I’ve driven through Oregon three times (on my ways to and from Seattle), but I never stopped other than to crash for the night. My only other Oregon experience was a super-fun weekend in the Columbia Gorge during my Seattle internship. These two factors combined to make Oregon one of the most anticipated destinations on our trip.
We arrived in Oregon from California and left through Washington. Again we avoided Interstate 5, taking back country highways instead. We saw a lot of the state traveling this way, and the state did not disappoint.
The first campsite on our trip. We’ll be visiting a lot of these now that we’re out of California where so many of our friends are.
This was the river near our campsite. The unique rock formation behind Inna is dried lava flow from Mt Mazama (the mountain Crater Lake is in), which used to be an active volcano.
This is Crater Lake, one of the most unbelievable sights we’ve ever seen. The water was so calm and peaceful and such a deep royal blue; the color doesn’t even seem natural. We’d never seen or even heard of water naturally colored like this.
An island in Crater Lake. As I mentioned earlier, Crater Lake sits in Mt Mazama. The lake was formed by a volcanic eruption about 7500 years ago, an eruption so big the entire mountain exploded, leaving a crater in its center (interestingly, the explosion was witnessed by Native Americans, and their oral histories match today’s scientific theories and calculations). Rain and snow then filled the crater, creating the lake we have today.
A second island in the lake, named Phantom Ship because it is small and hidden and looks like a ship.
Inna and I also met four of our favorite people while visiting Crater Lake. For those who don’t know, this is Megan (one of the girls I went on this trip with), her husband John, and their kids, Gavin and Sam. They were ending their own Oregon/Washington roadtrip as we were starting ours, so we arranged to meet here. It’s always wonderful seeing old friends, and it’s especially fun seeing them at a place like this!
Our next Oregon destination was Portland, but we stopped in Bend on our way, mainly because we’d heard the city was quaint and pretty and also one of the most up-and-coming cities in the US. Bend impressed us on all fronts; the city reminded us of San Luis Obispo and we liked it a lot.
Our drive south of Bend was calm and serene, mainly through forests, but our drive north was spectacular. First, we drove through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, the largest Indian Reservation we’d driven through on this trip.
Next we drove to Mt Hood, another peak in the Cascade range and the tallest mountain in Oregon (Mt Mazama was about the same height before it exploded all those years ago).
Halfway up Mt. Hood is the Timberline Lodge, a 1930s lodge built as part of the Works Progress Administration, one of FDR’s New Deal programs designed to help jump start the US out of the depression. In winter, the hotel serves as a ski lodge, but the hotel is most noted for its use as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining (I’ve also visited the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining; I wonder if there are any other Shining-related hotels out there? EDIT: There are).
We saw two sets of wedding parties on our visit to Timberline Lodge. According to employees this is typical for a weekend; they host two weddings almost every Saturday and Sunday all year.
Today’s spectacular driving isn’t finished, as we still needed to make it to our campsite, located on the Clackamas river, deep in the Mt Hood National Forest.
The three of us on the river near our campsite. I think this is my favorite picture ever taken.
Up next is Portland, and we drove by this city-with-a-funny-name on our way in.
Portland. Keeping it weird.
Look! It’s the lead from The Silence Inside Us! We ran into her completely unplanned, almost immediately after arriving in Portland. This means that, even though it’s only been a week, this trip can already be added to Argentina, the UK, and Western Europe as trips where I randomly ran into an old friend.
Our first stop in Portland: Voodoo Donuts. My donut, an old fashioned, was average, but Inna’s, the Voodoo (raspberry jam, glazed chocolate, shaped like a ghost), was amazing. So, for those who’ve never been to Voodoo Donuts before, we recommend their creative donuts.
Our second stop: Powell’s Books, Portland’s block long, block wide, multi-story bookstore. Powell’s Books is the largest bookstore in the US, and as book people, we enjoyed it a lot.
Outside of Voodoo and Powell’s, there wasn’t much in Portland. Pioneer Courthouse Square (pictured above) was hosting a car show when we visited, but what we really noticed in Portland wasn’t the sites or the festivities or the culture, it was the homeless situation. There were so many homeless people in Portland, mostly 20-something transplants or the mentally ill (some severely so). We found it very depressing and so we didn’t stay long.
We only planned one full day in Portland, but on our way out we drove through what is probably the best thing Portland has to offer: the Columbia Gorge. This is the road that took us there.
Our first stop in the Gorge was Multnomah Falls. At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in North America, especially with the bridge that spans the lower portion of the falls. It is magical.
Multnomah Falls may be the grandest, but it is not the only waterfall in this area. In fact, near Multnomah Falls are 24(!) waterfalls over 30 feet tall, 11 of which are over 100 feet tall. This photo was taken at the base of Wahkeena Falls, which at 242 feet is the third tallest waterfall in the area surrounding Multnomah Falls.
A lookout on one of the hikes in the waterfall area.
From Multnomah Falls we headed down to the Columbia River, were we found this Oregon Trail marker paying tribute to Lewis and Clark’s first western expedition of the area.
Inna doing something while picnicking in the Gorge.
The Gorge from our picnic area.
The Gorge was filled with fish hatcheries, where much of the country’s farm raised seafood comes from. The fish in this picture are trout.
This is a sturgeon; a giant fish whose eggs are used to make caviar. However the sturgeon in this hatchery were not used to harvest caviar. Instead, they were here for conservation reasons, as the fish is at risk for extinction (apparently, you have to kill the fish to get their eggs to make caviar).
The Bridge of the Gods, named after the Native American name for a natural dam that connected the north and south portions of the gorge following a landslide somewhere between 250 and 900 years ago. If you’ve seen or read Wild, you’ve heard of this bridge.
We crossed the Bridge of the Gods to avoid upcoming traffic on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. Crossing the bridge took us into Washington, which means we’re at the end of this post. But we’re not at the end of our trip, not even the end of the Columbia Gorge portion of our trip. To continue reading, head over to our Washington post!