Though I’ve lived at the bottom of the Washington coast all my life, last weekend was the first time I drove all the way up 101 North. We’ve just about traveled all of the 101 highway now, and Washington’s coast is not much short of Oregon’s.
We took advantage of good winter weather and traveled from South Bend, WA, up 101 all the way to the most northwestern tip of the United States, Cape Flattery. Of course we stopped at some destinations along the way, and all of them were amazing, where the temperate rainforests of Washington meet with the coastal waves.
Our first stop was Quinault, a beautiful area full of nature trails from a quarter mile long, to full backpacking trips. The largest Sitka Spruce tree in the world lives in this lush forest, as well as many other large trees and some coastal redwoods. There are plenty of waterfalls, some you can hike to and some right off of the road.
We stayed in the Quinault lodge, though in the summer there are so many beautiful camping spots next to the Lake Quinault. This lodge is gorgeous and relaxing though, with access to trails and the lake right outside. It has a nice restaurant, pool, game room and an overall nice environment.
The next morning we woke up and started heading further north, our next stop being Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, some of the coastal gems of Washington.
Kalaloch Beach has a famous tree called the Tree of Life or Big Tree Cave. You can see the entire root system from the beach, it grows in the air and the ends connect to the ground, above the beach.
Ruby Beach has lots of giant coastal rocks, easily accessible from the sand. One has a natural arch, others have holes through them, it is quite the site. You can spot some star fish, sea urchins and other marine life as well.
This beach is called Ruby Beach because you can find ruby clusters within the rocks if you look hard enough!
After this pit stop, we headed up North towards Port Angeles, I recommend stopping at Lake Crescent along the way, as it is beautiful and has a hike to a waterfall that is lovely. We stayed in Port Angeles for the night and headed west to the northwestern tip of the U. S, Cape Flattery. This is about two hours from Port Angeles and well worth it.
Located on an Indian Reservation, it is a well-kept trail with handmade walking sticks for anyone in need. The trail is wooden and an absolute gorgeous two-mile hike, round-trip. There are several viewpoints along this trail, and every one is worth seeing. You can see coastal rock caves where the ocean meets, many coastal rocks and an island not too far from the edge of the cape with a lighthouse.
The northwestern tip is nothing short of magical, and every step to get there makes the adventure even more beautiful.
The Washington coast goes a bit unnoticed when put next to the beautiful Oregon and California coast. This coast is unique in so many ways and gives an entirely new moody feel of the ocean. The Washington coast contains lots of rain, wind and fog but it is also what makes it so different and a must-see experience.
Cape Disappointment State Park is located in Ilwaco, WA, very close to Astoria, OR and has many wonders to see within the area full of beautiful temperate rainforests.
When you first enter into the park, each side of the road are covered in greenery, there are a few lookout spots that tell the history of the area, like Beardman’s Hollow. There are many wooden bridges throughout the park as well that work well for photography!
This cape contains two lighthouses, the first you will see is the North Head Lighthouse, which is only a quarter mile, easy hike. Of course it tells you to not go close to edge of the cape, but many people had already crossed the fence so I found no harm in doing the same. The view is gorgeous and you can walk far out onto the grass-covered cape to see the Pacific Ocean.
The next lighthouse is the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, this trail is a half mile and a bit more difficult. There are many hills, but it is a very pretty hike with access to beaches along the way.
Along the way you’ll run into Dead Man’s Cove, one of my favorite views of the coast, especially when the lighting is just right. You have to walk down to the beach if you want the best view, but no matter how you see Dead Man’s Cove, it is a spectacular view.
Once you get to the lighthouse, the view overlooks all of Ilwaco and Astoria, you can see the Astoria bridge and all the boats coming in from the ocean into the bay area. The view is perfect for some photographs.
Within the Cape Disappointment State Park you will also have the chance to see Fort Canby and many of it’s batteries as well as the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
So many times, I’ve heard of people wanting to travel outside of the U. S, before exploring the wonders of this very country. I was once that person, but I have discovered that there is so much beauty so close to our homes.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and never realized that it is a prized area to live until I chose to explore it. Here are my favorite places I would recommend to anyone wanting to explore the outdoors of the PNW.
Olympic National Park:
The Olympic National Park is a broad place to mention, but every waterfall and every trail at this park is unlike any other in Washington state. There are waterfalls every 10 miles or less (my favorite is Rocky Brook Falls), it is full of temperate rainforests and located so close to the beautiful salt waters of Washington.
Vance Creek Bridge:
This 422 feet long famous railroad hovers 347 feet over Vance Creek and is located right outside the Olympic National Forest. It is the second highest railway in the U. S. Directions to this cannot be found on Google maps, possibly because it is considered trespassing on land owned by a logging company and there are many ways they have tried to keep hikers out, like signs, knocked down trees and gates.
The bridge is in Shelton, you’ll take NF-1700 for a while before turning onto NF-23, where it is right off to the right. You’ll see lots of knocked down trees and a gate near the entrance. Many of the articles I read made it seem like it was dangerous to go and you could be arrested, but I did not run into any cops, any logging trucks or security of any sort. The hike is about a mile long, but not difficult and well worth it! The bridge is spectacular, surrounded by trees and covered in art by the last rebel hikers. It’s an adrenaline rush to walk on this massive abandoned railroad, surrounded by trees. The beginning portion of the bridge has been taken down, though you can still reach the wooden part of the bridge if your brave enough! I recommend anyone to see this bridge before it is totally demolished.
Lower Lewis Falls:
Unfortunately, I am yet to see this amazing waterfall, but it is next on my to-do list. It is a wide, gorgeous waterfall located in the south/east portion of Mt. Rainier National Forest.
This waterfall is one of Washington’s largest. Located in Lacrosse, in west eastern, WA. You can get a stunning view of the enormous waterfall before taking the hike down towards the waterfall that can be difficult at times and has many alternate routes. You’ll see another waterfall before reaching an overlook of Palouse. There is a small trail down to the bottom of the falls, leading into a small lake as well.
This is a wondrous two hike located in North Bend. It starts off at Rattlesnake lake and you hike to the top of a wide ledge, where you can see the bright blue lake from above. It is quiet the site!
Another natural wonder I have yet to see, but will be soon! Cape flattery has to be one, if not the most beautiful, cape in Washington state. This cape is located on the very top of the state, on the western edge.
I shall admit, the entire route down 101 south through Oregon is absolutely stunning and a must-do summer trip! There is a route right outside of Tillamook, called Three Capes Scenic Route. Unfortunately, I had missed the turn to this route and missed the other two capes, but Cape Kiwanda is quiet possibly Oregon’s most beautiful cape.
It is located in Pacific City, it starts off as a popular beach and you walk up the sandy hills to stand on the cape. There are many signs and gates that tell you that beyond this gate is dangerous, but it is important to keep in mind that Oregon’s Beach Bill states that the people may still roam wherever the please, as the beaches belong to the people.
Tamolich Blue Pool:
This is one of my favorite locations in the PNW! The tamolich blue pool used to be a waterfall, but after a volcanic eruption, the waterfall was covered with lava rock. The water now seems from the bottom of the rocks and slows the water down enough to create a clear, still pool that is the most brilliant blue you’ll ever see. It is spectacular!
The blue pool is located off of the Mckenzie Highway and was a little difficult to find, as there are no signs off the highway. You’ll turn on NF-730, which leads to the trailhead, it is a two mile hike and not difficult. You can walk all around the water and there are several places to cliff jump into the frigid water, though you can also walk around to get right into the water.
This magnificent location shares a special place in my heart. Crater lake is in central Oregon and is one the top places to see the in the Pacific Northwest. This lake lies in the Cascade Range, it used to be a volcano named Mount Mazama. This volcano had a massive eruption that caused the mountain to implode on itself, forming a giant crater that filled with rain and snowfall. It is also a magnificent blue and surrounded by gorgeous mountains.
I recommend coming to this place in the early morning. We showed up around 7am, when the water was still and there were some clouds in the sky. The reflection of the mountains and the sky coming off of the lake was like pure magic, it took a few moments of staring to really understand where the water started. It was absolutely stunning, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. You can hike many trails at Crater Lake National Park and drive around the entire crater.
There is one area that you can hike a mile down to cliff jump into 2000 feet deep beautiful water, called Cleetwood Cove and it is an absolute must!
This waterfall is not far from Crater Lake, when leaving the north entrance, it is off highway 138. The hike is about 1.5 miles and not very difficult. There is a viewpoint that allows you to see the waterfall, but viewpoints are never quiet good enough… So there is a rope next to the main viewpoint area and a sign telling you not to go down to the waterfall, but many have done it anyways. The rope is absolutely necessary, as it is very steep getting down to the falls, but well worth it. The water is the perfect place to swim, but very cold!
One of my favorite Oregon waterfalls! It is about 226 feet tall and flows beautifully, close to the rock wall. The hike is almost two miles and not difficult.
Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor:
This is several different pull offs off 101 south in Brookings, OR. Each pull off is so gorgeous, full of capes and natural arches that you can hike to. It coordinates with the gorgeous Oregon coast trail.
An absolutely magical place, where the desert hills are decorated in vivid color, in central/eastern Oregon. It is an absolute must see and should be a wonder of the world!
This forest is located in many places in northwest California; the tallest trees on Earth, reaching over 300 feet tall! All the forest areas are full of wonder and are a must see right next to the coast! Some trees were at least ten feet in width!
McArthur Burney Falls:
This waterfall is one of Earth’s ten wonders of the world and located in northern California near Burney, CA. It spans 250 feet wide with numerous falls, surrounded by luscious forest.
Another stunning waterfall with a wide span, this waterfall trickles against a rock wall, covered in bright green moss. It is a very unique waterfall and I love the way that it flows! It’s located in Dunsmuir, CA.
Lassen Volcanic National Park:
This park is covered in colorful desert and also bright blue waters, which makes a gorgeous combination. Full of clear, blue lakes, waterfalls and mountains.
Many people do not consider southern California as the Pacific Northwest, but if it were, I would mention Yosemite National Park and Joshua Tree Park. Both unique and stunning locations.
It is difficult not to mention even more places within the PNW, but the area is covered in natural wonders.
The house is nearly empty, we’re selling things one by one, packing a box a day. The pile of things we are ridding from our lives is nearly gone and with each thing that sells, I feel fuller.
I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait, that leaving was too far away and that it would take forever. But once I stopped thinking about it so much, I stopped and realized that this month is our last month of rent. Our month notice needed to be in, we needed to sell more, put in our two weeks very soon, we needed to get R. V insurance, invest in carpet cleaning, buy a tow bar and start putting our things into no more than five boxes each.
It seems as if we’ve been planning this trip for a year with nothing but pure wanderlust and impatience at this point. We have planned every last detail, studied every map and yet I know that when we are settled in, when we start counting the miles south, we’re going to think, “what the hell are we doing?”
A question full of nervous excitement, a question that will make our heads explode and leave us screaming with either scare or excitement or both, I haven’t decided yet.
Remember to let this nervousness fuel us. Remember to let it fill us with ambition and remember to never let it lead to second guessing.
For what would we ever go back for? But think of all the reasons to go forward.
Remember to challenge ourselves, remember to constantly impress ourselves with our creativity and courage. May we remember that there is always a solution and remember to keep bringing positive energy our way.
May we always remember the last trail and the next waterfall when we feel trapped. Remember to take advantage of time. Time to write, to be creative, to find ourselves, fill our passions, to meditate and never stop learning.
And if we ever find ourselves scared, remember why we did this…
To be different, to challenge ourselves, to adventure every single day, to find creative solutions, to remember to be content with what we have, to grow, to live fully, to learn about ourselves and learn the things we never had time for, to sleep under the stars, to connect with mother earth, to escape the boundaries, to escape the gossip, the schedules, the “idealistic” life.
Remember we did this to prove that we could, to finally start the endless exploration of our lives and remember that it has just begun.
Because this is what makes us happiest, if only we let go of all negative energy that cannot live in our lives no longer.
I am excited for so many things to come during this adventure, but of course the most exciting is going to be experiencing the beautiful locations and nature around us. We have an elaborate plan as to how exactly we’re going to travel these six states and they’re amazing natural wonders.
We would like to keep things as spontaneous as we can, knowing that we are never on a timed schedule so we can slow down and really soak in every moment. Though we have a detailed plan, we are open to new ideas along the way.
We currently reside in Spokane, WA. Coming this May, we will work our way down to the Mt. Saint Helens Ape Caves. We will stay in Portland, OR for a week or so while we explore Lower Lewis Falls, Ponytail Falls, Oneonta Falls, Latourell Falls, Elowah Falls and Mahclella Falls and the Columbia River Gorge. These seems like quite a bit of waterfalls, but each of these are followed by beautiful nature hikes.
From there, we will move down to Bend, OR, where we plan to stay for several weeks, travelling to Drift Creek Falls, Opal Creek, Silver Falls State Park, Cougar hot springs, Tumalo Falls, which leads to a beautiful small, incredibly blue pool, the Painted Hills and Proxy Falls.
On our way downward, we will also see Toketee Falls and Crater Lake before we move towards the coast to the Oregon Caves and Boardman State Park. After this, we will enter California, where we will stay in Crescent City for about a week, exploring the Redwood Forest.
Next, we will move towards Central Valley, CA, where we plan to also stay several weeks while adventuring these beautiful waterfalls, Mossbrae Falls, Burney Falls, Whiskeytown Falls and Subway Cave and Lassen Volcanic National Park. From there, we will move south to Lake Tahoe, spanning off to Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake, Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Postpile.
Then we will head west to Big Sur, CA, where we will get time on the beautiful coast and see Pfeiffer Beach and Mcway Falls, where the sand turns a brilliant lavender at sunset. We will stay here for several weeks before moving on to our next destination, the Sequoia National Park, to Death Valley, then crossing over to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Neither of us have been to Las Vegas since we have turned 21, this will be a fun experience for us both. But you would be surprised how beautiful Las Vegas is outside of the casinos. There we will stay several weeks exploring the Valley of Fire, Gold Strike Hot Springs, Big Falls and First Creek Waterfall.
Arizona is real close by, we will venture off to Grand Canyon and see many incredibly beautiful waterfalls as well as deserts, including Rock Falls, Beaver Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, Grand Falls, The Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Antelope Canyon and of course the Grand Canyon.
After this, we will begin to head up north again, but by no means does the adventure end. We will head up to Utah to see Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, we will be staying in Junction for about a week to see some other nearby locations.
After that, three hours north is Salt Lake City, where we will stay a few weeks and see Stewart Falls, Cataract Gorge, Upper Provo Falls and Grotto Falls.
Another three hours north is Twin Falls, Idaho, where we will travel to Shoshore Falls, Deadman Falls, Cauldrin Linn Falls and Malad Gorge State Park.
Only an hour up is Boise, where we’ll also see Jump Creek Falls, Kirkhas hot springs and Gold Fork hot springs.
Technically, this is the last of our trip. We have several road maps of every state with every destination pin-pointed, as well as the time and miles it will take to travel to these locations, which on average is only three hours from one city to another.
There are so many other destinations I wish we could see in these states, but we must plan smart. I am also sure that we will find more excursions in every place, upon asking the local tourist information places.
This may all seem like a lot, it may all seem impossible, expensive or risky. But life is not meant to be spent in one comfort zone, or behind a desk right out of college, this is the message I wish to teach to everyone who responds to this with, “I wish I could do that.”
We must realize within ourselves that there is more to our lives than what we experience every day, and we must go out and find what it is that really makes us happy. This will not be the same for everybody, as it shouldn’t. We are meant to challenge ourselves and the role of which we play on this Earth, what sets us apart from one another.
I think we will always surprise ourselves with all the things that we can do that we believed we never could. Not one person can tell me that I will fail, and if they do, then they don’t understand passion and the power of the mind.
In my next entry I will explain exactly how we are financially planning this adventure. I will explain every step until I leave and every exploration on the road. <3