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Byways before highways

Posted by: | June 24, 2018 | 2 Comments |

To get to Oregon (specifically the northwestern coast) from my home state of Colorado, there are a number of different forms of transportation. You could fly to Portland and then either take a bus to wherever you need to get to, or you could pay an obscene amount of money for a short thirty minute to an hour flight to your destination. It is also possible to take a multi-day train ride from Denver to Portland, but that it is almost as much as (if not more than) a plane ticket. This leaves driving as one of the best options, if you have the time, as it gives ease of travel throughout Oregon. Therefore, this is exactly what I, along with my family, did just over a week ago.

While it is possible to reach coastal Oregon within 20 hours, we chose to take a slight detour and stop at Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park for a few days. I could go on and on about the bison in Yellowstone, the moose in Grand Teton, watching Old Faithful erupt, the amazing colors of the Grand Prismatic, or even the number of ways I intentionally tried, successfully, to annoy my sister throughout the four days (road trips are long, what was I supposed to do??), but instead I want to talk about the joys of America’s byways and the importance of taking “some old back road” as Rodney Atkins sang about in 2011.

It was not until a small bookshop in Jackson, Wyoming that I found these byways laid out in a National Geographic book. Much to the sometimes ambivalent hapiness of my family, this book became our new road map as we finished the road trip and over the last seven-ish days, I have seen three of these byways – SH-31 in Idaho and SH-30 & the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway (SH-101) here in Oregon. Since this is a blog about Oregon we are going to leave out the SH-31 from here on out…sorry Idaho.

State Highway 30 stretches throughout a large part of Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge. Despite the fact that I-84 does run directly into Portland and offers spectacular views of the Columbia River, it doesn’t allow the ability to see the surrounding area’s history. The drive is slightly more strenuous as there is a great deal of moving uphill and downhill, but is a stunning drive complemented by old stonework barricades lining the road and tunnels built during the early 20thcentury. One of the highlights is The Vista House outside of Troutdale. This viewpoint was once a place for travelers to stop off and rest and continues to do so all while offering a sweeping view of the gorge to both the east and west. While there are many tourist spots throughout this drive, the small businesses, some which are run out of resident’s gardens and front yards, were some of my favorite stops – including the small berry market where we got a snack and the lavender farm where we picked bunches of flowers.

View of Columbia River Gorge from The Vista House (looking westward)

The drive on SH-30, while steep, is quite rewarding

The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway is not only more relaxing than I-5, which is full of drivers who fail to understand that not driving twenty miles over the speed limit is not wrong or obnoxious…in fact it is called following the law, but it is also provides many great places to stop and view the Pacific Ocean and get healthy servings of seafood. Just north of Newport is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, accessible for a small fee (or free with the annual National Park Pass, which I strongly recommend to anyone who is outdoorsy). Due to limited time – yeah I know that is ironic/hypocritical given everything I’ve said – I did not take the guided tour of the light house, but instead walked down and around the tide pools below the lighthouse. Having grown up in a family that liked seafood to a degree that made it unhealthy for anyone standing between us and a bucket of mussels, I had to stop and get some during my drive. Therefore, for lunch I stopped at a roadside shack and got fish tacos. It is hard to say it was fast food when I had to wait thirty minutes for my takeout given the lunch rush, but it was well worth the wait. The scenic byway ended in a spectacular view at the top of a hill from which I could see Cannon Beach, my home for the next few months, and Haystack Rock.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Oh yeah I almost forgot, my internship for the summer is working with Haystack Rock Awareness Program where we discuss with visitors the biodiversity of the intertidal zone surrounding Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and where I will be performing human dimension research, but that is a “Song for Another Time” (great country song by Old Dominion that I recommend to everyone and anyone).

Never a bad day on the beach!

So don’t forget byways > highways…when you have the time to spare.

 

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