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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Home via the Scenic Route

USA | Saturday, 27 October 2012 | Views [422]

Autumn has arrived on Vancouver Island!

Autumn has arrived on Vancouver Island!

After two months in beautiful British Columbia and living the rural life, it was finally time to return to US soil and stay put for a while.  I bade goodbye to lovely Wildside Farm and my host family, and headed for Victoria the long way, down the west coast of Vancouver Island.  

By now, autumn has arrived, and I finally experienced the kind of weather expected in this region: cool, damp, and foggy. Once it started raining, the rain and clouds didn't leave.  Many maple trees have turned yellow, dotting my drive with beautiful bursts of colors.  Sadly though, the province has sold much of its land to logging companies who are eager to cut down the huge trees.  As I drove along the road to Port Renfrew, a road used by the many logging trucks, I saw numerous "bald spots" in the mountains with all the trees cut down, leaving just twigs and ruined soil.  The scene reminded me of the dead sharks in Puerto Lopez's fish market; here, it was killing trees instead of sharks to fuel our needs for paper and paper-based products.

Victoria was the ideal place to spend the last few days in Canada; it's cosmopolitan but cozy and charming, so despite having been in the country for weeks, it was not overwhelming.  Also helped that I got an upgrade to a harbor-view hotel room with a living room, full kitchen, and an unbeatable view of the nearby Parliament building, lucky!  From there, I took the ferry to the US that docks at Port Angeles, Washington, only a 90-minute sail.  It was crazy easy going through US customs, I could have smuggled in a live goat!  Think Elsa would have fit nicely in my condo (although she'd need to stop growing and remain the same size and cuteness).  

I had no firm plans on how long my road trip would be, and had only a vague idea where I would go, just wanted to go with the flow.  It turned out to be a most excellent trip!  Some highlights:

  • Washington's Olympic National Park has so much to offer: rainforest, coast, lake, and mountain.  Even though it rained or was foggy during my two days there, that did not stop me.  I hiked in the rain through the Hoh Rainforest, a temperate rainforest full of lush, green coniferous trees covered in moss, and trekked up to the summit of Hurricane Ridge, which supposedly gives panoramic views (what I saw was a lot of Douglas firs, grass that had all turned brown, and a wall of thick fog that limited my visibility to less than 10m.  Panoramic view?  I am just going to trust it was there.)
  • Seattle: so much great seafood and coffee to enjoy!  I was lucky to be there during a music festival and saw a great performance by Blind Pilot (thanks JJ for the tip!)  My most favorite attractions were the EMP Museum (a must-visit site for music lovers) and the Central Library in downtown (yes I'm a nerd but the building was gorgeous, a must-visit for book lovers).
  • Got slightly lost around Keslo, Washington en route to Oregon's coastline, and instead stumbled upon a fantastic little park with a lake named Lake Sacajawea Park.  Couldn't resist taking a partial lap and photographing the many trees turning color.
  • Portland: so many beers, so little time! I stayed one night at a quirky hotel whose property used to be an elementary school; my room was converted from a classroom and came with a blackboard on the wall. The auditorium is now a theatre fitted with couches, the detention room is now a cigar bar, and a soaking pool is put into the old playground. There's even a brewery on-site, and the beers are awesome!  Also took a walking tour of that took us through Chinatown/west side of Williamette River/historic downtown while discussing "underground activities" in the past, including gang activities like "shanghaiing" and a visit to an old tunnel. With the many rivers running through Portland, there are many bridges connecting the west and east sides of the city, which I purposely walked across, one after another, great way to see the city!
  • Ashland: I always thought Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a festival that takes places over a few days every year, and perform Shakespeare plays only. Not so! There is a large and varied number of plays and musicals during the season, which runs more than nine months of the year, and it's not all about Shakespeare. It's quite amazing the large variety of plays that are performed throughout the season, from new works to classic Shakespeare. I caught a performance of Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella, a "mash-up" of those three plays into one, with the plots and actors somehow intertwined. Not sure if I liked it, but it was smart and interesting. I was surprised by how packed it was; considering Ashland is not a huge city, there must be many tourists or visitors from nearby towns who come to Ashland just for OSF.
  • Redwood National Park: Stunning! It's been years since I've visited the "drive-through" redwood tree (now a paid tourist attraction, and the trees are no longer allowed to be cut, thank goodness!)  The park actually consists of several state parks that stretch along 101 from near Crescent City to around Orick. I hiked three trails in two parks, followed two scenic routes, and stopped at a phenomenal vista point named Klamath River Overlook, where the park rangers go this time of year to look for migrating whales in the Pacific Ocean (not that day, but it's OK, I've seen lots of whales this year!)  

My road trip home turned out to be ten days long, covered almost 2,000 miles from Victoria, BC to SF, and included two ferry rides.  It showed me how beautiful the region is and reminds me that there are awesome places to visit without having to fly far, far away.  I also discovered some breathtaking routes along the way; here are some of my favorites:

  • I-5 close to the California border, can see Mount Shasta on a clear day
  • Highway 97 between Bend, Oregon to highway 30, rolling hills and vast amount of open land, with views of Mount Hood on a clear day
  • Stretches of highways in eastern Washington between Kennewick and the Canadian border, love the backroads running alongside forest and lakes
  • TCH (Trans Canada Highway) between Roger Pass in Glacier National Park to Revelstoke, amazing sights of the glaciers
  • West coast of Vancouver Island from Point Renfrew to Victoria, go from mountains to beaches on the Pacific coast.
  • Ferry ride from Bremerton to Seattle, what a great way to see Seattle's downtown skyline and Puget Sound
  • 101 from Astoria, Oregon to Cannon Beach, Oregon, numerous towns lined the highway and would need to slow down, but so much fun to see the different sights and characteristics of every town.

So what now?  Time to stay put for a while and start putting into action the things I've learned and pondered throughout the year: play piano again, continue to "downsize" and live simply, volunteer at my favorite non-profit groups while seeking my next career move, start planting vegetables, the list goes on!  I have so many new dishes and methods of cooking I want to try, so many new books I want to read, and numerous new places in the bay I want to explore.  Hope my friends and family are ready for me, version 2.0!

Tags: ashland, oregon, portland, road trip, seattle, victoria, washington

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