West Coast Road Trip

November 2016

  1. Seattle
  2. Cloverdale
  3. Gold Beach
  4. Fortuna
  5. Point Reyes
  6. San Francisco
  7. Mount Shasta
  8. Crater Lake

Day 1: Seattle, Washington to Cloverdale, Oregon

We’re headed to San Francisco for Eric’s work, but we’ve decided to make it a multi-day road trip rather than a quick flight so that we can stop and see more of the beautiful places along the coast.

As we drove south, we encountered rain… lots of rain! So much rain that some parts of Route 101 were closed earlier in the day because of high water. We were lucky to get through. Good thing we didn’t go by motorcycle, as we were originally thinking!

It’s Thanksgiving today, and we had an unhealthy but tasty dinner at some dive restaurant by the beach. It wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by any means, but we definitely felt thankful to have each other and the freedom to travel. There’s nothing else we ask for.

  • Accommodation (1 night): Motel in Cloverdale (we don’t recommend where we stayed)

The weather was stormy when we arrived at Cannon Beach.

By the time we got to Cape Kiwanda, the weather had improved a bit.

Day 2: Cloverdale to Gold Beach, Oregon

We had much better weather today, thankfully. This stretch of the Pacific coast includes lots of winding roads, scenic overlooks, and beautiful beaches. The rock formations (“haystacks” and “needles”) jutting up out of the ocean just off shore are really spectacular.

Bandon Beach

We drove south on Route 101, which follows the Pacific coast.

Day 3: Gold Beach, Oregon to Fortuna, California

Remember the forest moon of Endor, where the Ewoks battled stormtroopers in Star Wars Episode VI? Well, today we got to see where some of those scenes were filmed, as we hiked among the enormous redwood trees of northern California. We also saw herds of wild elk… much closer than we expected!


Our visit to the Redwood National Park brought back memories of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi . Some of that movie’s scenes that take place on the forest moon of Endor (where the Ewoks lived) were filmed in the general area we visited. As we walked among the trees, we imagined we were riding fast-flying speeder bikes, hovering just above the ferns, leaning side-to-side as we threaded our way through the narrow openings between the trees. We hummed music from the Star Wars movies, getting strange looks from other visitors in the park.

It’s not surprising that the Star Wars crew picked this location for the movie. The coast redwood trees (a kind of sequoia) are the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching 379 feet (115.5m) in height. They also live a long time — the average redwood lives 500 to 700 years, but a few are thought to be 2,000 years old. Walking among these giant ancient trees, we felt tremendous respect for nature and all its beauty.

The Redwood National Park was created in 1968, and the UN declared it a World Heritage Site in 1980, so this beautiful forest is well protected now. This was not always the case, though. These ancient trees used to occupy a very large area in northern California, but due to uncontrolled logging, by the time the area was declared a national park, only 10% of the original growth remained.

We owe it to our future generations to protect what’s left.

In the Redwood National and State Parks.

Day 4: Fortuna to Point Reyes, California

We got an early start among the redwood trees of the Avenue of the Giants. Then we drove California’s twisty Route 1 along the coast, stopping for some great photo-ops at Bowling Ball Beach around sunset.

From the headlands south of Mendocino, we hiked down to Bowling Ball Beach.

No wonder it’s called Bowling Ball Beach!

Day 5: Point Reyes to San Francisco, California

This morning we explored the historic ranches and rugged coast of Point Reyes National Seashore. Then we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, where Bea enjoyed the company of friends Jani and Warren while Eric went to work. Thanks to Jani and Warren, Bea also got a true Thanksgiving dinner.

We stopped at Point Reyes just before reaching San Francisco.

We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to arrive in San Francisco.

Day 6: San Francisco, California

While Eric was working, Bea explored San Francisco with Jani, then joined another friend, Sylvia, for dinner at Zuni Café. Eric and Sylvia’s husband David arrived in time for dessert.

The Transamerica Pyramid.

Day 7: San Francisco, California

After work, we hiked down to Marshall’s Beach to shoot photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, and we were treated to an amazing sunset.

Day 8: San Francisco to Mount Shasta, California

We enjoyed some “quality time” together while stuck in traffic on our way out of San Francisco. We’ve started our northward journey, going inland this time rather than the coastal route that we took on the way from Seattle.

  • Accommodation (1 night): Airbnb in Mount Shasta (we don’t recommend where we stayed)

Day 9: Mount Shasta, California to Crater Lake, Oregon

We drove past Mount Shasta, then drove through winding roads through the mountains, all the way to Crater Lake. There was plenty of snow when we arrived, so we went for a snowshoe hike along the rim, and although visibility into the volcanic crater was dramatically reduced when it started snowing heavily, we loved our walk in this winter wonderland!

Mount Shasta’s peak was a bit shy when we drove by.

Day 10: Crater Lake, Oregon

We lucked out! The weather cleared, and we had an epic day of snowshoeing and photography at Crater Lake.

Crater Lake

Llao (god of the Below World) used to live beneath Mount Mazama. Sometimes, he would pass through a hole and climb to the top of the mountain, where he could almost touch the sky, where Skell (god of the Above World) lived. One day, while standing on top of the mountain, Llao saw Loha, the beautiful daughter of Skell, and fell in love with her. But unfortunately for him, she rejected his dark nature. Llao became very angry, and a long and furious battle between Llao and Skell ensued, resulting in the destruction of Mount Mazama.

In the end, Skell defeated Llao, imprisoning him back in the underworld beneath Mount Mazama. Later, Skell covered the dark ash that remained with water and peace was restored. Crater Lake had been formed.

This story from the Native American Klamath tribe, from 6000 to 8000 years ago, describes the eruption of the Mount Mazama volcano and formation of Crater Lake in a much more interesting way than scientists can.

The nature around Crater Lake is absolutely stunning, and we’re glad that President Theodore Roosevelt declared it a National Park in 1902. Today, Crater Lake has some of the cleanest waters in the world because there are no local pollutants and no rivers leading to it.

Hydrothermal activity is still present, so Mazama may erupt again in the future. Hopefully, Llao is well buried in the underworld and doesn’t attempt to escape again!

Wizard Island emerges from Crater Lake.

Day 11: Crater Lake, Oregon to Seattle, Washington.

We spent a long day driving home today, giving us a good opportunity to reflect on all the great experiences of this trip.