September was another fun filled month and fall was in the air. We were stunned by the sunsets and views along the Oregon Coast and really appreciated the warm weather in California.
Towards the end of this month we started to experience for the first time a small hint of burnout. We’ve had many discussions what it’s from...maybe we are trying to do too much, maybe we need to slow down, maybe we are becoming less grateful of the amazing places we are visiting each day, or maybe we are becoming cynical and can’t handle the crowds of people, who knows. Thankfully the feeling only lasted a day or two. We just needed a little rest time to rejuvenate ourselves. Either way, looking back on the month it was spectacular!
1) Spending Time In Astoria, OR
Astoria, OR is a darling coastal town and gave us a chance to regroup and catch up on photo editing, blogs, and random things in life we need to keep up with. We found an adorable coffee shop at the end of a pier overlooking the ocean called Coffee Girl. We spent many hours here enjoying warm drinks and spectacular views. Not a bad spot to sit back and relax.
On this same pier there was a guy selling fresh Dungeness crabs out of a huge water tank. We bought a crab chosen by the seller who wrapped it in newspaper, threw it in a box and sent us on our way. We went to a local neighborhood park up on a hill overlooking beautiful homes and the Columbia River below. This is one of those moments we can look back on and smile with appreciation. We smile because we ate a 5 star meal that was pulled out of wet newspapers, in the middle of a city park, using a cast iron skillet that was too small, on top of a camp stove. This is a great example of the “randomness” you experience on the road and the things you find yourself unexpectedly doing.
The ocean sunsets seem to last forever and never disappoint. Michael tried his first light painting photo here overlooking where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
2) Spending time with Old friends in Cannon Beach, OR
It was such a treat to get to spend time with our friend Lindsey Harrison. Even though we hadn’t talked in ages it felt like we could pick right back up where we left off. Always a good sign of a true friend! Since Lindsey now lives in Portland she was able to meet us in the adorable town of Cannon Beach, OR. This place is pretty amazing. Even though it’s touristy it has a lot of charm and the views are to die for!
We went for a great hike in Ecola State Park, hung out on the beach and snapped some great sunset photos. It has always been a dream of mine (Katy) to have a fire on the beach and we finally got to do it here! People were spread out across the beach with their fires and when you looked down the beach you could see a scattering of tiny lights.
This made for a special night and an extremely memorable one for Lindsey. Memorable for Lindsey because she decided to sleep/camp on the beach in just her sleeping bag. We retired to our respectable home - the truck - rather than joining her. Lindsey was woken at 1:00AM by a police officer kicking her off the beach. We were all cracking up about it the next morning as Lindsey told us what had happened over a cup of coffee. While recounting the story of the bright squad car lights on the beach, the police officer assuring her that she was being videotaped, and her dog barking she was still coated in sand, literally coated all of her hair and on the side of her face. As Lindsey put it, "Dude, he had a truck with lights that a spacecraft would have. I never saw his face." I’m laughing just writing about it now.
3) Watching the sea Lions in Newport, OR
Newport, OR was another one of our favorite coastal towns and made for a great stop. We found an excellent new restaurant in town, Clearwater, where we grabbed dinner and watched the sea lions below barking away. It’s pretty hilarious how they all start going crazy out of nowhere and then go silent. They are out on the docks just below the pier 24/7 so you can’t miss them.
4) Exploring the Oregon Sand Dunes
We had only ever been to the Colorado sand dunes once before and the Oregon sand dunes did not disappoint. They are HUGE too! It’s easy to get lost just roaming around these vast dunes. The hiking out there is tough and the sun gets hot but it feels like you are in a different part of the world when you are walking on the dunes.
5) Driving the Oregon Coast
Now that we have completed pretty much the entire 101 and Highway 1 drive we have decided the Oregon coast was our favorite. The coastal line is full of lava outcroppings, white cliffs, huge monoliths, gorgeous blue water, less crowded and less developed, and some of the best sunsets. To top it all off we saw Grey Whales swimming just off the coastline.
There is something dreamy and romantic about seeing lighthouses along the coast. We have seen more lighthouses this month than ever before in our lives, especially growing up and living in landlocked St. Louis/Denver. Each lighthouse is unique and surely carries many stories of their own.
6) Seeing the Magnificent Redwoods
Redwoods National Park was a place we had both always dreamed of visiting. We had seen pictures and heard of how spectacular the Redwoods in Northern California were, so we were super excited to check them out.
We found ourselves bumping into each other as we walked through the Redwood forests looking straight up into the sky. These trees are HUGE! I always love how trees symbolize wisdom and life, and when you are standing below these enormous trees you feel a true appreciation of life all around you.
As a bonus after our hike we came across a loaded blackberry bush! We filled two bowls full and had them for dessert later. Nothing tastes better than a freshly picked, juicy blackberry! We learned that it was legal to pick one gallon of blackberries daily per person in the National Park. I hope that drives the magnitude of how many blackberries there are in this area. Some of us (Michael) found it extremely hard to stop picking berries and walk away. There were just so many supple, delicious, perfect berries...
7) Best Weekend in Napa!
All thanks to our long time friend James Allen we had one of the best weekends in Napa Valley. We tasted numerous wines from the region that were too classy for us, we learned more than we understand about wine, and we got to catch up with old friends which was the best part of it all.
This was such amazing and special experience we plan to write a blog just about this day.
8) Quick Stop In San Francisco
Since we had so much land to cover and we had already visited San Francisco we decided to make it a quick stop. We met Michael’s old roommate Brooke for lunch at one of our favorite SF spots - King of Noodles in the Sunset neighborhood. We ate amazing dumplings and afterwards grabbed bubble tea. So good! Thankfully we were able to spend more time with Brooke and Matt Gridley later in the month (see below).
9) Riding Bikes In Beach Towns Along The Coast of California
We always get a little nervous about having our bikes on the back of the truck but having them around is so convenient. Riding along the coastal towns in California is a ton of fun and a great way to see a lot of the coast where cars can't go.
One of our absolute favorite stops along the California coastline was Monterey and Carmel. This region is GORGEOUS! We did one of the most scenic bike rides of our lives through this area. There is a road that goes along the coast from one city to the next called 17-Mile Drive. You pass by the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, huge mansions and white sand beaches.
10) More Fires On The Beach in Carmel-By-The-Sea
Like I said earlier, fires on the beach was always a dream of mine! In Carmel we had the chance to do it again! Carmel is a very upscale beach town and we were totally surprised they even allowed fires on the beach.
We had the perfect setup. They have these large fire pits along the beach in designated areas you can have fries. We luckily snagged a spot a little before sunset and had a picnic on the beach, watched the sunset, stayed warm by the fire, and as a bonus there was a live band playing at an event just 100 yards away. It was one of those perfect evenings we will always remember.
The two photos below are trippy...we know. Even though it looks semi-bright outside you can see the stars in the sky. This is all possible by a long shutter speed on the camera and a full moon.
11) Driving the Coast Through Big Sur, CA
Driving through Big Sur is the classic California coastal drive. It has the perfect backdrop for some incredible photos. Getting to the Bixby Bridge again was another spot we had always seen in photos and were super excited to see for ourselves!
We drove just a little past the bridge, pulled off to the side, unloaded the bike, and Katy rode down a section of Highway 1 and across the bridge while Michael tailed behind in the truck. I (Katy) had a smile on my face the whole time!
12) Exploring Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are AMAZING! We learned about this National Park from our fellow traveling friends, David and Tracey. Somehow we had never heard of it before, even though it’s a National Park in California. This place was such an experience we also plan to write a blog about it in a little more depth.
Basically you should go there! It’s a chain of islands off the coast of Ventura. We chose Santa Cruz island which is loaded with epic hiking, coastal cliff views that are more impressive than Big Sur, abundant sea kayaking with more sea caves than you can visit, and “baby” foxes all over!
13) Visiting Pita In Los Angeles
We were really looking forward spending time with our friend, Pita, that we originally know from Colorado Springs. Pita currently lives in greater LA area where she grew up. This was a really refreshing stop. We were able to spend time with Pita’s family, eat incredible home cooked meals, relax on a couch, sleep in a real bed, do laundry, play with her new puppy, and get entertained by her 3-year-old sister! Pita was kind enough to take us out on the town to see some of LA’s highlights. We miss getting to see Pita more regularly but are so proud of her for pursuing her dream to become a professional female MMA fighter!
14) Backpacking In Yosemite With Matt & Brooke
One of the things we love about Matt and Brooke is that they are always up for an adventure. Matt and Brooke are Michael’s old Chicago roommates (they currently live in San Francisco) and it's always a blast meeting up with them because they are super active and love to explore new areas. It was last minute planning but on a Friday they hopped in their car and drove from San Francisco to Yosemite and we headed up from LA.
The four of us did an excellent one night backpacking trip into the backcountry of Yosemite. We started at Tuolumne Meadows area (north-east section of the park) and hiked 9.5 miles out to Emeric Lake. The fall colors were setting in and the hike was really pleasant. We camped out near the lake and spent the evening star gazing. Katy was too cold to stay out for night photos (per usual) and went to bed early.
Thanks Matt and Brooke for meeting us on the road and planning a great backpacking trip! Until the next adventure!
15) Exploring Highway 395
Besides driving along the coast this was one of the most scenic drives we did in California. Highway 395 is full of adventurous opportunities! A few highlights we enjoyed were soaking in the Travertine Hot Springs, driving the June Lakes Loop, and watching the sunset at Mono Lake (all incredible recommendations from Matt & Brooke).
16) Seeing The INFAMOUS Half Dome
It’s always such an amazing thing seeing something for the first time with your own eyes that you have heard about your entire life. You see pictures of these iconic places all over and then you get to see it yourself.
Once again the bikes came in handy. We rode our bikes around the valley and would recommend this to anyone wanting to take in the whole valley in an afternoon.
We also got super lucky and somehow by last chance luck snagged a campsite in the valley. If you have never been there Yosemite Valley it is a zoo! It is packed with tourists and getting a campsite without a reservation 6 months in advance is tough. We showed up around 11AM, put our name on a huge waiting list and were told to come back at 3PM for a lottery drawing. We showed up just after 3PM and they had already started the drawing. They were on the last spot to give away and there were still 15+ people standing around hoping to get the spot. They called out two names, both of which were not present, and by a miracle they called out “Katy Lane” for the last camp spot. We got in!
While waiting in line to receive the reservation (this happens after the lottery drawing) we met some great people. First we met Will and Rochelle, travelers from New Zealand who told us all about their 1.5 year adventure driving from southern Argentina to northern Alaska in 2014. Then another couple that was desperate to camp in the Valley asked us if we would share our campsite with them. We didn’t mind at all. They turned out to be super interesting and were the ones who inspired us to hike Mount Whitney (more to come on this later).
It was a really fun evening sitting around the picnic table at the campground and exchanging travel stories, which always inspire Michael and me to want to explore more and more areas! We discussed New Zealand, South America, and Nepal. Naturally we now want to travel to all of them!
17) King’s Canyon National Park
With it being the 100 year anniversary of the National Parks we have felt so lucky to visit so many of the parks in just the past 3 months. We knew very little about King’s Canyon and it was a treat. The 2nd largest tree by volume in the world is there - General Grant Tree. We drove down through the Canyon and did a nice 9-mile round trip hike to Misty Falls.
18) Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park has some of the oldest and biggest trees in the world, including the largest tree in the world by volume - General Sherman. Again we were completely mesmerized by these giant trees. Just being in their presence makes you feel itty-bitty.
We like to look back on the month and think of some lessons we have learned. One lesson, visiting old friends while on the road is the best! It rejuvenates you and reconnects relationships that can fade over time and distance.
One aspect of long-term travel is the lack of a constant community. Getting to visit with multiple old friends along our trip is so nice and it just feels good to see a familiar face. We love meeting new friends as well but there’s just something extra special about picking up with old friends, even if you haven’t talked in a long time.
Until next time - keep it funky, keep it fresh, and above all keep it fun!