11 days / portland / crater lake / redwoods / yosemite / san francisco
On July 31, Joe and I set off on a roadtrip through Southern Oregon and Northern California.
The first four days of our trip were spent with some of our best friends at Pickathon, a small music festival in Happy Valley, Oregon. Pickathon could be a post all on its own. This New York Times piece captures it much better than I ever could. But really, it’s something you just have to experience for yourself.
In 2012, we did the northern version of this post-Pickathon roadtrip and traveled from Portland up the Oregon Coast to Seattle and then Vancouver. We fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and made a promise to do the Southern version of the roadtrip next time we came out this way.
So after Pickathon, we picked up a little red Toyota Yaris, and headed south to Rogue River, Oregon, where we spent two nights in an airstream on an off-the-grid goat farm. The first morning, we woke up to roosters crowing and wild turkeys in our front yard. Our host, G, let us tag along for the morning goat feeding and let us try our hand at milking a (very patient and tolerant) lady goat.
After our morning on the farm, we took a day trip to Crater Lake National Park. G suggested we make a stop at National Creek Falls on the way. There is a .8 mile hike not far off of HWY 230 down to the falls, and when we got down there, we had the waterfall all to ourselves. And it was straight out of FernGully!
Crater Lake was as breathtaking as I’d imagined. The lake was created from an imploded volcano more 7,700 years ago and is the deepest lake in the country. We took a short hike along the lake, had a picnic, and soaked it all in.
On our way back to the airstream, we made a stop at the Rogue River gorge. Even though it was summertime and the river was low, the water shoots through this gorge so incredibly fast and down multiple falls — I’ve never seen anything like it.
We spent Wednesday traveling down the 101 through the redwoods and along the coast. When we spotted our first gigantic redwood tree, Joe and I both gasped. They really are just so big and magical.
Along the way, we stopped at Eel River Brewing for a flight and a bite, cruised through the Avenue of the Giants, and stopped for a hike on the Rockefeller Loop — a short trail through the redwoods that I discovered after watching this beautiful video.
Wednesday night we arranged to stay in a little house in Mendocino. As we were driving along the coast almost to our destination, the sun started going down. We waited until the last possible minute to pull over, chanced it on a random pull-off, and ran down a long, wooded path hoping to find sand at the other end in time for the sunset. We did, and it took our breath away.
Mendocino is a sweet little coastal town that I would have loved to explore more, but after a good meal and drink at the local bar, and a good night’s sleep, we had a 7+ hour drive with Yosemite waiting for us at the other end.
We spent two nights in a tent cabin in Yosemite’s Curry Village. Yosemite was an experience not only for the obviously reasons (it’s kiiiinda pretty, y’all), but also just for people watching.
When I planned the trip, my goal was to talk Joe into doing Half Dome with me. I put in for a permit to do the hike (it is THE hike to do in Yosemite, but requires a permit to get up the cables at the end of the hike). However, there was a ball-dropping on my end and I didn’t accept the permit in time (don’t want to talk about it), so we didn’t get to do Half Dome. Instead, we hiked the first part of the trail up to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls and then down the John Muir trail. It was still a decent workout and the views were crazy awesome at the top. Joe took a few dips in the water along the way.
Side note: the squirrels in Yosemite are nuts. One walked straight up to me while I was sitting by Nevada Falls, and put his little paws (are they paws?) on my thigh to see if I had a snack for him. I had to use so much self restraint not to reach out and pet his little head. Also, Joe saw another bear. Like for real, for real this time. He took a 4 a.m. trip to the bath house and guess who was also making a 4 a.m. trip through Curry Village while it was all dark and quiet? Mr. Bear, that’s who. Current bear sightings: Joe: 2, Julia: 0. This is starting to get ridiculous.
On Saturday morning, we explored the Mariposa Grove of the Giant Sequoia, before heading out of the Yosemite. There was a big wildfire in Yosemite while we were there, and for the most part it didn’t affect us other than the occasional campfire-like smell in the air. But on our drive out of the park, the view was super smokey.
We stopped through a town called Mariposa not far outside of Yosemite and met some friendly folks at the Prospectors Brewing Company. We really loved this cute little town, and decided to ask about staying the night at the inn there. But they were all booked up, so we headed back to the coast. We spent the night in Half Moon Bay, where we hit up the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for some beers before dinner. Our inn overlooked the foggy harbor and we could hear the foghorn blowing faintly in the distance all night (note: foghorn sounds all night — not as charming as one would think). Then we hopped up to San Francisco on Sunday morning, where we caught up with good friends, had brunch in the Mission, explored a little bit of the city, and had a great dinner in Berkeley. We flew out on Monday morning.
At the beginning of this trip, Joe and I had the idea to not allow ourselves to look at any photos or videos we’d taken until we were on our flight back home. There was something so gratifying about waiting to look through all the memories. We came across things we’d totally forgotten about — it was like the good ol’ days when you had to wait to get your photos developed to see what you captured. Definitely a tradition I’d like to continue for future adventures.