This March, I turned the big 3-0! Yes, it's true. But instead of a party, all I asked for was an exciting trip... Then I remembered we have a 1 year old. So we carefully evaluated just how big and how exciting... And although he's plenty old enough for grandparent overnight babysitting, being without Rowan an entire week was really going to bring down my level of carefree galavanting (i.e. I might've had panic attacks.) We decided to use our Skymiles for free tickets and keep it in the States, and we planned a trip to drive down to see the Redwoods from Portland.
I will be posting soon just about the planning and our experience with "light" packing with a toddler. But we don't have time for all of those nitty gritty details right now. Just let it be said that in between all of these amazing, breathtaking moments there were a fair share of boring ones... Once even while we were literally passing through Boring, Oregon. I'm not even making that up. More on that later, though... Here is what we did:
DAY 1: Left Birmingham at 8:30AM and arrived in Denver by 10:30 and Portland by 2! Our awesome friends who just moved back to Oregon picked us up at the airport and took us to our AirBnB to settle in. After being there all of two seconds, we already received a complaint from the downstairs neighbor who heard Mr. I've-Just-Been-So-Still-On-A-Plane-For-Hours run back and forth on the hardwoods. Oopsies!
So we explored the Alphabet District where we were staying, bought Rowan some sweet rain boots, grabbed honey soap at Lush and coffee from Barista, and then Matt and Lesley picked us up again for dinner at their house in Forest Park, and we had a great time! Then we had to leave and cue boring moment... It was Rowan's bedtime (and even past it due to the time change), so it was time to chill in the apartment instead of exploring Portland after dinner. Zack did a bit of solo exploring, and then we had some very consoling Ben & Jerry's.
DAY 2: Portland was great -- don't get me wrong -- but we happened to be there on some extra rainy days, and I don't have many pictures to show from it especially since we were holding Rowan + rain gear. I don't have 4 arms, people! We did walk over to Daily in the Pearl and had the best griddle cakes in our lives, and then we picked up Blue Star Donuts on 23rd afterwards (to save for later, we weren't completely out of control!) Also, the one thing that was left at home nicely hanging by the door was... my coat! Surprise surprise. Probably the one thing other than shoes or wallet that you wouldn't want to forget for a trip to Portland. So we set out for some rainy shopping at Powell's books and the plethora of outdoors stores, and I found a rockin' new plaid North Face raincoat. Whew.
That night we had an early bird's happy hour dinner at Bridgeport Brewery before settling in for another early night of Netflix and chill... I mean the literal kind... actual Netflix. Now don't give up on reading my travel journal yet! I promise this trip was awesome, but I'm trying to paint a realistic portrait for you future travelin' parents out there!
DAY 3: We started off the morning early again -- Rowan was at least sleeping until the sun came up, which was over an hour shift from his Alabama-time body clock. We walked to breakfast at Mother's where we had an awkward situation with a waitress on the verge of a mental collapse or something, but the food was awesome. They even had a kids play area. Then we explored the area around the Waterfront park.
While Rowan and I packed up at the Air BnB flat and waited for laundry to dry, Zack walked over to pick up the rental car and went to good ol' Trader Joe's to restock snack pouches and road trip snacks. Then some quick Little Big Burger veggie burgers + Salt & Straw "freckled woodblock chocolate" ice cream and LET THE ROAD TRIP BEGIN! CRANK UP THE TUNES!
Oh wait, just kidding -- it's road trip nap time. Shh! Zzz.
We drove to Roseburg, Oregon and checked into our modest, little hotel and then hopped over to "the birthplace of Pinot Noir", HIllcrest Winery and Distillery, just in time before they closed! Then we took turns at the wine tasting while Rowan wanted to see the land, the tractors, and the Australian sheep dog. The wine there was SO nice, and the people were even nicer! They gave us a personal tour of the warehouse and even helped us plan our next morning in Roseburg. It was a beautiful experience! ...Other than one man asking my tasting notes after each one, and being put on the spot I kept saying "uhhhhh... this one is bold" (whatever that means.)
DAY 4: Thanks to our Hillcrest friends, we set off to the Wildlife Safari after getting breakfast and a big ticket discount at the hotel. Cha-ching! Rowan loved seeing the animals near our car, especially the deer (pictured) who came up and let us pet him. Then there was this situation with some Emus thinking we had food... Let's just say I did not handle it gracefully (panic + flail + accidentally slapping Rowan). Other than the rude, freaky Emus though... the scenery and animals were so great. At the end we stopped and saw the walk-around and petting zoo area, and then the clock struck car-nap time again!
DAY 4 (cont.): Welcome to California! The drive into Jedediah Smith was incredible! Other than the 400 RV/trailer parks we passed on the way... Rural America is the exact same no matter where you are, people, don't be fooled. It was amazing though... mystical trees and crystal-teal water that my menial photography skills could never do justice (especially from the car window).
At first we had a bit of trouble finding the trail head to Stout Grove, because we thought a sign was pointing to it when it was really pointing to turn up ahead. We got out and naively hopped down this steep-as-crap, narrow trail before realizing it went nowhere but to a small stream. Then we realized, um... why would a trail head in a state park EVER look like that? So after we located our common sense, we climbed out of that false trail and found the real one across the river and further down the road.
We hiked the River Trail to Stout Grove, and it was unbelievable! The pictures turned out pretty cool, but the experience was seriously heavenly -- and I don't think I've described anything using that word ever before! I know that I teared up, and the hike felt so short because all we could do was be in awe of every sight and keep saying "woooah.". A man even commented, "Oh! You came from River Trail, you've been hiking a while!" And I thought, "Huh? No way, wasn't that just 5 minutes?"
Either way, the trail was very easy and family friendly, and Rowan loved running around in the grove, checking every hole in the ground for "ssss" (snakes), and yelling/grunting at the big trees. The driving time was a little more confining than we had expected, but it was so very much worth it.
After the Redwoods, we drove to our next AirBnB just back over the state line of Oregon. It was kind of one of those "this place looks fine enough and it's a good halfway point" situations... But I wouldn't ever stay in Brookings, Oregon ever again. It would've been much better to just stay in the car a tad longer on the 101 to make it to a cuter town. But since we were basically just sleeping, all was well (and we did have a hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which was a little trade-off for not having great restaurants to choose from for picking up food.)
DAY 5: Our AirBnB hosts did offer some local farmer's market fruit and breakfast items, which was nice, and then we hit the 101 again to travel north. The weather was perfect, and we found a spot to enjoy the beach, explore, and have a picnic. It was really difficult to pick which beach area we wanted to see, but we chose Whales Head Beach before Rowan got too sleepy in the car.
The walk down to the water was short and was only difficult in a couple muddy spots. We explored a small cave, Zack found pieces of kelp that looked like Indiana Jones whips, Rowan stacked and threw rocks, we found a gigantic snail and picked some wild succulents. I was obsessed, and the succulents made it home and are still alive too!
We did NOT want to leave this spot, but we had to keep going to stay on schedule. Then remember those muddy spots on the trail? Well Zack said I was being too careful and to just use some speed to make it up that part so I wouldn't sink in. Last time I checked I didn't marry a mountain goat, but you would've thought I did. When I tried to mimic his steps, I busted it faster than a clumsy baby elephant. I seriously don't know how he managed that hippity-hop up the slippery mountain without a fleck of mud, but I ended up very muddy.
Since we were all a little sandy and (some of us very) muddy from the morning, we weren't being overly cautious about where Rowan was stepping in his boots -- and then he found an enormous mud pit. By that point it was too late for the rain boots, and why we didn't remember them initially must be due to some of our common sense we lost on that fake trail the day before.
DAY 5 (cont.): After de-mudding everything and changing clothes in the car, we hit the 101 again towards the Sea Lion Caves. Along the drive I wished we could've stopped probably 47 times for photos, but Rowan had that car-napping going and too many stops risked waking him. So we drove on and admired the incredible ocean views in silence until lunchtime.
The Sea Lion Caves were very touristy, but it didn't matter! There were so. many. SEA LIONS! Rowan was going crazy with excitement, and the views and waterfalls were amazing too. Other than losing Rowan and Zack in the cave for a bit with a brief panicky moment, we all really enjoyed this spot! "They did not fall off the cliff. They did NOT fall off the cliff. WHERE are they?! Did they fall off the cliff?! Note: Do not go here if you have an aversion to the smell of fish... like 30,000 fish.
DAY 5 (cont.): This night was my favorite night of the trip, when we basically struck toddler-travel GOLD! In Yachats we stayed at The Drift Inn where our room was on the top upstairs level and the restaurant down below. Those lovely people let us order all of our plates of food and drinks and desserts at the bar and carry them right up to the kitchen area of our room! So while Rowan slept, we just ordered and feasted on amazing seafood and cheesecake -- room service with no dumb prices! We even had a giant window with a view of the ocean across the street, so it couldn't have been better..
DAY 6: If the night before had been the ultimate stroke of luck in parent-travel, the next day was the day of Murphy's law. Everything was perfect through our breakfast and coffee at The Green Salmon and exploring the Yachats beach, then before we could get packed up and in the car for driving-naptime, Rowan fell asleep. We hurried as fast as we could, but our trip so far had clearly worn him out, because there was no turning back or waking him up. He was conked. Our plan for the day was to explore Rogue Brewery in Newport, but if he was still sleeping we would just forget it and go on to Salem as plan B. Well little did we know, but the plan B should've been more like a plan D, because Salem was one big struggle bus to find something good to do on the fly.
I'm not trying to bad talk Salem, but our one restaurant idea there had a two hour wait, and so we really were just flying by the seat of our tired little pants. And then after leaving Salem, we got stuck in traffic and the GPS went coo-coo bananas! AND THEN our phones were dying, because we had been in the car for a century! So I'm sitting there scribbling directions from google maps into my calligraphy journal so we don't get lost forever in Boring, Oregon! HA!
Finally... somehow... we made it to Multnomah Falls. It's another big touristy spot, but I was just so happy to see it and be out of that car! Plus, it was beautiful!
Overall, we had an incredibly cheap trip full of beautiful sights and adventure... all with a toddler in tow. The only things I would've gone back to change were:
1. Don't forget your coat (although I wouldn't have bought the awesome new one - so que sera sera.)
2. Don't forget a car charger, even if you are only driving a little (you could get lost or in traffic!) 3. Don't skip nap time, but maybe cutting it short wouldn't be the worst thing if you are going to have a whole day's plan undone.
*BONUS* Don't ever schedule the 5:30AM flight back home. We totally cut it too close thinking it wouldn't feel so early to us central-timezoners and almost missed our flight... Oopsies! (We even stayed at the airport Aloft, which gave us a false sense of proximity I guess.)
And if seeing the Redwoods isn't a giant, bucket-list type of motivation for you, maybe skip merging that with a first-trip to Oregon. If it is an exciting thing to tack on, maybe extend this itinerary to 10 days for more time to explore in each area.
Has anyone reading this ever road-tripped to the Redwoods the other direction from San Francisco? What should be on our Oregon/Northern Cal list if we ever go back?
Happy Adventuring, y'all!
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