This year for spring break, my mom and I were due for a trip. We settled on exploring a part of the country where neither of us had never been – the Pacific Northwest. As someone who has done a fair bit or traveling, I like to have things all figured out as to maximize the amount of things you get to see and do. But for this trip, we decided we didn’t want an itinerary or a solid plan. We bought plane tickets to San Francisco, reserved a car, and had a very loose outline of a few places we’d like to see, and that was it.
We got into San Francisco around midnight (3am EST, for those keeping track) and finally were out of the airport and on the road by about 1:30 or so. Our goal for the first night was to just get far enough north of the city that we wouldn’t have to navigate morning traffic the next day. So we drove for about an hour before crashing at a motel right off the highway. We were exhausted to say the least but the time difference was working in our favor so the next morning we were up and energized fairly early.
That first day, we spent driving right along the pacific coast highway. We stopped in the town of Ft. Bragg to visit a place called glass beach. It was once a dumping ground where people used to throw their bottles and after many years of being churned by the waves, the sand is now almost entirely made of sea glass. We also got to drive through some redwood forests and some precarious mountain roads. Eventually, we made it into Southern Oregon where we decided we’d stop for the night. The hotel we found there was a “lodge” style and included free wine at check in which were all right up our alley. We got some advice from the very friendly desk clerk, although she literally laughed in our faces when we told her we were hoping to make it to Canada the following day.
The next day, we set out to prove our new friend wrong. We decided that we didn’t really want to stop anywhere but we just wanted to reach our goal of arriving in Vancouver. So we drove, and drove. We passed through Portland, through Seattle, and eventually to the Canadian border. It was dark and rainy when we got to Vancouver but we were determined to see some of the city so we went for a walk along the neighborhood where the hotel was.
In the morning we went to Stanley Park to see some totem poles and walked along the water. There were some great spots to admire the skyline. Afterward, we went back south into the US. But not without our stop at Tim Hortons first. That afternoon, we stopped in Seattle to wander through the Pike’s Place Market and had a yummy dinner overlooking the sound. It was a bit rainy in Seattle, but that was about to be expected. Then we kept going South. That night we stayed in what my mom lovingly references as the “Bates Motel.”
Our next plan was to drive through the Mt. St. Helen’s National Park. We drove as far as we could with the snow and saw lots of mountains and beautiful scenery. Through the snow and the fog it wasn’t quite possible to discern which of the many peaks was the volcano, but we decided we definitely did see it. After, we headed south to the Oregon border where we went east to drive along the Columbia River, which was an excellent scenic drive. Eventually we continued on south to the town of Bend, Oregon where we once again managed to find the hotel that offered free wine at check in.
The next day, we set off to see Crater Lake. It was quite an adventure actually getting to the lake because there were road closures due to snow so it took us awhile to find a clear path. Once we were finally heading up, we saw just why they had to close the roads. I had never seen so much snow in my life. As we got higher, the mounds on either side of the road got steadily taller until they towered high above the car. At the top, the visitors center was completely buried and we had to use a back tunnel entrance. But the view from the top was definitely worth the trouble. Afterwards, we were planning to go check out some water falls on our way south, but it turns out that “Klamath Falls” is just a small town in southern Oregon and is not actually home to any real falls. Rookie mistake. But that gave us some more driving time and we made it into California where we stopped for In n Out before heading to Napa Valley for the night.
Our day in Napa Valley was the first time all week that we actually stayed in one location for a substantial period of time. Wine country was gorgeous and we stopped at three fairly distinct vineyards to get a well rounded experience. Then we went over to my mom’s aunts house where we had dinner with some cousins which was really great. It’s fun finding family all over the place.
We had a peaceful morning the next day just hanging out with our aunt and then we went into the nearby town of Sonoma. Sonoma had a really cute downtown area that was very walkable with lots of shops and things to see. It was a gorgeous day out too. That evening, we went back into San Francisco where we were staying with my mom’s cousin for the night so we could get back to the airport bright and early.
Overall, such a great trip. It was a bit of a whirlwind but that was exactly what we wanted.