The Long Drive South Begins

Our ferry got into Port Angeles around 9pm. We had arranged earlier in the day to stay at the KOA in town so we didn’t have to roam around in the dark looking for somewhere to camp. Found cheap wine (our old stand-by that hadn’t been available in all of Canada) and firewood and rolled into camp around 10pm.

Got up early the next day and headed to the Olympic National Forest. Excited to finally find some free camping again. We first visited La Push, then headed to Forks. For the unacquainted, Forks is the town that the Twilight series of books and movies is based on. There were some pretty lame attempts at capitalizing on that fame. Such as, the “Vampire Firewood” (literally just a few bundles of firewood for sale on the roadside) and the Twilight Tour that will take your picture in front of the “Welcome to Forks” sign with faded life-sized cardboard cutouts of the stars from the film, just to name a couple.

Moving on from Forks, we made camp just outside of the Hoh Rainforest in a small gravel pull off that extended about 100 yards into the woods. That night, while sitting around the fire, we heard the loudest, strangest noise come from the forest. Somewhat a mix between an owl and an injured wolf. It was loud and it was close. It only happened once and then went silent. We still aren’t sure what it was. Possibly a screech owl?

Brian Splitting Wood

[Brian splitting firewood with the Woodsman's Pal.]

Woke up early and started making coffee, when an SUV with official signage and numbering of some sort pulled up. It was a younger couple (younger than us) neither wearing uniforms but both carrying clip boards. In our experience, clipboards mean trouble.

He asked, “Are you camping here?” His tone suggested that we shouldn’t be.

Brian replied, “Nope, just making some coffee and tea.”

They were doing research of some sort (probably researching the half owl/half wolf that we had heard) and informed us that we weren’t in the National Forest as we thought we had been. Pack up camp and move on.

That day we decided to explore Olympia, WA. Stopped first at Spar Bar, owned by the McMenamin’s family. This place was great; stained glass windows, copper bar tops, lots of wood and great lighting. The atmosphere was great. We stayed for a couple of beers and some Cajun tater tots. After that, we roamed around town.

The scene was a bit depressing. We don’t mean to imply that you can get the feel for a whole city in just a few hours, but it seems as though Olympia has a bit of a drug problem. Open drug deals in broad daylight, and sad people covered with track marks everywhere you look. We tried to find a park to sit in but the parks were crowded with these types. Decided to have lunch at Quality Burrito (very tasty) and moved on.

Made it just to the edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for some free camping. After searching around some of the dirt roads that lead away from the main roads, we found a trail that had been blocked off but was still passable with some careful maneuvering. The short road ended with a 20-foot drop off into a mostly dry riverbed. It also gave an excellent view of Mt. Rainier.

Mt.Rainier Camp

Mt. Rainier (along with pretty much any other volcanoes on the route) was on Carley’s short list of ‘must-sees’. She grinned from ear to ear as we made camp. We settled in early and built a fire in preparation for the Indian style pot pie we planned to make in the Dutch oven. That night’s dinner would be the best so far (and we can tell you a month later, the best to date).

Indian Potpie Before
Indian Potpie After

[Dutch Oven Indian Style Potpie Before & After]

Oatmeal in the morning, a haircut for Brian, then it was off to Seattle for some tourism. We spent a few hours at the Pike Place Market, had some beer and food and then went to see the Freemont Troll. After that, we met up with some friends who were just getting back into town from their honeymoon in Vegas. They were beat, but they graciously took us in for the night, fed us, and even shared a bit of Washington’s finest. (Thanks Chris and Natalie!) We talked, laughed and drank through the night.

Freemont Troll in Seattle

Woke up, made use of the shower and hit the road again. Made our way down near Mt. St. Helens and free camped near a swift stream. This would be our last night in Washington.

The next morning made breakfast, took our time and relaxed a bit before heading south to Portland. As soon as we got to the city, a rock flew up and put a nice sized spider in the windshield. Great! We just replaced the entire windshield before leaving Kentucky. Luckily, the brewery we were headed to was less than a block away from an auto glass repair shop. We stopped in, they filled the crack and we were on our way in 15 minutes.

We rarely have a plan when we enter a city so we ended up bumming around all day, having a beer here and there, and enjoying the perfect weather. Stopped in Voodoo Donuts (meh, they weren’t great). We were tired and feeling like we had spent too much money, so that evening we opted to camp at a Walmart parking lot not far outside of town.

Por que no?

The next day, we sat in a small coffee shop for a few hours, attempting to update the blog. Once the clock struck noon, though, it was time for tacos and beers at Por que no? It was roughly 75 degrees and sunny and, to be honest, this is the place where Brian and Carley kind fell in love (aaawwwww) so we spent some time walking around, holding hands, checking out vintage shops and saying “man, I could live here”. It’s on the list.

Around 4pm, we headed toward the coast. Haystack Rock is one of those places we have been talking about since the beginning of the trip. Not a lot of economy camping at Cannon Beach, so we got a sweet deal on a cottage style hotel and enjoyed 4 walls and a king size bed for the night. Feeling pretty bourgeois. Spent some time walking on the beach and attempting to get a decent shot of the monolith. Watched TV and ate junk food. It was excellent.

Haystack Rock

[Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach - Goonies!]

Next day, we got a call from a friend inviting us to come stay at his house just an hour down the coast. Dave, a pal from Colorado, has a beautiful home built on the side a cliff just above the beach. He took us in, bought us dinner and drinks and made us feel at home. We stayed up drinking wine and mixed drinks, etc. Two nights in a row of posh digs? We’ll take it! Thanks Dave!

Dave's Place

[View from Dave's Place in Oregon]

Before getting the call from Dave, we planned on going to Umpqua Hot Springs in the Deschutes National Forest for a night or two. So the next day, we headed out around noon (it’s hard to leave the coast!) and drove inland. It was around 6 or 7pm when we pulled in and right away we knew that there were some shifty characters in the neighborhood (several park rangers and other Federal agents in bulletproof vests were surrounding a campsite not far from the parking lot that we planned to camp in) A local crew we labeled “the mountain folk” made sure to make their presence known, stumbling around being loud and asking for free weed. Oh well, we have a machete.

That night, we made leftover Indian potpie and sat around a fireless fire pit before calling it an early night. Got up at 6am to try and beat the crowd up to the hot springs. Success! Mostly. There was one girl, a younger naked hippy type doing stretches and holding a crystal. Fine by us.

Carley in the springs
Umpqua Hot Springs

It was quiet and the water was perfect. There are several pools, all flowing into one another. The further down the hill you go, the cooler the pools get. So we bounced around and tested out as many as we could before the mountain folk showed up. They dropped trou and, well, not so fine by us. We’d had our fill, though, so we politely gave up our pool to them and hiked back down the hill, hopped in the Jeep and headed out.