Oregon and Northern Cali- Fire Season! Summer 2020
This had all the makings of a perfect West Coast road trip. The weather looked amazing. The flights were on time. The cases of Covid were going down. But mother nature and climate change had other plans. We were originally planned to fly in Friday night- and leave the following Sunday. It ended up being a Friday morning to Friday morning- and the last 2 days with extra fire drama built in! However it left me wanting more, more PNW, more California National parks, more hiking! Next time, I'm be booking in the late Spring to avoid all the excitement.
Flew into Portland, OR. Got some groceries, and immediately headed for Multnomah Falls- about 30mins outside the city. All of the immediate hiking trails around the falls were closed- you also had to obtain a permit on recreation.gov for a time/date reservation for the observation area. Once we observed the falls for, oh about 5 minutes, we found a hike nearby and did that for 1.5 hours. It was right down the street from the falls- great way to kick off the trip. After our hike, we headed into Portland and checked into our Airbnb casita - off of Division St on "restaurant row" in the Richmond section of the city. Great locations- tons of bars and restaurants with outdoor patios, breweries, shops, and close to citybikes and designated bike lanes for riding. We had dinner that night at Olympia Provisions SE- not to be confused with the beer garden Olympia Provisions (we did confuse the 2).
Started off with the Trail of 10 Falls hike in Silverton State Park (1 hr 15 min drive south of Portland). This hike ended up being 7.5 miles, took us a little under 3 miles, and it lived up to it's name- So Many Waterfalls. Then by afternoon it was back to the city to explore Portland- by city bike, and by scooter. But first, coffee at the original Stumptown location (right by our Casita). Loved the waterfront trails here for riding- even got to check out the famous Farmer's market downtown for a sec. Scooted back to our place, and met our friends who had just moved to the area for dinner at Bar Casa Vale- another great spot. Capped off the night with some ridiculously good ice cream at Salt and Straw back by our place on Restaurant row.
Sunday: Portland to Bend
Let the road trip begin! Our next stop was Bend, but we made a couple of amazing pit stops along the way. The first was Trilium Lake, on the way, and did a 2 mile flat trail around the lake for some awesome views of Mt. Hood. $10 to park- tons of people out camping and enjoying the lake. Next was Smith Rock State Park, now for something completely different. This place looked straight outta Arizona- and extremely hot. We did pick maybe the worst time of day to go hike- but hike we did. We did the Misery Ridge Trail to Mesa Verde loop around the park. Such a great hike, but I would recommend going right after breakfast, in the morning, before the sun gets at full strength, and stay hydrated. Misery Ridge for the first mile straight up lived up to it's name. But the views were totally worth it. From there it was 30 mins to Bend. We checked into our place, and then walked into town for dinner at 10 Barrel Brewing (their best brew pub apparently). This place is adorable- we walked through Drake Park and so many people were out enjoying the park, tubing and SUPing down the river, such a fun time and cute place.
Monday: Bend to Crater Lake NP/Prospect
Bend grocery run first thing, because the pickings are super slim around Crater Lake NP. No real restaurants, no real stores, stock up before you go. We made another pit stop on our drive to Crater Lake at Paulina Lake- where we hiked to some hot springs on the Lake Loop trail. The air was a little smokey, nothing too crazy (yet), and the lake was gorgeous- much bigger than Trilium Lake, not as crowded either. It took about 1.2 miles to reach the Hot Springs on the edge of the lake, so cool, and worth the stop. From Paulina another 2 hr 15 min drive to Prospect, where we rented an Airbnb. Again the pickings are real slim in terms of everything around the park- this place seemed close and was still a good hour drive into the park. Once settled - we drove to CLNP- to the lodge and from there hiked Garfield's Peak at dusk- which ended up being perfect timing. A little windy, not too hot, and not crowded. It's the 2nd highest peak in the park- 3.4 miles round trip- 1hr 15min hike. Amazing views of the caldera/lake.
Tuesday: Prospect to Umpqua- then to Crescent City
In the morning, trying to beat the crowds of hippies, we drove to Umpqua hot springs first thing, about an hour, 20min from Prospect. Such a cool experience- hot springs on cliffs overlooking rivers! A cast of characters were in appearance- some ready for the gram life, others not even dressed. We somehow got a seat in the biggest and best of the pools and enjoyed the springs for about an hour- until we decided to head back to Prospect, and then eventually for day 2 of exploring the national park. Quick lunch at the place, we came back to a ton of smokey air, and hoped that by the time we got back from CLNP, the air would clear. When we got to the park, the ranger warned us we shouldn't do the hike we wanted to, because of the fires- they were unpredictable. The sky there was so clear, it was hard to believe fires were anywhere near- but they were. We took his advice and just hiked along the rim, and at that point we started to get freaked out so only stayed for about an hour. As we drove back to Prospect, the smoke got even worse. We decided to bump up our original itinerary and get to California that night. We found a place on the coast in Crescent city- booked it real quick- and made the 2.5 hr drive that night out of Oregon and into North Cali. Scariest drive of my life. We could see some of the fires heading out of Oregon by Medford, and as we crossed through Grants Pass into a forest, the sky turned dark red and it looked like night (it was around 6pm). The airbnb in Crescent city actually turned out great- they had a huge kitchen where we made a late dinner, and only one other couple was staying in the place- so it ended up working out.
Wednesday: Crescent City to Arcata
Back on the original schedule, we drove from CC to Arcata, and spent the morning/afternoon in Redwood National Park- both driving and hiking. We woke up to ashes on the car, and a smokey hazy sky, but when we got to the Redwoods and throughout the day, the sky seemed to clear and the air quality did not seem bad. About a 45min drive from CC- we stopped at the James Irvine trail- hiked that to Fern Canyon and wound up at the beach- then back- 11 miles round trip. Loved being beneath the huge trees, it took my mind off all the fire drama for a few hours at least. From there - about another 30mins to our Airbnb in Arcata, another California Coastal town. Around 5pm the sky went smoke dark/orange again- so we just ordered delivery for dinner from a local restaurant Salt Fish House.
Thursday: Arcata to SF
We woke up to terrible air quality. More fires had popped up overnight. The smoke from the big fires was blanketing all of Northern California. We knew our trip was over, and we just wanted to go home. We changed our flights to Friday morning, and drove from Arcata to downtown SF (5 hrs)- where we stayed at the Hilton in the Financial District. The city was so quiet, and because of the smoke we couldn't do outdoor dining anywhere, or run, or enjoy the city in any way- we were trapped in our room for the night. We ordered delivery from Che Fico (so good)- and caught our flight home first thing Friday morning.
I am so thankful I got to experience these National Parks, and get a taste of Oregon! I cannot wait to go back and see more of the state, maybe exploring the coast this time, heading into Washington vs Cali- so many options!