Into the Mist — Oregon Hwy 101 Trip

First and foremost, I need to thank my wife for planning an amazing trip. She spent quite a few weeks on Pinterest finding places to stay, things to do, and basically formed a vacation to fit the things I love most: trees, nature, and a chance to depart from the sprawling concrete that makes up my day to day.

I am not an avid vacation blogger, but there was too much not to share. I hope you enjoy!

Astoria: More than just the Goonies

Whenever I bring up Astoria, I hear “Isn’t that the home of the Goonies?” To which, of course, the answer is yes. However, it is much, much more than that. Generally speaking, the town of Astoria is beautiful. The homes are full of character and typically overlook the Columbia “River.” I put river in quotes because it is huge! The Columbia puts any river I’ve seen to shame at Astoria.

The barges on the left are in the Columbia

Our first stop in Astoria reflects one of our goals to the vacation: try all the beers! We stopped at Rogue Nation on Pier 39 to enjoy a few beers (my favorite being the Chocolate/Hazelnut Stout) and a cheese curd burger. As we enjoyed our food and drink, we stared out at the river and watched the sea lions play in the bay. We had an amazing waiter who enjoyed filling us in on what’s to do in Astoria. As a result, we checked out the next pier over and see even more sea lions.

Taking advantage of a rare sunny day in April on the coast, we checked out the Astoria Column. This was an amazing opportunity to view the entire area of Astoria and we could see where our journey will take us.

A view of Astoria, from the Column

From there, we checked out Fort George Brewery. I found out we came for the wrong week. Apparently there’s a whole month called “Stout Month” in February! We then moseyed on over to Buoy Beer Co. This is where I found out that I actually enjoy talking with bartenders! Sorry to the two at Buoy Beer, as I was probably annoying asking how life was on the coast. We also got a great photo op from their plexiglass view of the pier below.

We then had dinner at what ended up being the bane of my existence. Our goal was to not go to a single chain restaurant when we were in Oregon. Turns out, we chose the one restaurant that was a chain specific to Oregon: Mo’s. It became a running joke, as they seem to be everywhere along the 101.

Ft Stevens to Seaside: Beauty to Disappointment

Our second day started out with a stop that we had originally removed from our list of things to see. Boy, would that have been a mistake! Fort Stevens’ main draw is the wreck of the Peter Iredale. To get to the wreck, you drive through a dense forest and onto an extremely interesting beach, where the sand is nearly black from, what I presume, the soil blowing onto the coast from the forest. The waves are crashing onto the beach, right up to the remains of a 1900s metallic masted boat. It is described as a “transition in naval technology” on the placard, which is an apt description. All that’s left is the steel supports for the plates that made up its hull. If you take it at face value, that it’s simply a wreck, it’s maybe a bit lack luster…but when you take into account that it grounded ashore over 100 years ago, it makes it that much cooler.

We actually found that the wreck was just a small piece of what Fort Stevens had to offer. After taking pictures, we headed up the coast and stopped at almost every pull off. At one of them, we were swarmed by sea birds screaming at us (we assume nesting nearby). On our walk back my wife spied 7 elk eating in the tall grass. These are awesome animals and seeing them in the wild is a great happenstance for us! As we were walking away from our picture-taking location, a bald eagle swooped out of the trees past us within 10–20 feet. What a way to start the morning!

Our route then took us down to Sunset Beach less than 15 miles away. In retrospect to the rest of our trip, our walk to the beach was time that could’ve been spent elsewhere. One thing that is cool is how different the beach was, only 15 miles away! It’s a lot closer to a traditional beach than what we found in Fort Stevens.

The next 9 miles of driving south were pretty disappointing. Traffic began becoming a thing, more strip malls popped up, and then we got to our destination city for the night…Seaside.

We got out of the car and walked around the town and were more and more disheartened as we did so. We grabbed a beer at Seaside Brewing Co. and some fish and chips at a food stand up the road. By the end of the day, we were kind of fed up with the feel of the city and settled for chicken wings from the local Safeway. Seaside felt like a tourist trap, a feeling we disdain!

Our afternoon, luckily, made up for our stay in Seaside. We drove down to Ecola State Park, which was our first of many long hikes in the week. The drive into the park is an adventure of its own. Driving a rental car without coverage on a windy, curvy, narrow road is definitely a bit nerve wracking, and well worth it.

What I thought was a big tree

I remember walking into the forest and being excited by how dense the woods were. Within feet of entering the trailhead, I was telling my wife to take pictures of me by trees because they were so big…only to realize the ones I was thinking of as huge are actually small in comparison to later ones. There were a few times I nearly walked off the path because I was looking up into the trees. There are multiple points where the beach is clearly visible and the distance we were able to see was impressive. Seeing the oceanside from that altitude made for a lot of stunning views.

The furthest outcrop is actually Haystack Rock

After miles of hiking, we turned around as the path was 15+ miles. Down on the beach, we had our first experience of walking through a run-off stream that leads from the hills to the ocean. The water is cold and clear, and actually rather fast flowing. We also got to experience being hit by a wave and not realizing the power of the ocean, even on the beach.

If I had to do it again, I’d love to spend more time here!

Seaside to Lincoln City: The fastest 20 mph Drive

Wednesday is where the title of this post comes from. As mentioned, it’s rare to get clear days in Oregon in April. Our luck ran out on Wednesday as we were greeted with a very misty next few days. To be quite honest, I liked it. Driving through a misty wooded area is oddly enticing for me, plus, I don’t get sunburned as easily!

While it made it difficult to see some of the things we wanted to, I still enjoyed it. Our first stop was at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. It’s a pretty huge rock outcropping that just juts out of the ocean. The mist added a real cool feel to it.

Hug Point was our next location, but we came at high tide, making it impassible for us. It did make for some cool wave shots, though!

Our drive then took us down into Tillamook (til-uh-muk), where we were greeted with a 12 minute traffic jam. That was really the worst of traffic that we encountered on our trip, luckily! Again, in Williams’ tradition, we stopped for a flight of delicious beer at Pelican Brewing. They had a Berried at Sea porter that was great! Plus, their flight holder was really cool.

The drive took us through some valley areas that provided us with a nice change of pace. It was really cool seeing all of the rivers and the homes alongside them. Each home had huge gardens, a greenhouse, and chicken coops. Basically, everything I’m looking for in a forever-home! If money were no matter…

Many of the turns were between 20 mph and 40 mph, which was quite fun, even in a Ford Taurus. Even though this was the longest stretch of driving in our trip, it went by really quick.

Stopping at yet another state park, we saw a 2.5 mile hike into the woods that we just had to see. It was proceeded with a warning sign stating there were sheer drop offs that the path was atop. No biggy.

A mile in, the path came to a T. Our original destination went to the right, the beach access point on the left. We stopped down at the beach, finding several surfers (crazy considering how cold the water is). After walking down the beach to get a waterfall picture, we returned to the path. We decided to head back to the car instead of to the end of the cove (our original destination). However, at the T, we were greeted by 4 older ladies who told us we had to go on. So we did.

About 40 minutes of mud, hills, river crossings, slick rocks, and running out of food and water…we decided to turn around. We got to see a lot of great views of the ocean and experience “skunk cabbage.” Unfortunately, this cut into our time that we were going to spend at another hiking spot. We did, however, enjoy ourselves regardless!

The biggest tree I found. Easily 10 ft diameter

Our final stop for the day was in Lincoln City, where we would be centered out of for the remainder of our trip. We walked the long, soft beach sands called “7 Miles of Smiles.”

Since our hotel was right along the beach, we got out and tide pooled in the morning to find some really cool anemones, hermit crabs, fish, and kelp.

As a result of our hiking expedition, we were tired and decided to grab sushi from a local joint and eat it in the hotel. It was actually a great meal since we turned the chairs in the room to face the ocean while we ate.

Newport: Stop and See everything along the way

Our last full day of sight seeing was by and large my favorite. We left the hotel without a plan and said we’d stop at every state park or scenic area on the way down to Newport, where we intended to visit the Newport Aquarium.

I am extremely glad we did. By the time the day was done, we had stopped 9 times along the coast! Many of them provided great views of the ocean and the crashing waves. One we walked along a river leading to the ocean. We found the largest mussels I have ever seen!

I apologize for the full screen of seemingly random images, but I had a really hard time picking out my favorites.

Next, we arrived at Devil’s Punchbowl.

From there, we went to another “we should probably skip it for the sake of time” location from our original itinerary. Yaquina Head was an amazing stop. We walked down a path and got to see two harbor seals wrestling in the water. Pretty cool, huh? Back in the car, we drove up to “interpretive center” and then out to the lighthouse. The lighthouse was, in my opinion, nothing spectacular. But walking out past it, we saw (and most certainly heard) an island of birds.

It was a really cool sight to see. We also got to see a bald eagle in the tree by the lighthouse. I enjoyed being able to see all of the wildlife naturally, as opposed to them being caged as I have seen them here in Nebraska. Bald eagles without the ability to fly is much different than seeing them in the wild.

We were also lucky enough to see a whale while we were there, although briefly. At 2 o’clock, when tide got low, we were told to come back to do more tide pooling.

Our stop in Newport was simply to grab a beer at Rogue again, and great meal of clam chowder, Oregon pink shrimp tacos, and clam strips.

We were really, really rewarded by returning to Yaquina. The bald eagle made a friend when we were gone.

The tide pools provided us with some really cool anemones again, as well as an island full of harbor seals, instead of just 4. I also had no idea how mussels were found in the wild, so seeing a whole rock having every square inch covered with them was quite the sight.

We trusted the word of an older woman again, and went up the hill that the lighthouse is nested by. At the top, there was supposedly two falcons nesting. We never saw them. Disappointed, we headed back down the hill. I commented “Wouldn’t it be funny if we saw a whale on the way down?” Not a few minutes later, I spotted a spout.

If you’ve ever been whale watching, you come to realize quickly that if you’re looking for big signs of whales (i.e. waves, large outlines of their bodies, etc), they’re hard to spot. But their spouts are a clear giveaway. We ended up watching 3 or more whales come to the surface for about an hour. It was incredibly exciting. I even managed to snap a few pictures from miles away!

After our incredible experience in Yaquina, we headed back to our hotel, stopping for what seemed like our only non-fried seafood experience of Oregon. We enjoyed steamed clams while listening to an awkward first date between two older multiple-time divorced couple.

Our final night at our hotel was spent drinking some Rogue beer (black IPA and a Hazulnut Brown Ale. 👍). As we were sitting by the fireside, watching the ocean, and sipping the IPA, a bald eagle flew overhead chasing a seagull. An insane dog chase ensued, with the bald eagle giving up over the ocean.

It was a great last day in Oregon.

Lincoln City to Portland: Return to Reality

Our return trip was a pretty quiet one. We did our normal 6 o’clock wake up and got ready. Everything was packed the night before. Obviously, we weren’t looking forward to leaving and heading back to the real world. Our drive took us along highway 18. It’s a wonderful curvy highway, through the Van Duzer Forest Corridor followed by a straight section of highway through orchards and vineyards galore.

My wife and I have done the “Nebraska Wine Passport” and would’ve loved to stop along the way to Portland. However, wine tasting at 9 a.m. is just not possible!

We took our time getting into Portland and navigated to Stumptown Coffee to grab a cup of coffee. From there we decided to check out a brewery called Basecamp Brewing Co. We walked to their location about a mile away, getting there right before they opened. The location walked us through an extremely dirty part of Portland, passing a “live nude show” every few businesses. In addition, there was a large homeless camp. I know our glimpse of Portland was short and narrowed by time, but just the sheer size and feel of the city was not to our liking.

Basecamp Brewing did give us the opportunity to taste some delicious beers (Cherry Stout? Yes please!) and a newfound love of a Nepali food: Momos. We had been eating burgers, fried foods, and all sorts of things that had us feeling pretty gross. We’re typically vegetarian during the weekdays, so this amount of poor eating was unusual for us. The vegetarian momos were a welcome reprieve from our diet in Oregon. So much so, we got some on the drive home in Nebraska!

Basecamp Brewing has among the best interior designs

Our trip concluded by arriving at PDX only to find that the TSA line took less than 20 minutes, leaving us with 2 hours in the terminal. We walked the whole airport (we had done 30+ miles of walking/hiking through the week, so sitting for that long was not going to work). Our conclusion: we could’ve done another brewery (or two, turns out there’s 113 breweries in Portland alone).

Simply Amazing

Additional Points

  • “Rough Road” is a laughable statement in Oregon. What Oregonians consider a rough road is what we consider a good road where we’re from. The joke is: “In England, they drive on the left side of the road. In Nebraska, we drive on what’s left of the road.”
  • The Tsunami warning zone signs face the wrong direction when going south. Below is the sign. When heading south, the little man running from the wave is running towards the ocean!
  • Do not trust Oregonian old ladies. They led us up a hill looking for falcons that we didn’t see and sent us further into the woods when we wanted to go to a different trail!
  • Nebraska reminded us that it hates us. The entire drive from western Nebraska to home was 40mph winds. By the time we arrived home, my arms ached from holding a constantly vibrating and moving steering wheel. In fact, the dust we drove through ended up causing a 29 car pile up and a death.
  • Bathrooms! They were at every stop. I don’t think people really appreciate how nice this is. Not all of the bathrooms were clean, but I’ll take it.
  • Beach dogs are the most independent, yet well behaved dogs I have ever come across. We saw one running about 500 yards to and from their beach blanket to the ocean and back. They all looked so happy!
  • We spent a total of $17 on attractions. All of which went to national parks!

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