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The Pacific Northwest
July 10, 2007

Day 1: Seattle

Instead of driving, we found a cheap one-way flight to Seattle and rented a car. We lugged 45 pounds of camping gear with us in a large duffle bag, since we planned to camp for most of our trip. First though, we were going to spend a few nights in Seattle, and checked into the Moore Hotel. We're big fans of hotels like this, cheap, but clean, get excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, and in awesome locations. The Moore was no exception, located close to all of the action in downtown Seattle, and next to the historic Moore Theatre, at which Bob Saget was performing his notoriously dirty stand-up routine as we checked in.

After settling in we went for dinner at Pan Africa in the Pike Place Market. After that we checked out a show called 'Cabagazm' at Can Can. It was a combination of burlesque beauties, can can dancing, and acrobatics. It also seemed to be a popular spot for bachelorette parties. The guy beside us claimed it was the best 10 dollars he'd ever spent. All I can say is, it was definitely different.

Day 2: Seattle

Waking up, we strolled down to the Pike Place Market to have breakfast at Lowell's. The breakfast was decent, and they have great views of the water. After breakfast we walked around Pike Place Market, which is full of fresh seafood, tourist knick-knacks, and a lot of Asian women selling flowers.

We set out to explore the city, and walked by the Seattle Central Library which I heard had an interesting, modern design. It definitely looks interesting from the outside, and if you ever go there be sure to take the escalator up to the second floor. You'll pass by these freaky, talking holographic heads that are mumbling something incoherently.

Next we checked out a few shopping centres, ones that we don't have in Canada, such as Nordstroms, Macy's, etc. I actually bought some jeans and a new pair of shoes, which only happens every 6 years so it's a somewhat rare event.

That afternoon we drove to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, although everyone calls them the Ballard Locks. If you've never seen a Lock before (as I hadn't) it's actually pretty interesting. The locks separate the water from the lakes (Lake Washington and Lake Union) from the seawater of Puget Sound. The water level of the lakes is about 20 feet higher than the Puget Sound low tide, and they'd like to keep it that way. So, boats enter the locks, which have these giant gates. Once all the boats are ready, they open the gates, and the water level (and therefore the boats) are lowered about 20 feet, and then they can pass through. It happens really quickly, like someone draining a bathtub. The Ballard locks also have a fish ladder integrated to let the salmon pass through.

On the way back we stopped at Archie McPhee's which is a store full of useless, yet entertaining, junk. It has everything from the Deluxe Jesus action figure (now with wine and bread plastic accesories!) to a remote control, hopping, yodelling lederhosen. In other words, I could spend all day there.

But alas, we had bought tickets to watch the Seattle Mariners, and first we would need something to eat. We walked down to the International District (most cities call it Chinatown) and had Chinese food at Shanghai Garden. It was delicious, and the portions were *huge*. Feeling way too full, we walked over to Safeco Field, where the Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays. It was Canada Day long weekend and it seemed as if there were more Canadians in the stadium than Americans. Despite this support, the Blue Jays performed miserably, and went on to lose all three games in the series.

Day 3: Seattle to Nehalem Bay

The next morning I set out to accomplish the one goal I had during my stay in Seattle: visit the very first Starbucks. I don't even like coffee, but when I think of Seattle, I think of Starbucks. You can find it at 1912 Pike Place, in the Pike Place Market. Sipping down my frappuccino (or was it mocacinno? I'm not very good with the caffeine lingo) we stopped by a Russian bakery for breakfast.

We would need this boost of energy for our day trip to the active volcano of Mount St. Helens. Mount St. Helens is famous for it's eruption in 1980, which killed 57 people, obliterated 250 homes, and demolished 47 bridges. Luckily on our visit, she stayed quiet. The Johnston Ridge visitor center gets you within about 5 miles of the volcano, and actually has a really good movie presentation documenting the eruption. It's a very modern theater, and the movie itself is state of the art. Definitely worth checking out.

After that we picked up the rest of our camping supplies that we couldn't bring on the plane (a couple styrofoam coolers, propane, and some $8 lawn chairs). Then we made a run to the grocery store, stocked up on food, and headed to the coast, to Nehalem Bay State Park.

Day 4: Nehalem Bay, Seaside, Cannon Beach

Nehalem Bay was a decent campground, although the sites didn't have much privacy, the trees were pretty sparse, and the firepits are rather small. We found this to be the case at all the Oregon campgrounds though, so I'm not sure if that was just bad luck or if they're all like that. Certainly the best thing about Nehalem Bay is that it's literally right beside the ocean, and has a great beach with miles of sand.

That morning we drove to Seaside, a touristy little town, I'd put it somewhere between pleasant and dumpy. It's full of arcades and candy shops, at one of which I bought 175 different flavors of salt water taffee.

Next we drove down to Haystack Rock, a 235-foot monolith, and allegedly the third-largest in the world. What's a monolith? A large rock. So it's basically a really big rock sitting just off the shore. Well at least I can say I've seen it now. If you don't think you'll make to Cannon Beach you can watch for it in the opening scene of The Goonies.

Next we meandered around the actual town of Cannon Beach and had some really good pizza (Fultanos I believe?) and then made our way over to Ecola State Park, which is just north of Cannon Beach. They have some pretty amazing views at this park. On the way back to our campsite we stopped at Oswald West State Park to laze around at Short Sands Beach which is popular with surfers.

Day 5: Tillamook, Three Capes Loop, and a bunch of Sightseeing

On our way down the coast we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. They're known for making really good cheese, and we took a quick look at the factory floor, with the endless 20 pound blocks of cheese streaming down the assembly line.

Next I wanted to take a detour and check out the Three Capes Loop. The first loop was Cape Meares, which had a short lighthouse and an Octopus tree.

The second cape was Cape Lookout where we stopped to take a look at Three Arch Rocks. And last but not least, we stopped at Cape Kiwanda which had a really nice beach.

Getting hungry we grabbed some lunch at the Pelican Pub Brewery. From there we moved on to Cape Foulweather which is the first spot Captain James Cook sighted and named on the northwest coast during his third voyage around the world. It's also a good whale watching spot, and we spotted one swimming around, although couldn't see much.

Moving further down the coast, we passed by Newport. I had heard that the 'historic' part of Newport was interesting, but we drove by and thought it looked kind of lame. Maybe we had just seen enough for the day. We still had enough in us to check out Seal Rock (didn't see any), and Devil's Churn (which was definitely worth visiting).

Our last stop for the day was the Heceta Head lighthouse which I was hoping would be a lot bigger. Still, the area around it was nice, just like everywhere on the Oregon coast.

Day 6: Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

We camped at the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, which was similar to our other Oregon campground experience. The site didn't have much in the way of trees, the firepit was small, and it was July 4th, which meant we were surrounded by families with their little rugrats, which is to be expected.

Still, the campground was decent, and we just wanted to relax, and take a rest after all of our sightseeing. A vacation from our vacation. We checked out the lake next to the campground, which is nestled adjacent to the Oregon sand dunes recreation area. There's a lot of ATV and dune-buggy action in this area. The dunes are pretty cool, some are over 500 feet high. It's America's version of the Sahara desert.

We learned some new card games, relaxed, cooked dinner over the campfire (which always tastes amazing), and tried to watch fireforks from the Umpqua lighthouse lookout point. We heard a lot of noise, but didn't see many actual fireworks.

Day 7: California Here We Come

Refreshed, and leaving Umpqua behind, we drove south towards the Oregon/California border. I remember the length from Port Orford to Brookings being one of the most scenic stretches on our trip. A few hours into Northern California we stopped at a hippie town called Arcata for lunch. Arcata is one of the most liberal towns in the U.S., and the first city to elect a majority of its council members from the Green Party. In fact, all of Humboldt County gives off this vibe, full of quirky, socially progressive towns.

Meandering south, we checked in at Albee Creek Campground which is part of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It's a very nice campground, nestled amongst the giant redwoods. It was a much nicer campground than the two we had in Oregon, with large private sites, and huge trees. And the fire pit was enormous by comparison.

It had been a long day of driving, so we just settled in, and relaxed.

Day 8: The Mighty Redwoods

We started our day by driving on the Avenue of the Giants, a 31 mile stretch of highway that goes right through the Redwood forest, home to the tallest trees on the planet, they really are quite incredible.

Heading further south, we had a real desire to check out Confusion Hill a campy tourist attraction on the side of the road. Home of the World Famous Gravity House where your body will defy the laws of nature! It's one of those places that's so lame it's fun. Of course, we also had to stop by the 'Bigfoot Store' which was also lame, but yet not as fun.

We stopped for lunch in Garberville, which has the reputation as the heart of the marijuana-growing region of the Emerald Triangle (three counties that are known for being the largest producers of the best quality marijuana in the world.) Allegedly much of the local Garberville economy is supported by direct or indirect income from marijuana exports.

On the way back to our campsite we stopped at the Founder's Grove nature trail, which is a really amazing walk through the redwood forest. A few of the trees have fallen over, and it's quite incredible to see just how big they are once they're on the ground. Just to give you an idea, we learned that some of the larger trees weigh up to an estimated 1 million pounds, and would provide enough wood to build 30 2-story homes. Thirty freakin' houses from one tree.

On this trail we encountered the Dyerville Giant which used to be the tallest living tree (370 feet), but had it's title taken away by Hyperion (378 feet). Next we went to Rockefeller Forest and walked around that loop. J.D. Rockefeller presented a gift of $1 million (a huge amount in 1927 I'm sure) to preserve over 10,000 acres of redwood forest. This loop is a little less traveled than the Founder's Grove loop, and I think it was even more impressive.

Day 9: The Lost Coast, and tired of steep, windy roads

I had a real desire to check out California's 'Lost Coast' which is a stretch of about 80 miles of California coast that the highway didn't go near. There's a few ways to get in, from the north you need a 4x4, from the east it can be done in a rental car (as we found out) but it will likely ruin your brakes, and put a real strain on your engine. It's a very steep, windy passage up the mountain, and likewise on the way down. Remoteness does not come easy.

A lot of backpackers love the Lost Coast, miles of shifting sand over high ridges, no simple pleasures of civilization. For us though, we just wanted a taste of it, so we checked out the Black Sands Beach (which is more like rock than sand), and then hiked over to Seal Rock. Unlike the Seal Rock in Oregon, this one actually had harbor seals and sea lions. We spent some time just watching them awkwardly trying to get up on to the rocks, with their little flippers (?) providing no help.

Winding our way back out of the Lost Coast, we took the number 1 highway along the coast. Now at this point (around Leggett) we could have gone inland a bit and taken the 101. Being the fool that I was, I thought I hadn't seen enough of the coastline yet. Let me tell you, this stretch does have it's moments, but it's absolutely the most ungodly twisty turny stretch of highway you'll come across. For seemingly endless hours you are literally twisting and turning your vehicle up and down mountains, with no straight highway in between. I'm still amazed that neither of us vomited off the side of the cliff. Oh and if you're in the passenger seat, you'd better have a lot of trust in your driver, or you'll be scared every second of the way, as the 200 foot cliffs offer very little in the way of guardrails.

I can't remember exactly how many hours of this we endured, but every 5 minutes I wanted to shout, "Stop this ride, I want to get off." It doesn't help when your gas gauge is showing empty and you realize their likely won't be a station on the side of a mountain any time soon. Anyways, by the end of it all, I think we both can truly say we had our fill of the coastline, and all it's beauty. Actually I think we had our fill of it by Mendocino, but we had to get to Bodega Bay (97 long, nauseating miles at 20 miles an hour).

Bodega Bay was our camping spot for the night, and all we wanted to do was have a nice fire, and rest our discombobulated heads. Unfortunately, they were out of wood, so we tried to build a fire based solely on accumulated paper, which didn't work very well.

Ah well, at least the spinning had stopped.