August 18 thru 19, 2018 Beautiful morning! With the exception of loud, exaggerated, late-night vomiting by neighboring tenter, accompanied by weird as shit cheering by his fellow campers, slept ok. Slowly packed up, had couple great coffees and visited with Tracy, kiddos and Diane, who knows the area very well. She gave route tips and suggested a stop in Florence. Their plan was to hit the Dunes and it sounded exciting.
Drove along 101 for less than an hour when I landed in Florence. Found a parking spot off the street, locked up and hit the pavement. It’s obvious this ocean-side town relies on tourists in the summer. This town is colorful with flowers and plants and all kinds of fun shops with souvenirs and art. I bought Secret Aardvark black bean sauce at Homegrown Deli, fleur-de-lis measuring spoons at the Chicken Coop for Sarah’s new home and a happy, springy pelican magnet and postcards at the Beach House Gift Shop. The wood chimes with a beaver, starfish and shells, and the table feature with petrified wood were my favorite.
Considering where I was, I definitely wanted seafood. Rather than hit the busy tourist spots, I went to the docks and boarded the floating Novelli’s for their ‘award winning’ fresh crab chowder with garlic bread. It was fantastic and the small bowl portion was perfect. They sold live and iced-down crabs and had their fishing boat, Midnite, ‘parked’ in front.
Out of Florence, I left 101 to 126. There were a few dirt devils that popped up in the fields. I stopped to the west of Eugene, in Veneta, to fill up ($2.99/gal) and merge on 99, as suggested by Diane. About an hour later, I hopped on I-5.
Around Portland, I located the free, 12-hour rest area where I initially planned to stay. It was close to the highway, clean, surrounded by trees, with lots of available parking and coffee/tea available for park donation of any amount. Murphy’s law, I was too wired to relax! Hopped over to join the crazy traffic on 84, which stressed me out and made me ready to stop less than an hour after leaving the rest area. Unfortunately for me, the parks I checked out were either full or closed.
Drove into Cascade Locks, just past Bridge of the Gods, and pulled into a Motel. Rates were $129-$139 and I told the woman it was too steep for me. When I asked about tent camping in the area, she offered a good discount for room in back and I accepted. It was like an apartment with a personal patio. Win!
Gave my watermelon bought from street-side stand to a man who helped guide me into the awkward, tiny parking space; he lives on property in a trailer with his wife and daughter. Went to a cute place for a beer and pizza, but left after 20 minutes no service.
There were several people hanging out in the liquor store parking lot; decided I wasn’t really in the mood for beer. While walking around mindlessly, I came across a rock water feature. It was actually part of a person’s yard, within inches of the main road. I sat on the street bench close to it; loved the sound.
Across the street at Bridgeside Restaurant, there was a great view of the Bridge and Columbia River and the concrete bridge pillars have incredible paintings of Native Americans, mountain scenery and wildlife.
Walked back to the room, showered and called it a night. The window unit screeched every now and then, but it was too warm to turn it off and too pooped to really care.
Packed up and left my little ‘apartment’ after sunrise. Considered checking out the Locks, but carried on. Although the drive along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area was smoky, there were some gorgeous sights. Stopped in Hermiston, less than an hour out, for a few gallons gas ($3.09/gal) and Starbucks coffee, and again in Hood River at Walmart for salad, bananas and a coke. Called ahead to check availability at Hell’s Gate State Park, spoke with Asa, and continued east.
In Arlington, OR I stopped at a rest area off 84E at the Port of Arlington. The park was down the steps from the restrooms and very pretty. Lots of people and kids were having picnics and a few were swimming. Walked around by the water, exchanged a couple books for a new one in the little library box, and talked with a vet who sat on the ground next to the restrooms. He asked passersby for small change, while he drew pictures on a large tablet. I asked if I could join him, then chatted for a while. He explained how he landed and got stuck in Arlington and was waiting for the VA to come through for new teeth. I was glad I had a few foods he could eat and couple small bottles of OJ. Wished him well and continued on 84.
Dreary, smoky drive. Found a spot off the highway to pullover and walked down the embankment to the water. The haze covered the water, as far I could see. Caught a video of butterflies as they floated up from the reeds I walked through. There were a few boaters and kids; otherwise, very quiet. Walk felt great, but I could feel knots across my shoulders and knew I needed some exercise. Swimming would rock!
Off 84, up 730 to 12E in Washington, the fields were waves of gold. Beautiful! Continued on 12E through Walla Walla (busy place), across the Tucannon River, to Pomeroy, into Lewiston, ID. I followed the signs toward Hells Gate and assholes rode my bumper like magnets around curvy turns. Did they pass me where they could? Hell no! Although I refused to drive like a bat out of hell, the situation fucking stressed me out and I was almost giddy to get to the park office. Met Asa and checked in for $26. He picked a nice site for me, no utilities, near the water. Set up camp and explored. Since I got my favorite sandals back that were mailed to Tracy’s, I wore them everywhere.
With a bit of weaving through the woods behind my site, I found an amazing spot of my own where I spent the most time; ate, smoked, updated journal and swam a lot. The Snake River runs here, downstream to the entrance of Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. This park is on more than 950 acres with lots of outdoor opps. Quite a few boaters passed my hermit-retreat spot.
Hung my clothes line, read, then talked with the couple next to me, a retired military man and his wife who spoke little English; enjoyed opp to practice Spanish and she was very patient. They have homes in Phoenix and Mexico and we talked about many things. Thankful for the intriguing conversation! At dark, I pulled on headlamp and took an incredible, long walk around the park, then sent some texts, talked to Brittany, Matthew and Mom before I crashed for the night.