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I am on a fantastic journey, embracing life with everything I've got!

Friday, November 03, 2006

My Dream Journey of the Pacific Northwest

This is a very long travel journal...mainly put here so I can tell dozens of friends and family members about my trip in one central location!

Pacific Northwest Odyssey

Oct 18, 2006

My journey began at Druid Labs West, aka my dear friends’ (Mike and Cathy) home in Port Townsend, Washington. I was feeling refreshed and glowing after a couple of days in their warm, cozy and hospitable nest. They sent me on my way laden with maps and good wishes.

I traveled west along Hwy. 101 toward Olympic Park. The weather was cloudy and drizzly, par for the course in that region, but it didn’t matter. The road was lined with tall evergreens and smatterings of trees with changing colors in brilliant reds, oranges, and golds. It was the first time I’d gotten to experience autumn in two years!

Crescent Lake was the first region I drove through…a very deep lake formed by receding glaciers. It reminded me of scenery in Wales or Scotland. I kept going until I reached my first destination of Marymere Falls.

A short hiking trail through part of the local temperate rainforest led to them. I had never seen such a forest before—huge moss-covered trees, large ferns and other foliage that looked like hobbits and fairies might just pop out from behind a rock. It was truly magical.

The falls were very tall, plummeting to a deep pool below. After snapping some pics and observing a very well-informed field trip going on there, I returned to the highway and kept going until I got to the Sol Duc Hotsprings.

These mineral pools were channeled into swimming pools to maintain the water quality. But they were very soothing on my body which had compiling aches and stiffness from the week’s events. There were interesting people there—a couple from LA with a psychic radio show that airs in Santa Barbara, a really good-looking young guy with a deep voice and southern accent from Lexington, Kentucky. It’s such a small world, sometimes. People from the areas of both my homes!

I had a good chuckle in the Sol Duc gift shop, where a rogue squirrel was brazenly running in and attempting to steal candy bars from the candy rack! The poor clerk was running herself ragged trying to stomp and scare him out of the store.

Just outside Sol Duc was the Salmon Cascades,
where I actually got to see real salmon leaping up the waterfalls! I’d only seen this kind of thing on nature shows all my life, and it was so thrilling to actually see it happening before my eyes. Not only are they beautiful, turning different hues of red and gold, but they’re BIG and STRONG suckers! They muster up all their strength in a pool, then suddenly shoot upward and land on the next rock, wiggling all the while until they’re back in the water again. Sometimes an extra powerful one would make the entire leap from one pool to the next. Wow. Amazing what nature is capable of when it’s taking care of business.

I ended my day in Forks, a tiny little fishing town near the west coast of Washington.

October 19, 2006

I began my day with a massage from a therapist who had her sign painted onto the storefront window on the main drag. I was glad to find someone, since I was pretty achy by this time, but she wasn’t the best therapist in the world (I think she was new) and her music was short and redundant. It was enough for temporary relief, though, and got me ready for my day-long beach tour.

Rialto Beach was my first stop. I heard the thundering waves from behind a tall sand embankment before I even saw the water. But when I got my first glance of the wild, crashing waves I had a sense of déjà vu and coming home. Was I a Quileute Indian in a past life? The ocean was so ruggedly wild and beautiful I nearly got tears in my eyes. I saw warning signs about how dangerous the waves could be, and how “sneaker waves” could hurl big, dangerous drift logs at unsuspecting beach walkers. All the huge trunks littering the beach like a hallowed burial ground told me the signs do NOT lie! This was a very different sort of coast. Much different than anywhere I’d ever been. Rialto was a rocky beach so when the waves receded they raked across the stones and made a babbling, musical sound. I also saw two seals and a sea otter lolling around in the surf. Bliss!

I visited the beach at La Push, a site recommended by a coworker, and enjoyed more views of waves and sea stacks. It wasn’t as great as my coworker made it out to be, but lovely nonetheless.

Ruby Beach, further down the coast, had a longer beach and more sea stacks. I took a long afternoon walk up and down its coast, exploring cliffside caves and taking interesting pictures of sand patterns at low tide. I was glad to get the exercise after spending long hours driving in the car, stuck in one position. The sun decided to break through the hazy clouds in mid afternoon, which transformed the entire landscape for the rest of the day. The bluish hills along the 101 contrasted nicely with coloring trees.

Lake Quinault looked very Scottish and peaceful when I got there in late afternoon. Pink, wet, watercolor clouds swirled around the sky above it, and I made the decision to stop there for the night. The lodge was a tad bit on the expensive side, but I decided it was worth having a warm, cozy place to land rather than uncertainty at sundown. It was very Alpine looking with green moss growing on its roof. Like something straight out of Heidi! I treated myself to a really delicious meal at a restaurant down the road: steak and sautéed scallops with some nice chardonnay and a view of the lake as I journaled!

Back at the lodge I enjoyed my expensive room with a fake fireplace and a balcony overlooking the lawn and lake in the distance. There was no TV, so I read my magazine, did crossword puzzles, wrote postcards, and drank hot chocolate after a hot bubble bath. Although a room like this would’ve been better shared with a romantic partner, I did just fine.

October 20, 2006

Just after sunrise, I made a brief visit to Merriman Falls (down the road). It was so peaceful in the early morning with just me and its sonorous song as it fell down the layers of rocks—and no other people or cars around. A great way to begin the day! I sang an old Appalachian spiritual called Bright Mornin’ Stars and wished two of my sisters were there with me to sing the other harmonies.

Then I jumped back into my little silver Kia Spectra and headed further south down the coast. The morning was so blissful until a cop pulled me over and gave me a speeding ticket!  Only 10 miles over, but I think he was biased against cell phone talkers. Well, in dangerous conditions I usually don’t talk on my cell phone—but it was an empty country highway and my 84 year old mother wanted to know how her baby was doing, damn it! I had to laugh because my father got a speeding ticket on his coastal tour…like father like daughter. I guess it’s just too hard to drive 55 when we’re so used to 65-70. Stupid low speed limit! It HURT!

Cathy (I think) had recommended Pacific Pines State Park on a long peninsula in the very south of Washington. It was a very long, wide, rugged and empty beach with lots of sea grass leading up to it. I ate my lunch there and moved on so I could make Oregon by dusk. I crossed the Columbia River, thought of Lewis and Clark and how they saw all this for the first time and must’ve been SO stoked! I went across the famous long double bridge in Astoria, and landed safely in Oregon!

Tom recommended Cannon Beach, and boy was I glad!!! This was my favorite place yet—tons of stately sea stacks with caves in their sides, miles of beach and other tourists (although not out of control like I’m sure summertime would be) and even horses riding along. I spent a good long time there, listening to the crashing surf, taking dozens of pictures, and writing things in the sand. I thought of Ginger and her Mo, because I saw the first of many restaurants called Mo’s, famous for their clam chowder!

Oregon is just like its license plate. Evergreens and manzanita everywhere! And the air smells so fresh and clean. Ahhh…

As the sun set, I stopped for the night in Lincoln City. There were so many cute mom and pop motels to choose from, but because I was so tired, I just chose the first Motel 6 I came to and settled in.

I watched an awful damn lot of TV on this trip, since there was little to do at night in a motel. Probably more than I have in an entire year! LOL I also began to miss hearing the purr of my cat as I fell asleep. It’s something you get so used to, after having a little furbaby for 4+ years.

October 21, 2006

I was never so bedazzled by the Oregon coast as I was this morning. The 101 took me through one beauty spot after another, winding along coastal evergreen-lined cliffs and winding curves. Morning sun filtered through pine forests and sea mist hung lightly in the sunbeams.

One particular scenic viewpoint charmed the socks of me.
It was a flat piece of grassy land on the top of a cliff with waves pounding the rocks all around it. I took tons of pictures, I called a dear friend to share with him the elation I was feeling. The waves literally sounded like jets ripping through the sky and thunder crashing in the heaviest thunderstorm you can imagine. They swelled up in mammoth proportions, then broke heavily, rumbling the ground all around me. What a charge!

I stopped at three other places…the Devil’s Punchbowl (where water fills a crevasse at high tide), a blow horn (which shot water straight up into the sky when frothing waves filled its tunnel), and the sea lion cliffs/rocks. They were so cute barking and lolling around in the surf. There were so many of them all crowded together on the rocks—babies, adults, brown and black ones--probably helping each other stay warm.

Then I did something I’d been waiting to do the entire trip. I played the classical piece The Moldau as I drove along the scenic seaside cliffs, the ocean aglow and spirited just as it is in the song. I figured my dad would’ve done that, had he the means back in the day, because it was one of his favorite pieces. I listened and was grateful that I could take stock in the things of beauty that he passed on to me, and the inspiration for this trip which came from him.

I then had to make some difficult choices about when to leave the coast and how many inland places I had time to visit. Crater Lake was a must, so I turned eastward and headed for Eugene. Another coworker had suggested this town, and it was indeed very small and cute and cultural, like all good college towns should be. It was also a lot warmer, and I spent time walking around a street fair and buying some really cool tie-dye shirts with glittery designs on them.

I tried to make Crater Lake before sundown, but was caught on the scenic by-way of Rt. 138 as night fell. Little did I know that practically NOTHING was open for the season anymore, and that nothing was up at the same elevation as the state park. Diamond Lake had cabins available, but I blew right past the turnoff and ended up driving around steep, guard rail-less roads in the pitch black. Then a winding mountain road went down the other side toward prospect. Winding and turning and going on forever and ever and ever. I was tired and frustrated and praying for an inn or even some hole-in-the-wall motel. At long last I hit a main road again and went through a tiny town called Prospect. There was indeed an antique country hotel/motel, at which I promptly rented a room and crashed hard.

October 22, 2006

It was so nice to wake up and finally see where the hell I was. In a small town in the middle of an Oregon forest! I backtracked to a country café and had a big breakfast so that I’d have the energy to hike around Crater Lake all day and not have to eat again.

It was freezing cold in the morning as I wandered down a path overlooking the rushing, beautiful Rogue River Gorge.

By the time I got back up the mountain at Crater Lake, it had warmed up and I could take my fleece overshirt off. When I parked at Rim Village and walked to the edge, I was absolutely stunned. A big crater of deep blue water, the hue of which I’d never seen in my life anywhere in nature. It was so still and quiet, save the voices of the tourists who arrived at the same time I did. What a spectacular formation the place was, against the bright blue sky and sunshine.

I drove around most of the perimeter (the East Rim was closed), with a light dusting of snow still on the ground from a recent snow shower, and photographed all the sights out on the lake, such as the Ghost Ship rock formation, Pumice Point and Wizard Island. All of these things cast perfect reflections on the mirror-like lake surface. I saw the surrounding mountains in the distance, most prominently Mt. Thielsen—which is usually photographed snowcapped and behind Diamond Lake in calendars and postcards. “Wow,” I kept murmuring, after each shot. “Wow.”

I was pretty disappointed that they’d closed the part of the road that went down to the lake (at the boat dock) because I wanted to get a close-up shot of that deep, clear blue! Oh well…next time.

Wanting to save time, I only took a driving tour, rather than a hiking trail. I wanted to make it to civilization by the end of that day. This time I took Rt. 138 when I could see all the lovely views along the way. I briefly checked out Diamond Lake and a couple of the waterfalls (Clear Creek and Falls Creek, I believe). I could’ve stayed at Clear Creek Falls all day. It cascaded over several rocks, streaming in many different directions. Sunlight dappled its pools and the stream below. The falls were tucked neatly into a sun strewn woods with fairie plants and trees and a soft forest floor of fallen pine needles and red dirt. It was warm and pretty and peaceful there. But I had to move on. *sigh*

Back in Roseburg, I contemplated maps for a good fifteen minutes before realizing that I wanted more to go back out to the Oregon coast more than I wanted to spend a day going down to Mt. Shasta. It was a difficult choice, but I finally realized that maybe I could take a train up there to visit Michelle sometime in the future and tour the famous mountain then.

So I headed west again and settled for the night in Bandon, Oregon. I’d read all about this spot in my research and was really happy to be there and get off the road for a bit after all that driving around. I totally manifested the place I wanted to stay for the night. “Somewhere with a fitness room so I can exercise, a laundry room so I can wash my clothes, Internet so I can say hi to RPeeps, a nice restaurant so I don’t have to go into town, a hot tub so I can soak my weary bod, and right by the ocean so I can hear waves at night.

Guess what? This all took the form of the nicest Best Western I’ve ever seen! If you’re ever in Bandon, OR you MUST go there. I treated myself to another yummy steak and scallop dinner, and this time the chef made a decorative Halloween witch face out of the steak sauce in one corner of the plate! Awesome!

Oct. 23, 2006

I luxuriated in a long beach walk among the sea stacks once more at the beach in Bandon near my motel. What a great way to start the day! Morning sun streaming down the beach, the sound of waves, the fresh air…ah yes.

I took my freshly laundered clothes and headed south on the 101 once again. There were so many scenic views and vistas along the way – some of which I stopped to photograph – others that I just admired as I passed by.

Gold Beach was a cathartic experience for me. All during my trip I’d had a little black cloud following me around. Something weighing on my mind, even though I was able to take in all the fun and beauty I was experiencing. But there was no holding it at bay this time. Just before leaving on my trip I found out that the nervous disorder (very similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease) he was diagnosed with this year is much worse than they originally said. He is now “terminal.”

Gold Beach is where my brother bought retirement property. He had planned to build a home and retire there. It was hard to deal with as it is, but here in this land that he so loved, the land that he’d never build his house on now, it was suddenly right in my face and I had a meltdown.

I cried and cried as the wind whipped sand around my legs and blew hair into my face, thinking about the happy and peaceful brother who used to meet me in Telluride, Colorado for the annual Bluegrass Festival in the nineties…about the many losses he’d endured in just the last decade…the unfairness of life overwhelms me at times. Especially when it involves a loved one. “What did he ever do to deserve this?” I cried to the wind, knowing that there really was no answer to such a question. I collected sand, snippings of plants and trees, rocks and driftwood from the land to send to him. If he couldn’t come to this healing place, I could send a little back to him in hopes that it might bring a little healing or maybe just a smile.

Once I’d collected myself, I just kept holding an intention of healing for him (what else could I do), that he would be very comfortable and surrounded by love in the coming months. When I got back to the car, a message was waiting on my phone from Tom in Seattle. A loving, cheerful message that came just when I needed it the most. There are no coincidences.

I traveled on. Soon, I was back in California.

Coastal views alternated with little patches of redwood groves. I even stopped to watch a family of elk munching by the side of the highway. The buck had a full rack and quite a family with him.

I turned inland, on a long and twisting and grueling mountain road to get from the 101 to Highway 1 so I could visit some coastal towns. I reached the sea by sunset. Highway 1 is lovely upstate, with lots of sea stacks and sections that run through literal tunnels of trees. Since there were no turnouts, I just took mental pictures.

I stopped for the night in Ft. Bragg. My sister Joan called to see where I was. She joked about me having a GPS system attached to my car so she could track my journey each day!

October 24, 2006

Nearly a week on the road. I couldn’t understand why my dad thought the coastal highway was so terrifying. There were never any steep drop-offs without guardrails that worried me. Maybe my dad was a wimp! Hahaha…

I went to Mendocino early in the morning, and apparently the town doesn’t really wake up until 10am. I walked its quaint streets and saw its Victorian homes and strolled along the wooden sidewalks peering into shop windows and stealing glances into secret herb gardens in the back. It was a charming little place, perched on a rugged cliffside covered with long golden grasses by the ocean. I was waiting for Heathcliff to come running up any time!

I finally had enough of scenic byways and coastal highways. After enduring one last trek across winding mountain roads, I hit the 101 and kept going until I reached San Francisco.

I called my friend Mike to see if he was available for lunch, but he had his parents in town. I also called my friend Ryan, who never answered his phone. Oh well…another time, SF peeps.

I stopped in Santa Cruz, thinking I’d land there for the night. Unable to stand my wild, dried-out summertime hair another minute—I found a good salon and got it cut into long layers. It was a good change.

Then my dear friend David left me a message and invited me to stay at his place (in the Monterey area) for the remainder of my journey. He had been the one to take me to the airport when I left, and he was my welcome when I came back. A perfect circle and wonderful way to end the journey.

The next day I scouted out possible places in which to have a private massage practice in both Monterey and Pacific Grove. If I give California one last chance, that is possibly the area I would choose—especially with its close proximity to Big Sur and San Francisco. There were some nice possibilities.

That evening I helped David celebrate HIS birthday, and it was a wonderful time.

I have now taken the trip I’ve been meaning to take since childhood. I came back renewed, enriched and very glad that my life was full of enough abundance to get me there and back comfortably.

I’m feeling a whole lot o’ grateful!


Blogger bhd said...

You stayed at Lake Quinault Lodge on the 19th? So did we. We even played a game of dominoes in the lobby right outside the dining room. How the HELL did we miss you?

2:14 AM  
Blogger David said...

And now, you are contemplating a move back east? I'm confused.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...


Nice ocean stories!

Pamela aka onewahine

surf stories from the Pacific Northwest

7:59 PM  

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