Woo! I am so pumped you are here reading about our trip in my very first travel blog post!
Jesse and I love travelling, and I love taking pictures (I’m sure it triples every time we go somewhere) and so it only seems right that I share our adventures a little more officially.. (or so that’s what I like to think haha I have to put these pictures somewhere!)
Oh, and as I side note, I am using pictures taken on my Canon and from my phone, so if you’re wondering why some look more profesh than others, it’s because I can’t contain the picture taking to one source….
So this past summer we had an epic trip, the first big one in Bertha, our 1980 Chevy Camper Van, that started in our beautiful home province of Alberta, Canada, camping with our wonderful friends Carly and Steve, outside of Banff for three days. We stayed at Two O’Clock Creek Campground, which was so awesome; no service, beautiful views, there is a hike out of the back of the campground that made it’s way up through the creek to some spectacular views, bathrooms, firepits, the whole 9 yards! And it’s cheap too! Excellent campground that I would definitely stay at again.
On the Saturday we hiked down into Cline River Canyon , which was also amazing (I’m a little obsessed with our mountains 😉 ), we didn’t go too far into the trail, but other than a very vertical decent down into the canyon, it was a fairly easy go. Highly highly recommend a visit here if you are ever down and around the Abraham Lake area as it is just west on the highway (link has good info.) Sunday we enjoyed some fun at the campsite (we were disk slam winners and bean bag toss losers) and got ourselves ready to leave Canada the next day.
After the weekend, Jesse and I turned our wheels South and were so excited to officially be heading towards Oregon for our two week road trip! Our goal was Astoria, the most Northern city on the Oregon Coast, which (though over 14 hours of driving) is a pretty straightforward drive along some well routed highways crossing out of Canada, through Idaho, Washington and then into Oregon.
So after Jesse aaaaabsolutely crushed over 10 hours of driving on the first day, we needed a cheap place to sleep for the night. Seeing as there are no shoulders or overnight areas along their highways, we drove into a lovely, cheap little drive in campground in Vantage, Washington. It was the middle of the night when we got there, but we were still successfully able to pay very little for a place to park and sleep (it even included showering! #winning).
In the morning we continued on our way to Astoria, stopping for coffee and bagels at the tiniest little drive thru’s in Ellensburg, WA (they’re everywhere in the States! We need to make this a thing in Canada, so cute!) and with a little debate we decided to go through Mt. Rainier National Forest rather than around North or South near Portland or Seattle in an effort to both avoid big city traffic in our van AND to enjoy some scenery. Little did we know this would be the beginning to the craziest day of the entire trip.
Though it was completely majestic and beautiful and interesting to drive through such an ancient forest and all it’s little towns tucked in those valleys for so long, we hit some intense road construction, almost 3, hot, crawling hours worth to be exact, and because there were so many cars and everyone was anxious to get through, we never wanted to lose our spot in line and thus, when it came time to pee….well. I’ll just let you guess how I worked that one out. So my advice to those following our route: check the road status before you go through as going around would have been faster!
But once we eventually made it through, it was SO FUN! Washington’s valley’s and landscape is so rich and green and the little towns you pass through give you more than enough to look at and talk about. And then we were there! You cross this big huge bridge over into Oregon and within an hour’s drive, you’re in the sea side town of Astoria! (Insert all the heart eyes!) The houses are all sorts of crazy colours, they build, what seems like, straight up the hillsides, there are overpasses above you along cliffs impossibly filled with even more old, rustic houses….it was beautiful. And it really felt like our trip started once we got there.
We headed straight for Fort Stevens State Park to see the Wreck of Peter Iredale at exactly the same time as the moodiest, rolling fog I have ever seen came off of the ocean. The beach literally disappeared from view and it really made for such a beautiful welcome to Oregon.
We then started down the coast! And along the way we came across a beach that you could literally DRIVE ON! It sounded so romantic and amazing, and proceeded to give way to the single worst situation we found ourselves in on the entire trip. I know. That sentence didn’t go where you thought it would 😉
Disclaimer: long explanation of the story because it was nuts, then I return to regular summaries of our days.
Aaaah, Sunset Beach! A gorgeous stretch of state beach that we ventured out onto with our heavy, old van, welcomed us with open, foggy arms, pulling my attention away from driving to that of the sea.
But LITERALLY the moment after this video, Jesse revealed to me that he was not quite enjoying the moment as much as I was due to the fact that he could feel the van SINKING into the sand…..uh oh. And in an attempt to cut our little beach jaunt short, Jesse tried to turn the van around quickly to get us out of theeereeeeEEEEAAAAaaaaaand stuck. Like, really stuck. Like hands and knees in the cold sand, digging out under the tires, then find sticks or rocks or anything that we could throw underneath to give traction, rock the van, go back the 2 or 3 feet, and then start the process again, kind of stuck.
And I know you’re probably like “well that’s not that bad”, well that’s not the end of it.
Bertha is old, she’s an oooooold son of a B. And things leak and struggle, but she does her best. Now, add a bunch of revving and tire spinning and heat to this equation of leaking. Now place the leaking onto some very hot pipes….
Here we are, digging out our van frantically because the tide is coming in, when I look up and what do I see?
Fire. There is literally a fire underneath the hood of the van.
“Jesse! What do we do??” Jesse shrugs, hell bent on getting us out of there and proceeds to jump BACK INTO THE VAN and REVS the engine, SPURRING ON THE LEAKING FLUID and turning the small fire into a big one!
I rightly lose my mind, looking from the fire on the pipe to the drivers seat, where my boyfriend is sitting, and proceed to imagine every hollywood movie scene where any vehicle slightly on fire ends up exploding and flipping up into the air.
I literally started calculating how much flights back to Edmonton would be.
But alas, the universe had different plans.
Jesse and I scrambled to put the fire out with sand before every possession we had with us blew up, when, not very far after, an angel hippie by the name of JoJo pulled up in his truck and tie-dyed shirt, and pulled us to safety with tow ropes he had in his truck.
I’m not sure I’ve ever given someone a bigger hug in my life.
As soon as we were free, we bolted (but not so quickly as to restart the fire) off the beach and to try to find a place to sleep for the night.
Which leads me to our third and final road block to the nuttiest day of the trip: we had nowhere to sleep.
“But aren’t you literally driving a house on wheels?” Why yes, yes we are, however, if you have nowhere to park said house, you can’t sleep in it. And the reason we had nowhere to park is because I made a very big mistake in doing my research: I read that in the state of Oregon you were able to stay in any state park overnight. Believing this to be the case, Jesse and I didn’t book any places to stay as we figured we would just in one of the many vast state parks along the coast. Nope. Wrong. There is no overnight parking in state parks unless you’ve booked a campsite. There is, however, plenty of overnight, anywhere parking in state FORESTS, which all happen to be in land, far from where we were. Shit. (Also, FYI, there are ZERO Walmart or Casino Parking lots to sleep in for free until half way down the coast, literally, so just a heads up for those of you looking to go. Plan your stay by booking sites ahead of time or by ending your days within a reasonable driving distance to State Forests so that you can drive back out to the Oregon Coast Highway in the morning).
And so, to finish off this crazy, construction filled, peeing in cups, lighting the van on fire day, we drove forever up and down hills beyond the town of Cullaby (did I mention they have no shoulders or pull offs on their roads?) so tired and on edge as it turned to night, until finally, using google maps, we found an undeveloped cul-de-sac in town that we figured, if we weren’t loud and didn’t use too many lights, we could sleep there.
Until we woke up to a police officer coming to kick us out of the spot.
HA! No joke! So nuts. However, he was super nice, just told us we couldn’t set up camp there and that we needed to move along.
And now I will move much more quickly through content, I promise, I just had to share this day in detail because it was so crazy.
After our police officer wake up call, we went to Ecola State Park which was pheNOMINAL and SO beautiful! We walked the beach, hiked the trails, enjoyed the views, chilled in the hammock and read, and then got photoshoot ready as I had hired a local photographer (Marcela, whoop whoop!) to capture us on our awesome camper van adventure, at the infamous Cannon Beach, and in Bertha too.
And some shots from our shoot with the amazing Marcela. JPG of whom we ended up spending the entire evening with, having dinner and chatting for hours before heading into our first overnight, anywhere stay at the very north-eastern edge of Tillamook State forest.
We started with the most beautiful hike to Soapstone Lake (we slept right at the trailhead, for FREE!) after which we continued on down the coast (it’s just all so green and beautiful and RICH) enjoying the ocean alongside us the whole way. We stopped and had the best sandwich ever at Big Wave Cafe (it made me fall in love with banana and jalepeno peppers) and ended with the most aMAZING spot we stayed (found by the ever so amazing Jesse) as we were scouting up and down backroads for a place to sleep after a failed attempt to get a campsite farther inland. We were literally driving back along this road to a pullout we had seen when Jesse pulled off the road and down this side hill. We drove past what must have been someone’s property, out into this GORgeous open valley with a river running alongside and eventually through it. It was one of the funnest (and funniest) nights we had there as we enjoyed some of the local goodies Oregon has to offer.
We woke up to a beautiful, misty morning, got back on the road and went waterfall hunting in Tillamook Forest! We ended up coming across the information centre and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of the forest, before using the directions from one of the staff to find a gorgeous waterfall and then farther down the highway, the most amazing watering hole (with some mini cliff jumping and it’s own natural tube ride!) that we spent the day reading and hanging out at.
After dinner at a literal seaside restaurant, Garibaldi PortSide Bistro, where we ate the most delicious clam chowder and were served the biggest Reuben sandwiches I’ve ever seen to date, we retired an Barview Jetty County Campground as we were in need of a shower. Though this campground was massive, it was cheap, well kept, and you were in walking distance to the beach wherever you were. That night was one of the best of the trips for me. Due to the wind, we ended up drinking fireball and playing cards in the van, where as, after we stepped outside to go pee and saw how absolutely BREATHTAKINGLY clear the sky was, packed up a backpack with blankets, our portable stove and some noodles for a midnight snack at the beach. It ended up being so dark that you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face, which meant that you could see (what felt like) every star in the sky. We sat cuddled together, contemplated existence and just enjoyed being together…..I will never forget that night.
The next day brought more coastal driving and exploring, a Tillamook Cheese Factory Visit (on recommendation from Jesse’s grandparents, get some ice cream) and waterfall hunting (we went to Munson Creek Falls, but were so disappointed to find a mudslide had completely closed the trail) after which we headed into Lincoln City to find a spot in the casino parking lot as we wanted to watch the UFC fights.
We found out Oregon Coast towns tend not to have the amount of bars or pubs with TV’s showing sporting events so it ended up being a bit of a gong show to watch them as our plan to park at the casino and just watch them there was a bust because the casino was full. We ended up leaving the van and after walking everywhere in town, we ended up walking way down the freakin highway to a golf country club on the hope we could watch them there. Though it was full, we found a place to stand and ended up meeting a lot of fun people (including Gronkowski 😉 and a group of hippies who had converted an entire bus into their home. What a night.
Next day we had breakfast at the coolest Otis Cafe (HUGE portions of food, we should have ordered only one plate of something haha) and continued down the Oregon Coast Highway just looking to have a beach day as we were a little hurtin from the night before. We looked into Siletz Bay Park but it was packed, so using google maps I saw a spot literally down the highway a bit, and it ended up being completely empty and PERFECT! The parking lot is right by The Bay House and we just hung out in our bathing suits all day reading and sleeping, made a fire on the beach to cook dinner and headed out when the tide came in. This was the only night we stayed in a motel and it was simply because we needed proper showers.
It was at this point in the trip that we decided that instead of continuing to the very bottom of the Oregon Coast and booking it home, that we should turn inland and make coming home just as much a part of the trip as actually driving the coast. This may have also been influenced by the fact that I had read that the Columbia River Gorge was AMAZING and I thought it would be good to spend more than an afternoon there. So after a relaxed morning in Lincoln city (soo many colourful buildings) we turned towards the gorge. The drive was unbelievable. You MUST take the Historic Columbia River Highway instead of the newer one as it’s so beautiful. The views, the history, the freakin WATERFALLS. You drive and there are bridges and tunnels and buildings built over 100 years ago! And the waterfalls are just right there! Right beside the highway! Just pull over and go enjoy! Latourell Falls was stunning (must) Bridal Veils falls was two tiered (SUCH a must! Make sure to wade through the water and climb up to the second tier!). We then stayed at the Port of Cascade Locks Campground (AWESOME campground) where, a quick walk from where you are sleeping is Thunder Island Brewing Co. which had the best food and atmosphere, along with a gorgeous view of the river and sunset.
Due to the amount of waterfalls and hiking I wanted to do this day (and my goal to get a picture alone at the top of Multnomah Falls) we had an early start to this day. It was UNBELIEVABLY worth it, with this being my favourite day of our entire trip.
We then continued literally down the road to Oneonta Gorge! AMAZING!!!! GAH! I saw a picture of this place on instagram over 3 years ago and it was surreal to actually be there! If you want to go all the way in to the lower falls, be prepared to get wet. We spent the first half trying not to get wet, but you eventually MUST wade through the water, so don’t even bother trying to stay dry.
After a FREEZING but glorious swim, I must urge you, if you ever go, to continue on to the mid and upper falls. The hike is beautiful, you pass two other sets of falls on the way, and it’s just unbelievably gorgeous.
At this waterfall above there was a bridge (where I am taking this picture of Jesse from) that everyone was crossing and it looped back to go back down to the highway, BUT. I saw on google maps there was an Upper Falls so though the trail disappeared and we just had to find our way it was so. Worth it.
We didn’t see another soul to or from the falls and we had the whole place to ourselves. I ended up going for a skinny dip and it was just so absolutely magical.
The last two days were not that exciting. We were homeward bound and baggin it. We drove all the way from Oneonto Gorge to Sandpoint, Idaho, where we woke up for a mini lazy day on the beach there before Jesse drove until 2am to give us a shorter last day haul home. His efforts were thwarted when we ended up running out of gas (in Gasoline Alley, AB) and had to wait for AMA to come give us some, but it was all good as we safely made it back to Doug and our bed and our lovely little city that we are so thankful to call home in Canada.
Amazing, amazing trip. So many new experiences and things seen and memories made, and I am so thankful we took the time and energy to plan and follow through as we now have it for the rest of our lives.
I love you, Jesse (and Bertha), that was so fun.
And thank you for reading. I hope you found it helpful, or inspiring, or at least enjoyable.