With our trip nearing its end, five hours of driving stood between us and Portland. Vince and I didn’t have anything major planned for the next day and a half, but we wanted to break up the long drive with some quick sightseeing stops.
The first of these was the Smith River in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We parted ways with Jordi and Anthea early in the morning so that we would be sure to make it through the landslide section of the northbound highway before the road closed down for the construction crew to work on it. This was our only chance to see any of Jedediah Smith Redwoods because of the closure, and the forest turned out to be stunningly beautiful. Beams of sunlight pierced through the tall trees, illuminating the winding road through the park. Driving through the sunbursts filled me with a child-like excitement.
We stopped at the Jedediah Smith Campground and wandered onto a rocky beach on the bank of the aqua colored Smith River. The gorgeous sunlight that had welcomed us into the park was still streaking down above the trees that lined the river, and although it seemed like the water should be bone-chillingly cold, it was somehow just pleasantly cool on our feet as we waded into its clear water.
As we strolled through the inviting water, I couldn’t help but wish I was wearing a bathing suit so that I could go for a swim. Suddenly I saw a flash of bright orange among the rocks at the river’s bottom. I leaned over to inspect it, and saw a vibrant crayfish. In a moment, my GoPro was out of my pocket and under the rippling water, filming as it scurried behind a rock.
Once the crayfish was out of sight, we decided to get back on the road. Our next stop was across the state line back Oregon at Harris Beach State Park. Our friends, Meagan and Travis, had gone tidepooling there the previous week, but we weren’t lucky enough to visit anywhere near low tide. We still stopped to check out the cool rock formations just off shore, and stretch our legs a bit. I wasn’t too disappointed about the timing because we’d already had one tide adventure on our trip, and the beach was definitely still worth a stop. I especially liked an arch rock that sat in shallow water. Whenever a wave hit it, we could see the water surging through the arch and rushing towards our feet in a mesmerizing rhythm.
After making friends with a happy golden retriever, it was back to the car again, our next stop being a random overlook right off the highway where we stayed long enough to just take a few pictures.
We would be on the road considerably longer before we finally arrived at what I hoped would be the best destination of the day. Meagan and Travis had also given us the tip to stop at Bandon Beach to try to see harbor seals, and I couldn’t wait to check it out.
When we stepped out of the car, it was clear that the lovely weather we’d had all day would not be gracing us on this excursion. A strong and cold wind whipped through the air, and I immediately reached for my jacket and pulled my hood up over my head. I could only imagine the horizontal sand blast we were about to walk into.
A tall staircase with a series of look out decks led down to the beach, and from our high vantage point, we could see ribbons of sand swirling across the landscape below. The sky was a gray-blue haze that made some far-off sea stacks look fuzzy.
Stepping onto the beach was like entering a wind tunnel, and we leaned forward to fight our way towards the stacks. The closer we got to the rocks, the more it smelled like the kind of place seals probably spent a lot of time, which was simultaneously revolting and encouraging. We didn’t have to search very hard for the colony. There were piles of speckled harbor seals lounging on some rocks in a protected cove just off shore.
For the most part, the seals were interested only in sleeping, but a few of them wiggled around on the rocks coming in and out of the water, and another couple floated in the cove, their heads bobbing up and down. Harbor seals have adorable, almost puppy-like faces that contrast with their blobbish bodies that are completely ill-suited for moving on land. As they flopped around trying to move on the rocks, it was obvious that this was an animal that had invested heavily in optimizing for an aquatic lifestyle.
It wasn’t long before the harsh wind made us want to return to our car, and the breeze practically carried us back to the tall staircase. It was now early afternoon and Vince and I were getting hungry. We stopped for lunch at a local diner in Bandon, where a chicken named Henrietta hovered nearby, begging for food scraps.
After lunch, we drove non-stop back to Portland and pulled into Amy and Andrews now-familiar neighborhood. It had been less than a week since we’d been last been there, but it felt like much longer. Amy and Andrew were already preparing to cook dinner when we arrived, and we regaled them with stories from our week on the road as we picked vegetables in the garden to go with our meal. Portland’s weather had completely changed over the days we’d been gone. Cloudy, rainy skies had been replaced with brilliant sunshine and scorching heat. We went to bed with a fan on instead of bundling up, and said “see you soon” to our friends the next morning since they will be staying with us for a few days in September.
Amy and Andrew had to go to work, but Vince and I still had a half day to fill before we had to get to the airport for our flight home. The one disappointment from our days in Portland was that Mount Hood hadn’t been visible at all, so we drove out to Trillium Lake for an easy hike, and a view of the iconic peak.
The scene was serene and beautiful, however there was a strange amount of dead fish floating in the lake, and I couldn’t help but feel a little grossed out as I noticed a bunch of beachgoers swimming right alongside the floating animals. It didn’t take long to hike the trail, but we managed to make an interesting find nonetheless. There were many rough-skinned newts swimming in a shallow, log filled section of the lake. Rough-skinned newts are adorable, but their skin does produce a powerful neurotoxin, so it’s best not to eat them if you want to remain alive.
The newts were highly curious about my GoPro when I submerged it, which made for some fun footage. I’ve read that male newts approach just about anything that hits the water during mating season to investigate whether it could be a potential mate, so I believe this may be why they were so interested in my camera.
After our short hike, we still had a bit of time to kill, so we drove up to the Timberline Lodge, a local ski area, where we got an even better look at Mount hood, and a lovely view of Mount Jefferson peaking out from a hazy sky.
All too soon, it was time to tear ourselves away and get to the airport. We left ourselves plenty of time to make use of our Priority Pass at the airport, as a bit of a consolation prize for having to go home. Another consolation prize came as our flight took off and flew over some of the iconic mountains of the area. The view out my window was possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen from a plane, and made me feel a lot less bad about having to leave.
But with one trip coming to a close it was time to start planning the next one. Me and Vince’s ninth anniversary is coming up this week. We stopped giving each other gifts after year one, and instead we take a trip together every year in late August. It was hard to decide where to go this time because we wanted to make it a short, somewhat cheap one, but we finally landed on revisiting Qunitana Roo, Mexico for the fourth time since we’ve been married. This will be the first time we’ve gone there as divers though, and I can’t wait to explore Mexico from underwater!
Check out the compilation video I made of our time in the Pacific Northwest!