Well, they let us into the U. S. of A. It helps traveling with a Kiwi, they’re liked in every country. I also become flustered when I go through customs so thank god Tim was there to do the talking; when I was asked where I was going I answered, “America, obviously”.
We were arriving just before one of the most celebrated days in the US calendar: July 4, Independence Day. Sadly we weren’t in a party town like Chicago, Miami or New York on the most American day we could experience, we were in a sleepy holiday town on the North Oregon coast, Cannon Beach. But more on that later…
We’d spent our first full day in America doing what American’s do best: buying stuff. We had to buy all our camping equipment for the weeks ahead – yes, we’re planning on spending the next month in a two man tent, give or take a few nights – so we hit the big retail stores; Sportsman’s Warehouse, Dick’s Sporting Goods and arguably our favourite store in America, Walmart. That first day we went to three Walmart stores. It’s great, not just for the people watching (which is fascinating) but you can buy everything and anything. And after you shop you could get a haircut, get your eyes checked, play some arcade games and swap your loose change for notes, all in the same store. Only in America.
Typical – you come to the US and get seduced by retail.
The first night we found a camp spot through Air BnB, at the back of someone’s remote property, along the Kalama River, north of Portland. A beautiful spot and very secluded, there were two log cabins out the back of their land and then a small site to set up a tent, which is where we were. It wasn’t much but a good place to rest our weary heads for the night.
The following two nights, we were in the Cannon Beach area.
Trying not to spend too much on campsites (private campgrounds usually charge around $30-40 USD a night) we looked for a free spot. We found one but for free, you had to hike to it. Aptly named ‘Hikers Camp’, we walked six miles up into the forests of Ecola State Park, situated north of the beach, wrapping Tillamook Head. The hike follows the ragged coastline through thick forest until you reach Indian Beach, a surfers hub, then it’s uphill the last mile or two.
Was it worth the hike? Meh. We had a pretty cold night’s sleep – perhaps more our fault for buying very thin sleeping bags! Was it worth it for a free nights accommodation? Yes! And we had an awesome sunset.
We descended back into Cannon Beach town on July 4 to a sea of red, white and blue. We sadly missed the town parade and couldn’t find the firemen who were supposed to be handing out free hot dogs (much to my dismay) but we did get to explore the cute beach town, chat to some locals and watch families and friends celebrate their day with bbq’s in their gardens, bonfires on the beach and of course, fireworks. We had the most spectacular sunset that night too.
From Cannon Beach, we headed south along the coast, then inland, with the aim of getting to Crater Lake National Park. One thing we couldn’t fail to notice is a number of pickup trucks, so big that some of the door handles are at the same height as my head. Every time we drove into a campsite, it felt like we were the only ones not invited to the pickup truck party.
Low and behold, as we pulled into Pine Meadows campground, just out of Cottage Grove, we were the odd ones out again. It seemed that everyone had at least two pickups per site, some with an RV too, a speedboat, 4ft queen-sized air beds…and the kitchen sink. The size of each camp site is enormous, so really there’s no reason why they can’t bring their entire house with them. Our little two-man tent looked a bit pathetic in comparison.
Other idiosyncrasies we noticed about American camping is that no one seems to wash up after dinner, instead, they bring paper plates and cups to use once and throw away. It’s also the norm to buy table cloths for your picnic table, usually branded with your football or baseball team logo so that when people walk past it strikes up a conversation: “NICE season guys!”
We stayed at Pine Meadows for a couple of nights. The elderly couple who ran it were adorable and it just had a really nice family feel about it. We found a good trail too where we could swim in the creek. The water was so clear, albeit icy, you could see fish swimming in the pools around you. A fly-fishers heaven.
Whether you raft, fish or float, it’s easy to find a slice of outdoor adventure among the many wild and scenic rivers in Oregon.
Crater Lake was impressive. We walked a fairly easy trail away from the lake for some magnificent views but unfortunately, we couldn’t finish it as there was still snow on the path! The Cascade ranges, down to Crater Lake saw a huge amount of snow fall this winter. There were still massive snow piles around the lake which was bizarre as it was hot and we were walking in shorts and t-shirts.
And that concludes our first week in the U.S. of A. The officers at customs may be notoriously frosty but once you’re granted entry into the land of the free, the people are far from that. Americans are so friendly, you know their name within 2 minutes of meeting them and they’re always interested in where you’re from and what you’re doing in their town. Perhaps it’s because Brits and New Zealanders are usually reserved in nature, it’s a nice change meeting some extroverts who are happy to talk for hours and go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
See more photos from Oregon here!