Sunday started off a week of some serious hiking in Utah. Our first day brought us to Canyonlands National Park, which is huge… so huge that it is divided into three districts. We visited the Needles district first, but first stopped at Newspaper Rock, one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs. After a quick stop, we were surprised when RC didn’t start…same symptoms as in Death Valley. This time, Michael was determined to find the loose wire himself so we wouldn’t have another long tow for such a simple issue. Wishing he had researched the issue more when there was internet service (because there wasn’t any at Newspaper Rock), he climbed under the van and came out with a hopeful look in his eye. The van came back to life and we continued on our journey with just a minor delay instead of a major ordeal.
We started out early on Sunday morning to do one of Michael’s family’s favorite hikes from when they lived in Pagosa, the trail to Four Mile Falls. We were the first people at the trailhead, but were quickly followed by a group from Denver. That turned out to be a good thing, because we lost the trail a couple of times due to dozens of downed trees and having a group of people to search for it turned out to be helpful. We finally found our way to the falls, which were flowing strong. We had better luck keeping to the trail on the way back, and enjoyed perfect weather and amazing scenery.
We took a slightly longer route to Amarillo so we could drive through Oklahoma for a bit. There’s not a whole lot to this part of Oklahoma, and it was pushing 95 degrees so it wasn’t our favorite part of the trip. Before getting to Amarillo, Tracey found the VW Slug Bug Ranch, which is a VW version of the famous Cadillac Ranch on I-40 (Route 66) west of town. No visit to Amarillo is complete with stopping at the Big Texan Restaurant and having a steak dinner, so we did, but did not take on the famous free 72oz steak challenge. After dinner, we stopped for groceries and then found our way to the RV Oasis Resort for the night.
Sunday morning we got up early to hike (some of) the South Kaibab trail down into the canyon. We were excited to see it from a different perspective, and it was well worth the effort. We hiked a little over 3 miles down to Skeleton Point, which sits about 2200 feet below the rim. This part of the hike was very pleasant, as it was still cool, not very crowded and all downhill. The hike back up was a little more difficult to say the least, but after fighting the heat and the steep trail, we made it back to the top. After recovering from the hike back at RC, we returned to the canyon for another amazing sunset.
The day started off at Badwater Basin, elevation of 282 below sea level. The next stop was the Natural Bridge trail. From there we were going to continue working our way out of Death Valley making a few stops, but with the breakdown, that plan was scrapped and we just enjoyed the tow straight to Pahrump. We checked into the Saddle West Hotel which was conveniently located right across the street from where the van was towed to, and wasn’t going to break the bank (since this was an unplanned hotel stop).
Our second day in Death Valley, we started off at Badwater Basin with the intention of working our way back to Furnace Creek stopping at various points of interest on the way. We made it to the second stop, the Natural Bridge, went for a short, scenic hike and then went back to the van to head to the next stop. Except, the van wouldn’t start! The battery wasn’t dead but the engine just wouldn’t turn over.
Easter Sunday morning we left Portland and made our way south towards Bend (with a stop in Madras to watch the Blazers playoff game!). We stayed at the Tumalo State Park Campground, which was just outside of Bend. A great park with a small river and canyon running through it. The abundance of rain was very noticeable based on the picnic table that we saw in the middle of the river…guess the river is a bit higher than it normally is supposed to be!
And we’re off! Today, Michael and I embarked on our one-year dream adventure. The house is emptied out and rented, the cats have been dropped off at their “foster” family and the Westy is packed with everything (and likely more) that we’ll need .
Our goals/expectations for the trip are simple and realistic: see a lot of the prettiest parts of the US, knowing that a year just isn’t enough to see everything.
Below is a map of our tentative route. (or if it’s taking too long to load, you can click here).
It had been several months since we’d taken a trip in RC, so in early February, we hit the road for one last test run before the big journey. We figured two weeks on the Oregon Coast at this time of year would be a pretty good test. It was rainy, windy and fairly cold most of the time, with a couple of beautiful sunny days thrown in. We weathered an amazing thunderstorm one night in the Westy, and plenty of rain, but RC did great. I don’t think we will spend that long in the rain in the future, so it was a successful test all around.
We wanted to drive the *entire* Oregon coast, so that meant starting at the northwestern tip of the state: Clatsop Spit. We spent the night at Fort Stevens State Park, where we hiked to to the wreck of the Peter Iredale, the remains of shipwreck that occurred in 1906. The next morning, we walked to Fort Stevens itself, which is an abandoned military installation that once guarded the mouth of the Columbia River. Before heading south, we drove as far out on the spit as you can drive, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River. Then, we officially started making our way south down the coast to our eventual goal about 363 miles from this point, the California border.
We made our next stop Seaside, one of the biggest tourist towns on the coast. We usually don’t spend time here, but I’d been wanting to visit since we found out Seaside has one of the last Fascination parlors in the U.S! Sure enough, we visited the Funland Arcade and you can play Fascination just like in the old days at Elitch Gardens in Denver. I even won a game of Blackout, scoring me ten coupons that I traded for a Trail Blazers keychain lanyard. Not a bad haul.
We thought about pulling into Cannon Beach to take a walk on the beach at Haystack Rock, but since we been there recently on a weekend hiking trip, we continued down Highway 101 to Nehalem Bay State Park. After a rainy night in the Westy, we headed into Tillamook for a stop at the cheese factories, and then on to Cape Lookout State Park for another evening of camping. The next day, it was on to Lincoln City, where we did a lunch/work/shopping stop and then on down the coast to our first hotel stop in Otter Rock.
The Inn at Otter Crest was a perfect place for a hotel stopover, since it was more like an apartment with a full kitchen and tons of room (not to mention a fantastic ocean view from the balcony). We stayed for three very rainy days and nights, so we got some extra work done and made meals to take with for the next stretch of camping. We also did a little hiking, visiting Devil’s Punchbowl and walking along the beach. We even had time to squeeze in a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, before heading further south to for a stop at Seal Rock and then on to Washburne Memorial State Park. We stayed for two nights so we would have time to hike over Heceta Head to the lighthouse on the opposite side. We also took a side trail (known as the “Hobbit Trail” because it is like a tunnel through the brush) down to the amazing beach. It was a tough, muddy hike but totally worth it. The view of the lighthouse and the ocean beaches from the trail were amazing. That night, we were treated to a massive thunderstorm, our first major storm in RC (not counting a few brief hailstorms in Yellowstone last summer).
After a little trouble with a low battery, we took off the next morning heading for the Oregon Dunes, and a quick hike. The wind was pretty bad, but we made it far enough to climb a large dune and get a taste of the area. After the hike, we headed on to North Bend for food and some work time, and then settled in for a night at Sunset Bay State Park. Next, we headed for Bandon, where we had a nice lunch right on the beach and then on to Humbug State Park for yet another rainy night.
We caught a little better weather as moved on to Gold Beach for some hiking and working, and then made it almost to the California border before stopping at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings for one more night in RC. The campground was probably the nicest of the entire trip, with great facilities and a beautiful view of the ocean from our site. After starting the day with a work session, we traveled the final ten miles to the border, completing our journey down the entire coast. Saving California for another day, we turned around and began our much quicker journey north back to Portland.
Last year, on February 11, when Michael and I drove home our beloved Volkswagen Westfalia (well, Michael drove it, I followed behind in our other car!) we had no idea what sort of amazing adventures this van would open up for us. In less than 12 months, we’ve already taken several amazing road trips that we will never forget, and we are just getting started!
A lot has happened in the past year with the Westy, now officially named “RC” (which stands for Rip City, a Blazers-related nickname for Portland that was coined by sports radio legend Bill Schonley). Below is just a quick recap of our journeys so far:
Scrubbed down the pop-top to get rid of mold and replaced the torn canvas tent
Replaced the propane tank
Front end suspension
New fuel lines
Changed from 14’ to 15” wheels
Replaced brown carpet with laminate flooring
Got a new sliding door panel and added a map
Made various different vinyl stickers
And that was just with the Westy. (see our other posts on other adventures in 2016……biggest one, getting married!)
So it’s only fitting (and actually turned to be a complete coincidence) that on the 1 year anniversary of buying RC, we would be embarking on what we’re considering a trial-run road trip, before our BIG trip starting in April (more on that in a later post).
We’ve planned a 2 week drive down and then back up the Oregon Coast in mid-February, aiming to take it nice and slow – averaging no more than 50 miles a day. Our goal, aside from enjoying the beauty of the coast, is to make sure that everything with RC is functioning and to figure out storage and set up intricacies (is there really enough room for me to bring 4 pairs of shoes? If there is, I’ll find a way!)