Beaches, forests and dunes: Oregon

The drive to Portland was a pretty boring and uneventful drive, but it should be the last of our freeway driving. The van struggles above 60mph which matches the majority of the speed limits, which seems slow when the freeway has 4 or 5 lanes at most junctions. After a morning of driving, we pulled into Portland and parked in suburbia, a half hour hilly walk into the city.

All I’d really heard about Portland was it was a university town, so we were expecting a really lively evening; but it seems the school terms don’t match up with the English universities and we were a few weeks early. We drank in Rogue brewery and discussed how much we missed the lakes of Canada. Without really giving Portland a chance, we got back in the van early morning and drove to Trillium Lake, a beautiful lake which sits in front of Mount Hood. Here, we fished and hiked a lap of the lake; but because we had got up so early, we again found ourselves a little restless by lunch. It would have been a glorious place to camp, but we decided to drive south via Detroit Lake to a small town called Stayton.

Trillium Lake ft. Mount Hood

After the amount of hours spent on the freeway yesterday, we took the most scenic route south possible, a tiny single track road called FS42. It cut straight through the heart of Oregon’s National forest, with no road markings and passing places every few miles- not that we needed them as we saw 4 cars in the whole drive. We had heard about the hot springs in Oregon, and when we saw them signposted amongst the twisting hairpin bends we decided to pull over and jump in. To our surprise, they were not the natural springs we were expecting- instead it was a privatised ‘resort’ called Breitenbush and had been for the last 100 years. $16 got us a day pass and we wandered in, slightly wary of the ‘Clothes optional’ tip from the cashier. It was lovely to relax and have a shower, but we were the youngest by half a century- and the most covered up. It had the vibes of a hippy commune with people doing nudist yoga on the lawns, and after an hour we thought it was best to reject the cashiers offer of staying the night and carried on to Stayton. The people we met that night found it hilarious that we had been lured in.

The next day, we drove from our parking space (ingeniously parking outside a second hand van/RV shop for ultimate stealth) to Otter Rock, on the coast. This was the start of our love affair with Route 101, a quiet, scenic highway which runs parallel to the coast all the way to San Diego, and a road that we plan to follow for its entire length. We parked up and explored the Devil’s punch bowl, a rock formation that has a secluded beach in the middle of a steep-sided ‘bowl’.

Looking down into the Devils punch bowl
Inside the rock formation

The beaches were gorgeous and completely empty at this time, and we rented out surfboards and wetsuits for $40 each and headed out to the shallows. I’d never surfed before but knew the general technique, whereas James had done it twice before, so it took a while before we were both able to stand up and catch the same waves. Despite the 30◦C sun and the warm water (to us at least!), no one else was surfing and people on the beaches were stunned that we were happily spending hours in water that they thought was too cold to even paddle in. Maybe the wetsuits were better insulated than we thought.

Camping so close to the ocean, surrounded by fisherman’s bars and restaurants, we had a seafood lunch: fried halibut and clam chowder, which was so much tastier than I imagined it would be.

On our final day in Oregon, we set off with the ocean on our right and Route 101 in front of us. We knew it would be a long day of driving because we wanted to camp close to the state border between Oregon and California; but had a nice break in Dunes City, a small town that sits amongst Arabic-looking sand dunes; as its name would suggest. Neither of us had any idea that Oregon had such a variety of landscapes, within a week we had been in the heart of the forest, surfing in the Pacific and then stood amongst endless sand dunes.

Oregon will take some beating. 

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