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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Day 1: Oregon Road Trip: Columbia River

I have to admit.  I have fallen in love with the idea of the Pacific Northwest.  I spent some time in Northern California, as well as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.  I have to also admit, that many moons ago, I planned a trip to visit friends in Seattle for Thatcher's birthday as a way to lure him to the Pacific Northwest (specifically Seattle).  I was smitten with the idea of living by the Puget Sound, with the Pacific at my door step and a whole new range of adventure.

Somehow I landed in Utah, and I have to admit, it all worked out.

After visiting a few gorgeous spots on the Pacific Coast (especially northern CA and Seattle) the Oregon Coast gained top ranking on my "must see" list while living out West.  I had visited Portland, Oregon which wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but I knew the coast would be something right up my alley (read ocean, sea lions and seafood). 

Total Road Trip Map and Miles

So despite how far the drive is, I knew I had to visit the Oregon coast.  First, I looked at my options:  A.  flying to Portland and renting a car to drive the coast (and dog in daycare for the weekend), or B.  driving all the way which made for a longer trip but cheaper and with the dog.  At the end of the day, I decided to drive.  Driving was just easier (and a lot cheaper!), no rental cars or airports, more leniency, and I could bring the dog.  So a long drive it was going to be. I planned the above route over a 4.5 days, leaving Thursday afternoon and getting back to Salt Lake City Monday night.  

You are probably looking at that map and thinking I am absolutely crazy with that many miles for a 4.5 day road trip.  And you may be right.  However, we did it and it was awesome.  I will be summing up the trip by days and big sights, and eventually a recap coast.  

Let me break down the first day or so.  We left Salt Lake at about 6 pm, and drove about 5 hours, spending the night in Boise, Idaho.  We left Boise bright and early Friday morning with the goal of making it across eastern Oregon through some beautiful areas, stopping to hike in the Columbia Gorge area, stopping for lunch in Portland, and continuing all the way to the coast at the Oregon/Washington border.  We would spend the night in Astoria, Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, and the border of the two states before heading South down the coast on Saturday. 

Our drive through Idaho was uneventful, and mostly dark.  But our drive across Oregon just got better and better as we neared the coast.  The terrain went from green hillsides to plateaus and open space, past wind farms, tree farms, and then our favorite, the Columbia River Gorge area.  We followed the Columbia River, the border between Oregon and Washington, all the way to Portland and passed some beautiful scenery.  

Two small bridges on the Washington side of the Columbia River
The Columbia River is the biggest river is the Pacific Northwest region (1,243 miles (2,000 km) long), and by volume, the fourth largest in the country. Because of this large volume of water, the Columbia River is used for hydroelectric power.  The river starts in British Columbia, Canada, heads south into Washington, and then snakes its way between Washington and Oregon, serving as the border between the states. Eventually the Columbia reaches the coast of Oregon where it drains into the Pacific Ocean. 

There are some cute towns along the Columbia, and the Dalles and the John Day area were some of our favorites as we followed the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.  The John Day dam (one of 14 hydroelectric dams on the Columbia) was an impressive display of hydro electric power, and Oregon's commitment to sustainable energy (the U.S. state of Oregon is the third largest renewable energy producing state in the United States).  

The Dalles Bridge 
And then there was the bridges.  The beautiful bridges of Oregon may have been my favorite.  In a state of rather uninteresting architecture (and the coast mostly looking like run down coastal towns), the bridges were always beautiful (and there were a ton).  

Not only were the bridges beautiful but we even passed some iconic bridges.  We passed the famous "Bridge of the Gods" crossing the Columbia River on the Pacific Crest Trail, made even more famous on Cheryl Strayed's "Wild".  
The Columbia River is an impressive feat.  And if you want more Bridge porn, here is the ultimate list of all the bridge crossings over the Columbia River from its origin, to its end draining into the Pacific. It is really an area I have never heard much about.  And this is the beauty of a road trip.  If we had chosen to fly into Portland to rent a car and drive the coast, we would have missed this entire area.  I would have never known the gorgeous Columbia River gorge existed (and probably never know the Columbia River even existed). 

We followed the beautiful Columbia River and continued on until we reached our first our first major stop to hike Horsetail Falls, about a half an hour east of Portland.  Check back in for a post all about some of the beautiful waterfalls and hikes in this area. 


  1. I keep willing myself to do the road trip out to Oregon. This may be the push I need. Excited to read about the other days of your trip! - Heather []

    1. You absolutely NEED to make the road trip! Its long but beautiful! Thanks for reading.


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