If you can’t afford to travel to Ireland, Oregon might just be the poor man’s alternative. Assuming you’re not interested in the warm, hospitable, reasonably linear conversations you’d get in Ireland. Or the rest of the world. Oregon’s got something in the water.
To reach one of Oregon’s most prized goodies — Crater Lake — we first had to pass through Klamath Falls. There are a few towns across this great nation where we’ve experienced the same eerie trait: kids walking around town aimlessly, in places people shouldn’t be walking, at times when they should be with their moms. Redding, CA was one such town just a week or so prior. Klamath Falls is the latest.
And yet, not a single adolescent patronizing the local picture house! As has now become customary for Rogue Trip movie-going, Hailey and Mitch went to separate theaters and endured Hollywood’s latest craptacular iterations of “Two Drunk Ladies Getting In Way Over Their Heads” and “Alien Mega-Army Defeated By One Gun-Toting American”, respectively.
Klamath Falls also had the worst McDonald’s ever, in keeping with the Foursquare tip which made precisely that claim. We grabbed breakfast the following morning at the surprisingly decent Gathering Grounds Cafe, and high-tailed it to Crater Lake.
Crater Lake National Park
Ever since our April 2015 Pacific Northwest trip, Hailey has been whining that we skipped out on Crater Lake. Well, here we are in June, with a huge portion of the park still closed due to snow… which means taking a three-hour detour two Aprils ago would have resulted in major disappointment.
This is the first of several future humbling experiences with western America’s climate — there are some roads you just can’t trust to be open outside of a tiny two-week period in early August. Nevertheless, we saw enough to confirm its status as a natural icon.
Crater Lake is the result of a volcanic eruption almost 8,000 years ago. In other words, it used to be a mountain, and now it’s this. No rivers flow into it; all the water is rain and snowmelt, leading to world-class purity.
Our puny smartphones failed to ingest the full scope of this thing, as you can see. So, some words of support:
- It’s nearly six miles wide
- It’s the deepest lake in the U.S. and top ten deepest in the world
- If the Empire State Building were built at the bottom of this lake, you’d have to dive about 500 feet before you could even touch the tip of it
- It’s surprisingly warm at the surface, which is to say you would only die slower than expected if you fell in
Well worth the trek, and a great introduction to Oregon’s magnificent water features. Let’s see another one!
Driving up from Crater Lake en route to our next Pit Stop in Bend, we took in the two-tiered Toketee Falls:
You can almost feel the air clearing up around your computer screen right now, ya?
Well, don’t get too comfortable. By the time we got to the next stop (Clearwater Falls), the mosquitos had taken over. As we parked to begin our hike, an older couple emerged from the trailhead looking like circus freaks covered in bugs. We thought making a run for it might work, and it did — but even the five seconds we took to attempt a photo resulted in being swarmed. “Just one more reason to bring a beekeeper’s suit along in the van”, Hailey said. Mitch wasn’t aware there had been any reason confirmed prior to that.
We say it’s good luck to let your homeless friends stay over in the house you just bought seven days ago. Well, Drew and Torri must be awfully superstitious, because they went for that bait, and became
victim Pit Stop #22!
These two are about as well-traveled as a couple can get, and their twin black beauties — Poe and Cole — get to take part in the adventures as well. Between craft beer swigs and delicious eats, we all soaked up the best that Bend had to offer. Mitch soaked up some other stuff as well, during our float down the Deschutes River.
This town is extremely high on the hip kids’ list of places to move, with good reason. An evening in Drake Park is one of the many great ways to spend your Bend days, and Hailey captured it so well that we’ve been asked if the photo was actually a painting.
Here’s the other thing about Bend: it’s a practical homebase for exploring some of America’s most majestic wilderness. The drive from Bend to Eugene passes over the McKenzie River, through the Willamette National Forest, and is so damned enchanting that even our Garmin had to gush:
Stop #1: Clear Lake. Hailey stared into it for fifteen minutes, then sang, “water so clear, you can see Will Smith at the bottom.” Fun fact: Will Smith refuses to use toilet paper. Only bidets and baby wipes can touch his bottom. Ask us how we know.
Stop #2: Sahalie Falls. Yes, it’s that blue, and yes, it’s that green.
Stop #3: Tamolitch Pool. Listen, before we show you this pool — which you aren’t ready for — let’s get into the whole Ireland comparison. We jigged all over Ireland in 2016 and its green hues left us in awe. But guys… Oregon might be more impressive. Perhaps it’s cheating a bit by throwing that “Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner” blue water into the picture, but the depth of these greens is simply astonishing. It’s like walking around in a fairy tale.
Also there are banana slugs.
Mitch has said that he doesn’t actually enjoy hiking unless it’s heading to a worthwhile destination, but he admits Oregon is the one place he’d be willing to hike around aimlessly in.
Luckily for Mitch, he only had to test his pansy-footed patience for about two miles before reaching the Tamolitch Pool:
If this ain’t a worthwhile destination, we should just hang up our blogging spurs right now.
It’s hard to tell how deep this body of water is, because everything at the floor is completely visible. Should you decide to get a closer look, be prepared for a fairly steady 37° temperature year-round. Which is to say, you’re not prepared for that.
Stop #4 (yes, all this scenery is along the same two-hour drive): Terwilliger Hot Springs. Nevermind the fact that this is just one of several hot springs you can locate along the McKenzie River — what’s notable here is the atmosphere. Terwilliger may as well be in Tahiti, or some other far-off paradise that $6 definitely should not get you to.
It’s a clothing-optional, five-pool cascade of pools ranging from about 105° to high 90s as you descend them. Very much natural, though the individual pool boundaries were formed with nearby rocks to make it a more people-friendly venture. Given the nudity present (of both adults and babies), we didn’t want to ruin the vibe by snapping a good photo. So we just half-ruined it with a half-good photo. You’ll have to head there yourself for the whole picture.
That drive from Bend to Eugene is a tough act to follow, so let’s be kind to Eugene. It’s a nice place, and home to the University Of Oregon. Can’t go wrong with a college town, especially when it includes an outpost of the famed Voodoo Doughnuts bakery, which Mitch pretended to stumble upon but had clearly bookmarked on his map weeks ago.
We dealt with some of your standard peculiar Oregon personalities at the Jiffy Lube, then got our spirits back up in every sense with a trip to Blairally Arcade Bar. The Jurassic Park machine gave us free replays, like, twenty times in a row. Life should always be this way.
Thoroughly full from good fun, we steered out to the Oregon coastline — a forgotten but no less impressive leg of Pacific Coast cruising.
You know you’re living high on the experiential hog when you can turn down the opportunity to see a cave full of sea lions. The dealbreaker here was the $14/person fee to peep animals we’d previously been ogling for free up the coast of California… and the reminder that a cave full of sea lions would stink to high heaven. But you go ahead. You go in that cave.
Cape Perpetua was just a shot up the road, famous for the crashing surf against some particularly interesting rock formations, which make for an incredible soundtrack. You can walk around this entire area and find different sonic examples, but one of the attractions — Thor’s Well — is close enough to the break that you might be hearing your swan song if you venture out too far.
We decided to duck ever so briefly back into civilization and see what Oregon’s capital city of Salem was like, given all the good fortune we’d had traveling through neighboring Bend and Eugene. The sky sent an ominous signal that we’d regret our decision.
That’s the trouble with ominous signs though… they’re not specific enough. We would’ve preferred if the sky used the clouds to write out, “Salem Sucks.”
So here we are in Salem anyway. This is a picture of the Capitol. Now you’ve seen everything you need to see in Salem.
Back to the coast, and then, onto Portland.
On our way out to re-see the sea, we stopped in the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a taste of the good life. Note the guy wearing a Rogue t-shirt and sitting in a VW bus — how serendipitous, we thought, as we stuffed cheese curds in our craws.
The northern Oregon coast has some notable features, but for the most part, is tough to discern from the NorCal and Washington coastlines. That’s certainly not an insult; more of an insight, as we’d wager it’s the brutally cold water and jagged rocks which prevent a lot of the heavy commercial and residential development you might see in SoCal by comparison. The number of days you might find yourself frolicking in the surf along these beautiful beaches is roughly zero, unless you’re equipped with a wetsuit. Much like Ireland again, in that sense.
Pictured below: Hug Point State Park and Haystack Rock.
We’ve been to Portland four times in the past two years, for reasons even we can’t explain. But for those who have never been, for the most part, and for better or worse: it lives up to the reputations.
Only once before has Rogue Trip been forced to stoop to plebeian laundromat facilities, but luckily and predictably, Portland has a laundry lounge complete with booze, grub, and arcade games.
Feeling so fresh and clean, we hustled over to Portland’s famous International Rose Test Garden — a sight we’ve missed due to seasonal conditions on our first three trips through PDX.
They’re pretty, of course. Unfortunately, most of them only come in one size: face-sized.
By the by, this test garden isn’t the only place roses abound. For a more peaceful and less crowded experience, just waltz on over to Peninsula Park and have yourself a picnic.
What about that whole “weird” side of Portland? Yeah, they’ve got that, though locals may be dismayed to learn we’ve seen just as much weirdness in a handful of other cities. Still, weird = good. Keep it weird, for sure. Here’s a bicycle gang taking up the full width of the road:
Here’s a tiny, Nintendo-themed ice cream truck:
Here’s this thing:
Here’s Hailey either sucking fluid out of her ear, or blowing candy into it:
Here’s a wishing tree, monitored closely by the lady in the window. The wish-stealer, they call her.
They don’t call her that. She seemed friendly.
One of the best things about Portland is leaving, and we mean that in the nicest way. Just a few minutes east of town, you hit the Columbia River and surrounding Gorge — basically the western terminus of the historic Lewis & Clark trail, and ditto for every ’80s kid’s favorite computer game: Oregon Trail.
Historic Columbia Highway 30 is the route to take, winding you up to Crowne Plaza at the top of the gorge before dropping you down into waterfall country. No joke, this is the place to be in the continental U.S. if you love waterfalls. The map below is even missing a few we’re aware of:
Crowne Plaza atop Highway 30:
Again, we’ve done this drive and this waterfall alley several times already, so hopefully the lack of photo evidence doesn’t undersell you on how wondrous this area is. The uber-popular Multnomah Falls is a big tourist draw, and makes some kind of asterisky claim about being the tallest two-tiered waterfall in the U.S. or something. Looking a bit muddier than usual today, big fella!
Next up was Ellowa Falls and Upper McCord Falls; two plunges along the same trail. Ellowa was closed due to a walking bridge being washed out, but Upper McCord appeared to be out in full regalia. These falls were new to us.
Also new to us was Spirit Falls, though in the interest of transparency, it’s technically in Washington State just over the Bridge Of the Gods. Still, there’s really no practical reason you’d ever get here from the Washington side, so let’s lump it in.
Spirit Falls is easily in our Top 5 Falls of Rogue Trip so far… it’s a delicious cocktail that goes as follows:
- One part difficult to find and super-secluded
- One part crashing, swirling crystal blue waters surrounded by a rainforest-like environment
- One part Hailey doing not one, but two face-plants in the dirt
- One part sad human phenomenon wherein your brain believes the harder something is, the better it must be
We’d tell you to bring the kids, but depending on your family, either you or your kids will have trouble with this hike. Maybe send the kids, and wait in the car.
We drove back into Portland to see a visiting friend and polish off the fine state of Oregon, and eventually crossed the line into Washington State — nearing the halfway point in the Rogue Trip journey! Can you believe it? Can you tolerate the lack of blog updates? If you said no to both, you’re in luck. We’ll be making believers out of you at a faster pace over these next couple months. If that’s not fast enough, there’s always Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roguetripusa/. See you around, cowboy…