The West Coast Swing-Six Years Later-Part 2

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to Part 2 of the reminiscence of our West Coast Swing in 2015. If you missed Part 1, click here to take a look.

Last week, I ended with our visit to Mt. Rainier National Park. This week I pick up the story by making our way to Portland, Oregon where we spent a few days visiting our former Madison neighbor, Claudine and one of my high school classmates, Rachel. It was also time to stock up on groceries and get a haircut before heading to the Oregon Coast. We’d been on the road for a few weeks and wanted to be prepared for our adventures down the coast with a few side trips thrown in for good measure.

From Portland we made the eighty mile drive to Seaside and Cannon Beach to begin our Oregon Coast Adventure down Highway 101. If you’ve never traveled the Oregon Coast Highway be prepared for beautiful scenery around every turn in the road. Every few miles there is a state park, state recreation area, viewpoint, national recreation area, or public beach. And there is no shortage of turnouts on the road. A word to the wise, if you are in a hurry skip this route and take I-5 to your destination but know you’ll  miss some of the best scenery in the world, bar none. Here are a few photos to see what you’d be missing.

The Stacks
The Beaches
The Currents and Storms on the Pacific
The High Bluffs
The Waves Crashing into the Rocks

As we began to make our way south, we spent a few days in the Tillamook area taking in the Tillamook Cheese Factory and a couple of local wineries in addition to the coastal scenery. On one of our drives through the countryside, we saw this double rainbow necessitating pulling over to the side of the road for a couple of photos. It was a good omen for our trip.

When we made stops along the road south, I was fascinated by the roiling seas trying desperately to tear away the rock. While in other areas the sea gradually rolled on to the sandy beach. I don’t pretend to know the science behind these phenomenon but it sure made me curious to find out.

Along the way, we did encounter some of the trees that grow in the mild climate along the Oregon Coast. Growing up the prairies of North Dakota, native trees were only found clustered along the streams and rivers. Even in Wisconsin, our home for the past thirty some years, the trees are plentiful but not nearly this big.

Close to the halfway point along the Oregon Coast Highway, we detoured east to Corvallis for a visit with our long-time friends, Marilyn and Jeff. It had been five years or more since we last saw them so we had a lot of catching up to do. While there we took in the Oregon State Fair in Salem and stopped at the Silver Falls State Park to see the waterfall. We also had a brief visit with Greg, an ag teacher from my home county that I worked with early in my career. Here’s a couple of photos.

After lots of late nights talking and imbibing adult beverages, we made the three hour drive to Crater Lake National Park. It’s a bit off the beaten path but certain worth the time and effort. Crater Lake has to rank up there with the Seven Wonders of the World, at least of the natural world. The crystalline blue water in the crater of a collapsed volcano is unrivaled in beauty. Here is the proof:

We took the 33 mile Rim Drive around Crater Lake a couple of times. There are lots of overlooks to stop and gawk at the natural beauty preserved in this National Park. We have lots of favorites and this is certainly one of them. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm to make a return visit. It should be seen by all Americans.

You’ll note that the skies are smoky. That’s because there were fires burning in the outer reaches of the park. Some of the fires were difficult to access so were being allowed to burn themselves out along with hoping for low winds and rain.

From Crater Lake it was back to the Oregon Coast. Our first stop was at Bandon, a resort town known for it’s beaches and rock formations. I took one of my favorite photos in Bandon. I’ve titled it “No Dogs Allowed.” These pooches were waiting for their owners outside this bar close to the marina. I quickly knelt down and made a couple of photos. The next moment, the small dog moved the scene was lost, at least in my mind. I should note that this was before noon. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

Also in the Bandon area, this decaying vessel in the backwaters caught my attention. I hoped for a better angle but water and rocks were the barriers. Next time, I’ll try more towards sunset, if it’s still there!

Fog is the theme in these three photos, all taken between Gold Beach and Brookings near the California border. The sea stacks in the top photo and the sunset above the fog below are two more of my favorites from this trip. The third photo was snapped on a hike through the forest on a foggy morning.

While we were camping in Brookings, we took Highway 101 over the line into California to the Redwood National Park. This and neighboring state parks contain a majority of the remaining old growth coast redwood. These are the tallest, some of the oldest, and one of the most massive trees on Earth. Our trail walks through the forest caught us nearly speechless at the majesty of these tree and the surrounding landscape. In the photo below, you get an idea of the size and scale of the redwoods. The hole this tree left behind would devour a full-sized pickup! This is another park, we hope to revisit. Yes, it was that awesome!

After nearly two weeks in Oregon, we cut across northern California to begin our trek home by way of Reno, Nevada. The half-way point to Reno was Lassen Volcanic National Park. This off the beaten path park is one of the lesser known in the National Park Service but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of a visit. The stark volcanic landscape, the high altitude, and the mountain lakes made it a refreshing change from the Oregon Coast. Here are a few photos to peak your interest. Again, you’ll note the heavy smoke from the fires. A few weeks ago, Lassen was closed for a time when one of the many California wild fires burned through part of the park.

We had a grand time visit my Traveling Partner’s sister and family in Nevada. While there, we visited historic Virginia City and the Ft. Churchill State Historic Park, a way station for the Pony Express.

Too soon it was time to keep going east towards home. We took Highway 50 (dubbed the loneliest highway in America) across Nevada to the Utah line where we bedded down for the night. The next day we continued our journey across Utah crossing the Colorado line at Fruita. On the way, we stopped at a rest area just north of Arches National Park. It was then that we vowed to return and tour all the Utah National Parks and Monuments.

It was at Fruita where we encountered our closest call of having to spend the night camped out in a Walmart parking lot. We forgot it was the weekend, the weather was spectacular, and the first two campgrounds we stopped at were full up for the weekend. At the second campground, the attendant told us that the Colorado National Monument might have sites remaining. She told us we would know if the sign at the entrance indicated it was full. It didn’t so we began the climb up the winding road through a tunnel that would take us to the campground. As we slowly drove through the campground, we spotted a site with a lone motorcycle helmet sitting in the middle. I stopped and asked the group of motorcyclists setting up camp across the road if they intended to take this site too. They apologized and said no, one of the guys had left his helmet while they decided which of the last two sites to set up camp. We scored the last site in the campground! It was getting dark by this time so we quickly set up. There were no hookups but water was available at the nearby restroom. What we didn’t think of was that without electricity we couldn’t brew coffee the next morning. We had a way to heat water but no instant coffee. Now we always carry a jar of instant if this happens again!

The night view from the top of the Colorado National Monument was spectacular. The starry clear sky and the twinkling lights of Fruita in the valley below are always remembered. This is also on our return visit list.

Our final stop on the West Coast Swing was in Brighton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver to visit with my sister Janet and family. While there, we made a day trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. My Traveling Partner and I last visited there in the mid-1970’s when we rented a pop-up camper for a three week excursion through Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. That too was another memorable trip. The leaves were beginning to turn in the Rockies, it was late September after all. 

We took a couple of days to make the over 900 mile trek from Colorado back to Madison. As we were nearing home, we remembered the good visits with friends and family. That plus great scenery made the trip so memorable. Thanks for riding along during this reminiscence, we enjoyed having you!

Until next week, happy travels!