Welcome to our favorite (extensive) part of the trip. We hope you enjoy our sadness as we write this, considering I really did not want to leave Oregon/Washington. We’re only 2 weeks away from being home and as most of you know by now, I’ll be staying in Rhode Island until early July working with URI and a few of our beloved friends, and Hunter is heading to western Colorado from June-September to work as a botany technician! It doesn’t feel like real life to be going back “home”, when recently, all I’ve known is this tiny 4x8ft camper and a road ahead with so many fulfillments. I miss my animals, my mother (who sent us muffins…you’re the best mom. I love you) and all of our friends. We are already planning and brainstorming our future trips here. Next time, the only thing we’re changing is a companion. Having a dog would have been sublime on this trip!
From northern California, we set our GPS to send us to Bend, Oregon. We noticed signs for Crater Lake National Park and decided to stop and check it out while we were in the area. Though the park was mostly still covered in snow, the lake itself is the deepest in the United States. Its color almost seems fake, the deep blue ink-like water staining the scenery with beauty. Snowshoeing and backcountry skiing were the two most popular activities in the park this time of year (since all roads were still covered in snow), but we decided to head toward Bend while we still had daylight.
The city is definitely becoming more popular, but still small enough for us to feel comfortable and not too congested. We found a Ben & Jerry’s and sat by a bridge. Believe it or not, people here actually talk to each other and enjoy being outdoors. We didn’t notice many people on their phones. Instead, people were walking around, sitting by the water, biking, and someone was even taking a sunset paddle down the river.
The next day we woke up and geared up for a day at Smith Rock State Park. We’ve heard about awesome climbing and cool people from all over the country, so it was going to be a good day for us outside. We were lucky enough for it to be cool and overcast, making the conditions almost perfect to be at the parks most popular wall, the Morning Glory wall. We didn’t get any pictures or videos unfortunately, but trust me when I say it was AWESOME. We found a walk-in campground for $5 per person, including showers and flush toilets, with water and a dish washing area. This is extremely fancy stuff, for a very cheap price, people.
The sport climbing at Smith Rock is legendary for a reason. The rock is a confidence inspiring fine grit texture, and the walls are well featured with crimps, pockets, and huecos you could take a nap inside. We followed some excellent Mountain Project beta and built ourselves a stick-clip before showing up – necessary when some of the first bolts are close to 20 feet off of the ground. However, once you’ve made that first clip you begin to worry a bit less about decking, and start to revel in the world class climbing.
Because the Morning Glory wall is close to the parking lot, warm on an overcast day, and stacked with Smith Rock classics, we weren’t surprised that there was always a buzz of folks around us. However, juxtaposed to our standard crowd reaction, Sarah and I felt a real sense of community around this place. After many friendly conversations, we commented to an acquaintance about how friendly the area was: “what did you expect? It’s Bend Oregon!” He replied with a sheepish smile. We’d discovered a small pocket of perfection on the west coast.
There’s always one in the crowd, however, and of course, we have to share. Setting up camp behind us as Sarah prepared for a smooth lead of the classic ‘5 Gallon Buckets’, the couple behind us put on quite a show. Touting his climbing accomplishments audibly, the obvious first date was getting off to an anxious start with a crash course in lead belaying. I lowered Sarah off our anchor and cleaned the route, still listening in to the geyser of information being thrown at the girl behind us. Pulling our gear they move into our spot and begin to climb. We look on with knots in our stomachs and sympathy pump in our arms as the leader makes a crouched, Elvis-leg, struggle-fest of a second clip, taking the opportunity to teach his belayer how to ‘take’. At the next clip the leader pauses on a large hueco, looking down as he threads the rope through his draw, and says: “I can teach you how to lead climb if we continue to climb together, is that something you’re interested in?” Pulling a generous belly out of the rope, she uttered: “Um, yes, I’m interested”.
At this point we left our subjects, puzzling at the eccentric, slightly nerve racking exchange. Later we watched the leader take a sizable whipper and continue on, so clearly his crash course worked. She’s definitely more than 80% sure now. As a side note to this story, as Sarah reached the third bolt on ‘5 gallon buckets’, she hollered “take”, and then immediately began fawning over the mini Australian Shepherd uphill from us, exclaiming “I like your dog, can I pet it?” Climbing is a sport that requires complete focus and concentration.
By the end of the day we had lead a 5.8 – ‘5 Gallon Buckets’, a 5.9 – ‘Anonymity’, and a 5.10C – ‘9 Gallon Buckets’. The routes were exceptional, and the setting was superb. I have no doubt we will return.
With a dark sky shedding light rain above us, we woke up the next morning feeling extremely satisfied with the previous day we had at the crag. Like skiing, we followed the general consensus of not to ruin a good time by pushing the limits (though we probably could have…) and drove to Portland. We made our way to NW 23rd Ave and explored an Arc-teryx outlet, multiple coffee shops, and even tried a lavender float from a booming ice cream shop. Brickley’s would do exceptionally well here. We wrapped up our short stay in Portland by getting lost in REI and admiring all the things we can’t afford.
The short drive into Washington was gorgeous—literally. We drove next to a gorge with beautiful rolling mountains and scenery. Mount Hood appeared every once and a while, and while making our way to Trout Lake, Mount Adams hung out in the clouds. We were able to capture some pretty amazing sunset pictures while traveling.
My cousin Laura has traveled the country (and some parts of the world) that I wasn’t even aware of: from New Zealand to familiar parts of Colorado, California, and Costa Rica. We arrived to Laura and Mike’s who provided us with great hospitality. Free laundry, a hot shower, a beautiful house, home-cooked meals, and a comfortable bed were exactly what we needed. I felt so much love from this small family. They are convinced Hunter and I will be back on the west coast sometime soon—and they’re not wrong.
The weather was on our side and we were able to explore and have our own personal guides along the way. We could see why Laura & Mike decided to move out this way. Though it was still snowy, the views were beautiful and the small town was quirky. They brought us to Lava tubes, which are underground caves and trails formed by volcanoes. Ice hung delicately from multiple places. Mike told us people actually harvested the ice at one point, which seems silly to us now. Calder, their young but adventurous and brave son, led the way and urged Hunter and I on. I can only imagine the cool things he’s going to know and do when he’s older!
We found a snowmobile trail (no longer in use for the season) and called it Bear Track Trail, figuring it was appropriate because of the multiple bear tracks found. Calder was able to fit his small hand in them! It was so quiet and beautiful on our hike; I was really starting to understand why Laura and Mike decided to settle here.
After a well-earned lunch and some down time, we enjoyed another home-cooked meal of chili and cornbread (so delicious) and felt spoiled. We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, thankful, and had one last meal with the Cary-Berg family and headed on our way to Olympic National Park. We had to skip Mt. Rainier NP because of weather conditions, forcing people to have snow tires and carry chains with them at all times. We weren’t too sure how Scamper would do in these conditions with her 12-inch wheels.
Another beautiful park, Olympic, struck Hunter and I immediately with its views of the Pacific Ocean. With little to no people here, we were able to walk the beach peacefully and without interruption. We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset behind the pacific while inside Scamper’s door, hiding from the wind, but huddled in the warmth.
Olympic has so much to offer, from harsh beaches to thriving rain forests. We took a stroll down the Hoh rain forest trail and heard/saw a varied thrush (my favorite bird sighting and song so far)! We ventured off trail and had lunch by the river, enjoyed the serenity and hoping to see a bear nearby. There were white-capped mountains if we looked down-river and lush mountainsides next to us. Sad to leave, we drove toward Seattle to get a head start in the morning, but felt too overwhelmed by the crowds and tight streets and drove out of the city (I know, hi/bye Seattle). More text below!
We stopped in Spokane, WA, to break up the drive between Seattle and Flathead Lake, MT. Wild Walls is a climbing gym, and with a scoff and eye roll, we were told it was the oldest climbing gym in the country at 23 years old. We felt a pretentious vibe while there. Immediate beta was given to us if we even looked at a problem, showing Hunter or I how to make a move depending on what sex/weight we were. (Hunter immediately regretted not buying the “don’t spray beta” t-shirt in Bend). Constant gnarr was coming from everyone. The problems were solid and the climbing was great, except you all in Spokane need to chill out. It’s just plastic.
Anyway, that pretty much wraps up our Oregon and Washington adventure. We’re back on Eastern Time right now and since we’ve been on the west coast, people have been asking: what’s been your favorite part so far? For me (Sarah), I would definitely say Flathead Lake, MT (next blog post) or Bend, OR would be legit places I could see myself living in. It’s not expensive, the people are friendly, and there are so many cool things to do in the area. You’ll just have to come out and try it for yourself to see 🙂
It’s hard to settle on one moment or place that rises above the others, but having to point to something I (Hunter) would say that the mentality of being on the road, waking up and knowing some new adventure lies in the not-so-distant future, is probably my favorite part. One night you’re hidden in lush sequoia mountains, and the next you’re topping out a sketchy problem in the desert, or drinking exceptional Portland coffee. I can say that Olympic National Park is definitely a special place. Never have I been driven to such a hush, or silently shepherded to such an introspective place, as walking among the moss-draped maples and towering pine. It’s a soft, welcoming landscape beside the ocean, and one to which I am certain I will return. It’s been a spectacular journey so far, and ultimately it comes down to the fact that this country is unimaginably beautiful. Stand by for our next post from Washington to Montana and back on the east 🙂