We woke early at our Lake Quinalt camp, quickly packed up and headed into town to park up so that we could do a few hiking trails that led out from there.
The trail we picked started across the road from Lake Quinalt and lead up to ‘Cascade Falls’ before wandering through the huge sitkas and cedar woods that we were now used to. The trail then crossed back over the road into our campsite and down beside the lake front for about a mile. It was probably around 3 miles in total and fairly easy.
We didn’t really like this Olympic National Park stop as much as the others (Hurricane Ridge and Ho Rainforest). It definitely had a more touristy feel, our campsite wasn't as nice and everything seemed a bit overpriced and busy! But the worst thing by far about the National Park campsites is that none of them have any showers - which I find very odd and George finds horrific. After 6 nights camping and hiking without a shower (or any contact with the outside world) we decided to book into an Econolodge in the town of Aberdeen a couple of hours south on route 101. A much needed bit of luxury - if you can call a $108 per night road side motel with crap wifi a luxury?! There was breakfast though which we raided (George escaped with a good half a dozen blueberry muffins!)
Fans of the band Nirvana may or may not know that Aberdeen is the hometown of legendary front man Kurt Cobain. I can see why he opted for grunge music as the town is bleak to say the least. We quickly set off the next morning down 101 towards Cape Disappointment State Park.
Disappointment was a good word for it as we arrived to a full campsite at the State Park and spent the next hour driving round trying to find somewhere to stay. The peninsula up towards Long Beach didn’t provide many options but we eventually got lucky at Cauffman’s Wild Camp - a cross between an RV park and a campsite in a really big field.
I wanted to avoid RV parks if possible (as I’ve read that they tend to be full of interesting long term residents and aren’t generally very nice). Cauffman’s was pleasant enough and we took the last RV spot for $25. Being July 4th weekend everyone was out camping for the weekend and we got our first glimpse of the real American life - BBQ loving, beer drinking, pick up driving groups all out for a good time. The camp was made up of big holiday groups so it was a bit intimidating at first but everyone was nice enough. We did have to listen to alt-rock all night though (think a Nickleback, Evanescence, Limp, Kid Rock mix tape) and lots of baseball stories.
We spent the afternoon wandering the strange town of Long Beach, home to the world’s longest beach - not sure how true that fun fact is but we’ve noticed all Americans like to brag about having the biggest stuff - and Jake the Alligator Man (really weird). The bragging was again confirmed when we stumbled across the world’s largest frying pan in down town, used back in the day for a huge clam cook off.
We were up and away early to put some miles in south on 101 (having miraculously managed to secure a camping spot for Yosemite National Park we now had a date to work to so couldn’t mess about with alligator men too much).
The first town we came across entering south from Washington into Oregon was a small port town called Astoria. The films Free Willy, Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies were all filmed here. I desperately wanted to go and see The Goonies house but I had read that the owner took their toys away last year and now call the police on people walking up to it (it isn’t visible from the road) so we passed straight through - I regretted this for a few days after and wished I’d just made a run up the drive!
A short drive further down the coast we visited Port Stevens State Park, in particular to look at a famous shipwreck on the beach. The state park was free to enter and after a short walk across the sand we found ourselves looking at the rusting hull of the Peter Irdale shipwreck that ran aground in the early 1920s.
Mileage was the key to the day so we jumped back on 101 aiming for the small town of Cannon Beach, an extremely pretty town where Portlanders go for their weekend breaks. We picked up some useful information from the visitor centre in town (including a proper road map of the entire state!) and headed down for a look at the beach.
It was as perfect a beach as you can imagine (apart from it being very, very windy). The squeaky soft white sand went on for miles and the sea stacks along the coast provided some dramatic scenery. One such sea stack, ‘haystack rock’ was actually used in The Goonies as the scene where the pirate ship sails into the cave! It also boasted a large number of birds nesting, including puffins which kept George amused (as she’s never seen The Goonies! Absolute disgrace!!)
Our next stop was in the town of Tillamook, apparently very famous for cheese production?! George’s research said that the main factory did cheese tours so we pulled into the packed parking lot for a look. There can’t be much else to see around these parts as the place was heaving! We entered the factory and saw a huge queue, being British we naturally joined however after a few minutes of not really knowing what we were queuing for George went for a look and then came back and told me to follow her. Sure enough the queue was for free cheese samples but George had spotted a sneaky way in without queuing. The free samples weren’t bad but not worth queuing half an hour for, we didn’t queue that long to ride Harry Potter “Escape from Gringotts” at Universal which was much better than the Tillamook smokey cheddar!
Back on the road we had to start thinking about where to stay as we had nothing booked, after trying and saying no thank you to a KOA campground in Lincoln city (it was $42!) we quickly found another RV park just off the 101 near Kernville.
This riverside park was mainly set up for fishing, but for $25 it would do for us for one night. We had missed our campfire (and marshmallows) when sleeping in Tyrone so decided to buy some wood and have one here. Unfortunately the bloody wood was damp so after about an hour of trying I gave up and went to bed.
Another early start! Its starting to feel like work… sort of!
We quickly packed up and hit the road again, aiming for another big mileage day. Not long after setting off we passed through the small town of Depoe Bay, the world’s smallest harbour AND whale watching capital (American over-bragging again!) and stopped by the road to admire the view. After about two minutes, sure enough we managed to spot a grey whale swimming along shore, George was ecstatic.
After managing to drag her away we made another coupe of photo stops at Otter Rock and the Devils Punchbowl before hitting Cape Perpetua state park. This park is run by the US forestry service which honoured our National Park pass so we didn’t have to pay the $8 entry fee.
In the park we first headed up to the viewpoint (in the car!) before driving back down to the visitor centre to watch a film about the park’s history and wildlife. The shoreline attractions were the Devil’s Churn, where the waves smash against the rocks and a spout/blowhole where the water pressure shoots mist up though the holes in the rocks.
Mid-afternoon we pulled off the 101 at Reedsport and headed inland to the Dean Creek Elk Viewing area. Having not caught a glimpse of elk at Olympic this was a good opportunity to see the huge beasts in the wild at the viewing spots just off the side of the road - George loved seeing them grazing in the wildflowers.
Entering the Oregon dunes in the late afternoon we spotted a US Forest service campsite just off the road so decided to try our luck (as I’d had more than enough of driving by that point). Eel Creek campground ($22) backed onto the dunes and after a quick look on arrival we decided to walk back there for sunset in the hope that the wind had died down. The Oregon dunes are enormous, standing on the top and seeing nothing but sand for miles was a weird experience knowing that we were only a short drive from the states rugged coastline. The sunset there was really amazing.
After the glowing pink sky had faded away we headed back to our tent to get ready for another early start in the morning.
We had a campsite in mind at the start of the day, just north of the California border which would set us up for the following day.
We took a scenic detour to avoid the town of Coos Bay, instead driving round past the 3 capes - Meares, Lookout and Kiwanda before entering the seaside town of Bandon, famed for its ‘face rock’. The detour was great and Bandon is a nice seaside town. We visited the local farmers market and then headed down to the beach. Face Rock is another huge sea stack that, from the right angle, looks like a woman washing her hair in the sea - think of her leaning back having it washed at the hairdressers and you’ll see it too. The beach itself, although beautiful was just way too windy to enjoy, the sand literally whipping your legs as you walked along so we hit the road again wanting to find the Cape Blanco lighthouse.
The 16 mile detour to reach the lighthouse backfired as it was closed for the day so we couldn’t get very close. Instead, we continued down to a stretch known as the Samuel H Boardman state scenic corridor. This was an area I was particularly looking forward to as the 12 mile stretch of coast line is allegedly beautiful (and always on my Instagram feed) so I was eager to get some photographs along the way. In true sods law fashion, the afternoon mist had well and truly rolled in (thanks in part to the continuous sunshine that we had been enjoying) making the whole area unviewable, I was gutted!
Instead of continuing south to our planned camp we stopped at the first town south of the Samuel H Boardman corridor - Brookings - hoping that we could drive back to it and try again in the morning.
The Brookings RV park was probably not one that we would stay at again! A few interesting long term locals lived there and although they were really friendly ‘Alan’ next door, complete with joint and loaded gun on his belt made us feel a little uneasy. To avoid the awkwardness of joining the camp 4th of July BBQ we instead headed back to the corridor and pulled in at the first picnic stop to make dinner - pasta with an ocean view… all 20 foot of it!
To kill more time before heading back to the camp we headed into Brookings town for ice cream, the clientele of the area were not much different to the RV park, some scary looking characters about! Not the best night’s sleep…
An almighty bollock dropped!!
With the thick ocean mist still hanging over the corridor I had to give up on my photo plan and instead concentrate on the huge day we had in front of us. Not having access to the internet makes planning quite difficult! Inevitably, the quick fire planning in McDonalds’ car parks was going to end in a mistake sooner or later. I had wrongly looked at Google maps and thought that driving from our camp in southern Oregon down to our (pre-booked) camp north of San Francisco was only a little bit further than the daily drives I had been doing so far in Oregon. Turns out it was a 9 hour drive, with the Redwood national and state parks along the way! Balls!!
Not to be put off, I planned an action packed day without sacrificing anything we wanted to see and we set off just after sunrise, crossing into California shortly after!
Our first, crack of dawn stop was the Jedidiah Smith Redwood state park, where I beat George at stone skimming on the river (again!!) before heading on a scenic cut through, 6 miles of unpaved goodness for Tyrone to enjoy with a stop half way at Stout Grove where we walked a short loop around the forest. Seeing the redwoods for the first time was unbelievable, the sheer size of these trees has to be seen to be believed as no picture can do them justice.
After rejoining the 101 we headed for Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the Redwood National Park, another mile loop around a very misty old redwood forest. Its hard to believe that only 5% of the ‘old’ redwood forests remain after severe logging (before it became a protected national park).
The Avenue of the Giants would be our final forest of redwood trees, along a 32 mile road (it runs parallel to the 101) with scenic stops along the way - you can get a self guided auto tour leaflet at both ends to explain more. At the first stop southbound we did a great 2 mile loop through the giant trees, this time with bright blue skies instead of the thick mist from earlier.
After completing The Avenue the long slog started to our next camp. Even with a massive drive ahead I still turned off the 101 (practically a motorway at this point) and headed across the mountains to pick up the start of Route 1, the California scenic highway. This added probably an hour to the drive but the minute we came out of the mountains and saw the coastline - it made it all worthwhile. I immediately pulled over so we could properly admire the ocean view.
Miles and miles of scenic coast line continued for hours and I stopped only to get petrol and take photos of the sunset before eventually reaching our campsite (Bodega dunes, $35 + $8 booking fee) at 9:45pm! There was no way either of us could be bothered to set up the tent and blow up the airbed in the dark so instead we pulled out the sleeping bags and reclined the chairs for our first night sleeping in Tyrone. (Picking an SUV this size was for exactly this, even with all our gear there’s room enough to recline the seats fully). In hindsight there was no need to book Bodega Dunes as we passed lots of campsites with vacancies down the coast but we had booked it before we started the road trip to make sure we had somewhere near San Francisco…