This was the trip that launched a thousand trips. July 14th 2015 – five days after finishing chemo, against my Dr’s wishes, we hit the road! The real point of this trip was to see Vancouver, but why not take a 21 hour drive to get there. And why not squeeze in Yellowstone while I’m at it.
I have done a large part of this trip before when I was in high school. It was calling to me again. There is nothing like the Pacific Northwest! This time I wanted to do all I had seen and more, with a glass of wine in hand this time around.
I was a little nervous about how I could handle this long of a trip, with this much hiking and activity. Thankfully, I felt great. Aside from one 4-day hospital stay when my white blood count hit .4 (normal is usually between 4 and 9), I handled chemo pretty well! Although, my bald head would say differently. Can I just say that there are many women that can rock a bald head! I am not one of those women. Unfortunately, I’m heading that direction again fairly soon. You might be seeing a whole lot of selfies in my future posts. I will be the obnoxious selfie poster for a while. Bear with me.
We drove up the coast on the infamous 1 Hwy which alternates on and off with the 101. This is most definitely one of the most scenic drives in the US. It was on this trip that I discovered my obsession with “Dining with a View” and now I make this a must-do on every trip I take.
My dining with a view collection from this trip, you can read more about where these were taken below:
The actual point of the trip was to get to Vancouver, Canada but there is SO much to see along the way! I really had to pick and choose our stops and it was not without difficulty.
We also did quite a bit of National Park sites on this trip, but at the time I was not really into them like I am now. I was oblivious. It wasn’t until the end of the trip that I decided I wanted to visit ALL 417 sites. It would be another 5 months before I got myself the National Park passport book to collect all the stamps. So guess what? I have to go back to all these AGAIN!
If you’re interested, read on to see a comprehensive list of all our stops. Maybe you’ll add a few to your own itinerary!
Hearst Castle – I really was not that impressed with this attraction, while taking into consideration the time and money it takes to see it. They only show you a couple rooms and the tour is only 30-40 min. You can walk the grounds but unfortunately we arrived during their rennovation so even the famous Greek style pool was not worth seeing, as it was drained.
Elephant Seal Rookery – The place to see and be seen – if you’re an elephant seal. There was definitely some nookery going on at the rookery. Quick stop and free!
Big Sur’s Nepenthe Restaurant – BIG views at Big Sur. #diningwithaview Get yourself a glass of wine and order the goat cheese crostini.
Moonraker Restaurant – Don’t be fooled that it is in a Best Western. A restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking crashing waves so close you’d think the tide was going to sweep you away. A million dollar view for $14 breakfast. P.S. We totally car camped in their garage and then got ready in the bathroom 😉
Avenue of the Giants – Redwood country. These trees are BIG. One of my FAVORITE scenic drives in all of the U.S. Does anyone remember the Disney movie Gnome Mobile? That’s what you feel like you’re doing. Driving along in the shaded groves, expecting to see little fairies, nymphs and gnomes playing about.
Trees of Mystery – Don’t just drive through the forest, get out and hike it! This is a great stop to stroll among the giants and see unique tree formations like Cathedral Tree – nine trees growing in a semicircle out of one root structure. You’ll find God in this forest. Plus, there is a giant Paul Bunyan statue for a kitschy American road trip photo opp.
Then we got to Oregon and the coast got even MORE gorgeous.
Thor’s Well – I love natural formations and phenomena. This hole carved out in the ocean’s basalt coastline fills up and then bursts out in a violent spray. Awesome and dangerous. Check the tide schedule. High tide is the most exciting. Low tide allows you to get out there if you’re brave.
Depoe Bay – World’s smallest harbor! I’m a sucker for any record-breaking attractions (see my future post about the town of world record largest things) but what attracted me to this place was their scenic restaurant Tidal Raves. This restaurant sits on the ocean cliffs and has dramatic views of the coastline. And, apparantly I’m not the only one that shows up 20 minutes before opening just to get a window seat.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area – OH MY HIKING HEAVEN. This is the most amazing hiking destination ever! Hikes galore, waterfalls galore, glorious scenic driving. This is the place you come to year after year. And now I hear there is an airbnb that is a Hobbit house replica. Done and done!
Haystack Rock – Super-cool giant rock sitting on the beach, which has awesome tidepools during low tide and puffins!
Portland – Portland is for foodies and freaks. “Keep Portland weird” is a common saying. We visited the world famous VooDoo Donuts (made even more famous by Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives), and checked out the world’s smallest park – Mills End!
Washington and Oregon are chock full of awesome sites. The Pacific Northwest is everything you’ve heard and more. We decided to again stick mostly to the coast and
leave a Washington state tour for another time. We did get to :
Forks! – Not only is this place beautiful (La Push is blow your mind gorgeous), but if you’re a Twilight movie fan then this place is a must. This is a real town that inspired the backdrop for the book series.
Snoqualmie Falls – This is a very well-known waterfall not too far from Seattle. They have an awesome hotel there with a great restaurant. You can see the falls from the parking lot or you can hike down to the bottom.
VICTORIA & VANCOUVER, CANADA
We made it to Canada! We took the car ferry from Port Angeles over to Victoria Island and spent a couple days exploring. This was my first time taking a car ferry, so that was neat. Victoria has an awesome English charm to it.
Emperess Hotel High Tea – A very British thing to do, but also a fun and fancy activity for the whole family.
Parliament Building Tour – Short, interesting and FREE!
Butchart Gardens – So far, these gardens are the best I have ever seen in my life. I hear they have an amazing fireworks show in summer and holiday lighting in winter. So, there is never a bad time to go.
We also took the car ferry over to Vancouver:
Granville Island – This place reminded me of the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. Lots of food stalls, gourmet grocery shopping, live music etc. It is quite delicious, as Vancouver is known for their food.
Stanley Park – A great place for a walk and/or a bike ride! Canada’s version of Central Park. They have an aquarium, sculptures, ponds and a bike path that goes around the entire park.
Grouse Mountain – The mountains are in Vancouver’s backyard. You take a chairlift up and on top they have zip lining, a bear exhibit, lumberjack show, hiking and restaurants with a view!
Capilano Suspension Bridge – 459 feet long suspension bridge! They also have great boardwalk hikes including a glass walkway portion.
Here’s where I got a little ambitious. I just couldn’t help myself. After a fun visit to see an old friend, and a little wine tasting, we drove 12 hours to Yellowstone!
Yellowstone National Park – This park deserves it’s own post, but I will share this… you cannot do this park in a day. We spent 3 days and barely skimmed the surface of all there is to see and do. You can barely drive the whole park without stopping, in one day. My favorites include: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin and Norris Geyser Basin. I hear in the winter, Old Faithful erupts snow. I will be back to see it!
Bear World – A drive-through animal park where the animals walk right next to you! You definitely have to keep your doors and windows closed here.
Grand Teton National Park – Another park that deserves its own post. We only got to see Jenny Lake and a hike to a hidden waterfall that was absolutely breathtaking.
Snake River – We camped here. Rented one of those camper cabins at a KOA right on Snake River. It’s not a true trip to Yellowstone if you don’t have a campfire.
UTAH – ARIZONA
Finally, we’re on our way back home and hit up a couple more National Park sites on the way:
Arches National Park – Rock formations galore. This is a pretty famous park known for rocks that create amazing arch shapes.
Bryce Canyon National Park – One of the BEST National Parks out there! It really is breathtaking! One of my bucket list items is to see Bryce in the snow because I think the white snow on the red rock would be stunning.
Horseshoe Bend (Page, AZ) – This place is actually quite known, but at this point I was fairly new to travel so I’d never heard of it. I think I saw it on a pinterest board and thought I found a gem! You have to tredge up a hill in the sand but once you get there it is absolutely worth it!
Grand Canyon National Park – Everyone knows this one. A definite must-see at some point in your life. Both times I’ve been here, I’ve only visited the overlooks. If God will grant me the energy and health to hike it, I plan to come back and hike to the infamous Havasupai Falls!
And that’s it folks. My whirlwind, post-chemo celebratory trip that started this whole travel and national park obsession. I suddenly woke up and realized that if I don’t do it now, I may never get to see these amazing places. I haven’t stopped since.
Here’s to many, MANY more to come!