West coast road trip day 3: redwoods

On the third day, we finished driving down the southern Oregon coast, entered northern California and spent some time at the beach in Crescent City, and – after waiting on some major road construction on highway 101 – finally made it to the legendary redwoods. We stopped at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and went on a short hike, although there was much more to see!

coastline with ocean and beach next to mountains
southern oregon

The coast in Oregon is really beautiful, although the further south you go, the more you start to get California vibes. Maybe it was just getting sunnier?

trail leading through forest with tall trees and fog in distance
an enchanted forest

The stops along the way also don’t disappoint. This was one of several that we made, at the “natural bridges” viewpoint. You can see why it’s named that in the next picture.

rock formation in water, surrounded by trees and thick fog
natural bridges viewpoint

This is a rock formation out in the ocean forming a “natural bridge” across the water. Just another pit stop along the way!

sandy beach with ocean on a sunny day
crescent city beach

Eventually we crossed into California (where we were even stopped by state customs officials and asked about any produce or plants we may be bringing across state lines). The first sizeable town is Crescent City, and we stopped at a restaurant called SeaQuake for a late lunch and then checked out the ocean. Our first California beach!

two people standing next to extremely large trees, on a wooden boardwalk in the forest
these are some large trees

Later, we made it further south to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, one of several areas where you can see the redwood forests. We went for a short hike, although it was getting later in the day by this point (a familiar theme on this trip). Our five month old baby, Ava, was a real trooper. She definitely enjoys going on hikes, but of course she gets all of the benefits (fresh air, amazing sights) while expending no energy and being effortlessly carried around.

West coast road trip day 2: Oregon coast

After a brief interlude in Portland, we headed out the next morning for the Oregon coast and Pacific Ocean. We’ve previously been to Astoria and Cannon Beach in the far northwest corner of the state, and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we saved some time and went southwest through Tillamook to Pacific City, and drove south along the coast from there.

coastline with beach and large rocks in the distance on a cloudy day
rocky coast

The Oregon coast is beautiful, with a mix of beaches and high rocky cliffs. The coast is also dotted with seaside towns: some of the bigger ones as you head south are Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Reedsport, Coos Bay, and Port Orford – and at some point you eventually exit Oregon and enter northern California.

On the second day of our trip, we made it to town called Bandon, just south of Coos Bay.

But on the way down, we stopped for one incredible hike: Cascade Head trail. We heard great things about this trail and were looking forward to checking it out, especially since it was one of the few things we’d built in extra time for on the drive down. And then of course, just our luck:

trailhead sign stating trail is closed

The trail was closed.

Well, we made it this far, and we weren’t going to let a sign stop us. We forged ahead on the trail – along with a lot of other people we ran into along the way – and I’m glad we did.

trail through a green forest with tall pine trees
cascade head trail

The trail started at ground level through a large forested area but had a pretty steady elevation gain. After a while, we emerged onto the top of a large hill with a grassy open plain – and a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and the coast.

view from the top

We paused to rest and take a few pictures, and then began the journey back down. I would highly recommend this hike if you’re ever passing through the area. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay longer or check out nearby trails, but we had a long drive still ahead of us – and a baby whose patience was quickly wearing out!

Hiking in the PNW

It’s true that it tends to rain a lot throughout the year in the Pacific Northwest, but there are two or three months in the summer that are absolutely beautiful – warm and sunny every day, and virtually never a cloud in the sky. And as an added bonus, in some of the areas around the largest mountains, like Mt. Rainier or Mt. Olympus, there are countless wildflowers in full bloom at this time. While I’ve been focused on rocketry throughout 2020, this was a great opportunity to take a break, get outdoors, and do some hiking.

We spent a few days in Mt. Rainier National Park, and then headed up north to the San Juan Islands for a few days as well. First, in the Mt. Rainier area, we hit Naches Peak Trail. This was a great introduction to the area. It was loop trail that offered stunning views and wildflowers along the way, overlooking a beautiful lake and with Mt. Rainier in the distance (in our case, unfortunately obscured by clouds that day).

Naches Peak Trail - wildflowers
Naches Peak Trail – wildflowers
Naches Peak Trail - clouds obscuring Mt. Rainier
Naches Peak Trail – clouds obscuring Mt. Rainier

The second day, we hiked the Skyline Trail at Paradise, which is south of Mt. Rainier. Paradise is aptly named – this was probably the most beautiful hike we’ve ever done, including the immediate landscape around us (trees, valleys, wildflowers) and the proximity to Mt. Rainier, and fantastic views of other mountain chains and peaks in every direction. In the distance you could see Mt. Baker to the north, and Mt. Adams and even Mt. Hood (in Oregon!) to the south.

Skyline Trail, with Mt. Rainier
Skyline Trail, with Mt. Rainier
Skyline Trail, mountains in distance
Skyline Trail
Skyline Trail - wildflowers
Skyline Trail – wildflowers
Skyline Trail in Paradise
Skyline Trail in Paradise

Finally, we hiked up the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail from Sunrise, which is southeast of Mt. Rainier. This trail had more of a barren landscape, but offered the best views of Mt. Rainier itself:

My wife and I, with Mt. Rainier in the background
Mount Fremont Trail - view of Mt. Rainier with pine trees in foreground
Mount Fremont Trail views

After three days (and three intense hikes) around Mt. Rainier, we went up to the San Juan Islands. And after that, we took one more day trip out to the Mt. Rainier area again and did the Tolmie Peak trail. But I’ll save some of these photos for a future update!