Westward Wanderlust Day 13
July 22th, 2012
I awoke feeling like I had not slept. Last night’s experience can be summed up with the following phrases: “Where the hell is the highway?” and “You have GOT to be kidding me!” I shall explain. After our delicious meal at Hopworks Urban Brewery, we debated where/how to rest our heads for the night. We were tired, full, and decidedly ready to turn in for the evening. However, since we were in the middle of a densely populated urban area, we couldn’t exactly pull off into the woods and camp. We considered prepping the car for sleeping, but again, in the middle of a big city, on what seemed to be a lively Saturday night, a lone car in a parking lot is not exactly inconspicuous. We decided to grab a cheap room at the Motel 6 next door and crash so we could get up early and get on the road. I ran next door to grab a room and was unexpectedly greeted with the news that the Motel 6 was full. Ok, fine. No problem. This is Portland, population 593,820. There must be an abundance of hotels, right? Yes, there were. And every one of them was booked. What big event were we not aware of? Was the rodeo in town? Maybe. Were seven brides with enormous families marrying seven brothers all on the same weekend? Doubtful. A convention of the seediest Scotch drinking, Newport smoking, loud laughing, gold jewelry clad, men with exquisitely manicured, spiked-heeled girlfriends? Unlikely…though you could have fooled me.
D drove aimlessly through the neon framed night as I pointed to signs and desperately searched for locations of hotels on my cell phone. D pulled up to the entrance of every hotel, motel, and dimly lit establishment that didn’t have a sign denoting the status of the hotel’s availability. I poured out of the car and trudged to countless front desks, which ranged from your standard hotel lobby, to small rooms just large enough for a desk, computer, television and oscillating fan, to a drive thru-esque window with no door and a piece of paper taped to the wall with the word “No” hastily scrawled with a faded red marker. Each time I was faced with the same look of pity mixed with surprise. What? People don’t check in to hotel rooms at 1:00 am on a Saturday? At this point, we were ready to sleep anywhere. All we wanted was to get out of the city and to the highway. At least then we could follow the highway to a rest stop SOMEWHERE. Of course, by now we had gotten ourselves so turned around in this urban maze and were so tired that we couldn’t figure out how to get the hell out!
“No Vacancy” was the popular signage until about 2:00am or so when blurry-eyed and balancing on our last nerves, we finally found the highway and located a rest stop. We rolled victoriously past lines of sleeping semi-trucks and a smattering of cars with fogged windshields. The rest stop was one of the largest I have ever seen, three cement buildings and three double-wide parking lots deep. We drove to the back of last lot, parked, and made just enough room in the car for us to pass out.
After a few hours of sleep, we woke a grey rainy morning. Of course, having parked on the back forty of Oregon’s largest rest stop, the only bathroom that was open was the one furthest from us. Naturally. After an eye-opening sprint in the rain to the bathroom, we were ready to face the day. We rearranged the car chaos that tends to happen when you are rifling through everything in your sleep, and were on our way.
We started south in Hwy 5 toward Albany, then peeled off at Hwy 20 and headed toward the Pacific Ocean. The road wrapped through dense patches of trees, dipping and curving through towns like Burnt Woods, Eddyville, and Elk City. We took our time as we meandered our way to the ocean. The weather had cleared up since we left Portland and it was turning into a bright sunny day. As I navigated the narrow road, we skirted the edge of the Siuslaw National Forest and crossed the Big Elk River. Our destination was Newport and The Rouge Brewery.
Anyone familiar with Rogue’s beer knows that there is a sense of humor and fun in what they do. The décor inside the brewery and restaurant did not disappoint.
We enjoyed a delicious seafood melt lunch special, noted by D in our journal as “cheese coated crab on British biscuits. YUM. (w/IPAs)”.
On our way out, we of course had to stop in the shop and pick up a few brews to try later. Though we both prefer IPA’s as you may have guessed, Rouge has so many curiously tempting brews, we couldn’t help but purchase a few to bring along, including:
We continued on our way and followed Hwy 101 down the coast toward Cape Perpetua.
As we continued along the coast, the day covered herself in the cloudy quilt she had spent most of the morning under.
We turned east at Hwy 38/138 and headed for Crater Lake National Park. The Moody Blues called us on, lending a pastoral soundtrack to our voyage.
It was obvious that even though we were following winding, wooded roads that seemed to be removed form the modern world, there were still some risks ahead…aside from the dreaded “Left Turn Ahead”.
The sun hung low in the sky as we approached Crater Lake. Cloudy cover cast aside once again, the day made one last nod to her kingdom and retreated beyond the horizon.
It was 57 degrees, 8:20 pm when we entered the park. The light was gradually fading as we followed the cliff-side road to the lake.
We were hoping to get at least one look before nightfall. We made it just in time.
As the sun disappeared, leaving behind a pastel veil, the wind raked across the water. The wide ripples swept the surface, swiftly shifting the lake through shades of blue; cobalt, indigo, cerulean, and grey.
We continued to driving around the lake, racing nightfall for photographs.
Before it became too dark to see, we were able to catch a haunting glimpse of one of Crater Lake’s best-known and most curious features, the Phantom ship.
Soon it was dark and we were once again faced with the dilemma of where to sleep. We wound through the darkness surrounding Crater Lake, looking for somewhere to stop for the night.
The intense darkness of the night seemed impenetrable. We could barely even see where the pull-offs were along the road. Finally we found a spot that seemed to be off the beaten path (which is difficult since the road is basically just a circle around the lake, with few picnic and parking areas) and parked for the night.
As we got out of the car and began building our bedroom in the backseat, we realized darkness was not the only thing a Crater Lake night had to offer. The sky was overflowing with stars. I have been many places and seen many a beautiful starry night, especially in the North Woods of Wisconsin, but this was something else. Since there was only a mere suggestion of a crescent moon and no clouds at all, the night belonged to the stars.
The unbelievable beauty of the night sky at Crater Lake is due to a few factors: it is an isolated area surrounded by a large amount of protected, natural land; there is no light pollution from any surrounding cities or traffic; the chance of cloud cover is low in High Cascades of South-Central Oregon during the summer; and there is a low density of tree cover. As a result, the sky is teeming with bright, glimmering stars.
The temperature had dropped by 10 degrees or so, so we hurried to make our bed so we could lay back and look at the stars. Since we don’t have a moon roof in our car, we made our beds backwards, heads against the to back hatch window so we could gaze at the amazing canopy of lights. I couldn’t get over the amount of stars we could see, as well as the intensity of their shine. We nestled together in the back of the car, and stared at the spectacular sky. I felt like we were the only ones gazing up at this quiet, distant beauty. Like the stars had come out just for us, and were shining brighter than they ever had before, reminding us that there is undisturbed wildness beyond what we can touch, tread on, or capture. There is a certain awe and majesty to the things we cannot reach. The things we cannot define. The unknown spaces of existence that are so much bigger than anything we could ever imagine in our most untamed and extravagant fantasies. And there we were, looking straight in to the eye of the untouchable splendor of the anonymous night. I slept with my glasses on, eyes to the shining sky, until sleep tempted them shut.
Westward Wanderlust Soundtrack Day 13-
Portland to Newport – “Wooden Ships” Crosby, Stills, & Nash,
A smattering of Weird Al Yankovic via D.J. D
East on Hwy 38 toward Crater Lake – The Moody Blues
Entering Crater Lake National Park- “TB Sheets” Van Morrison
Winding through the darkness around Crater Lake – “Crazy” Alice Russel