When I set out on my road trip, I figured I was already going ridiculously far. Why not take an extra weekend to drive up to Canada? I heard a friend from college was in Vancouver, BC, on a business trip. Sold!
I made sure not to pack my car before going to Canada. After all, having everything I own in my car would look suspicious. I made sure to pack only what I needed for the weekend and headed north. I reserved a bed at a hostel and looked around for some nearby restaurants and coffee shops that would be suitable to meet my friend.
When I got to the border, I handed them my passport card. That’s it, right? Just swipe your passport card and I’m good, right?
Wrong. They asked me a hundred questions about why I’m going to Canada. They thought it seemed really suspicious that I was just going to visit a friend from college, have coffee, and hike around the city. They made me get out of my car and go into the office. I wasn’t allowed to bring my cell phone. They wanted proof of where I would be staying. And proof of US residence. But my driver’s license doesn’t count. And neither do reservations on my phone. After asking endless questions, including “What do you do for a living?” and “What happens if you get sick while you are in Canada?” I was informed that I would not be admitted into Canada. I was so pissed. All I wanted to do was visit a friend.
I turned around and headed back south. I pulled over into the first parking lot I saw and made a reservation for a hip beach hostel north of Seattle, then put it into my GPS. At that point, my GPS alerted me that this route includes a ferry, which stopped running for the night. I called the hostel and asked if there’s a way to get there without a ferry, and they said no. I asked to cancel my reservation, since I had no way to get there. They were very rude, and told me there was no way to cancel the reservation.
I found a seedy motel near the border. After being harassed that “it still counts as last night, even though you arrived after midnight,” I got to my room. Even though I was very upset and disappointed, I didn’t want this leg of the trip to be a waste. I was determined to find adventure, with or without Canada. With or without the beach hostel.
I heard that the popular soap-making website Bramble Berry had a storefront in Bellingham, WA not far from the Canadian the border. In the morning, I stopped in and took a self-guided soap-making class. Through what I learned at the store – Otion, The Soap Bar – I am developing an awesome handmade product that is just about ready for market testing.
After making soap, I headed back south to Vancouver, WA. (Not to be confused with my intended destination – Vancouver, BC.) When I got home, I packed my car as quickly as possible, and headed out for the rest of my trip. I didn’t want to talk to anyone because I would have been embarrassed to tell them I didn’t get into Canada.
I booked an AirBnB in Eugene, OR, and headed south. I had precious few plans. All I knew was that I wanted to see Crater Lake. I wasn’t entirely sure what else the rest of Oregon had to offer. I had previously only been to places that were a day trip’s distance from Portland.
I hit gold when I got to my AirBnB. My host was also an avid adventurer. She gave me enough Oregon adventure ideas that could have taken up an entire month! I had originally thought I would pass through Crater Lake on the way down south and then head straight to California. But I decided to take some of her suggestions. After all, I didn’t have to be in Dallas until the second week of November (and it was only the first week of October).
I decided to take McKenzie Pass to Sisters, OR, then heading south to the hot springs in Umpqua National Forest. I was excited about my little side adventure!
Shortly after I left Eugene, I lost phone signal. Most of McKenzie Pass was off the grid and far from civilization. It was unlike anything I had seen before. Mountains, forests, and lakes. I stopped at Lava River National Recreation Trail and the Dee Wright Observatory. Everything is covered in black lava as far as I could see, and it looked like I was on the moon. The Dee Wright Observatory is an ominous black tower that looks like something from the dark world of a Zelda video game, especially with the ominous overcast sky in the background.
After an amazing scenic view through McKenzie Pass, I finally arrived in Sisters, OR. I still didn’t have cell phone signal, and I could only find two restaurants that were open. I decided to head towards Bend for the night, since it wasn’t much further.
After having lots of trouble with hostels in Washington and not having luck finding affordable AirBnB options, I decided to go into town and stock up on camping supplies. I already had a hammock tent and lots of blankets. I mostly bought food that didn’t need cooking or refrigeration. Since many campsites in the forest don’t have running water, I stocked up on jugs of water just in case.
I headed back into the mountains towards the Umpqua Hot Springs. It was another long, scenic drive through mountains and forest. When I arrived, there was a short uphill hike from the parking lot to get to the hot springs, which made the trek to the hot springs even more intriguing. The springs look like natural hot tubs strategically placed on the side of a mountain. They overlook a river with spectacular views. I was warned that most people that visit bathe nude. When I got there, I saw that some people were nude and some wore bathing suits, but everyone kept to themselves.
On my way out, I looked for a place to change into dry clothes, but didn’t find anything. So I just headed south towards Crater Lake with my clothes on top of a wet bathing suit.
When I got to Crater Lake, I found out that the park was closed for the season. Luckily, some of the roads were still open. I drove through and stopped to take pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous! There was snow on the ground, and I was still wearing a wet bathing suit. Maybe that’s why people bathe nude at the Hot Springs?
As I was passing through, I realized I was almost out of gas. I was far from a town, and hadn’t seen any gas stations since I left Sisters. Luckily, there was a small town on the other side of Crater Lake. Highway signs said they had a gas station. When I arrived, I discovered that the gas station had closed for the night. It turns out they were also part of an amazing campground. I actually tried to plan a camping trip near Crater Lake, but couldn’t find anything that was open this late in the season. This place was much better than anything I could have planned for! I stayed in a campsite with snow on the ground, still in a wet bathing suit. But they had hot showers. I pitched my hammock tent in the dark with my headlamp, got a hot shower, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and went to sleep.
This was my first solo camping trip. I definitely wasn’t prepared for freezing temperatures, but it was one of the most liberating experiences in my life. All of those fears of what might happen when I’m alone (even though I’ve lived alone since I graduated college) disappeared. All of the chatter inside my head was silenced by the beauty and awe of the forest. I no longer worried about what other people would think about me or my trip, or if other people were trying to get ahold of me. It didn’t matter because I was far from cell phone signal. I could be alone in the woods and still be completely independent. I didn’t need another person “just in case” something went wrong. I was perfectly capable of handling it myself. It sounds obvious, but it was a defining moment in my life that I couldn’t have learned from any book, video, or conversation. I just had to experience it myself.
The next morning, I packed my car, waited in a long line for gas (apparently many others also spent the night waiting for gas), and set off for California.
On to California!
To view the entire photo album for this part of the trip, click here.
Road Trip series:
Road Trip Part 1: Cross-Country Road Trip: Washington and Oregon
Road Trip Part 2: Cross-Country Road Trip: California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas
Road Trip Part 3: Cross-Country Road Trip: Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico
Road Trip Part 4: Cross-Country Road Trip: Texas
Road Trip Part 5: Cross-Country Road Trip: Mississppi, New Orleans, and arrival in Florida