Blown Away by Oregon

I forgot to mention the spider. As we climbed into bed at the Requa Inn, there was a spider – in the bed – on my side. Ben did the manly thing and squished it with a tissue. I concentrated on the BEST PIE EVER and the brilliant day we’d had rather than the spider and the creepy dead lady in the hall, which is why my dreams were sweet that night.

We awoke to twittering birds and the sound of huge pickup trucks intermittently roaring past the inn – folks on their way to work we imagined. We suited up for a walk to the coast – about 2 miles up a winding road. The air was clean and smelled of wood stoves and damp earth. The road was steep, but we were working off the pie – and the burger – and the fries – oh, and the onion rings.

We huffed our way up the hill to be rewarded with a different view from the afternoon before. The blue sky had gone, now replaced with a brooding canopy of grey. It heightened the beauty of waves crashing against rocks in the distance.

Early Morning Walk
Morning Coast

Back at the inn we settled in to a breakfast of eggs and oatmeal. We then cleaned up, packed up and loaded up, ready for a day of natural beauty.

Our first stop was to drive north to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We were not certain what to expect, except that we could park and hike the well marked trails. The park blew any preconceptions out of the water.

We entered the park on a dirt track, and the sky started to emerge from the clouds. Sunlight pushed through the dense leaves and tall trunks to speckle the forest floor with light. We opened the sunroof of our car to look up as we drove, giant trees peering down at us.
Dizzying Heights
The driving was slow as the track wove its way through the thick, straight trunks. We could tell that as few trees were felled to make this road, as was possible.

“Luke Skywalker’s been in these woods,” said Ben. “Oh that’s right. They filmed those scenes from Empire here.” We both imagined Luke and Leia flying through the forest at breakneck speed – somewhat faster than we were driving.

Luke and Leia

We came to a clearing, a marked trail led off into the woods. Here was as good a place as any. We grabbed cameras, and followed the path. How breathtaking. The path was clearly marked, and even though it curled up hill slightly, this walk would be less than strenuous, and more about taking it all in.

Path through the trees

It was nearly silent. We could hear a single – and presumably lost – bee humming above our heads. There were no bird calls, and the air was still, so not even the rustling of leaves contributed to our soundtrack. All we could hear were our gentle treads on the slightly damp earth and our breath.

We moved ever upward, stepping over the occasional tree root, and following the winding trail. “Can you imagine the root system underneath us?” Ben asked. We were stunned by how tightly packed together the Redwoods are. We had also realised the day before that neither of us really knew what to expect from a Redwood. I have envisioned big bushy-topped trees, like Oaks, but these giant thrust straight up from the ground, with tufts of tiny leaves sticking out near their tops.

In tree world, if the Redwoods were not so terrifyingly tall, they would have been bullied for being ‘funny looking’. They were all out of balance, and not unlike very tall, solid people with tiny heads. But I did not dare laugh for fear that one would lift a root from the forest floor and step on me. I observed the reverent silence exemplified by the rest of the forest, mindful that these trees had been on the earth longer than I could conceive.

“Have you ever scene those pictures where they take the cross section of one of these trunks and show all the significant dates in human history?” asks Ben, pondering the history all around us. I had, and later I would buy him a postcard showing this.

We reached an arbitrary place on the trail, marked only by the half hour we had walked, and a giant orgy of 6 trees all growing together. “Would you like a kiss amongst giant trees,” asked my tall, handsome man. The trees politely turned away, and then we headed back down the trail. The sun was really breaking through the canopy now, stream of light bringing to life the damp forest. It was a beautiful chaos, with every colour of imaginable green, and every texture I knew. Bulbous, knobbly tree gnarls next to the satiny petals of a wild flower.

Friends of the Giants

Back in the car we continued to marvel at the world around us. Just before the end of the park, we pulled off to take another trail, hoping to get down to the ever widening river below us.

The trail was more treacherous than the previous one, with stones and tree roots underfoot, but it was short. We descended to the riverbed, having to go ‘off-road’ to see the really good stuff. I climbed a felled log and walked along it up towards a small waterfall. Ben climbed through brush and crossed a stream to see the river up close. We have fulfilled our Nancy Drew/Hardy Boy fantasies for the day and climbed out of the forest, a little out of breath from our childlike endeavours.

We drove into Crescent City, looking for a place to lunch – a proper lunch so as not to be caught out by starvation around dinner time. Subway would do, because it was fast, healthy, and we knew what we’d be getting.

Crescent City was a generic U.S. town of the working class variety. Pickup trucks and old boxy sedans criss-crossed paths, and the town uniform was jeans with a T-shirt or flannel. I saw a store called ‘Bikes and Guitars’. It was that sort of town: straightforward – what you see is what you get without flourish or embellishment. It was a stark contrast from the pristine, manicured towns of the Napa Valley.

The staff at Subway had twangy accents, like you would expect much further south, and they were personable and fun. I would also have to say that it was the best Subway I have had, perhaps because it was created with flourishes and flair that would put a top-notch bar tender to shame.

Full, happy, and looking forward to adding another state to our ‘been there’ lists, Ben and I headed off and into Oregon.

The border came and went without much ado. I did a little car seat dance to mark the occasion. Bill Bryson was still telling his tale, and we still listened, riveted. Hours went by quickly, as his soft, self-deprecating tone filled our car.

Soon after entering Oregon, the sky turned from blue to grey. And then it rained. Thick, fat drops hit the windscreen. “Hang on,” I said looking intensely out the window a few minutes later, “is that hail?” “Yep,” said Ben, as though he had expected it. Rain, then hail: ‘Welcome to Oregon.’

We drove towards the coast, getting small glimpses of a spectacular coastline. “We can pull off at one of these lookouts,” noted Ben. “Here’s one,” he said pointing up ahead. I pulled the car off and onto a heavily pot-holed track.

At the car park, we both got out and the force of the wind nearly pushed me back into the car. I stumbled forward to get a look at the view. “Oh my God,” I said. “Geez,” Ben said. We were so eloquent.

A jagged black pyramid stood just offshore in the surf, battered by constantly breaking waves. The erratic water met grey sand, dotted with oversized pebbles, and rippled by the fierce wind.

Jagged Pyramid
I took some shots, and gratefully climbed back into the shelter of the car. Ben was braver than I. He pushed his way down to the shore, walking on a slant against the wind. The coast in northern
California had been beautiful – I described it an untamed – but this was something else. I was running out of superlatives.

We drove on. It snowed! The exclamation point is all I can do to convey my surprise. We’d thought the previous day had shown a contrast in weather, but this day had gone from mild and sunny to snowing – all within a 100 miles.

Our next stop was at a similarly spectacular spot, but this one for the human creations placed on precarious cliffs. A starkly white lighthouse, and the keeper’s neat white cottage, with its equally white picket fence, stood proudly on cliff tops. We stretched our legs by climbing the path to the lighthouse. It was a quick visit, though, as the rain started up again. We ran through it back to the car, arriving out of breath and laughing. We dried out as we continued north.


We were driving to Bandon, a small town on the southern Oregon coast. We arrived at 4. For an inexplicable reason we had arrived at our destination for the third day running, at 4pm. We had planned this trip, insomuch as two people can with Google Earth and some emails, but we were fluking our arrivals to coincide with check-in time. With two days to come, could we keep this up?

The Windermere Beach Motel presented us with a tiny attic self-contained unit, with a huge picture window that looked out at the beach. We re-arranged the furniture, after it was clear that we would want to sit on the couch and watch out that window for as long as we could. It was still four hours until sunset.

View from the Attic

We had set aside that afternoon for ‘chilling out’, which we did, reading, catching up on emails, sipping some wine we’d brought. All the while we kept an eye on our view, the changeable light revealing more about this stunning coastline.

We dined across the street at Bandon Bill’s Grill. We ordered beers, because the music and the atmosphere called for it. I had the hugest plate of baby back ribs I have ever seen. I made a valiant effort, but as the waitress cleared my plate, she remarked that her dog would be delighted when she got home.

We got back to our ‘home’ in time to watch the sun set. The horizon was peppered with bulky grey clouds, and the sun hid her naked self behind them. It was a burlesque show of peekaboo, and stolen glimpses of her beauty.

After she had disappeared for the day, we walked out onto the windy beach. It was smooth, and grey and vast. Other small groups walked too. Even though it was cold, there was something about this place that called us to come out and play.

The last light finally disappeared, and we headed ‘home’ again.

A Day of Contrasts

From Napa Valley to Klamath, on the northern California coast.

Day two of our trip was a day of stark contrasts.

We had dined the night before at Terra in St Helena. Terra appears in the Michelin guide (one star), and combines European and Asian food styles and tastes. The fusion works, and although we didn’t try it, the dessert ‘Angel Farts’ intrigued us. Instead, we completed our meal with a cherry compote and ice cream parfait, which was, ‘Parfait!’

We knew on waking that our host at the B+B had promised a ‘gourmet breakfast’, but I wondered if the culinary delights of St Helena could possibly continue at such a high standard.

We were not disappointed.

We joined another couple for a truly gourmet breakfast, both courses announced with the liberal flourishes of our flamboyant host, Carlos. “Baked pink grapefruit with fresh raspberry coulis and spun honey.” Who would have thought to bake a grapefruit? Apparently, Carlos, and it was both unusual and delicious.

“Wholewheat Belgian waffles, with melted French butter, and organic Maple syrup from Vermont, served with organic chicken and apple sausages.”

Waffles! I thought I would die of excitement, and they were amazing. The kind of waffle that retains its crispy exterior, while pools of butter and syrup meld in the little pockets. Ben remarked later that I had shown great restraint, and he knew that if we were not seated opposite strangers, I would have clapped in delight at the overwhelming deliciousness. I clapped on the inside.

Dinner was a distant memory as we finally moved from the table and finished packing. It was another beautiful day in the Napa Valley and we had quite a drive ahead of us up to the north coast of California, to Klamath. Our breakfast companions had informed us that Klamath is not on the coast (a surprise to us), and that Crater Lake was only about an hour from there (a happy surprise to us). We knew that if we made good time then we could get to Crater Lake before nightfall, a good addition to our itinerary.

Bellies full as we drove off, we decided not to have lunch that day, but to snack in the car and have a ‘proper’ dinner. As we drove north through wine country, enjoying the sun and the landscape, we started an audio book Ben had brought. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is his travel biography about walking the Appalachian Trail in the east. Although we were in the west, the changing topography (fewer fields, more forests), and the changing weather (grey clouds and drizzle), allowed us to be transported and enjoy the hilarity of Bryson’s huge endeavour.
Napa Driving
We made great time. We arrived at the Requa Inn, just out of Klamath, around 4pm, meaning we could make it out to Crater Lake. The sky in Klamath was clearer than other parts of our journey, a milky blue, and the air was cold. From the start of our day, the temperature had dropped 25° F.

The Requa Inn was opened over 100 years ago, and the eclectic mix of furnishings and knickknacks bore testament to the whole century. A collection of cricket paraphernalia caught my eye, as did their haphazard – yet extensive – library. I did not like, however, the creepy photograph of a long dead woman that hung just across from our bedroom door. I was compelled to look at it every time I went in or out of the room, even though she freaked me out. “It’s just an old photo. You’re only freaked out because you can’t see her face,” said the sceptic. Yes, exactly. It is not normal to have a black splodge where your face should be.
Requa Inn
Our host informed us as we checked in, that Crater Lake was a 6 hour return drive from there, and that the roads would be closed anyway, because of snow. “Oh,” we both said, disappointed we wouldn’t see the brilliant blue of the lake’s water, contrasted with its snowy rim. Who had told us that it was close? Oh, yes. Carlos, our B+B host.

BUT, we could drive up the hill to go whale watching! We picked the innkeeper’s brain a bit longer, determining that we could drive south (back from whence we came) and drive into the Redwood forest, and that dinner was even further south (nothing open in Klamath on a Thursday night).

We dropped our bags to our room, and drove the short drive to the lookout over the Klamath River inlet. Like the other gem we’d be told at breakfast, the line about Klamath not being on the coast was rubbish. We were in Klamath, and we were standing on the coast. It was spectacular. I pulled my jacket around me, and we sat on a picnic table and scanned the water for whale spouts. None emerged, but the salt air and the view were enough.
California Dreaming
We reluctantly drove away, promising each other to return in the morning. We were going to see big trees now. We had stopped earlier in the day, just pulling off the road, at our first real glimpse of Redwood trees. The sun was still out then, and we walked through a small stand down to a pebbly riverbank.
A stand of Redwoods
This little glimpse into the world of giants whet our appetite for more, so when we took the turn off into Redwood National Park late in the afternoon, we were blown away.

We saw a car parked ahead, and pulled off the road. Another young couple was there taking fun photos of themselves with a giant hollowed out tree. We joined in on the fun, trading cameras and getting ‘couple/tree’ shots for each other.
Big enough for two
The air was cool, damp and smelled of centuries of nature. The other couple left and we explored further. The base of one felled giant stood taller than Ben and we estimated it at over 1000 years old.

Back in the car, we made our way to “Big Tree”, the imaginatively named largest tree in North America. We parked, and walked the path, and narrowed ‘Big Tree’ down to two big trees. We took photos with both, marvelling at their height and girth. It was getting chilly and dark, and we wanted to drive to the beach before dinner. A dirt track took us to the stark and grey-sanded coast. The skies had turned grey and the wind was biting, but the untamed beach, awash with driftwood, was beautiful.
Grey Coast
We defrosted in the car as we drove back to the highway, and headed further south to Orick for dinner.

We had been given the two big tips for dining in Orick. There was a Mexican restaurant (closed), and a biker diner (open). The diner was a beacon in the darkness, for we were starving, and had already decided that never again would we ‘car snack’ instead of stopping for lunch.

The diner was warm and smelled like home cooking. It was the first true diner experience I could remember having, and our waitress was sweet and personable, through her obvious exhaustion. We ordered diner food: a French Dip and onion rings for Ben and a hamburger and fries for me – oh and a salad, so we could feel somewhat virtuous. The French Dip – for my Aussie and British readers – is a roast beef sandwich, which is dipped into a beef broth. Salty, hot and beefy. And a departure for Ben, who is (mostly) a white meat only boy.
Diner Dining
We devoured our food nearly before it hit the table, and it was delicious. I mentioned to Ben that we had gone from whole wheat Belgian waffles with organic Vermont Maple syrup to burgers, fries and onion rings, in one day. Another contrast to enjoy.

The only question that remained after dinner was, did we have room for pie? Hell, yes! We took it go, mixed berry for me, and apple for Ben. Bill Bryson, earlier that day, had uttered a line that I now shared with our waitress: “Can you please cut me the biggest piece of pie you can without losing your job?” “I always do,” she winked conspiratorially. And when she handed us our pie to go, they were fat wedges, fillings oozing out the sides. I couldn’t wait to get back to the Inn.

We were the only guests that night, so had the large living room to ourselves. We helped ourselves to a bottle of Moonstone Red (leaving a note for our hosts that we would fix them up in the morning), and sat by the fire. Ben read aloud from an anthology of Walt Whitman poetry, which casually sat on the coffee table. We drank wine, and ate THE BEST PIE I HAVE EVER HAD, and grew sleepy by the fire.
Fireside Poems
A good day, and as different an ending as we could have imagined in the beginning.

Tomorrow we would be hiking further into the woods, and then driving into Oregon – a first for us both. We collapsed, exhausted, and I dreamed of giant berry pie trees.