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By: Billy Dixon, Marketing Intern
There’s no question that southwestern PA is a great place for outdoor recreation, but sometimes you just need to fly to the other side of the country and road trip around another state. It started as kind of a joke, and before I knew it I was driving from Portland, Oregon in a 2015 Dodge Challenger to the Oregon coast (only because they ran out of the cheap rentals).
Seven days and 500 miles later, my girlfriend and I managed to go from city, to the rugged cliffs and ever changing landscape of the Oregon coast, to the coastal mountain range, to 11,250 foot high Stratovolcano Mt. Hood, to the towering waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, and back. While I have pages of journal entries about this trip, here are some pictures and highlights of my favorite parts.
First stop: Ecola State Park / Cannon Beach
Oregon is known for its rugged coast filled with steep rocky cliffs and “sea stacks,” or in simpler terms, steep rocks protruding out of the ocean near a coast. After hiking around these cliffs for most of the day we made our way down to popular tourist destination Cannon Beach, famed for the beloved Haystack Rock depicted below. It’s the 4th tallest sea stack in the world!
Second Stop: Saddle Mountain / Coastal Range
For every night of the trip we had a campground reserved near where we were hiking… except the first night. After seeking the advice of locals, and accidentally scratching the new rental car (shhh) we drove up miles of gravel mountain road to Saddle Mountain (3,287 ft.) just a short drive from the beach. We got away with camping in the picnic area overnight since all the spots were filled, and hiked to the summit in the morning. The hike was only 5.2 miles round trip, but don’t let that deceive you. We climbed 1,600 feet in that short distance, and most of it in the last half mile. Seeing the ocean from the top of a mountain summit was an experience I’ll never forget. P.S. Does anyone else think the summit depicted to the right looks like where Pacha from “Emperor’s New Groove” lived?
Third Stop: Cape Kiwanda / Cape Lookout State Park
After our surprise trip to the coastal range, we embarked down the Oregon coast highway to a place we were dying to see. Cape Kiwanda is an incredible place that’s almost impossible to describe. From repelling down sandstone cliffs, to running down sand dunes, this place is a must see for anyone thinking of going west. We then drove to Cape Lookout State Park, where we set up camp close to the beach. We spent the evening on the beach where we tied our hammock to a fallen tree near the sand dunes, failed to make a fire due to the high winds, and ate plain pasta with a little bit of sand thanks to our empty jar of Alfredo and our good friend the wind. It was still nothing short of paradise.
Fourth Stop: Mt. Hood National Forest / Trillium Lake
Mt. Hood is the icon of Portland, and although it’s 50 miles away, you can see it easily on a clear day from the city. We hiked for 9 hours on a 10.4 mile round trip hike and we only made it from 3,900 to 6,100 ft. of this 11,250 ft. monster. After a mile or two of hiking through thick woods we rounded a corner and all of a sudden we were on the side of a cliff that dropped thousands of feet down and revealed our first perfect view of the mountain. We crossed streams, scaled boulder fields, and even saw a weasel near the top. I was in awe the entire hike. Once we finished we devoured subs from a Subway in the small town of Government camp and set up camp in the dark down the highway at the gorgeous Trillium Lake.
Fifth Stop: Columbia River George / Punch Bowl Falls
Next we visited a few waterfalls along the Columbia River George. Chances are if you have ever seen or owned a waterfall magazine, you’ve seen a few of these waterfalls already. Punchbowl Falls is a wide waterfall that has carved a deep bowl-shaped pool at the base of the falls where people often swim. There’s also a 100 foot tall cliff above the falls where cliff jumping is dangerous and prohibited, although we watched three people do it. Latourell Falls plunges 249 ft. straight off a cliff, and we even saw a man dressed as a pirate roaming around – probably just living the Portland motto “Keep Portland Weird.” Lastly we visited Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon (620 ft.), and went wading through chest deep water in the Oneonta George.
Last Stop: Portland and a surprise stop
Last but not least, we drove back to Portland where we explored the town using their unique forms of transportation (cable car, aeriel-tram, you name it). We enjoyed great food and beer at local restaurants and breweries, stayed with a nice family with an awesome dog thanks to Airbnb, cleaned the dirt and scratches that accumulated on our beautiful car throughout the trip, and made our way to the airport. That’s not exactly where the trip ended though. Our layover flight was cancelled in Las Vegas, and after sprinting to the front of the heard heading to the customer service desk, the bargain airline Spirit Airlines came through and got us a place for the night at a resort. The next flight wasn’t until the next night, so this made for a surprise but certainly welcome end to the west coast adventure. Until next time, Oregon.