Oregon, Washington & Idaho

Days 0-3

Day 0, July 2

We began Day 0 in very different places, but our paths converged in our starting city, Portland, OR.

Hayley started her day in Corvallis, OR, where she has spent the last two years teaching and writing her way to a Master's degree in English from Oregon State University. With this home already packed into her Honda Civic, she turned 26 on a friend's couch before fitting her suitcase into the trunk for the first of many mornings on the road. With bouquets of drying lavender on the dashboard and a passenger seat that wouldn't be empty for long, she set out for the quintessential Oregonian day: a farm-to-table birthday brunch with friends at Gathering Together Farm, followed by a short, scenic hike, finally winding down with wine and peach cobbler in Mary's River at Harris Bridge Winery. Along with these memories, Hayley's roommates sent her off to Portland International Airport (PDX) infinitely more prepared with an MSR Pocket Rocket camp stove. 

Kevin started his day in Groton, MA, the place he calls home. A quick half hour drive brought him to Manchester Airport where he boarded a flight bound for Chicago Midway.  Once there he had 30 minutes to run from terminal A to terminal B, where he hopped on a plane to his final destination of Portland, OR, passing by Mount Hood on the way.  

Day 1, July 3

Day 1 started and ended in NE Portland, OR at a very comfortable AirBnB. We were so close to the coast that we decided to spend an extra day in Oregon so we could dip our feet in the Pacific before driving east.

After brunch in Portland we headed west up Route 30 along the Columbia River to Astoria, OR.  

(Right: Flags in front of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.)

Astoria is the oldest city settled on the Pacific Ocean and still has the feel of a historic ocean city. We walked along the water and checked out Fort George Brewery, but didn't stay too long--we were aiming to get down to Cannon Beach by sunset. 

But before we left, we wandered across the street to Vintage Hardware, where we encountered some curiosities of the past. 

Cannon Beach, OR

We arrived at Cannon Beach around 6PM. At first, we weren't sure if we were in the right place. We came to what looked like a main street with restaurants, motels, and general stores. After finding a parking lot marked "Cannon Beach," we parked and began to walk in the direction we thought was toward the beach. Suddenly we noticed a giant rock formation, Haystack Rock, rising above the buildings that lined the road. We didn't grasp how massive Haystack Rock actually was until we got down to the beach; it's hard to feel the full scale through pictures, but when it's there in front of you the size is undeniably impressive. 

Many people came down to the beach on this beautiful evening, and Haystack Rock was naturally the place most were drawn towards. The three kids from the picture above were no exception. They ran into the ocean, never able to stay for long before the water got too cold and they had to scurry back out.

(Above: Three kids look out on "The Needles" rock formation and the Pacific Ocean. Below: Two images of Haystack Rock.)

Haystack Rock feels bigger in person than it looks in this picture.

Without any people to disturb them, birds flock to Haystack Rock.

Sunset is the biggest event of the day at Cannon Beach. People line the beach trying to get the perfect shot of the sun as is passes through rocks that rise from the ocean. Such a picturesque scene can create a surprisingly competitive atmosphere; we observed people politely push their way into "better positions", some even telling kids to move out of the way of their shot. That being said, Cannon Beach is an exceptionally beautiful place to experience a West Coast sunset, and one of our favorite sunset spots throughout the entire trip.

(Below: Three images from sunset at Cannon Beach.)

Day 1 wrap-up

While we did keep a journal, our entry for this first day is not as complete as our entries for the days that follow.

We only passed through one state, Oregon, saw 4 different state license plates, and traveled on two major roads, 30W & 101S.

The major landmarks were Astoria, OR and Cannon Beach, OR.

Hayley's Song of the Day: "Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman. This was the first song we listened to on the trip.

Kevin's Song of the Day: "Dancing In The Moonlight" by Thin Lizzy. We listened to this one while traveling south on the 101 from Astoria to Cannon Beach.

Day 2, July 4

Day 2 started in Portland, OR at around 11:00AM, and ended in Spokane, WA at 11:07PM.

We left our Airbnb in Northeast Portland and headed east on Route 30 along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The Columbia River Highway features many famous stops along the way as it follows the Columbia River towards Idaho. 

(Right: View of the Columbia River from Rowena Crest)

Vista House

Our first stop along the Columbia River Highway was the Vista House (Left). We could tell we were coming up to some kind of attraction when traffic slowed, and people were fighting for parking spots. Once we fought through the crowds and made our way into the Vista House, we were greeted by a grand open room coated in marble, with acoustics that inspired one visitor to stop and sing the Star Spangled Banner--a spontaneous show on the 4th of July. 

The balcony offers a spectacular view of the Columbia River (below), and the Vista House is a place that many stop for lunch or a snack, before heading off to see what else lies along the famous highway.

Multnomah and Surrounding Waterfalls

The other major attraction along the Columbia River Highway is Multnomah Falls and the many other surrounding waterfalls. With more daylight we could have spent an entire day just exploring the waterfalls, but we were already a couple hours behind the tentative schedule we had set that morning. We did stop at Bridal Veil Falls on our way to Multnomah, and spent a while exploring the waterfall and surrounding area.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is just off of the Columbia River Highway. After parking it's a short hike (just a couple switchbacks) down a semi-paved trail, across a small bridge and up to an observation deck which offers the best view of the entire falls. Depending on the foot traffic it can feel very secluded or very busy, and we experienced both while we were there. When we first arrived we were some of the only people there, and we were able to get a few good shots before the rocks below became crowded with families and selfie-takers. We knew it was time to leave when people started stepping in front of us to get the perfect picture.

Hayley enjoys the beauty of Bridal Veil Falls.

The bridge over Multnomah Falls.

From Bridal Veil Falls we continued on to the main attraction along the Columbia River Highway, Multnomah Falls. 

Kevin's patience diminishes proportionately to how many people occupy his general area, so he was not planning to stay for a long time at Multnomah Falls. On this national holiday it felt particularly crowded, but even Kevin will admit that there is a reason why places become crowded: they have something hard to find anywhere else. Multnomah is no exception. The height and natural features of the falls are quite impressive, and the bridge above the lower falls only adds to its grandeur, giving a sense of scale as you look up. 

We didn't stay long enough to hike up to the bridge, just did what many people do: walk out to the main observation deck, take a few pictures, marvel at how exactly it came to be, determine that perhaps its best to preserve that initial sense of wonder, and continue on our way.

Before getting in our car and driving away, we decided to get some food at a stand at the visitor's center. We noticed that the other side of the stand had a sign for free samples of fudge. We weren't sure what the proper free sample etiquette was. Could we just get some free samples and then leave? Or would we be expected to buy some fudge once we had our handful of free samples? We decided that an awkward interaction was a risk worth taking to get a few free samples. So successful were the samples that we succumbed to buying three different flavors of fudge. This was one of our best decisions of the trip; the fudge lived for about a week in the front console of the car before disappearing all together.

The rest of the day was about a six hour drive dotted by turnouts along the Columbia River before we turned toward Spokane, Washington. Initially our plan was to watch the fireworks over Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, but that would have added another hour to the trip. Instead, we booked an Airbnb from the car, watched from the road as fireworks unfolded over several Eastern Washington towns along the horizon, and spent the night in a quiet Spokane cul-de-sac.

(Below: Hayley and Kevin at Memaloose Overlook with the Columbia River Gorge in the background.)

Day 2 wrap-up

This was our first day of having a pretty good hold on what we wanted to write and keep track of in our journal.

We passed through two states, Oregon and Washington, saw 8 US license plates and one from Alberta, and traveled on four major roads, 84E, 30E, 92N & 90N.

The major landmarks we stopped at were Bridal Veil Falls, Multnomah Falls, Memaloose Overlook & Rewena Crest.

We also saw some wildlife: a seagull and a bald eagle.

Hayley's Song of the Day: "The Only Thing" by Sufjan Stevens. Heard during the last few hours in Oregon, driving up and over the hills along the Gorge. 

Kevin's Song of the Day: "Nothing to You" by Two Gallants. Heard while pulling into the Memaloose Overlook turn-off while on Route 30E.

Day 3, July 5

Day 3 started in Spokane, WA at 8:47AM, and ended at the Fish Creek Campground in Glacier National Park at 7:30PM.

We started our day by passing Lake Coeur d'Alene, seeing what we missed out on by not pushing on the extra hour. Coeur d’Alene is an impressively large lake, and the drive past took us through a valley with mountains on either side.

Civilization was hard to find in this part of Idaho. The most we saw were signs for gas which may or may not have had actual stations at the end of them, and signs for fresh cherries which we had more luck with.

A key to our success on this trip was following our intuition. On our short stint through Idaho we saw many signs for fresh cherries. Hayley was the first to suggest that we stop to see what we could find. At first we were a little hesitant. We questioned whether or not the cherries would be any good, how far off our path this detour would take us, if we’d even be able to find the cherries, and if we did, whether or not we’d be able to find our way back to the highway in this area of very spotty cell service. After some deliberation we decided to stop the next time we saw a sign. We ended up at a bright yellow stand, appropriately decorated for July 4th, with red, white and blue mylar stars strung together and waving in the breeze.

Inside was a man with a strong handshake and a faded U.S. Marines tattoo. He was sitting among cartons of cherries, some already in one pound bags, the rest waiting. He asked if we wanted Bing or Rainier. He could tell that we weren’t sure which to buy and said, “you can try one,” motioning to the bags in our hands. In the end we went with the Rainier, a brighter red than the Bing cherry, with some accents of yellow. The cherries lasted about three days as we slowly snacked on them along the way.

Eventually we found our way into Montana as we headed up towards Glacier National Park. After crossing the Idaho/Montana border, and stopping a few times along the way, it was about a three hour drive before we arrived in Glacier. Most stops were clearly marked as gas stations or roadside turnouts, and all our stops offered incredible views, which seemed to change every 100 yards. Each stop amounted to at least a 15 minute break (usually longer) to take pictures. There wasn’t much besides mountains, lakes, rivers, wildflowers and big sky, but that was fine with us. 

As we approached Glacier, we came across field after field of yellow flowers, each appearing to stretch all the way to the horizon, where they were met by the mountains that surrounded us. We both agreed that these glowing acres were beyond anything we had ever seen before, so we thought we ought to stop. With fields of flowers passing by us on both sides, we kept our eyes out for places to turn off, but none appeared. After some discussion we decided that we should not stop on the side of the highway, and that this might have to be something that would live in our memories instead of in our cameras. Besides, it was getting a little late so we thought we should probably get up to Glacier and secure our campsite for the next few days (we weren’t too worried because, how full could they be?) Dazzled by what we were seeing, and secretly disappointed we couldn't photograph it, we drove on.

As we passed more and more fields, our regret with our decision grew and grew, and Glacier only got closer and closer. Finally we came to a three-way intersection: to our right was Glacier, who knows what was straight ahead, but to our left was another field of yellow flowers. There was a dirt road and a car parked down by the edge of the field. This was our first real opportunity to pull off the road where there was also a good view of fields, so we broke the rule we had previously set, and took the left turn (from the right turn lane) down the dirt road. 

The flowers were incredible. They grew to shoulder height and trailed neon dust all over our clothes. We were enchanted, but didn’t know what these flowers were. We ended up staying for 20-30 minutes as more cars stopped to get a glimpse of these fields of gold. As we were leaving we started talk to a couple from Utah. Their license plate read “FUNGUS”. The man asked whether or not we knew what the flowers were. Unsure, we said no. Lucky for us, he did, and told us that these were fields of canola. Before we parted ways we asked about their license plate and he told us to guess. Initially we thought that this couple must really like mushrooms. He said “no” and told us to keep guessing. Eventually (with a little prompting) we figured out that the man’s name was Gus, and that in fact he was “FUN GUS”. With a smile they got in their car and turned up the road to Glacier. After a few more pictures, we followed Fun Gus's example and pushed our way through the three-way intersection, up towards Glacier.

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