The Road Trip is Done
Alternative titles, courtesy of James: The Pacific Coast on Toast, North Weezy Keeping it Sleazy, North West at its Best.
All winners and definitely had to be included but I had my own more subtle rhyme scheme going on (see previous titles). Anyway ...
We begin in Yosemite. Two days were spent trying to scratch the surface of this enormously beautiful National Park. We, perhaps, tried to cram too much in and therefore spent a lot of time driving to destinations and less time hiking than we thought, but we managed to see a lot! We drove the Tioga Pass, a road which is closed from about Nov-June due to heavy snowfall, and stopped at Olmsted Point for our first peak at the crowd favourite, Half Dome. To get away from the hoards, we climbed some sort of mountain and were treated to great views and an overlook of Tenaya Lake. We then drove to some other mountain which we climbed for more views and then casually strolled a few miles to see giant Sequoias. You can’t really grasp the scale of them but they’re bloody massive. 300ish ft tall, 40ish ft in circumference. You'd like to put your house next to one just to really compare the size. Huge and awe-inspiring.
On our second day in Yosemite, we went down into the Valley and hiked to Vernal Falls. Turns out California’s in the midst of a 4 year long drought so waterfalls aren’t that easy to come by in Yosemite. Vernal Falls is flying the flag for the rest though and we thought we fancied some more uphill walking so we hiked the strenuous (Yosemite’s word, not mine) Mist trail. You climb through valleys, shrouded by countless trees on either side, huge rock faces and then slowly amble alongside a river which after a few more minutes of uphill trekking turns into a stunning waterfall. So stunning in fact, it was graced with not one, but two rainbows. A double rainbow, you might say! We drove out to a few more locations, did a little more strolling and then finished our time in Yosemite at Glacier Point where you get more incredible views. Yosemite: pretty scenic! Two days was enough to see the highlights but if we went again we’d have to leave the car behind and do some serious trekking.
The following day was 21st September and as such, my 26th birthday. We started the day with breakfast, cards and presents and then we headed to a spa in Calistoga for volcanic ash mud baths. Ridiculously relaxing (I may have fallen asleep) and leaves you feeling silky smooth. After our muddy naps, we lounged by the thermal pools and then headed to Mendocino, a cute town on the coast where James had booked a restaurant for dinner. A lovely birthday and one of the best days of the whole trip! Relaxing in a spa after two days of, did I mention, uphill hiking? Absolute winner.
Back to the Pacific Coast Highway from there and we headed north to the Humboldt Redwoods State Park for more giant trees. Quite honestly, I’m not too clear on the differences between Sequoias and Redwoods but from my basic perspective, the Sequoias were a tiny bit fatter and the Redwoods a tiny bit taller. Both bloody big. Lots of walking and admiring the leafy giants. We took the obligatory pictures of us trying to hug the giant trees and moved on to Oregon, our fourth state and another National Park! We suddenly went outdoors crazy. We went to the Crater Lake National Park, a gigantic lake (obviously) which was formed 7000 years ago by a massive volcano. The water is scientifically some of the purest in the world and it's ridiculously blue, clear and deep. You feel like you're staring at a painting, no water has ever been so blue. We went a little way around it but shockingly, the view doesn’t change too much so we drove back to the PCH and worked our way up the coast towards Portland.
Portland is a hoot. Not a huge city but that made it nice and easy to get around. The climate is a lot more like England so inevitably the raincoats came out but it was lovely and green. We drove out to the Columbia River Gorge on our first day for more outdoorsy fun. Just a regular Ray Mears and equally outdoorsy female counterpart over here! We went to Multnomah Falls and made the mistake of climbing to the top; a pretty steep and taxing walk and then you reach the top and realise you can’t see the waterfall anymore as it’s now below you. I took a picture of the small waterfall at the top, not very impressive; tried to get a shot of the waterfall cascading down, quite frankly it’s terrible; and then the view out from the top which pretty much just includes a lake and a motorway. Still, we got a bit of exercise which is definitely needed on the American diet. Speaking of which, our dinner that night consisted of doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts which judging by the size of the queue, has a bit of a cult following in Portland. A delicious doughnut shop and, worth noting, a bizarre wedding venue. A healthy dinner followed by cider and a comedy club rounded off our day.
The sun put his hat on on Saturday and we started the day by wandering the markets by the river. We spent a bit of time in Powell’s book store - five floors of books! You could spend days. Then meandered through Pioneer Square and downtown Portland out to the delightful NW 23rd Avenue for a little shopping and more eating. This was followed by a stroll up to Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden for views over the city. Portland served us well and we left for Seattle feeling like we wanted more time to stroll, eat and explore. Seattle didn’t let us down and served up even more doughnuts and lovely views. We stopped off in Olympia, the Washington State Capitol on the way to Seattle, just to see it really. Some nice parliament buildings but not a necessary stop on your roadtrip itinerary.
A few days in Seattle allowed James to meet up with an old uni friend and us to explore a bit of the city. We’d read about the Columbia Center, Seattle’s tallest building and cheaper than going up the Space Needle. Plus ... you get views of the Space Needle! So we paid for a day’s pass which meant we went up during the day and then came back for sunset and stayed for an hour or so after. A great way to see the city skyline change and get amazing views of Mount Rainier, a constant in the peripherals when getting around Seattle. We sauntered through downtown, had a long look around Pike Place market and saw the original Starbucks. Amazing how many huge businesses started in Seattle; Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, to name a few. We then headed along the river, through the Olympic State Park and to the Seattle Centre. Lots of city strolling. We also had a look around the different districts: Freemont, U Dub, Capitol Hill, Belltown where we stopped at Kerry Park for a picnic. Tiny park but offers huge views of the city. We also ended up with a free box of a dozen doughnuts. Goes without saying, Seattle was real swell.
And that’s it! 32 days in America, 5 states and about 4600 miles covered by car and hundreds more by foot (wandering, strolling, meandering, etc.), bus, bicycle, train, boat, water slides. We left home with grand intentions of running every couple of days and cooking healthy dinners. We've been for one run and perhaps, based on my ubiquitous doughnut mentioning, you might gather our diet hasn't been the healthiest but who cares. It’s been amazing and I’d love to do it all over again! But now we’ve just arrived in Canada with a two-year visa in our pockets and very excited for the next adventure. (Just not excited about having to work again!) Canada, let's see what you've got!