk of my Subaru and headed west. I hopped on I-84, Idaho’s major west/east artery headed for Portland, Oregon. Fierce head winds tested my gas mileage while a lack of sleep tested my driving skills for a solid five hours. By the time I reached the Hood River area the rain began to fall. These combined factors forced me to take a short reprieve from ever demanding freeway. I found a turn-off for a more scenic route at exit 135 to Highway 30. As I meandered down this quiet road I was quickly enveloped by a lush green landscape dotted with waterfalls. Little did I know that this spectacular scenic by-way was more than just a sight to see, it was actually the Historic Columbia River Highway. Along side this delightful highway lies Ainsworth State Park stated as being, “equal parts waterfall wonderland, hiker’s playground and camper’s delight.” It truly was a campers playground surrounded by waterfalls. For each waterfall that I stopped and explored I began to feel more and more rejuvenated. This was just what I needed. By the end of the drive I was fully revived and looking out over the Columbia River George amidst the Crown Point Vista House. Quite a sight.

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I could almost taste the cool ocean breeze as I sped through Portland. The ocean was calling and I was ready to take on the last hour and a half push to the coast.  High-rise buildings slowly gave way to high-rise trees and my temper grew impatient. I was ready to be there. Just before I was ready to freak out, I reached Cannon Beach. Low and behold, there was the Pacific Ocean. My previous visits to the big blue Pacific included locations such as Southern California, Mexico, Costa Rica and Hawaii. These places ingrained images of people walking barefoot on hot flat sandy beaches. When I first laid eyes on Oregon’s stretch of the Pacific Ocean I had to throw all of those warm fuzzy “beach” feelings away and embrace the crisp ocean air and drastic coniferous terrain that etched this coastline. Nonetheless, the sight was welcoming and just the start that I was looking for. It was a sight that I was beginning to see versus a sight that I might have wished I had seen.

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After spending some quality time meandering up and down Cannon Beach near Haystack Rock I found myself in the car once again bound for a campsite. A friend had mentioned that I try and stay the night at Oswald West State Park but my research led me to find the campsite closed for repairs. However, just a fifteen minute drive south lay Nehalem State Park. With only a few brave souls such as myself tempting the fate of mid May camping on the Oregon coast, I had no troubles finding the perfect site secluded from the rest. I quickly setup camp, grabbed my camera and headed to the beach for some exploring. A vast stretch of grass covered protective dunes sat in between the ocean and the campsites. I made my way up and over the dunes to a sweeping sandy beach. Stones blown smooth by the wind and water sat perched on miniature monolith like sand formations. I found them quite interesting to photograph. Content with what I had seen, I slowly made my way back to camp. While heading back,  the familiar sound of Jimi Hedrix’s “Along the Watchtower” increasingly began to build. There was a guy who looked to be of similar age to me sitting on a large piece of driftwood tearing it up what appeared to be a cheap miniature guitar. I stopped and asked if I could listen in on his reposeful tunes. Without hesitation the guitarist said, “no not at all.” There was something very peaceful about that guitar playing while looking out to the sun crashing towards the oceans waters. Every now and then we would exchange brief conversation in between the blend of classic rock/reggae tunes. I came to find out that this guy, named Robb Davies, was a 22-year old University of Washington student on a mission to ride his bike from Vancouver, Canada to the Mexican border all by him self. I was pretty stoked to hear as I am an avid fan of cycling. After a few more tunes had passed, I explained that I was going to head back towards my camp for a few last shots. I invited him over for a refreshing PBR and a crackling fire. Thirty minutes later and we were back to an relaxing blend of tunes, talk, brews and warmth. No matter how much I enjoy some quality time on my own, good company is always welcomed.

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Morning came with a cool 45* breeze drifting across the open vents of my tent as I wiped the sleep from my eyes. I had a big day ahead of me and spent little time packing my things before my next exploration were to ensue. My growling stomach led my car into the quaint little town of Manzanita in search of nourishment. Manzanita News & Espresso beckoned me with the smell of fresh bagels and coffee. Their bacon and cheddar bagel toasted with cream cheese hit the spot. With food and caffeine satisfying my desires I made my way north to Oswald West State Park for some exploration. A secluded parking lot along side the 101 in between Manzanita and Cannon Beach serves as a starting point for exploration of the parks dramatic scenery. I opted for the quick 3/4 mile trail down to the surfers beach, Smuggler Cove. Just as I set out toward the beach the rain began. Ahh yes, now my Oregon coast experience was complete. When I reached the sheltered open bay I felt that the hike had been way too short. Fortunately, there was a 4-mile hike to a place called Cape Falcon to keep me going. Half way into the hike the winds kicked up and the rain transformed from a drizzle to a full on downpour. Soaking jeans brought thoughts of turning to mind but my waterproof Arc’teryx jacket kept my core warm enough to push on. Although the site was dreary and cool it was still spectacular to be sitting on a 100ft over looking the ocean with no one around but the bald eagle cruising the shoreline. Once again that Mark Twain came to mind. It was another story I could tell versus one that I wish I could have told. On my way back from the hike I dropped down to the beach to enviously watch a few surfers ride sloppy 1-2  foot waves before heading back to the car.

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Soaked but smiling I made my way back south in search of the next adventure. Persistent weather left me viewing much of the scenery from the comfort of my car. The town of Tillamook was one place that caught my eye. I have recognized the Tillamook dairy brand in the stores for quite some time now but never associated them with being based out of the Oregon coast. I had to see what it was all about. Fresh cheese curd samples showed me right away that this place actually puts out some damn good cheese. Brief descriptions on the walls gave insight to the history of this non-midwestern dairy. I won’t bore you with the details but if you are interested you can read up here. With new found knowledge and excited taste buds it was time to move on.

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Just down the road I the road began to veer away from the ocean and more inland. I drove all this way to see the ocean and I was by all means going to get my fair share of it’s sights and sounds. I saw a sign for the Meares lighthouse and knew I had found the right road for me. It was a quick drive to the top this neat bluff offering up expansive views out to the Pacific Ocean. It was still pouring and blowing but I was stoked. I walked the quarter mile down to the Cape Meares Lighthouse for a better view and another history lesson.

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From Cape Meares I decided that it was time to put some miles on and make my way towards Newport. As I raced south, the quaint vibe of the northern coastal neighborhoods began to dissipate in favor of destination location strips of chain hotels and fast food. This certainly was not my cup of tea and so I pushed on with fervor and a craving for Newport. You might be asking me what’s so great about Newport. If you like delicious craft beer then you’ll know where I’m coming from. Rogue Ales is one of my favorite breweries and their home base is right on the Yaquina Bay of Newport. It took me a few tries to find the exact location but I was not disappointed in the least when I arrived. I quickly grabbed a seat in the bar and ordered up four of their “imperial” selections to fill my taster tray. Their Imperial YSB took the cake for me. I highly recommend this beer if you’re ever lucky enough to find. It went perfectly with the cheeseburger and fries I had ordered. After being completely satisfied with the four, four ounce tasters and greasy burger I hopped in my car and made my way back in-land towards Corvallis.

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In just a little over an hour I had made my way to the home of the OSU Beavers, the place that I would lay my head for the evening. A long time friend of mine, was attending pharmacology school here and I figured that it would be a great opportunity to see him before continuing west. We spent the majority of the evening catching up and partying with his friends. It was a long night and I knew the morning would come far too early.

My heavy eyelids shuttered the next morning as I loaded my car once again. I said my goodbyes and was off to Bend before 10:00 with the anticipation of sneaking in a good long mountain bike ride before the light faded. By 1:00pm I had pulled into Bend and was in search of a bike shop. Sunnyside Sports on Newport pointed me to a series of trails called Phil’s, Jim’s and Kent’s just off of Skyliner Rd. Being the new guy to the trails, I managed to start out in the opposite direction managing to get myself lost within a matter of minutes. Fortunately, the people of Bend are truly genuine and before I knew it I was being escorted to the exact spot to be, the signature Bend round-about. I will admit that I had my tail tucked between my legs but I was still quite grateful for the generosity nonetheless. My new route had me following Phil”s trail up to the Helicopter Pad and back down the Whoops or Ben’s trail. Check out a map here. This iconic Bend trail offered up a little bit of everything from long flats to technical rock sections with everything in between. It was exactly what I was looking for. Tired and happy, I made my way to my best friend’s dad’s house for a mellow night of relaxation.

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Fully recharged from a good night’s rest I was ready to take on another day. A friend of mine and I decided to start the day off right with a spot of coffee from a rad shop called Lone Pine Coffee Roasters. Anna and Scott Witham have a great gig goin on here and they are truly passionate about a delicious cup of coffee. Check them out if you’re ever in Bend. Charged and ready to roll, I jetted back to Skyliner Rd. for another quick loop on the Phil/Jim/Kent’s section before an afternoon climb. My lungs were happy and legs were grateful for a quick stretch. I was anxious to get back to grab my climbing gear and to meet up with my best friend Alex for a day out at Smith Rock. When my friend first said that we were going to a place called Smith Rock I envisioned a mall little rock outcropping perfect for bouldering. Little did I know that this little outcropping in my mind was actually a world class place to climb located in a beautiful canyon along-side the Crooked River. This wasn’t a terrible place to take on my first outdoor climb. As we arrived, a wave of emotions overcame me as we pulled up to this spectacular spot. I was blown away with the scenery but nervous about my first outdoor route. I definitely spent some quality time on a couple 5-9 routes before easing in to a 5-10. Everyone climbing was super supportive and patient. It made for one hell of an experience for me. If you’re into climbing, this place is a must!

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We anxiously awoke the next morning siked and ready to hit the slopes of Bachelor for the last weekend of their 2009 season. Although the lifts fired up at 8:00am we were lucky to have made it by 10:00. This late arrival gave us a short 3.5 hour window to shred. Fortunately it was just what we were looking for. We were greeted by soft spring conditions throughout the mountain with near perfect conditions in the park. Big smiles, high-fives and cheers were passed around throughout the day. By 2:00pm our legs were beat but our spirits were still soaring. We headed back to the casa for some grub and relaxation before a night on the town.

My last real day in Bend was to be another epic day on the ski hill. Here it was, May 17th and we were still skiing on five feet of snow in 70* weather. Yet again, we were fortunate enough to have sunny skies and soft snow to close out the 2009 season. Pond skimming kept the masses entertained in the morning and while the summit lift catered to those still sober enough to ski in the afternoon. I sat atop Mt. Bachelor’s 9,065ft. crest, smiled and nodded my head for coming out to Oregon. Now back to business. It was the last run of the day and we were in need of a little excitement. We traversed across Bachelor’s sizable caldera before finding ourselves at the edge of a notable cornice. A “1-2-3 dropping” count sounded off a mere moment after arriving and before I knew it I was mid air. What an exhilarating little last day rush. My buddy followed close behind sending a similar section. High fives were once again exchanged. We decided that the drop was way too good to just do once so a second attempt ensued. Fully satisfied, we ripped long super-g turns down to the bottom to unwind a first rate day. Much to our delight, we found that the Sunday was far from over. It just so happened that the crew from Rage Films were filming a section for their 2010 movie just up the way from where we were. The story gets better. A friend of a friend ended up being the terrain park manager and he was generous enough to give us a cat ride up for front row seats to the acrobatic show. Now this was the perfect way to close out my trip. I was super stoked to have gotten permission from Dan, their lead videographer, to shoot a few photos of the whole showdown.

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Monday morning I had mixed feelings as I packed my car. I had really grown to love Bend as a city. The people, the lifestyle, the weather, everything about it felt right. I was bummed to be leaving. On the other hand, I could always come back. The whole trip had been one hell of an experience and can honestly say that I am proud to say that I would have stories to last me a lifetime. As I put the car in drive, a smile overcame me while reminiscing thoughts of the past week flashed through my head.

Next time you have an opportunity to get out and see something new, take it. Remember that Mark Twain quote for,  “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Cheers!

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~ by skier2435 on June 17, 2009.

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