Monday, November 12, 2012

Washington, Oregon - Day 15 & 16: The Drive Home and Final Thoughts

Day 15
We were up early to get a good start for our journey home, but when we looked out the window of our hotel room all we could see was a dense fog.  By the time we packed up and had some breakfast the fog had mostly dissipated and we were on our way.  The temperature was in the 30's when we left and it stayed in the 30's or 40's most of the day.  As we drove down I-5 we could once again see heavy storm clouds ahead, but except for some very light showers we were able to avoid the bad weather.  Fortunately, we had the good luck to be able to see what it left behind as we drove along.

As we drove up into the Siskiyou Mountains we begin to see more and more snow left by the recent storm.  It was no longer snowing, but it made for a beautiful drive with the snow covered trees.  The drive through Southern Oregon on I-5 is a really scenic drive, especially considering it's an interstate.

Finally as we left Oregon and entered California we saw something we hadn't seem much of the last two weeks - sunshine and blue sky.

When we left Northern California two weeks ago the fall color was just beginning to show, but it was in full change on our return.

Driving south, a familiar landmark could be seen peeking out of the clouds ahead.

Mount Shasta
As we drove on into Redding we considered just driving home all the way, but realizing with the time change we would be driving the last four or five hours in the dark, we decided it was better to stop in Sacramento and finish our drive the next day and that's what we did.

Day 16
The last day of our drive was easy and uneventful.  There were very few trucks on the road which made it a much more relaxing drive and we were home before 2:00 PM, our trip was finished.

Final Thoughts
Val and I both had some misgivings about this trip when we left.  We both wanted to go, but thought maybe it was too late in the fall to go to the Northwest and we both halfway expected to have to come home early because of bad weather.

We couldn't have been more wrong.  Even though sunshine was at a premium, I think that actually enhanced the trip.  The fall color actually was much more striking with the dark clouds and occasional rain and we seemed to be there at the right time as the fall color was in abundance and just beautiful.  Add the rivers, lakes and waterfalls we saw, the Cascades, the San Juan Islands and the rain forests and you have two weeks of incredible scenery.  It has been a while since we have been to the Northwest as we usually seem to end up in the Southwest, but after this trip, we won't be staying away long as there is a lot more we want to do and see.

It was great to see Val's niece and nephew and their families, Nate and Penny and their family, and Rob and Judy. Another really, really good reason to come back to the Northwest.  All and all, a great trip.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Washington, Oregon - Day 14: We Start for Home

We were up early today as we wanted to get a good start for the start of our trip home.  We had three days to get there and we wanted to take as scenic a route as possible until we had to jump over to Interstate 5 for the long haul.  We decided to follow the Washington and Oregon Coast as long as we could until the time forced us to get onto I-5.  There would be not stopping for any sightseeing, but as least we could enjoy the drive.  The day started sunny, but very cold and I had to clean ice off the windshield before we could leave.  The temperatures would never get above 45 all day so it would stay on the cool side.

As we traveled south and neared the Oregon border, it clouded up and we drove in and out of light showers.  It was a nice drive along the coast, but slow going with many small towns and curvy sections of road.  In order to get into Oregon we had to cross the Columbia River on the Astoria-Megler Bridge.  The bridge is very impressive and is a long 6.5 miles in length.

The Atoria-Megler Bridge.
We're just about ready to cross.

The view from the bridge.
As you can see from the first picture of the bridge, we had bad weather ahead.  As we passed through Astoria, Oregon and headed south along the coast you could see it get worse and worse and worse and we looked south.

Here's what it looked like to the north.
And here's what we're headed into.
Eventually we ran into the storm and some very heavy rain.  We decided to stop for lunch in the town of Garibaldi and needed our umbrellas and coats as it was raining hard and cold.  After lunch we decided we had better start thinking about turning inland and get onto I-5 and look for a place to stay tonight.  The trip down the Oregon Coast was even slower than in Washington as there were the same curvy road and the addition of even more small towns (and some pretty big ones) where the speed limit was usually 25 or 30 mph.  We turned inland at the little town of Hebo for a trek through the coastal mountains to Salem.  The weather continued to be bad as the temperature dropped into the 30's in the mountains and we ran into heavy rain and hail.  Despite that it was a beautiful drive through the rural countryside.  We could see the remaints of the fall color which must have been at a peak a week or two ago.

The weather cleared as reached Salem and headed south on I-5, but we soon ran into dark, heavy clouds again and heavy rain.  We decided to stop for the night in Roseburg, Oregon and got in around 5:30.  We had traveled about 400 miles today, but it seemed even longer as we spent much of the day on scenic, but slow roads.  It wasn't until we got on the interstate that we were able to make good time, but it was still worth the drive.  Tomorrow we start our drive down i-5 and home.

Washington, Oregon - Day 13: Lake Quinault - North Shore Road

When we looked out the window this morning we saw sun shining on the lake, a good sign.  After breakfast at the lodge, it was off to the North Shore Road which as you might guess, runs along the north shore of Quinault Lake and the North Fork of the Quinault River.  We didn't expect as many photo opportunities today as yesterday because we could see a lot more homes lining the lake as we looked across from the lodge, but we were wrong.  While it wasn't as nice of a drive as the South Shore Road, it was very beautiful and interesting in it's own right, once you get past the area of the homes and drive deeper into the rain forest.  Although it started out sunny, by early afternoon it had clouded up and a light rain started to fall, as I said yesterday, it's to be expected in a rain forest.  We again took a lot of pictures so here is a sampling of what we saw.

As you can see, another good day.  After our drive on North Shore Road we had intended on taking a drive along the ocean a little south of Quinault, but we decided we would get back to the lodge too late so that will have to wait for another trip. We decided to give the lodge another chance for dinner and once again we were disappointed.  Considering how nice the lodge is, we can't understand why the food is so mediocre.  Oh well, we still love it here and will certainly return.  It will be early to bed as we want to get an early start tomorrow as we head for home.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Washington, Oregon - Day 12: Lake Quinault - South Shore Road

It felt good not to have to get up this morning, pack up our gear and hit the road.  We spent a leisurely morning walking around the lodge grounds and then eating a late breakfast.  The lodge was built in 1926 and is listed as one of the Great Lodges of the National Parks (of PBS fame).  Another nice thing about this morning was there was sunshine, a rare thing on this trip.

The Lake Quinault Lodge

Val at breakfast.
Lake Quinault

The fireplace in the great room.

The view from our deck.
After breakfast we decided to drive up the South Shore Road which follows the south side of Lake Quinault and the East Fork of the Quinault River into the rain forest and Olympic National Park.  The clouds were moving in which was not surprising considering we are in a rain forest.  It was a beautiful drive along the lake and river with lots of fall color, moss covered trees and foliage, some waterfalls and even a rainbow.  We spent the whole afternoon driving the road.  When the pavement ended the road became a dirt and gravel road, our favorite!  We stopped many, many times for photos and to admire the scenery.  The best way to describe the day is through pictures so here is a sampling of what we saw (considering the number of pictures we took, a very small sampling ;-)  ).

Brightly colored fungi growing on a log.

The end of the road.
It was a great day and a great drive.  The thick, lush foliage of the rain forest is quite a change from what we are used to on the Central Coast of California.  Tomorrow we plan on exploring the north side of the lake, but it will be hard to top today.