2017 Summer Recap: Part 1 – May & June
We covered a lot of ground this summer – both in terms of miles and experiences. In addition to exploring new parts of the country, we also had opportunities to spend time with good friends and family, as well as chances to meet other travelers on the road. I really want to get this blog back up to date, so I’m going to focus on just major destinations where we spent greater lengths of time. Enjoy!
Neither Ryan nor myself had ever explored the Pacific Northwest before, so visiting Oregon and Washington was a top priority while on the west coast. As we were already taking Highway 5 up from California, we decided to start by exploring Eastern Oregon before tacking west to check out the Portland area.
Crater Lake National Park, OR
Where we Stayed: Williamson River Campground / Collier Memorial State Park
After talking to several people we had met on the road about things to do in Oregon, we decided that seeing Crater Lake was something we definitely didn’t want to miss.
Even though we were visiting in late May, there was so much snow surrounding Crater Lake that most of the area was still closed off. We didn’t know it before visiting, but Crater Lake National Park receives an average of 40+ feet of snowfall every year. After seeing snow drifts that were easily twice as tall as our bus and buildings that were still buried up to their roof-lines, we definitely believe it!
Due to the amount of snow on the ground, we could safely explore only a small area around the lake, but even that was enough to leave us impressed. Crater Lake has a reputation for being one of the bluest bodies of waters on the planet – and with good reason. The brilliant blue color of the water is truly exceptional.
Where we Stayed: Deschutes NAtional Forest
The small city of Bend has been on my radar for some time given the amount of coverage it gets in publications like Outdoor Magazine as a haven for outdoor recreation. AND it just happens to be home to Deschutes Brewing Co. – the team of brewing geniuses responsible for one of my all time favorite beers. So, of course we had to visit!
The thing about Bend that we hadn’t realized until seeing it first hand is quite how posh and upscale it is. We weren’t quite expecting so many higher-end stores, restaurants, and businesses, nor as much traffic as we encountered. Also unexpected was how much the city planners of Bend seem to enjoy building roundabouts. While traffic circles may make sense for cars, driving our oversized bus through endless roundabouts got a bit old after the first five or six times. We were able to find free parking at The Pavilion, which served as a convenient place to leave the bus while we set out to explore the town on foot and on bike. This parking spot was also conveniently close to Deschutes Brewery, so we made the time to take a free tour of the brewery and sample some new beers.
We spent 10 days in total in the Bend area and found some fantastic camping spots in the national forest just a short drive outside of the city. These were essentially just pull-offs along relatively active logging roads so it did make for fairly poor driving conditions. On the positive side, the area where we camped also happened to be adjacent to several very popular and scenic mountain bike trails – giving us plenty of opportunity to ride the bikes during our stay.
Where we Stayed: Jantzen Beach RV PArk / Clackamette RV Park
Portland was another place we were keen to explore given its reputation for preeminent weirdness, and after over a week of camping in the national forests, we were also craving the excitement and energy of a city. Driving our bus through any large city is always it’s own special breed of stressful – and Portland was no different. The RV park that we stayed at on Hayden Island was very tightly packed and crowded (our least favorite type of accommodations), but it was the closest we could get to downtown. After sitting through rush hour traffic and arriving late on our first evening, we were too wiped out to head into downtown Portland, instead opting to bike over the Columbia River for pizza and beer at a restaurant in Vancouver, WA.
The following two days, we opted to pay for rides with Lyft instead of biking into Portland. Once in the heart of the city, we spent hours walking around the Alberta Arts District and the Mississippi/Williams neighborhoods. All of that walking definitely stirred our appetites, so we did the only sensible thing and subdued our growling stomachs by grabbing dinner and drinks at the nearest brewery.
We also had a chance to stop by the International Test Rose Garden, where we saw how Portland earns its nickname as the Rose City.
After Portland, it was northward to Washington state.