Oregon rain, rivers, and beaches.

Umpqua River

Two new pieces of equipment helped immensely to make my Oregon road trip a joy: the first good raincoat I’ve ever had, and my new iPhone. The way they accomplished this was by helping me to relax so that I could be receptive to all the people, scenery, stories, and weather that came my way.

Vine Maple

Not long ago I figured out how to use the maps feature on my cell phone, and now I engage the help of the eternally patient lady who tells me when and what direction to turn. She is the only navigator I’ve ever had who knows all the roads, and even if I miss my turn several times, she never gasps or raises her voice or shows the least bit of anxiety about the situation. She doesn’t shame me.

I’m really poor at orienting myself – I get turned around so easily and even after studying maps, I often go the opposite direction from what I intend. This makes me a unlikely road-tripper, because if I explore new places the threat of getting lost keeps an undercurrent of anxiety flowing. I wasn’t quite conscious of this feeling until it was gone.

Going north from home, I almost always stop at Pippin’s near the top of California, because it’s about five hours away, and that is certainly long enough to drive in one day. I get to see Scout, Ivy and Jamie, and often take a walk, hold a purring cat, and see some new flower or insect.

lotus

I smell the trees, which perhaps because of the density of the forest make their aromas intensely present. Getting out of my car in their driveway, I am handed a delicious and rejuvenating drink in those first whiffs of pine and cedar and fir.

Ivy showed me her Hole, the spot she has appropriated where the furniture does not come together the way her parents would like, but where a child can be glad of the wonkiness, and fit snugly.

 

Oxeye Daisies

This time, I continued to Pathfinder’s in southern Oregon where my third grandson in that family was graduating from high school. I wore my raincoat when we went to the ceremony, where the mist turned to drizzle turned to rain, and at one moment all of the graduates, who were sitting in the open, stood up and donned ponchos. We the audience had roofs over us, but we sat on metal bleachers and our legs and backs stiffened with the damp and cold. Our particular group was snacking on Peanut M&M’s and Red Vines during the whole evening, leftovers from an afternoon graduation party we’d enjoyed in the rain, under umbrellas and awnings. I felt a special camaraderie sharing the mildly uncomfortable local weather with my people. It was for a good cause.

My raincoat was a recent purchase that I think God must have prompted me to accomplish, because after trying in late winter to find a really good and proper raincoat, something I’ve never had, I had given up and decided to wait until the fall when there would be more selection. Then I got a 20% coupon for a store that was having a 40% off sale, and I couldn’t resist trying again, and succeeded. I put my beautiful rain gear in the closet for next fall, not having any idea at the time that I would soon be needing it.

Pathfinder and Iris took me on a Sunday afternoon outing that included a visit to Mill Creek Falls and Pearson Falls on the Rogue River. The rain seemed to have let up that afternoon, but the woods were very moist and lush. The Rogue River is a beauty!

Rogue River

Mill Creek Falls

When I left my family, I drove farther north visiting the Oregon Coast and the town of Astoria where I’d been with my late husband four years earlier. At that time we’d said we must come back for a more leisurely visit, and this was my chance to do just that.

I wanted to climb the Astoria Column again and stare at the misty rivers that were the waterways and/or neighborhood for Lewis and Clark, that winter that they spent on the Pacific Coast before returning cross country to make their report to President Thomas Jefferson. And I wanted to walk on Oregon beaches and collect more sand samples to add to my tiny collection.

I took all day getting up the state. I kept trying to take pictures of the oxeye daisies that were sprinkled everywhere and waving so cheerfully even in the rain. But the ones that are weeds in Pippin’s flowerbed are the prettiest.

I stopped at Manzanita Beach and walked with a friend – um, having forgotten my raincoat ! in my car, so I was exposed to the gentle and mild Oregon rain that fell that afternoon, and felt better for it. That’s how Oregonians do, anyway! A change of clothes was also waiting in my car.

My B&B was in the hilly part of town, above the Columbia River, and my room, “Little Hummers,” was up high enough that I had this view of the river the night I arrived late:

Another thing I liked about my lodging was that it was just a mile from the Column, so one morning when I woke hours before the scheduled breakfast, I set out on foot up the steep hill behind the hotel, and then climbed 163 or so steps to the top, where you open a heavy door and step onto a balcony in the round from which to view three rivers and the ocean. It was barely eight o’clock and I was the only one in the park. It was sublime.

If you cross over that bridge on the right, you land in the state of Washington.

The Youngs and the Lewis and Clark Rivers

When I returned to my hotel, I stopped on the sidewalk in front to dig in my bag for my key, and when I looked up this deer was calmly considering me. She had a young fawn hidden in the bushes; that evening I looked out my window to see them picking their way across the grass in the dusk.

This same day I visited Fort Clatsop, and while waiting for my friends to join me, I studied this map at length. In the car I had been listening to Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose, without the aid of maps, of course, so this was my chance to imprint the picture into my mind.

I never get tired of hearing about Lewis & Clark and the many things they and their Corps of Discovery did and discovered, so it was fun to visit this park again. I spent the rest of the day in Astoria, and didn’t get showered with either rain or sunshine.

Japanese maple along the waterfront

Back down the Oregon Coast I drove, to the town of Newport where the Sylvia Beach Hotel stands above Nye Beach (Sylvia Beach is the name of a person). I was so bushed from lack of sleep, and from hauling my bags up three flights of stairs, that I crashed on the bed for a quarter of an hour and enjoyed this view out my window, as the breeze flowed in:

This was the first day of my journey that the sun shone, and it was wonderful. I knew that rain was forecast for the next day, so I needed to take advantage of the afternoon. I went down to the beach and sat with my back against a log, and let the sun pour down on my face until it had gone away and down. I left my windows open all night and listened to the surf!

Yes, the next day was stormy. I tried walking on the beach in my raincoat anyway but the wind was blowing too hard, and sand stung my face. So I took a nap, and then enjoyed the howling of the wind and the rocking of the building the way the regulars at this hotel do, by sitting in the library reading, stoking the fire occasionally, and feeling cozy. The people I talked to said that rainy is their preferred weather for a sojourn here.

There is no TV, no wi-fi, but there are lots of books, and comfortable chairs and couches for settling into. It’s a hotel all about books, authors, and reading, and each of the many rooms – more than 20 – is themed after an author. I was in the Jane Austen Room, but other rooms are decorated to remind one of Dr. Suess, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, Jules Verne, Tolkein… I very much enjoyed my time here, and was somewhat sorry that it was a sort of introductory stay, that is, too short.

I am moving right along in my tale of my expedition, because I know this is a too-long post, but my pace of travel was actually more relaxed than usual. I made sure I didn’t hurry – I was on vacation! The morning of my departure from my Jane Austen room and that rejuvenating place, the thought crossed my mind that I might skip breakfast and get on my way early. But why? I forced myself to browse the library, to eat the most civilized and hearty breakfast in the leisurely fashion it deserved, chatting with other lodgers.

Then I took a slightly longer route back toward home, so that I could stay on the coast as long as possible. I turned inland at Reedsport, not knowing – because my Oregon map had slipped off the seat and I couldn’t find it – that my road would wind along the Umpqua River from there, the most beautifully deep green waterway, a peaceful companion on this leg of my trip.

I must have added at least an hour to my journey, stopping many times to walk up and down the roadside and through deep wet grass, trying to get a good picture of the river through the thick stands of trees and shrubs and every kind of plant all tangled together. When I was able to frame a little bit of water in my viewfinder, it eventually dawned on me that under the clouds, the dark surface is reflecting so much of that green foliage, it’s often hard to see where the woods end and the river begins.

These were the last images of Oregon, and then my route took me back to California and familiar roads and scenes, and home again. This road trip was a bit of an experiment, to see how I liked it. Oregon is not too far, and it’s very diverse. This tour was mostly in the western parts, but I know from experience that I like the eastern parts, too. I hope more exploratory road trips are in my future, because this one was happy.

27 thoughts on “Oregon rain, rivers, and beaches.

  1. I enjoyed your trip so very much!
    We traveled through Astoria and also toodled over to Gearhart where Young Life has a lovely lodge. Those were sweet rainy days.
    I’d like to see your raincoat!

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  2. What a wonderful trip, Gretchen!!! What beautiful photos too. I loved this post and I am so glad you took the time to write it out. I loved it! I haven’t been to Oregon in years. It makes me want to return.

    What was that bug? Was it large? The water is so pretty. I loved your granddaughter’s hiding place.

    I wondered what you had been doing. It sounds like the perfect kind of trip to me. I saw that you read Keeper of the Bees. Did you like it? I need to read it again when I saw it on your list. I am glad you are home.

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  3. Since I’ve only been driving my own car since my husband died, I have a collection of raincoats and umbrellas. My favorite colder weather poncho I wore in your neck of the woods, and still wear here in the colder windiest weather. Rain or shine I still had to go to work. Raingear an essential sailing on the SF Bay also. Did you describe your new raincoat? I keep scrolling back but can’t find a description or a picture.

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  4. What a blessing this was! So much diverse beauty and time with family and a bookish hotel! I would really love to know what sort of raincoat you bought. Can you name the brand? I am so happy that you found a good raincoat for a good price at just the right time! Be well!

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  5. Oh my, Gretchen. I just want to come back to this post and drink in all that you (via your phone or camera) captured. I know how you feel about maps and directions and I am as grateful as you are for that nice lady who just chirps when she has to give me new directions because I’d missed a turn.

    So many beautiful details, but that shot of Manzanita beach is hauntingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing these!

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  6. Thank you for sharing the lovely pictures you took on your most leisurely trip. It’s so nice to take it easy and not rush about. A hotel all about books, authors, and reading? Sounds like my kind of place. I loved that you saw the deer and that she seemed okay with you being there. You made lots of wonderful memories.

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  7. What a wonderful trip. Thanks for letting us tag along. I enjoyed the photography so much. Did you use your new iPhone to take the pics? I loved the grassy meadow. It is so cool that you took the time to walk out in it and appreciate it.

    Love your granddaughter’s hidey hole!

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  8. I am thankful that your adventure had so many blessings. O Heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth who art everywhere and filleth all things…

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  9. Well, I’ve wondered where you had gotten to! What a marvelous road trip! I can almost feel my self standing by as you snap these gorgeous shots. Too long a post? Nope! Precious. Thank you for taking time to capture these images and trace the trail of your vacation days. I am encouraged by your willingness to explore “what might be” … to live the gift of your life.
    Thank you for sharing GJ!

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  10. What an astonishingly beautiful set of photos! That river is amazing! What is that large insect you have in the picture below the river? I think Sat navs are amazing. I am like you in terms of orientating myself and inevitably get confused or lost. My husband despairs of my map reading skills!
    P.S. your comment made me smile. Luckily, I was not in Sonoma! I’ve not been to America before. Maybe one day!

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  11. What a wonderful journey! Thank you for taking us along. Those photos of that surging river!!! Almost scary. I most enjoyed your stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. I would love to stay there! Oh my — I shared the link with a bibliophile friend who just returned to her home in Nashville from a trip to just that area! How I wish she had known about that hotel. She is a huge fan of Fitzgerald and would’ve enjoyed staying there. So glad you are home safe and had such a luxurious trip.

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  12. What a beautiful vacation! I’m glad you tried to relax and take your time. I admire your courage traveling alone. On my trip to Texas this last week my daughter did the driving, but we sure did appreciate that lady in the iPhone who guided us!

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  13. I’ve looked through this post so many times: once to just appreciate the photos, once to see how you did traveling on your own, and several times to follow leads about the bookish hotel, Lewis & Clark, and so on. I’m so glad you had such a good time.

    I wonder from time to time how I developed my sense of direction, and honestly, I think a good part of it comes from sailing and working outdoors. I became used to orienting myself by the sun and the stars, and at this point I can tell you the time within a half-hour just by the position of the sun in the sky. If I’m at point A and want to get to point B, I’m as likely to glance at a (paper!) map and think, “Hmm… ok.. North and west” and just take off. I’ve only used GPS once, and it worked perfectly, except it didn’t know about the washed out bridge that required starting all over again. That was the end of that.

    My mother was one who had trouble with directions. She consistently headed off 180 degrees from where she ought to be going. It was a family joke for years that if we were looking for a place, we’d ask Mom where it was, and then go in the opposite direction.

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    1. Linda, I so admire people like you, and was surprised and disappointed — the truth is, I was ashamed — when as an adult I realized my innate deficiency in this area; at least, it feels innate. Who knows if, had I as a child been taught some directional orientation principles beyond Right and Left, I might have done better.

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