Oregon Road Trip
The quote above is a wonderful way to think about the world right now. It’s September 2021 and the world is still struggling with Covid. However, despite all that has happened, the only way is to look forward. As school starts here in the United States, our family embarked on a weeklong road trip to Oregon with many beautiful stops along the way. We were certainly worried about Covid and took all the precautions we could and the forest wildfires in Oregon added another twist to the trip. Overall, we had a wonderful time as a family, visited a volcanic crater, forests, lakes, rivers, beach, ocean, and a high desert all in the same week!
The trip took a lot of planning beforehand as we wanted to ensure that we had a safe experience:
- Don’t drive at night or more than 4 – 5 hours per day
- Drive in the morning and enjoy the afternoon / evening at the destination
- Hotels should ideally have a kitchenette so that we can plan our meals and avoid indoor restaurants
- Do the activities earlier in the trip and have the last stop to be relaxing
We wanted to visit Crater Lake National Park, Florence and Skamania lodge and we tried all sequences possible with the above constraint and finally locked on Seattle -> Portland (1 night) -> Bend (2 nights) -> Florene (1 night) -> Skamania Lodge (2 nights) -> Seattle.
The journey began from our home in Seattle, the car was filled to the brim with all the essentials, and we begin our drive to Portland. We decided to stop by Olympia which is the state capital of Washington as we had never been there before. We found this pretty park (Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls) in the city which had several picnic benches and a nice trail following the river. After enjoying our picnic lunch here, we continued our drive to Portland and reached our hotel – Residence Inn Hilsboro. We had a fun takeout dinner from Old Spaghetti Factory which was right opposite to our hotel and watched a movie on Netflix to wind down in the evening.
The second day, we packed up and started our drive to Bend which was going to be our base for the next 2 days. We tried looking for a non-crowded picnic spot with restrooms and had to keep trying till we found this great state park called Detroit Lake State Park which turned out to be great. After a brief pit stop we continued our drive to Bend and reach our hotel – Residence Inn Bend. After resting for a bit we headed out to explore the city and spent the time walking around the Deschutes river. There were lots of people doing tubing and something which looked like “river surfing” and we have bookmarked those activities for our next visit to Bend. We then parked our car at Miller’s landing park and walked the trail all the way till the old mill district which was buzzing with activity since there was an open air concert going on there. Back at the hotel we had a delicious dinner of pav bhaji digging into all the cooking supplies we had got with us in the car.
Day 3 started with a bit of apprehension since it was really smoky in Bend due to the forest fires in Oregon. We had been tracking the air quality and smoke maps for several weeks and were hoping for the situation at Crater Lake was not bad. We made and packed our lunch and started our drive to Crater Lake around 10 in the morning. We got really lucky and the smoke cleared up as we got closer to the national park and stayed that way till the evening.
There are simply no words to describe how beautiful Crater Lake national park was. The water is as blue as the images show and the lake is so huge and magnificent that it’s almost surreal that you can drive along the rim and admire natures wonder. We stopped along many viewpoints and had a picnic lunch at the visitor center. We also the hike called Cleetwood Cove which is the only legal trail to access the bottom of the lake. The hike has an elevation change of 1000 feet within a mile so going down is easy but coming up is tough. However, if you can do that level of a hike, I would certainly recommend it. Also watch out for annoying little squirrels at the end which can smell human snacks from a mile away and can be quite persistent
As we headed back to Bend, the smoke had covered up the entire view and there was no visibility at all. We were so glad that we were able to see the beautiful lake!
After a fun filled and active day at Crater Lake we took our time to pack up and headed to Florence, Oregon which is right on the Oregon coast. While we have been to the oregon coast before we had never been to Florence and were excited to check out the beach and the sand dune formations there. Along the way, we stopped by the banks of the beautiful McKenzie river to enjoy a picnic lunch and then continued our drive to our hotel – Driftwood Shores. The hotel is on the beach and every room has a view of the beautiful ocean. The beach was extremely windy that evening, but we were able to spend some time there before we went to the North Jetty beach to explore the sand dune formations. The sand dunes were really unique the sand was so fine that it looked like flowing water when sliding down. We had a lot of fun climbing (trying to climb?) and sliding down the dunes. Back at the hotel we played some Ukelele in the balcony, had a great dinner and enjoyed the sunset views
The wind had died down in the morning and we spent the morning walking around the beach while my son created a mini crater lake in the sand. We packed up our stuff and then began our drive to Skamania Lodge where we were going to spend our last 2 nights. On the way we stopped at a Panera bread in Euguene for a quick lunch and that was just a short detour from our route. On the way to the lodge we passed an interesting bridge called the Bridge of the Gods and has an interesting history associated with it which we read about later.
When we reached the Skamania Lodge, we were absolutely stunned by the views of the Colombia river from there and were eager to explore the resort. The resort has three amazing hikes on the property, and we decided to try one interesting one called Gorge Loop fitness trail where there are five different fitness stations to do exercises along the way. After the hike, we sat on the Adirondack chairs on their lawn and soaked in the beautiful views of the calm and peaceful river
We had planned to Ziplining at Skamania Lodge but were late in booking, so we decided to let my son try out their aerial park instead. The aerial park has a bunch of challenges to move from one tree station to another and it looked scary (for me at least). My son on the other hand, had a blast and enjoyed several hours of moving from one tree to another pretending to be Tarzan. Do check out the YouTube video below to see him in action! We spent the evening playing mini golf at the property and then continued to enjoy the fabulous views again all the way till sunset.
While this was the last day of our trip and time to drive back home. We decided to spend the morning doing another hike on the property called the Lake loop trail and we even saw some deer on our hike. We enjoyed our last lunch at the hotel enjoying the views and then started our drive back home. At the end of the trip, we drove 1200 miles, which is equivalent to driving from Seattle to San Diego! For us, this was certainly the most we have driven on any road trip, and it was such a memorable experience.
This trip was unusual and special in many ways as it was the first vacation we did in a while. We took a lot of precautions due to covid: spent most of our time outdoors, cleaned the high touch areas of the hotel rooms we stayed in and planned our meals ahead to avoid any indoor eating areas. It was special as we got to spend a lot of quality time as a family. We enjoyed a lot of music and audio books on Spotify while driving and appreciated all the natural beauty which surrounds us. The trip gave us a chance to be grateful for a lot of things and I hope we can do a lot more of these trips in the future. Happy Trails!