Headed out late Friday morning south on Highway 97. I always like this drive as it’s frequently punctuated with unobstructed views of Mount Adams and Mount Hood. You can see Adams just peaking into view in the picture on the left and Hood standing tall in the one on the right. It’s also neat to watch the landscape change from desert-y scrub-brush to rich evergreen as you descend toward the Columbia River.
Normally I would’ve taken 97 straight into Oregon, but construction on the border bridge meant I was diverted west following the Washington-side ridge above the Columbia. Really pretty views of the gorge at every twist and turn. After crossing the Columbia, I stopped at The Dalles DMV to take care of some unfinished business and had easily the best DMV experience of my life. Rolled into a nearly empty parking lot, walked in and pulled my tab for number 66, looked up to see they were now serving number 65, and three minutes later was back in my car. Incredible. I took a picture to commemorate the moment (below right).
Then I drove and drove. Hit the expected Friday afternoon Portland traffic, but no real traffic jams. I don’t think I’d ever want to live in a really large city, but every so often I don’t mind immersing myself in the crush of humanity. In these bumper-to-bumper moments I’m always glad to have cut my driving teeth in a city that provided plenty of learning opportunities.
A couple hours after Portland, I hit the coast, pulled off at the first view point, lurched out of the car, and sucked in delicious lung-fulls of salty air. Haystack Rock pictured below left. About fifteen minutes later I arrived at Oswald West State Park, parked, and raced the quarter mile down the trail to the beach (below right).
There were only a couple other people on the beach and no one in the water. At first I thought this was odd, but thinking back to last summer when we came in on a Friday afternoon there were only a few people in the water and the weather was much nicer then. I stood gazing at the waves for a bit then scrambled around on the cliff-side rocks and poked around in the tide pools. Returning to the beach I mulled over whether to track down a campsite or try to sneak in a surf session. The sun was fading, but not sunset-y yet. I raced back up the trail, changed into my wetsuit in the back of my car, and ran back to the beach with my surfboard jostling at my side.
The longshore current was in full force and I was surprised at how hard I was having to work to paddle out. I chalked it up to being out of shape, but later decided it might not have been just me. I never really did get outside and was content to play in the two inside beach breaks. Just me and a dozen ducks. I hoped any sharks in the area were in the mood for bird.
As the sun set I cruised back onto the beach and snapped off a couple pictures (pictured yesterday) before changing and heading back to the car.
I had been hoping to camp at Oswald West, but the campground was closed for the season and the parking lot (my backup plan) had a “No Parking 10 pm-6 am” sign tacked up. My backup-backup plan was Nehalem State Park, so I headed that direction, stopping at a grocery store in Manzanita to pick up some chicken brats and buns.
I couldn’t believe how many people were camping at Nehalem in the middle of February. Not as busy as when we stayed there last summer but still plenty of RVs and tents. Those Oregonians don’t mind the elements I guess. My singed dinner was well-earned and delicious. I was too lazy to set up my tent and didn’t feel like breaking camp in the rain if a wet morning was in the works, so I slept in my car. On an angle with my fleece for a pillow and only woke up shivering once.
The next morning I woke to a misting rain and a fogged up car. I walked down to the beach and petted five dogs that were racing around while their owner tossed sticks. She apologized for all their sniffing, but I told her I didn’t mind. It was 6:30 and I don’t think she was expecting anyone else to be out yet.
I walked the beach for probably forty-five minutes then broke camp and drove back into Manzanita which was just starting to stir. Retirees and vacationers stretching and heading for coffee shops. Dogs on leashes everywhere. I walked the beach again then bought a fresh cinnamon roll from a small grocery store when it opened at eight. The cashier, a white-haired slightly surly man, scooped my cinnamon roll into a paper bag, then scraped up the leftover scraps and held out the spatula toward me. I was confused because I figured he was planning on putting the excess in the bag, but the spatula just continued to hang in the space between us. So I held out my hand and thanked him at he flipped the spatula sideways. My politeness seemed to have earned his regard and he handed me a couple pieces of saltwater taffy as I turned to leave.
I went back to Oswald West and surfed until my shoulders were in knots. Then I surfed for another hour. A few others in the water this morning and many more on the beach. I didn’t mind the company. It was nice to watch other people getting thumped by the waves for a change.
By 1 PM I was back on the road headed toward home. Highway 101 along the coast seemed to have quadrupled in traffic and ditto for Highway 26 back toward Portland. Making use of passing lanes though, I didn’t notice much difference in my travel time.
East of Portland I stopped at Multnomah Falls, a 600ft waterfall which is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the US after Yosemite. It’s ridiculously conveniently located as you can pull into the parking area off of I-84 just like you’d pull into a rest stop. Quite literally there is a coffee shop near the falls and people sipped their lattes while gazing up. I think half of Portland may have been there this afternoon.
I had planned to stay just long enough to take a few pictures, but I accidentally started walking up a trail that led to the top of the falls and my curiosity got the best of me. A mile of switch backs later and I was peering over the edge. Pretty cool. Actually though, I think the best part of this visit was hearing all the different languages. I’m sure I heard at least half a dozen while heading up and there may have been more. International destination I guess.
I drove home with the sun in my rear view mirror and was treated to a Mount Adams sunset near Goldendale, WA. Rolled back into Yakima in the dark, greeted my wife and exuberant furballs, and drifted off to sleep while my body floated up and down on phantom ocean swells.