Day 1 Colorado to Idaho
Leaving not too long after midnight on Memorial Day, to help the kids pass the many hours in the back seat by sleeping a good deal of it, we left on our 4,000 mile road trip to the Olympic Peninsula.
15 hours of driving on Day 1 brought us to our dear family friends from Zimbabwe, now living in Idaho, who warmly welcomed us into their home with a lovely meal & a great time catching up! It was a lot of fun seeing the 2nd generation of children, true African American kids, connecting & playing so well together.
Day 2 Idaho to Second Beach, Olympic National Park
We left bright & early for the 12 hour drive through the rest of Idaho, into Oregon, & through Washington to Olympic National Park on the Pacific Coast. We stopped on the way to have some coffee with some old Colorado friends who live in Sequim on the Peninsula.
My mommy brain had me a little worried about the logistics of a long drive, finding our way to the beach before it was dark, making the hike down through the woods, finding a place & setting up camp – hopefully clear of the tide line, getting everyone warm & fed before it was too dark or too late & the kids were too tired to make the trek with their packs. And, please! Please don’t rain on us! Because that wouldn’t be fun, & I just imagined it would take forever for things to dry out in that part of the world when we had 10 days of camping ahead of us.
That worrying? For nothing …
We found the trail & would our way through woods out of a story book, very different to the woods & forests here in Colorado, to this beach that was just breathtaking!
This part of the national park is in Quileute Indian Reservation. It is Jacob’s home, for any Twilight fans out there & not too far from the town of Forks.
The sun was just getting ready to set, albeit overcast but then again, it was the Pacific Northwest. The tents were set up, dinner was cooked, no rain fell, & a beautiful, memorable night sleeping to the sound of the waves was had.
Day 3 Second Beach – Exploring Olympic National Park & Hoh Rainforest
Troy & I woke up, unzipping the tent to this lovely view. The kids were still fast asleep in their tent, so we took a lovely long stroll down the beach, coming back to wake the kids & go explore & play some more for a couple of hours.
This day, the weather did call for rain & 2 days of it. We debated back & forth whether or not to stick it out & stay the 2 nights here that we’d planned for or take down the tents. The latter choice won.
No sooner had we taken down the tents, hiked back up to the truck, & cooked some breakfast, than the rain started falling.
So, on to the next destination …
We stopped for some coffee & WiFi in tiny little Three Rivers (the treaty line between the vampires & werewolves in the Twilight series) before setting off to explore more of Olympic National Park, driving slowly down the coast, visiting Hoh National Rainforest & its Hall of Mosses & gorgeous, towering Sitka spruces & cedars that grow from 200 – 300 feet – & we weren’t even to the Redwoods yet! I just couldn’t imagine how beautiful those were going to be!
Just off of the 101 that passes through the national park, was a behemoth of a cedar tree, estimated to be 1,000 years old, that was partially felled by a storm in 2014. It was sad to see a giant dying, but we learned that it will become a nurse log for the new generation of giants growing up around it.
Continuing down the 101, we saw a sign for Ruby Beach that our good friend Haven told us we must see. And, it was definitely a sight worth seeing! The beach was littered with driftwood. We learned that they wash up all the time, some of them new & some of them have been there forever. Most of the driftwood logs typically come from along the rivers when trees are uprooted when the rivers flood, from landslides or erosion; they wash into the streams & rivers, & get swept all the way down to the ocean & then the wind & currents bring the trees back in. We learned, not from experience thankfully, to be aware of driftwood rolling in with the waves when on the beach. They’re also a hazard to the boats along the coast. Some of the trees that wash up are ginormous & when you consider how they got there, it’s really quite amazing! It was a fun obstacle course to navigate our way through the logs to the beach & several forts had been built out of some of the wood, which the children enjoyed playing in & adding to.
We stopped for some dinner at the Kalaloch Lodge & then, it really started raining! None of us felt like camping in that weather so we decided to drive & find a hotel, which we did in Aberdeen.
Day 4 Aberdeen, WA – Astoria, OR – Canon Beach, OR – Castle Rock, WA
We spent the day driving from Aberdeen, Washington to Canon Beach in Oregon, stopping to explore along the way. We crossed the bridge over the Columbia River from Washington to Astoria, Oregon where we got lost & pulled over in a small parking lot to figure out where we were, & it just happened to be outside of the jailhouse in the movie Goonies!
Since we were going to be in a historically rich part of the world, we listened to the audio book, “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose about Lewis & Clark’s journey, along our own Pacific Northwest journey. We saw we were near Lewis & Clark National Park & figured out where we were, so we headed back over the bridge into Washington again to Cape Disappointment State Park, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t really know much about this area, as we hadn’t reached that part in “Undaunted Courage” yet. Quite by accident, we stumbled across overgrown ruins of a military bunker & coastal defense battery & Dead Man’s Cove on a “Here, let’s see where this path goes” type of thing – a rather fun way to explore, by the way, because we are often pleasantly surprised by the beauty or history of some of the places we come across & learning about it this way seems to stick in our minds more.
But then we had to book it back over the bridge, yet again, to Canon Beach in Oregon to meet our old neighbors & friends from Colorado who live near there. It had been 7 years since we’d seen them & it was so lovely see them & to catch up with them over the next 24 hours! We had dinner together at Port George’s in Astoria & then drove back into Washington to their home for the night.
Day 5 Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge
Our friends blessed us with a delicious breakfast & coffee, before the 9 of us set off for Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Finally! A day of sunshine & no rain! It was beautiful! We hiked up to the top of the waterfalls & spent hours playing in the river – the kids working their way upstream over boulders & logs, as the parents chatted & followed along on the trail.
We drove to Hood River & ate dinner at a restaurant on the riverfront, watching the kite surfers. Here, our friends left us to return home & we drove to another Colorado transplant friend living in a very charming, old house full of history & personality, just like my lovely friend, in a little town outside of Portland for the night.
Day 6 Portland – Heceta Head Lighthouse – Cape Perpetua
We met Troy’s old childhood friend & his children for brunch, & then bought some new tires because hey! No sales tax in Oregon! Oregon has no self-serve gas stations either.
We spent the rest of the day driving from Portland to Eugene to an absolutely gorgeous part of the Oregon Coast, to see the Heceta Head Lighthouse & Cape Perpetua, & camping in this area for the night.
Driving this section of Oregon’s coastal highway was particularly lovely. The 101 wound its way through the woods where the sunlight filtered through the forest, capturing the ocean spray in its path & giving the woods an ethereal appearance, like something out of a fairytale. The woods would break, giving us views like this one that had us stopping in appreciation. At this particular stop, the sea lions down below were barking away, fondly reminding us of our Beagle back at home. At a stop a few miles past this one, where we stopped to admire the sunlight filtering through the trees, a bald eagle swooped down within a few feet of me. At Cape Perpetua, where we went to watch the sun set, a whale was swimming just off shore, off of the rocks near us. It was all just lovely!
Day 7 Heceta Head Lighthouse – Samuel H. Boardman – Jedidiah Smith
We took down camp & headed back up the coast a little ways to visit Heceta Head Lighthouse again, before turning around to head down the 101 coastal highway to Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park in Redwoods National Park in northern California, making multiple stops along the way.
One particular thing I enjoyed seeing were the bikers & backpackers along the Oregon Coast Trail that intersected with the 101 occasionally. I wanted to stop & ask each of them about their adventure!
Exploring the beauty of the Oregon coast is soul-enriching.
Pulling over at the Oregon Dunes to take in the view, out from behind a dune came walking a stark naked dude! That was certainly a new experience & something we were not expecting to see, hahaha! We stopped to see Umpqua Lighthouse, Coos Bay, & Sunset Beach State Park. But, our absolute favorite & a definite highlight of the trip was the 12 mile Samuel H. Boardman State Park corridor! Now, that was beautiful!
There was a certain shot we’d seen online of this area that we wanted to find. Twice, we pulled over thinking, “This must be it!” But, it wasn’t. Instead we found trails that lead to absolutely breathtaking views! We didn’t find what we were looking for that day, but we very much enjoyed what we’d found & were blessed with a gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean!
Back in the car, it was now nice & dark for the last stretch to the Redwoods in northern California. Seeing the Redwoods had been a lifelong dream of mine & the part of the trip that I was anticipating the most! Winding our way through the bends & curves of the road, I could just make out the giants here & there in the dark & I felt like a little kid on Christmas! I couldn’t wait for the sun to come up to see them in their entirety!
We pulled into camp very late & went about as quietly as possible setting up our tents, trying not to disturb the other campers. We left the kids sleeping in the locked truck before climbing into our sleeping bags, quickly falling fast asleep but were rudely awakened by the jarring siren of a truck alarm in the dead of night, in the middle of the quiet, peaceful forest! It was ours! We were disorientated, trying to find the keys to shut it off. The kids had to pee & set the alarm off! We definitely didn’t do a good job of not disturbing our poor neighbors! Oops!
Day 8 Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park – Samuel H. Boardman State Park
These woods, they did not disappoint my lifelong expectation of seeing them in person! They are like God’s nature cathedral! These silent giants having stood there since before Christ. They are the tallest trees in the world, growing up to 380 ft in height, 20+ ft in diameter, 2,000 years in age with no sign of dying, & are amazingly resistant to fire, insects, disease, & rot! For me, they felt like they belong to the perfect, pre-flood world … a part of God’s original creation. Only He could plant a forest such as this! Their height & girth mesmerized me. They’re primeval, ancient. One could almost expect to see ewoks or ents or fairies in a place as magical, ethereal, & timeless as this … sunlight filtering through a canopy you cannot see the top of, green mosses & ferns as tall as your waist, blooming azaleas, fog rolling in from the coast, giving the woods a hushed, peaceful feel, making your time in them a holy experience.
We spent a lovely day exploring the woods, before heading back up to Samuel H. Boardman park where we finally found the trail we were looking for & experienced another breathtaking sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Day 9 Damnation Trail
The day before we heard from a park ranger to check out Damnation Trail to witness the coastal fog sweeping through the Redwoods. We were up bright & early to make the 45 minute drive to the trail & he was right. It was beautiful & a sight to behold!
After exploring the trail for a couple of hours, we headed back to the truck for breakfast & continued on down the coast, making stops to take in views, before turning around to head back to camp to have some down time with an early dinner, campfire, s’mores, & stories.
Day 10 Medford, Oregon
Our 3 memorable nights under the majestic giants came to an end. We took down camp & drove to Medford, Oregon – Troy’s place of birth, a place he hadn’t returned to since he was 2 weeks old. We stayed with his great uncle & aunt who took us to see the hospital he was born in, the house he lived in the first 2 weeks of his life, the church his dad pastored at, & who hosted a lovely dinner for us to meet Troy’s other relatives & friends.
Day 11/Day 12 Crater Lake National Park – Colorado
We drove to Crater Lake National Park, stopping at Natural Bridge & the Rogue River Overlook. Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow & rain that blocked our view of Crater Lake. We couldn’t see a thing of the nearly 2,000 ft deep blue & clear Crater Lake … North America’s deepest lake, its basin the belly of an erupted volcano! The weather also put a damper on our camping plans so we began the 1,500 mile/2 day drive back home to Colorado.