Having booked a car from downtown Seattle, it was time to hit the road and drive south along Highway 101. I have to admit, before arriving in the US the only famous road I had heard of was Route 66, but every time I mentioned to people that I planned to travel South from Seattle, the first thing they would say is “you have to drive the 101, it’s beautiful!”, the recommendations couldn’t come highly enough.
It was the first time I would be driving in the US for around 10 years and back then I had a pretty shaky experience with driving a hire car. When pulling out of a car park, I had a momentary lapse of concentration where I managed to drive onto the wrong side of the road, we only avoided the oncoming traffic because a mate had grabbed the steering wheel, so I was a bit apprehensive to say the least. I would also be doing the drive alone, so I had no one to tell me how good/bad (most likely bad) my driving was.
Leaving Seattle was fairly non-descipt, my route out of the city was straight forward and I hit the freeway within minutes and apart from swerving too far to the right every now and then, driving on the other side of the road was fairly easy. Luckily my previous disaster hadn’t scarred me for life and I soon found the driving enjoyable.
I didn’t join Highway 101 until South of Olympia and to start with the roads were fairly flat and the landscape was about 99% trees, I made my way to a small town called Long Beach (home to the world’s longest beach apparently) and along the route passed by some cool windy roads and the landscape finally changed to a series of lakes and inlets.
I decided to make a stop in Long Beach for a quick lunch break. The town was cool but it’s best days are probably behind it, not only is it home to the Longest Beach but also some of the world’s oldest fairground rides, which reminded me of Felixstowe but without the pier.
Once I had crossed over the State border via the Astoria-Megler bridge into Oregon, the coastline really began to impress. After the town of Astoria, I continued on to the most incredible stretch of beach I’ve seen, starting at Cannon Beach the roads meander along the cliff edges and I had to pull the car over at nearly every corner to take pictures. The area was the filming location for the final scene of The Goonies and further down the coast is where they filmed parts of Into The Wild – two of my favourite movies. After a full day of driving (including many stops) I made it to Newport, where I stayed for two nights.
Haceta Head Lighthouse, just south of Newport, is one of many lighthouses which were built to try and stop the large numbers of ships which kept sinking just off the coast. The conditions are treacherous with so many rocks sticking out of the shallow waters. I managed to hike up through the trees to take a look inside.
Oregon Sand Dunes
Part of the Oregon coast line (around 40 miles or so) is made up of Sand Dunes and what better to do on the sand dunes, than Dune buggying!
I booked myself onto a Dune buggy tour, an hour of hacking up and down the sand dunes, it was so much fun! You could rent a quad bike, but these were restricted and looked tame in comparison, the buggy was driven by a pro and was definitely the better choice.
Whilst at the Dunes I also decided to do a bit of hiking along a route called the John Dellenback Trail, a 6 mile round trip of trudging along sand. Luckily there were clear markers along the route, otherwise I could have easily lost my bearings.
After stopping off for a few days in Newport, I headed further south across another State border into California. For this part of the trip the weather took a slight turn, however the gloomy grey clouds floating amongst the tree-lined cliffs, completely changed the landscape and made for some awesome pictures.
The Avenue Of Giants
Continuing along Highway 101 from Oregon to California, the coastline changes from collapsing cliff faces and beautiful beaches, to mile after mile of condensed Redwood Forest and the aptly named “Avenue Of Giants” allows you to drive through and experience the Redwoods up close.
I visited an area called Fern Canyon, literally a Canyon of Ferns (way more impressive than it sounds), and hiked right into the heart of the Redwoods. It was tipping it down with rain and thick mist drifted through the trees, I hiked for around 12 miles on my own and it was spooky as hell. My phone died half way (so no GPS) and it was one of those moments which could have gone very badly, lucky I’m an expert navigator and made my way back unscathed…..it was more luck than judgement if I’m honest.
For $10 you can drive through a Redwood and although it’s a complete tourist trap, I thought it was pretty cool.
After completing my trip through the Redwoods I stopped off in San Francisco to spend a few nights in a hostel, I was then due to head out East towards Yosemite National Park for more outdoor adventures and hiking!