Day 1: San Jose, CA to Redding, CA
Day 2: Redding, CA to Bend, OR
1. Crater Lake National Park (Klamath County)
With a steep $15 admission fee and a hefty reputation to boot, the bar was set high for the first stop on our road trip. After a long wait in line we finally were admitted to the park, given a map, and set loose. The first stop was Phantom Ship Island, a small rocky island in a protected cove on the southern side of Crater lake. Now I have a (unhealthy?) obsession with pirates, pirate ships, and nautical themed decor/attractions so Phantom Ship Island was a high priority for me. When you get to the viewing station you can see how the wind blows the waves in such a way that the island appears to be moving. The closer you get the more surreal the effect so hike down as close as you can!
Next we drove around to the west side of the park to get a good view of Wizard Island. This park has awesome names for all of it’s attractions. This massive island dominates the majority of the lake and it’s covered with trees. The most interesting part of this mysterious island is that it is actually a volcanic cinder cone that formed thousands of years ago when it erupted and formed Crater Lake! The water surrounding the island is a rich, deep, mesmerizing blue. We picknicked here, enjoying our lunch while looking over this wondrous lake.
2. Saw Mill Falls in Opal Creek Wilderness (Marion County)
Hidden behind the remains of an old saw mill and rusted mill/mining equipment is a small path that leads down to Saw Mill Falls. This path leads you to a steep rock formation in front of the falls. With some patience and square footing, you can maneuver your way down the rocks to a relatively flat area in front of the falls. The water is freezing and I don’t suggest swimming but the view is incredible! A great place to picnic and adventure as long as you are prepared for any kind of weather. After we took our photos and ate our lunch, we began our ascent up the rocky barrier that kept us from our path. Lynn had just reached the top when the rail started to fall. I quickly scaled the remainder of the rocks to safety before the rain really started to pour.
3. Lan Su Chinese Garden (Portland)
Japanese Friendship Gardens, Japanese Tranquility Gardens, Japanese Tea Gardens, you name it, we’ve been to it. Wait, a Chinese garden? I can’t say that I have been to one… Lan Su Chinese Garden was a breath of fresh air from the usual tranquility garden. Walking through the garden, the superb craftsmanship is evident. From the seamless transitions in and out of spaces, to the framing of windows and doors, this garden is a masterpiece. I especially loved the effort that the builders went through to write poetry on just about every screen and column. Use your AAA museum discount and spend a lovely afternoon on a free guided tour of the garden, topped off with tea at their authentic tea house.
4. Powell's Books (Portland)
Don’t come here. Just don’t do it. This place will ruin you. An entire city block, three stories high filled with books. Whoever thinks that bookstores are dead has obviously never been here. With frequent guests and speakers coming to sign books or give presentations, this book store never has a dry moment (Jimmy Carter was there the week we were in town) . Lynn and I spent every night that we were in Portland (and part of one day as well) in this store. Open till 11pm every night makes this a hotspot for bookworms of all ages. This was the destination that I was looking forward to the most. Not the amazing waterfalls, creeks, gorges, forests, and oceans of Oregon, this bookstore is what got me excited. It did not disappoint. The biggest highlight is the rare book room open only on weekends or by appointment, it houses the oldest and most valuable books Powell’s owns including the first two volumes of the original expedition log of Lewis & Clark (valued at $365,000). Worth the visit, it will keep you coming back.
5. Salt and Straw (Portland)
Sweet, savory, bizarre, unique, adventurous, and delicious. I will never look at ice cream the same. After trying just about every flavor, we both singled out our staple ice cream. For her, Woodblock freckled chocolate, a sweet chocolate ice cream with cocoa nibs embedded inside. For me, strawberry w/ balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper. Listen, I know what you are thinking, those flavors should not work together. No, they shouldn’t. I was so sceptical when I heard this was their signature flavor. But the flavors work perfectly together, sweet strawberry with a bitter vinegar swirl and a sharp cut of pepper nearly makes eating this ice cream more like eating a symphony than just ice cream. Just when you think you have it figured out, boom, a new flavor takes over. Another must visit in Portland.
6. Fairy Falls (Multnomah County)
Crowds choke the small path that leads up to Multnomah Falls, one of the biggest tourist traps in all of Oregon. But to the brave few who climb past the crowds and take the 1.5 mile hike with a 1600ft elevation gain, go the spoils. After 7 miles of hiking through the mountains past many unnamed waterfalls (marked on the map simply as “Many Waterfalls”) you will reach Fairy Falls. Prepare to be enchanted by this temple of nature. As water cuts its way around the various rock outcroppings, the falls form into a cascading tower of natural beauty. Set up a tripod and pack a lunch because you are going to be here for a while, waiting to get the perfect long exposure shot of the water smoothing the surface of the rocks. For more photos, visit our Fairy Falls post here.
7. Thor's Well in Cape Perpetua (Yachats)
The most daring photoshop the we have done to date. Thor's Well is a sinkhole on the coast of Cape Perpetua that is only active during high tide. In order to get a good shot, you have to get within 25 ft of the well itself. As the high tide comes in and washes over Thor's Well, the water is drained into what I can only assume is a portal to Asgard. The waters began to rush in, surrounding us on our small outcrop of rock. We stood our ground against raging most, howling winds, and a rising ocean to capture this natural phenomenon.
8. Devil's Churn in Cape Perpetua (Yachats)
Just up the coast from Thor’s well, is the more dreadfully named but much more tame Devil’s Churn. If you fell into Thor’s Well… well you aren’t coming back. If you are a strong swimmer and very lucky, you could swim out of Devil’s Churn. A long chasm that runs from the coast into the mountains sets the stage for the show. Every wave unlucky enough to enter the churn is taken on a journey that it won’t soon forget. Tossed side to side against rocky cliffsides only to be overtaken by the next wave headed deeper into the churn waves are consumed. A great hike and an awesome place to witness the raw power of nature.
9. Wildlife Safari (Winston)
What started as a rehabilitation and breeding program for jaguars has evolved into a honest to goodness safari. Drive your car through the hour and half long loop as animals from across the world are free to roam and play. The greatest part of this Safari is that the animals are happy, energetic, and playful. This isn’t just a zoo, this is a place that is attempting to recreate the landscapes these animals are used too while still allowing the public a chance to see them up close. As lion cubs wrestled with one another, bears took a dive into the pond, buffalos migrated in herds, I felt as if I was seeing these creatures for the first time.
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