We left this morning knowing, barring any weather set-backs or grand side-adventures, we’d make it to our destination: our new home on the Pacific Ocean. We took our time getting out of bed, showering, and packing, because this would be the shortest drive of the trip. We loaded the cats into our rented Nissan Rogue and got back on the trail.
I’m sure there’s some bias sneaking in to these feelings, but I think Oregon’s scenery has been the most beautiful of all the places we’ve passed through. Take it for what you will, we’ve definitely seen some amazing scenery just about the whole way. But, I just feel drawn to the scenery here more. Allyson commented on how the Eastern Oregon mountains were her favorite so far. She loves the rolling green grass of the mountains here dotted with patches of tall evergreen trees. As we left the valley with Baker City, it began to snow large flakes and a fog set in, probably some of the most difficult driving of the trip, but still nothing that felt dangerous.
The snow quickly gave way to rain, and we would have rain for most of the day. It seemed fitting, since this is probably the norm for us in winter and spring (maybe even fall, I think). It was never a heavy rain that made you have to slow down. The only time I turned my windshield wipers about intermittent was when we got behind some bad big rig trucker spray.
The cats have behaved about as good as I could have hoped. Outside of the little one, Moises, waking us up in the middle of the night squeaking and pacing around the room, and the big one, Shylock, wanting to get on the dashboard, they have mostly chilled out. No pee, no serious scratching, no cat fights. In fact, today there were moments where they both laid on Allyson’s lap and even seemed affectionate to each other. Normally, they don’t like that kind of personal space invasion by the other, but today they reached an uncommon comfort level. Has this trip actually served to mellow them out? Is being in constant contact with us some sort of soothing balm for them? Or, are they just road cats at heart?
The last leg of the trip followed the Columbia River Gorge, a place where the Oregon Trail meets up and follows the final leg of Lewis and Clark’s route. It was such a cool feeling to me that Allyson and I were another in the line of people who have traveled this route to its endpoint. How many people have made their way on foot, in canoes, wagons, trains, and cars to get to this beautiful destination, bending down and kissing the ground after such long distance?
On top of that, the Columbia River Gorge is ridiculous gorgeous. We were essentially driving through a fjord, with tall green mountains on each side, with dark, black and brown rocks jutting out from them. The rain lifted midway through our time on the gorge, and we were treated to scenes of these beautiful mountains bathed in swaths of fog, like some giant painter had lightly brushed grey-white paint across the landscape.
About 20 miles outside of Portland, we passed Multnomah Falls, one of the tallest in North America and a site we visited when we came to Oregon for the interview in December. For me, these falls were one of the first arguments on the trip saying, “You would be an idiot not to live here.” Allyson and I spent the morning before going to Camp Magruder to begin the interview process walking on the trail leading to the top of the falls, gawking at the scenery of the gorge, the trees covered in moss and ferns, and of course the crazy gorgeous waterfall. Passing the falls, Allyson noted that we had entered parts of the route that we had been visited before. We were now on familiar territory that we had memories attached to. We were entering something we at least knew a little, that we would eventually know very well. We imagined taking all our friends and family to these gorgeous sites, so they could feel how we fell in love with them, how we couldn’t resist. What fun it will be to show them all these wonderful discoveries.
We ate lunch in downtown Portland at Mother’s Bistro, and it was yet another great meal. I had a pork loin pannini and Allyson had pancakes. We sat next to the window, watching Portland traffic and watching Shylock, in our car, looking at the Portland traffic. We didn’t talk too much, partially because we were worn out from the cumulative effects of driving, partially because we’ve talked a lot on this trip, and partially, I think, because we were both just trying to take in the idea that we would drive two more hours and walk into our new home.
We made the final leg through Tillamook State Forest, yet another stretch of road full of more scenery than your eyes can possibly take in. We followed the Wilson River into Tillamook, the city where we’ll often get our groceries and go out to eat. It was only a 15 minute drive up the coast on highway 101. We passed little ocean towns, each with a distinct personality: Bay City, Garibaldi, then Rockaway Beach, our new home. We drove under the camp sign and up to the welcome office. As we got out, I noticed I still had some dried mud on my shoes that I picked up at the Oregon Trail site yesterday. There’s a lot more we’ve picked up and carried along the way, stuff we probably don’t quite realize yet. For now, we’ll make our new home more ours and listen to the sounds of ocean waves making their way to their journey’s end. We’ve ended our journey at the beach too, Pacific Ocean.