We were long overdue on a trip to Portland, Oregon. Over the years we’ve met so many friends who’ve lived there or who were moving there. It always sounded like a place that we would love. And we did!
Portland is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, so food was our number one priority! Of course our first stop had to be the super-famous Voodoo Donuts! They have regular and vegan donuts there. I never used to be a huge donut person, but somehow in the last couple years I’ve become a super-fan of these creamy, dreamy delights. With their funky creative looks and flavors, Voodoo did not disappoint.
The rest of our two days was spent mostly wandering around seeing some of the sights and eating more. Highlights were vegan chicken wings (really!) from Fire on the Mountain Buffalo Wings, shopping and coffee and pie from the Vegan Mini Strip Mall (which consists of a coffee shop, a grocery store, a vegan clothing boutique, and a vegan tattoo shop), ice cream from Salt & Straw, and the most amazing vegan pizza ever from Virtuous Pie. Seriously, go there.
We also enjoyed checking out all the amazing street art around town! We especially loved the Alberta Arts District where we each found a mural of our favorite animal that perfectly matched the shirt we were wearing. Crazy!
Oh, and Portland also has a vegan strip club, which we didn’t have a chance to make it to. I guess it’s great to be able to support veganism no matter what other activities you’re into!
We took a break from the city one morning to drive down the Columbia River Gorge, checking out several beautiful waterfalls along the way. We ended our drive at Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, a PCT and road bridge spanning the river and crossing into Washington state. Sadly, about one week after our visit, the whole north side of the gorge area was set ablaze in a careless human-caused wildfire and the views will never be the same.
Back in Portland, we drove up to Pittock Mansion to watch the sun set over the city. Our visit was too short so we’ll definitely have to go back for more someday!
As soon as we entered Oregon we could tell that this thing was going to be huge. Every car was loaded down, tents and coolers strapped to the roof. The Great American Eclipse, as it was being called, was turning small towns across the nation into giant festivals with fields full of thousands of campers. Several years before, a few farmers near Madras, Oregon had noticed that the eclipse would pass right over their fields. More than 5000 campsites were sold just in those fields, with other farmers hosting similar events nearby. We arrived on Saturday in the evening; the big event to happen Monday morning. The place was already a mad house and I believe we took the last available space, with many more people circling for spots. Solar Town was the name of our event and Solarfest was happening in the town a few miles away. We were already super efficient and competent campers so we had ourselves some chuckles at everyone struggling with their new tents. The town was simple with portapotties and free showers, along with a variety of food vendors that we never sampled because of the long lines and our tight budget.
We had fun meeting our neighbors and even got to hang out with our friend from home Kelly, who ended up being camped in the next field over!
We made a short video about our experience so you can get a taste of what it was like. We didn’t actually get a shot of the eclipse happening because we didn’t really try to. We wanted to be fully present. But you can see Solar Town and see our reactions to the wonder! We both cried when totality happened. There was nothing that could have prepared us for those moments. If you ever get the chance to witness an eclipse, DO IT!
Entering Oregon was something we were super excited for. Carrie hadn’t been there yet, so it was her 44th state. Headed towards Crater Lake National Park, we found a free campsite in a quiet spot on the shores of Klamath Lake and set about relaxing for the afternoon. We had been using a site called FreeCampsites.net which was hit or miss. Make sure to read the reviews and find recent ones. The sky was again smoky from distant forest fires which created a cool haze. After dark we had to escape into our tent because the mosquitoes were intense.
It the morning we got an early start and made our way north, passing through beautiful empty spaces. Getting close to Crater Lake National Park we passed many cyclists racing up to the lake. It looked like a fun ride, but grueling. Our first view of the lake was very impressive. I had been here before as a child and enjoyed it then just as much. My family tells me stories of how I talked about it for weeks.
Crater Lake was created almost 8,000 years ago by the collapsing of a volcano. It is the deepest lake in the United States, at 1,949 feet deep. There are a couple of beautiful islands, Wizard Island being the most prominent. We drove around to the north side, which took a lot longer than expected but was a stunningly beautiful drive.
We parked at the top of the Cleetwood Trail, the easiest way to the bottom. I had also heard from my father many times about how he had to carry my brother and I back up this trail after the whole family went to the base. It was much easier now with full-sized legs. There trail was just over a mile one way and we were quickly at the bottom. The water was icy cold still even though it was August, but Carrie just had to get in so she cliff jumped off an awesome rock. You’ll see it in the awesome trip highlights video we are making! You can never complain about blue blue water and rocks, no matter how cold.
On the way out we joined the traffic headed north for the big event. It was eclipsing time and we were pumped. Stay tuned for stories from Solar Town…
After fighting traffic jams of rented RVs in Yosemite, we were ready to get away from the crowds. DO NOT GO TO YOSEMITE IN AUGUST!!! We had learned a valuable lesson and the smoke was choking us out anyhow. Leaving a few days early, we headed northward and decided to use our extra few days to check out the lesser-visited Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. The drive in was through beautiful forest and we were so happy to just not be in a cloud of smoke anymore. This was a terrible year for wildfires and it had affected our trip greatly. We found an awesome campground just outside the park and set up for a relaxing afternoon. Our Prius (Rock Crawler) was packed full of fun toys to keep us entertained while camping, from slack lines to hammocks we were well stocked with fun.
In the morning we drove into Lassen Volcanic National Park. There were very few people, but a few of the major attractions were closed because of the amount of snow still covering the paths. We saw a random geyser on the way in and could smell sulfur in the air. The views were insane and we were relieved to see that the hike up Lassen Volcano was open despite there being snow taller than me around the parking lot. The hike was steep and relatively empty when we started.
At the top there was still tons and tons of snow. We looked into the crater and saw some adventurous snowboarding ladies whom were about to ride all the way down Lassen Volcano after hiking to the top.
Seriously, don’t come here. Lassen Volcanic National Park is terrible and there are bears that eat Europeans and have learned how to open RV doors.
We ended up in Mt Shasta early. After climbing around Bishop, we made our way through to Yosemite National Park which we were super excited about. However, once in the park we realized that all our plans had to be thrown out the window because the Yosemite Valley was full of smoke from nearby forest fires.
We spent two nights camping and doing what we could (not much so we caught up on some work) but then decided to cut our loses and head for northern California where hopefully the air would be cleaner. The drive was beautiful and we covered some new territory that we had been looking forward to for a long time. In the shadows of Mount Shasta we drove around looking for free camping. We were hoping to find a spot at the free campground near Crystal Lake but they were all full. Finding space would become a battle for the next few days with everyone on the west coast traveling through on their eclipse-bound road trips. We were doing the same so couldn’t be too mad, so we jumped in the amazing lake and felt instantly better.
Refreshed, we drove a few miles away into the forest where there was lots of free dispersed camping. We found a nice spot near a river with lots of grimy hippy kids. These were like the people we are used to seeing sleeping on the beach in Ocean Beach, San Diego, so we weren’t too bothered by them. After being there only a few minutes a Forest Service ranger pulled into the area and about 10 of the hippie bums casually walked off into the woods, warning us as they went that the cops were here. Eventually the ranger came and walked through our camp, telling us to we might want to camp elsewhere. We didn’t find anyone threatening and kept to ourselves as did they. Our only complaint was that their drum circle that lasted til 2am. They were actually really good musicians, we just weren’t into it at the time. This was our introduction to Mt Shasta Norcal hippies.
The next day we payed for a campground with showers and laundry and enjoyed Lake Siskiyou by renting a stand-up paddleboard for the first time ever. Mt Shasta was beautiful in the background and we hoped to come back later to hike the mountain.
On our last day in the area we hiked the McCloud River Trail, an easy, scenic hike which takes you by three different waterfalls, each with its own swimming hole and cliff jumps. We didn’t end up getting in because the cold mountain water was just too frigid! We couldn’t do it. It was great just to stick our feet in and admire the powerful waterfalls.
The eastern Sierras offer an abundance of outdoor activities and climbing was our main goal for this leg of the trip. Bishop bouldering and climbing is some of the best in the world, and the town was a great home base for exploring the area. We Couchsurfed with a very nice guy named Doug who showed us around town then left for work for four days. It was very generous of him to let us take over his house for that time. Gotta love Couchsurfing! Having just climbed Mt. Whitney, Doug’s house was a perfect place for us to rest our tired bones. I set up my solar panel out back and we made nice meals. Life was grand.
Before leaving on his work adventure hauling oil from the Nevada desert to Long Beach in southern California, Doug drove us around the small town telling us interesting facts. He told us about the Lone Pine earthquake around the turn of the 19th century that left the whole valley to the south 30 feet lower. He also told us about how Bishop could never expand because of the fact that all the land around the town is owned by Los Angeles County. Great amounts of water flow in from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the spring and summer, accumulating in the lakes and rivers around Bishop. This water is collected and diverted into aqueducts that carry it more than 250 miles to the dry metropolis of L.A. It seemed wrong to us, but what do we know.
After Doug left for work we drove north towards Mammoth and checked out a few hot springs near the Mammoth Airport. First we found Wild Willy’s, which was awesome at first but then a van full of adolescent French kids interrupted our scenic soak. But there were more springs down the road and we found a cool group of people at Hilltop Hotsprings, a small pool with an amazing view. Everyone soon left except a guy who owned a ski shop in Mammoth Lakes. We talked about forest fires, as one had ignited nearby. He explained his idea to drop giant fireproof tarps over the fires to extinguish them. Sure, dude.
On our second day in Bishop we headed back towards the north looking for a recommended climbing crag called Clark Canyon. We got off road for a long time then realized we went the wrong way in. Around the other side of the hills the road got bad and we took our rock-crawling Prius to its offroading limits. The area was remote and probably a lot prettier before recent wildfires had blackened most of the trees. Just when I though we could go no further, about six miles and an hour through dirt, we came to the parking spot and geared up. The rock was fun volcanic tuff and we climbed a few routes. Several ways up I found some sketchy bolts and had to downclimb, but in general the area was great and we soon found ourselves worn out and headed home.
For our third day we headed to the famous Happy Boulders near Bishop. Bishop bouldering is extremely hot in the summer, so we got out there around 8 to avoid the heat and quickly found lots of fun rocks. There were hundreds, if not thousands of problems and we hung out for a few hours sending a few popular routes such as Heavenly Path, a great rock with a scary 20+ foot top out. We wore ourselves out early again and relaxed through the hot afternoon, making dinner and catching up on some TV shows. It sure was great having our own house.
Our last day in town we wanted to do some more climbing but all the spots around Bishop had some kind of issues, so we got up in the dark and drove south to try to tackle more routes in the Alabama Hills area near Lone Pine. We wanted to send the Shark Fin rock around sunrise to capture the classic picture of the climb with Mt. Whitney in the background. It was a fun climb and we got the perfect shot. Afterwards we went to the Tall Wall near the Meat Loaf Campsite. This was my first 100+ foot lead climb– super nerve racking but the adrenaline was well worth it. We climbed a little more nearby then went and found a fun chimney but it was nearing 100 degrees and we were tired so we hit up the Pizza Factory lunch buffet in Lone Pine and drove home to nap. We were finally feeling safer climbing and it was great. If only we had a few more months to bum around the States we might actually be good! But this would not be the trip that we became climbing pros, Alex Honnold your title is safe for now.
Enjoy reading about bouldering Bishop? Stay tuned for tales of our adventures in Yosemite, Northern California, Oregon for the eclipse, and back to Black Rock City for the infamous Burning Man!
We had been trying to get a permit for hiking Mt. Whitney for years. This year we finally won the lottery and got the chance to hike to the highest point in the lower 48 states. We picked up the permit the day before at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center then drove up to Whitney Portal where we would camp for the night. It was an amazing campground with huge boulders and even bigger rock walls. The area was always full, but a nearby stream of icy mountain water blocked out the sounds of other people. We packed our big backpacks, ready to wake up early and adventure upwards.
The morning came fast; the adrenaline had already kicked in making for anxious sleep. We packed everything we wouldn’t be carrying into the car then, after putting our extra food into a bear box, we started hiking Mt. Whitney Trail. There were lots of hikers, mainly very friendly people. The trail wove its way up a steep canyon and eventually leveled out to high lakes with constantly flowing water. There were many creek crossings where we had to rock-hop through deep, streaming water. We were especially glad for our trekking poles at those times! Soon we were among the snow piles, still melting from the hard winter. We saw chipmunks and very fat marmots, waiting to score a snack off an abandoned backpack. It was only six miles to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet so we made it around 1pm, the summit above us and cold lake beside us. We set up our tent and got water to filter. With our boots off we spent the afternoon lounging, hydrating, and reading. We felt strong and had great feelings about making it to the top.
The alarm went off at 5 and we were out at 5:30. Dawn was already creeping over the horizon, so we left our headlamps at Trail Camp and started up the infamous 99 Switchbacks. There was running water over some of the paths and when you took your feet from the water to the rocks your feet would become instant ice-skates. Good thing it wasn’t any colder. We wore hats and gloves; it was cold but the air was still and since we were well trained we powered up the switchbacks as I sang “99 Beers On The Wall…” in my head, to surprising accuracy. We thought the name “99 Switchbacks” was a joke. Nope, there are really 99 of them. Hikers going up were in all shapes, mostly doing pretty well, but a few seemed to be struggling with altitude sickness. We finished the ‘backs and entered another area called the Pinnacles, I think. This was the stage where you merge with the John Muir Trail hikers to summit for the finish of their weeks-long adventure. The trail zig-zagged behind the peaks with some amazing views of the inner Sierras and nice drop-offs to the opposite side toward camp. Carrie thought that it looked like an ancient castle, long worn down by weather. The final section was up the back of the peak, sometimes jumping rocks and following a new path near the end as the old was still snowpacked. Up, up, up until finally around 9:30am, the peak of the Stone House, more than 100 years old, inched over the horizon and then the world was below us and a cliff of nightmares and we had made it!!!!!!! 14, 496 feet, the highest peak in the lower 48 states! Everyone was overjoyed, we kissed and sat near the edge and soaked in the moment. We signed our names in the register with everyone else and didn’t linger, it was a long way down. Hiking Mt. Whitney sure isn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done.
Back at Trail Camp we packed our tent and were out of there by 1pm. The way down was easy but we took it slow, avoiding injury. We felt accomplished, the world was ours! Since we were done hiking Mt. Whitney we needed a new mountain to conquer. Any ideas?
Enjoy our post about hiking Mt. Whitney? Check out our other posts from backpacking in California HERE and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject