After our stay in Portland we traveled west along the banks of the Columbia River to Astoria where we would begin our journey south along the Oregon coast. Astoria sits at the confluence of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. Due to the massive flow from the Columbia into the Pacific entering and departing the river is often extremely hazardous due to the ever shifting “bar”. The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria is an excellent museum which provides a much deeper understanding of the maritime history of the river. The museum sits right on the bank of the river and has a retired light ship which can be toured as well.
From Astoria we followed the Pacific Coast Highway south as far as Reedsport before turning inland to visit Crater Lake NP. The Oregon coast is breathtakingly beautiful and pristine. The state of Oregon purchased the land along the coastline back in the 1930s. As a result there is no commercial development on the beaches and the entire coastline is dotted with state parks and recreation areas where you can camp with a view of the ocean and walk five minutes through the dunes to the beach. Most of the beaches range from three to seven miles in length with broad flat expanses of firm sand making for great walks along the shore. Temperatures this time of the year average around 65F as the high.
There are also a number of small beach towns lining the coast which offered us the opportunity to dine on fresh seafood and enjoy good coffee and tea during our leisurely tour.
The Oregon coast also has numerous smaller rivers emptying into the Pacific. We capitalized on this by kayaking on the Nehalem and Siltcoos Rivers. We particularly enjoyed the Siltcoos as we were able to kayak all the way to the Pacific.
We had never been to the Oregon coast before this trip but came away as big fans. We cannot speak to the summer season (crowds) but September is glorious. And, by the way, the sunsets viewed from the beaches here are magnificent!
When we last posted we thought we were heading to Eastern Oregon but…….98-100F temperatures in the Alvord Desert caused us to reconsider. Ultimately, we opted to head north to McCall, Idaho where the daily high temperatures were in the 80F range.
McCall is a summer resort town sitting on the eastern shore of beautiful Payette Lake and nestled at the southern base of the mountainous Payette NF.
The drive north from Boise on the Payette River Scenic Byway is splendid as the road winds north hugging the rapid filled Payette River.
We camped at Ponderosa State Park for the first couple of nights before heading up into the Payette NF ahead of the Labor Day weekend crowd. The night sky from our mountain top campsite in the Payette was absolutely stunning. We were transfixed by the enormity and brillance of the Milky Way, the consellations and the numerous satellites and rockets criss crossing the sky.
Additionally, our stay here was most pleasant since we were able to bike into town from our camping location at Ponderosa SP and drink cappuccino and tea and then cycle back to our campsite.
The highlight of our stay in the McCall area was our kayaking trip on the North Fork of the Payette River. We were treated to great beauty, solitude and the magic of observing deer and birds of prey along the banks of the river.
We honestly never thought we would spend three full weeks in Idaho but it is beautiful and the weather was perfect. Nonetheless, time to move on…..current plan is to head to Hells Canyon on the border of Idaho and Oregon and then explore the northeastern corner of Oregon.
Route 16A , also known as Iron Mountain Road, is a very exciting drive on a narrow winding road which climbs through and over Iron Mountain. The drive presents distant views of Mt Rushmore as you exit tunnels and from overlooks along the way.
Iron Mountain Road is only 17 miles long but has 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, three pigtails and three tunnels (pigtails pictured below).
Seeing this monument is far more impressive in person than the photos you have seen all your life. The history is just as fascinating as the entire genesis was to boost an ailing economy by creating a tourist attraction. During the 1920s the mining based economy in the area was ailing. Initially this effort was completely a private endeavor until President Coolidge became a supporter and pushed funding through Congress. Today the monument draws three million people annually so I would have to say that it was a heck of an idea. Fourteen years in the making and not a single worker fatality (obviously a former insurance underwriter)! 0040
Custer State Park
CSP is the largest state park in the United States and would stack up well against many national parks in regard to scenic beauty, wildlife and opportunities for recreation (hiking, biking, horseriding, kayaking, canoeing and ohv). 0038,0039
Mickleson Rail Trail
This 109 mile trail runs through the heart of the Black Hills NF. The trail is the former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad which came about as the result of the gold rush which started in the 1870s. This particular line was abandoned in 1983.
We biked several sections of the trail and were treated to many spectacular views and the opportunity to bike through rock tunnels and across numerous trestles. 0037
Arriving in Traverse City marks our completion of the 117 mile long M22 which follows the Lake Michigan shoreline of the Leelanau Peninsula. The M22 is a beautiful scenic drive offering great vistas of Lake Michigan and the Grand Traverse Bay. 0014,0015
Traverse City Coffee Scene: Higher Grounds + Planetary Coffee. We have been disappointed with a number of the coffee roasters/shops in Western Michigan. Arriving in TC has brought us a couple of notables with Higher Ground Coffee Roasters and Planetary Coffee (serves Half Wit beans). Erik Harms owner and barista (pictured below) at Planetary is a long time roaster having previously roasted at Higher Grounds and the well regarded Dogwood Coffee in Minneapolis. Erik has provided us with several recommendations for the UP which we are excited to try over the next week. 0015,0016
Biking the Leelanau Rail Trail TC-Sutton Bay-TC. 0015
Hiking the dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Camping at Leelanau SP. 0014
Kayaking on the Pere Marquette near Lake Michigan. 0013