adventure, Battery Point Lighthouse, California, chipmunk, Crater Lake, Crescent City, deer, forest, forest fire, frog, Golden Gate Bridge, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, La Pine, Lake of the Woods, love, Ocean Haven, Oregon, photography, San Francisco, Sasquatch, snake, travel, west coast, Yachats
After spending a month volunteering tirelessly, on my own, for an unforgiving boss at a wolf sanctuary in the USA, my sister and brother-in-law drove down from Canada and my mother and my partner flew up from New Zealand for a reunion vacation. We spent a wonderful three days at Disneyland in California, and another couple of days in Los Angeles exploring other theme parks and the general area. I wasn’t sad to say goodbye to LA; I’m not much of a city person, and I was definitely “theme parked-out” by that point. I was also really looking forward to the next stage of the trip: a journey, by road, up the beautiful west coast.
We said a temporary farewell to my mum in LA (she was staying on with a childhood friend for some adventures of their own) and hopped in my sister’s Canadian car – it was now packed to the brim with the luggage of four people. Our next destination was San Francisco. It was just an overnight stop for us, and people had told me that it was a shame we wouldn’t be spending more time there as it’s a wonderful place, but I was eager to move on from cities and head to a more natural setting.
It took us almost seven hours to drive from our little AirBnB house in Los Angeles to San Francisco airport, where my partner and I picked up our rental car. We then all made our way to the shared room we’d be staying at for that night. I’m a ridiculously light sleeper, so sharing a room with three other people is not ideal for me, but everything else was either booked out or too expensive for our budgets. It ended up being really comfortable accommodation, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal at a local Salvadorian eatery that kindly stayed open for us despite the late hour.
The following day we awoke to a very misty, grey August day in the city. We packed our bags again, and took our separate cars down to a beach near the famous Golden Gate Bridge to have a quick look. The height of the suspension bridge disappeared into the fog, and we didn’t stand around for too long as it was so chilly. We stopped off on the other side of it to take our touristey photos again, then found a place nearby for some brunch. It was then time to say goodbye and go our separate ways – them taking their time with the drive back to Canada, and my partner and I following a direct route to Crescent City, northern California.
When planning this trip I had wanted to find a place for us to set up for a few days where we could enjoy the incredible coastal redwoods. There were many options, and in the end we settled for a gorgeous log cabin in Crescent City. By the time factored in for encountered roadworks, stops for food and photographs, we didn’t reach our accommodation until about 10pm. Our gracious AirBnB host, Min, was waiting up for us to welcome us to her home.
Min’s log cabin boasts cathedral-style ceilings and large windows, with private balconies for guests to enjoy. It is nestled against the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and is naturally surrounded by wildlife. It had a rustic, forestey smell, and I snuggled into bed that night feeling very at home.
The following morning Min greeted us with a home-cooked breakfast. There were other guests staying in the log cabin, and it was interesting hearing the other travellers’ stories. I spent some time that morning admiring all the little animals on the property that had been locked away the night before – ducks and geese and quail and cute little chickens all running around the grass enjoying themselves. I loved knowing that we would be spending a couple of days here.
My partner and I decided to enjoy the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park that day. The lack of blue sky concerned me – I’m a real sunshine girl, and I was hoping to soak up some warmth before heading back to the cold and wet New Zealand winter. Despite the slight chill in the air the park, of course, was beautiful. We hiked and skipped stones, saw snakes and tiny frogs, and explored the beautiful area in general.
The following day we checked out Crescent City itself. The Mexican food we encountered in America was so good. A lot of the stops we ended up making during our trip was focused around the delicious Mexican food! Crescent City had something to offer in that regard, and from there we took a quick look at Battery Point Lighthouse, one of the first lighthouses on the Californian coast. It sits atop its own little island, so it’s a good spot if you enjoy history and also if you like beautiful scenery. Also, I had no idea that Sasquatch is apparently a real thing in California! If you’re lucky you might see one… (But don’t be like this lady and take out a lawsuit against the state for not believing you.)
Later that night my sister got in touch; they had set up camp in the park nearby. It certainly wasn’t warm out, and I was glad that we were sleeping indoors! We had a lovely last dinner together, my partner and I settled in to spend our final night in California, and the next morning it was back to the road.
Crater Lake is a stunning spot in Oregon that is not to be missed. Approximately 7,700 years ago a violent volcanic eruption caused the creation of Crater Lake, and it now sits as the United States of America’s deepest lake, and the ninth deepest lake in the world. I saw Crater Lake during a trip there three years ago, and it is breath-taking to behold. As I said; it is not to be missed – except… my partner and I did miss it.
As we ventured out of the redwoods, we prepared ourselves for a shorter journey than our previous one. It would take us roughly five hours to a small city called La Pine, itself about an hour and a half’s drive from Crater Lake. As we crossed the Oregon border and made our way inland my smile broadened – a beautiful blue sky opened up above us and the sun graced us with its presence. We stopped for lunch at a gorgeous spot called Lake of the Woods at roughly the halfway point to our next destination. This natural lake in Klamath County has its own resort and restaurant, the Lake House Restaurant, and it was busy with people enjoying watersports in the lake for the summer. We sat out on the desk of the restaurant, marveling at the very fat chipmunks and squirrels zooming in all directions to accept food from the human visitors.
We were excited for our next accommodation, another gem found on AirBnB. As soon as we arrived I kicked myself that I had only booked us in to stay for two nights. It was stunning. Its AirBnB description is “A River Runs Thru It!” which definitely drew me to the listing. What I didn’t realise was that we had an entire two-storey cabin to ourselves. The bed was in an open-plan room on the second floor, looking out over the grounds and lake. We sat for some time admiring the incredibly lovely setting before heading out in search of another Mexican restaurant.
The following day I chatted to our host, Robin, about our plans to visit Crater Lake. The discussion actually led to us changing our plans. While we were aware of forest fires in Oregon, Robin opened our eyes to the fact that this fire season was particularly bad. She noted that other guests had complained that they had hardly been able to see Crater Lake at all. We had a chat and decided that because we only had one full day to enjoy this beautiful spot, and because the air was fresh and the sun was beaming happily down on us (whereas Crater Lake was completely covered with smoke), we would enjoy the sunny river and grasslands surrounding the accommodation.
While I do love Crater Lake, the decision to stay at the river isn’t one that I regret. We had a beautiful day relaxing and enjoying the nature directly around us, which I think is something tourists can easily forget to do when they are so focused on seeing particular sights.
From Robin’s it was a four hour drive the following day to my second home, Yachats in Oregon. Some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen have been around this area, and I couldn’t contain my excitement to finally share them with my partner.
However, as we made our way back out to the coast, the forest fire smoke choked everything around us. There was no blue sky, or striking blue ocean. It was hazy and grey, and the smokey sky and burnt ocean blurred into one. We stood atop one of my favourite spots on a cliff above the sea and I felt disappointed that my partner was not able to experience the awe that I’d had when I first found this place. Of course, it’s important to appreciate the moment, and my heart was filled with joy at being able to have my significant other stand here with me, facing out to the incredible Oregon coast.
That night we stayed in my absolutely favourite motel, Ocean Haven. I met Ocean Haven’s owner, Chrissy, in 2010 when I first visited Oregon, and instantly fell in love with her and the place. It was so good to see her again, and introduce my partner to her. That night the sunset shone through the fire smoke, and I went to bed feeling like a child the night before Christmas, ready to tiki-tour my partner around the most special place on earth to me. It was perfect being home.