One week. One girl. One dog. One epic Oregon adventure.
Dead Sober. :)
After nine hours in the car we made it just before dark to Fort Stevens State Park outside of Astoria. We had reserved our campsite online so I was appreciative of not having any stress of finding a spot once we arrived. What a beautiful park! And full of history. The fort was created during the civil war and was active until WWII. It has everything to offer from camping, hiking, beach-combing, sand dunes, the Peter Iredale Shipwreck and Coffenbury Lake for fishing!
We woke up bright and early on day two for a little exploring. The sun came out unexpectedly and we spent the morning beach combing and hiking the 9-miles of paved trails Fort Stevens has to offer. Then it was time to pack up and head into town before our next big drive.
Astoria is about 10 miles away from Fort Stevens. First stop - CHOWDER. The answer: Northwest Wild Products. Not only are they dog-friendly, but they have a pup menu too! I got my (amazingly delicious) chowder in a bread bowl and a big bowl of Cricket's favorite - whip cream! We sat on the boardwalk enjoying the sights of the moored boats and the famous Astoria-Megler Bridge.
And there is no way you can visit Astoria without doing a little Goonie hunting. The old Goondocks is no longer welcoming to guests, so you have to take your photos from the street. But it was still awesome to see the house where the movie was filmed!
HUG POINT STATE PARK
Do not, I REPEAT, DO NOT visit this place during spring break. The parking lot is horrid. The bathrooms were closed. The beach was packed. Yep, I got sucked into a tourist trap. Literally.
On a positive note, the mini-waterfall was pretty. Cricket made a new friend on the beach and they fell in love. And the views were gorgeous. But really, in my opinion, Oregon has more to offer.
Two and a half hours from Astoria, inland, you will find the quaint little town of Dayton, Oregon. Set in the heart of the Willamette Valley (aka wine country), right on the banks of Yamhill River, is Dayton's main attraction: The Vintages Trailer Resort. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Cricket and I spent the night in one of the resort's vintage 1961 Shasta Airflyte Reissues.
Cherry red and remodeled to what made it so special in it's hippie hayday, this little trailer was nothing short of special. Glamping at it's best. Not all of the trailer's are dog-friendly so they actually had to move us after I had already booked an Airstream but the Shasta was more affordable and bigger, and it had all of the amenities we needed for the night: A tiny electric fireplace, shower and toilet, hot water, microwave, bbq and two cruiser bikes for exploring. The resort is also located next to a dog park and a foot bridge that leads you to the heart of town.
First thing first - a hot shower. The six-gallon unit was plenty to unthaw my bones from aches and pains of camping and driving. Then it was time to light up the grill and cook me and the little a couple burgers. We sat on the patio and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee as the sun set and the twinkle lights lit up the trees.
Cricket even met a new friend - Scout the Golden Retriever. Scout is instagram famous. He was there doing a photo shoot for the resort and Cricket developed quite the crush on him. You can check out Scout's instagram account HERE.
The bed was a much welcomed change from my tent and Cricket and I fell asleep to a movie on the trailer's Roku powered television.
We slept without an alarm and woke up to the sun glistening off the dew-covered field behind the resort. Let's just say it wasn't easy to say goodbye to this little slice of Heaven.
Getting here was a white-knuckle, anxiety-ridden drive. But the reward? Worth it. Winter was rough in Oregon too. So if you plan on hiking a remote trail off of a forest service road, be prepared because it may not be in tip-top shape. My least-favorite combination of things: no cell service and unmanaged dirt roads. But there was no way I was missing Opal Creek. The road was one giant pot-hole with rock slides and downed trees creating quite the obstacle course for even the most skillful driver. But it was do-able. And we did it.
The Opal Creek trail is a 6.25 out and back trail that takes you out to Jawbone Flats historic mining community and the Opal Pool. The trail was much better maintained than the road!
The trail is actually an old mining road and is admittedly difficult to stay on. There is old mining equipment scattered along the trail, old caves to wander into and so much to see that the 3 miles will go by incredibly fast that brings you to Jawbone.
Jawbone Flats is a whole 'nother world. You can actually rent cabins here and the employees living in the historic old town are living completely off the grid. They produce their own solar and water-powered electricity, pipe in water from a nearby creek, access the Internet by satellite and have no phones.
About a quarter-mile from Jawbone Flats you find the Opal Pool. A wooden-bridge draws you across the creek and you will be automatically drawn to the turquoise-blue waters below. Fun fact: The creek wasn't named after the color of the water, but rather after an old Forest Ranger's wife, Opal, whom he thought was as beautiful as the crystal clear waters of the creek.
In the summers, thrill-seekers jump from the cliffs into the ice-cold water below. Cricket and I hesitantly put a toe in. But that's all we needed to feel the water's magic.
Oh Sisters...where have you been all my life!? I could have EASILY stayed a whole week here. I mean, my hotel had LLAMAS. That alone was reason enough to hunker down and get comfy. But really, Sisters is like stepping back in time to the wild, wild west. All the storefronts look like that from an old western film and the streets are named things like "Buckaroo Ave." Cuter than cute. Lots of shops, restaurants and the Cascade Mountain Range watching over you. Sisters is named after the Three Sisters - Faith, Hope and Charity. Also in line with the ladies you will find Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack. He was my favorite as it looked to me like he was flipping off the world as they neared him.
And did I mention our hotel had llamas!? We stayed at the Ponderosa Lodge. The beds were made of logs and you could feed the llamas in the yard. We even saw an owl who I thanked mercifully for not eating my dog.
We ate at Three Creeks Brewing since they had a dog-friendly patio. I thoroughly enjoyed my baked Philly Cheese Steak (Thin sliced Steak grilled with Bell Pepper and Onion, oven baked on a French Roll, slathered in our Knotty Blonde Ale Beer Cheese Sauce and topped with Provolone Cheese) and Cricket got her own plate of cheeseburger sliders! And they even provided a doggy water dish. Bonus points (and tip).
Sisters - we will be back.
SMITH ROCK STATE PARK
Smith Rock is one of those popular places in Oregon that nobody seems to know about. The parking lot overflowed into the street with cars, but not many had anything but Oregon plates. I'd keep it secret too. It's magical. And if you are into rock climbing - beware, you may never come home.
I've been wanting to hike Misery Ridge for a long time now. This 3.7 mile loop isn't for the faint-hearted and it isn't easy. But it's well worth the views from the top! The goal - to get to Monkey Face. An interesting rock formation at the top of the ridge. The trail is narrow and the loose rock can create for a slippery ascent and descent. Make sure you have good hiking shoes with traction and I'd even recommend trekking poles for some added stability.
Make sure to stop at the top and take in the views, eat some lunch and shoot some photos. Then make your way out to the ridge to Monkey Face. As busy as the trail was, Cricket and I were the only ones with enough courage to scurry along the rocky ledge to the face. But I was quite okay with that. More selfie time with my fur babe.
The trail down was harder than up just due to lack of footing and having a dog drag me along the way. The little rocks acted like wheels under my feet - have you ever roller-skated down a mountain? Go to Smith Rock for your chance! Once we made it to the bottom we found that much of the River Trail was washed out. So we started wandering. Soon I realized our 3.7 mile hike had turned closer to 6 miles, but we made it back in one piece. And I've got to say - I'm pretty proud of my little pup for conquering such a BIG mountain!
After conquering Misery Ridge we hopped back in the car for a four-hour drive to Beachside State Park Recreation Area and another night in the tent listening to the ocean waves. After doing some research online I found the best site numbers for camping near the sand and was lucky enough to snag one of them.
Our site was perfect. A small trail led from our tent through a mossy nook protected by trees onto the beach. Those trees were a godsend - blocking the strong winds that were starting to invade the coast. But man, did they make for a good campfire! We collected driftwood to trigger the flames and roasted marshmallows. Cricket was absolutely in LOVE with this quiet beach. And I was in love with letting her off her leash to collect shells and chase birds and sea foam.
We woke up the next morning on a mission to find some sea lions and some ice cream. Oh and a tie-dyed hoodie. First stop - Florence for the infamous Sea Lion Caves. For $14 you can wander the gift shop, then make your way down the stairs along a paved path overlooking the ocean waves. Look down and you will see hundreds of sea lions frolicking in the waves. Hop in the outdoor elevator and down 200 feet you go, into the museum and sea lion cave. The smell isn't the best, but it's what happens when that many chubby mammals get together in a small space. Think of it as a sea lion locker room. And I'll admit - while I don't do the tourist thing, I was fully invested here. Those cute, blubbery, barking babes had me by the heart strings. I could have stayed and watched them forever. But my own babe was in the car waiting patiently, so back up I went and we hit the road for town.
Florence is known for it's beautiful art-deco bridge: Siuslaw River Bridge. Sadly the bridge was under construction during our visit but it was still beautiful nonetheless. It did, however, cause traffic backups far into the city.
After realizing we couldn't make our turn we decided to check out some sand dunes instead. Cricket LOVED running through the sand and up the hills....me, not so much. By the time we raced back to the car I was out of breath, my legs were jello and I was sweaty covered in sand. Cricket has never had a bigger smile than she did at that moment. So I let it go.
Once we found our way around the construction we made our way to Bay Street. This little river walk was a quiet, sweet mecca for shops and restaurants. We stopped at International C-Food (once again, dog-friendly patio) and enjoyed some fish and chips and warm clam chowder on the patio overlooking the marina. It was raining, but they were accommodating making sure I had my food as quickly as possible so we didn't get sopping wet eating our meal. Bonus points to the waiter for telling me "GO ZAGS!" when he learned I was from Spokane.
After lunch we half-ran back to the car, shivering and wet and decided there was no better time than now than to do a little adventuring!
Next stop was the Heceta Head Lighthouse as we headed north again on 101. Built in 1894, the 56-foot-tall lighthouse shines a beam visible for 24 miles, making it the strongest light on the Oregon Coast! There's actually a bed and breakfast that you can stay in below the lighthouse called The Keeper's House. That one went on my bucket list!
This little coastal town is a perfect stop if you are traveling along scenic 101. And it's my secret little place for the best ice cream on the Oregon Coast. Don't miss Ainslee's. It looks like a candy/salt water taffy shop but deeper inside you will find some incredible ice cream. My annual waffle cone is filled with bright blue and pink cotton candy scoops. And this year they made my pup a treat - ice cream complete with a cocoa-free white chocolate dipped doggy biscuit.
Eating this ice cream can't be done in the car. It must be done while strolling along the sidewalk overlooking the bay. Look hard enough and you may see some of the local whales who make their home here.
Home is where the heart is, right? Well then my home would be Lincoln City. From the miles of sandy beaches, to the local mentality and friendly smiles, to the tide pools, to the historical Taft District on Siletz Bay. Oregon Coast perfection can be found here.
Initially we had only planned on staying in Lincoln City one night, but storms were rolling in and my old bones couldn't sleep on the cold ground again so we crossed our fingers and paws and asked if the room we had reserved at Sailor Jack's Oceanfront Inn was available for a second night.
But for $20 we could upgrade to a fireplace jacuzzi suite? SOLD.
Both rooms were on the lower level with a deck overlooking the ocean. A set of stairs led down to the beach and Cricket's puppy freedom. Watching all the dogs run free is enough to make even the coldest of hearts happy.
It was here that I spent my 35th birthday. I bought myself that tie-dye hoodie I'd been searching for, ate fudge from a candy store, bought Mo's chowder and a crab melt to-go and ate it on the deck of my hotel room. We woke up and had Lucky Charms and sipped coffee as the ocean breeze swept through the room. We beach combed and drew pictures in the sand. I rocked my new swimsuit in my jacuzzi and added extra bubbles. Cricket lounged by the fireplace and took plenty of naps.
I mean really, does it get any better than that?
The goal of this trip was to be as stress-free as possible, so we avoided the urban areas as much as we could. But when I set my mind to something, I have to do it. And I wanted donuts. Blue Star Donuts.
Everyone makes a big deal out of the pink box in PDX. I saw go blue. Grown up donuts. So we went an hour out of our way to find them. And it was worth it. I found the last parking spot in a very small lot across the street and ran through the downpour to the doors - right as a high school team walked in. I was pretty bummed as one by one they sold out of all the amazing delicacies I was hoping to try. But I learned that Blue Star doesn't disappoint. I may not have gotten the flavors I had intended but my taste buds were tickled nonetheless. Blueberry Bourbon Basil. Olive Oil Orange. Maple Bacon. Valrhona Chocolate Crunch. Each passed the taste test, hell each EXCEEDED the taste test. And Cricket thoroughly enjoyed licking the frosting off the maple bacon.
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
The last leg of our trip was through the Columbia River Gorge. One of my favorite places on earth is the Historic Columbia River Highway. Waterfall after waterfall, scenic viewpoint after scenic viewpoint. Latourell Falls is my favorite. You can practically stand under it with no interruptions due to the fact that it takes a small hike to get to it.
One must also stop at the overly-busy Multnomah Falls. We usually just take a quick photo and run as quickly as we can back to the car (which is typically found in the overflow lot due to the craziness of this place).
Another fun stop is the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. It's here that you will find Herman the Sturgeon. The old man has quite the story which can be read HERE. He's a big boy. Over 10 feet long and over 500 lbs at his old age of 60. Cricket had no idea what to think!
Our final night was spent in Cascade Locks. Home of the Bridge of the Gods. We had no place to stay so I swung by the Bridge of the Gods Motel in hopes for a reasonable price and vacancy. It was perfect. A view of the Columbia River, memory foam bed, jacuzzi tub, kitchenette. Nicer than most hotels. And dog-friendly! I knew it was the perfect place for us to rest our heads for one last night.
We woke up and hit the road for the trip home with a stop at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe for lunch. Such a cute place with a covered and HEATED outdoor patio complete with dog bowls and treats. I had an amazing Moroccan Stew and a S'more for dessert.
With our bellies full we had one final destination. Rowena Loops - a must for any photographer or instagram lover. Cricket was totally up for the photo shoot.
And then it was over. A week on the road just me and my girl. We came. We saw. We conquered. Proof that girls can adventure too! And these memories....well, they are surely going to last a lifetime.