I graduated from college in Ohio in May. After four years in the middle of a state in the middle of the country, I convinced my boyfriend, Tyler, to embark on a road trip along the Oregon Coast. He agreed but asked if we could go inland for part of the trip.
“Inland?” I cried. “We just spent four years in central Ohio, why on earth would we go inland?”
He asked me to trust him, and I conceded. Maybe I could manage a few days away from the beloved Pacific Ocean.
The journey began in Seattle and after a few days in Washington we headed south. As we crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge, I knew:
Exciting things were waiting for me in Oregon.
The bridge itself is magnificent as are the coastal towns along the North Oregon Coast.
Our first stop was Cannon Beach, and we spent hours staring at countless colorful creatures in the tidepools below the imposing Haystack Rock.
After several days soaking in the gorgeous expansive coastline, we turned towards the center of the state. Tyler promised me that I would like the places we were visiting away from beach towns, but, regardless, fear sneaked into my heart. I watched the ocean recede in the rear-view mirror.
Our first stop was Mt. Hood. The sun streaming through our window immediately dissolved any sense of uneasiness I had about leaving the Oregon Coast.
The trees towered like giants.
Soon after, we reached the Columbia River Gorge and went on the most spectacular hike of my life.
The views from Eagle Creek trailhead were sublime; they both terrified and excited me. We sat on a bridge watching the river rush past hundreds of feet below us.
Towards the end of our hike we took a detour down to Punchbowl Falls, a massive pool fed by the gushing waterfall. After a sweaty, challenging hike, we waded into the freezing water and enjoyed a spectacular swim.
I was exhausted, but we were also exhilarated and committed to our schedule. We drove three hours after our long hike to Bend, a city famous in the Pacific Northwest for its extreme sports and extreme reverence for beer.
We arrived at The Mill Inn late in the evening and let ourselves in. The Inn has quirky touches like mugs embellished with skulls. Each room has a city theme; ours was New York. There are also comfortable, stylish sofas scattered around, perfect for lounging and quick naps. I wanted to have a late-night soak in the Mill Inn jacuzzi but it was not to be — we passed out as soon as our heads touched the pillows.
The next day, I woke up in Central Oregon at peace and excited for the day ahead. I admitted to Tyler that he had been right to drag me inland. “Told you so,” his eyes seemed to say.
As we got ready for the day, the enticing smell of fresh coffee and bacon wafted under the door. We got dressed faster and rushed to the dining room downstairs. My eyes widened at the sight of a gorgeous buffet. There were three different types of frittata, a massive array of fruit, yogurt and granola, garlic hash browns and sizzling bacon. If that wasn’t enough, a woman came up to me and asked if I would like a fresh waffle. Yes, yes I would. This was by far the best breakfast of our two-week trip. The food was fresh and flavorful. The waffles were slathered in caramel and bananas. I was sad to leave The Mill Inn and its generous breakfast spread, but excited for our next Oregon adventure.
We drove towards Crater Lake, a sleeping volcano in Southern Oregon that’s also the deepest lake in the United States.
Crater Lake looks like it is from another planet.
Everything about this place felt surreal, from the icy blue water that fills the lake to the 20-foot snow packs that cover the mountains in late spring.
I was struck by my immediate surroundings, but furthermore I was in awe of Oregon’s diversity. In the past three days I has been walking along the North Coast admiring tide pools, hiking up forested mountains, swimming under a waterfall, gorging myself on sticky-sweet waffles and now I was staring at a collapsed volcano. I realized in that moment how important it is to stray from the obvious comfortable path. Oregon’s beaches are gorgeous, but so are the parks, landmarks and inns away from the Coast.
Trust me, you want to go inland, too.