Category: California

Cross-Country Road Trip: Mississppi, New Orleans, and arrival in Florida

Cross-Country Road Trip: Mississppi, New Orleans, and arrival in Florida

I found a free campsite in Louisiana on I-20 near the Mississippi border.  I stopped in Shreveport for dinner and restocked my camping supplies.  On my way to the store, I saw a homeless man with a puppy standing on the corner.  I remembered I got some dog food samples at the picnic, so I parked my car and talked to him.  I gave him the dog food and told him about the picnic.  He told me I definitely need to get a dog.  Great advice!

The campsite was near a boat ramp.  I found the boat ramp, but couldn’t find any campsites nearby.  It looked like it was a residential area.  Afraid of accidentally ending up in someone’s backyard in the Deep South, I decided to abandon this campground.  I found another one about 30 minutes down the road in Mississippi.

This one was a bit further from the interstate but it seemed like my best bet.  I arrived around 11pm.  I found the bathroom, got ready for bed, and went to scope out a campsite.  After circling around, I found the perfect campsite to accommodate my hammock tent.  Using my headlamp, I pitched my tent in the dark.  I grabbed some blankets and laid in bed reading before falling sleep.

When I woke up, I saw light shine through the trees.  Two yellow leaves fell from branches above me.  This was my first glimpse of Mississippi in the daylight.  It was beautiful!  I loved being surprised by the scenery in the morning.

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Morning view from my hammock at the free campground in Mississippi

I stayed in my hammock for a while before getting up.  It was so peaceful laying there, watching the leaves fall above me.  I felt so refreshed.  This was one of the best camping sites I’ve ever been to.  And it was completely free.

I packed up and got back on the road.  Before I got to Jackson, I stopped at a local convenience store to get some snacks.  As I was getting into my car, I saw that a cashier had followed me and was calling out to me.  He must have been 17.  I looked at him and he ran towards me, “Hey!  I was just wondering if you have a boyfriend or a husband?”

I ignored him, quickly got in the car and left.  I was so frustrated and repulsed.  Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in my life.  I wish men would stop being creepy.

From Jackson, I headed south and didn’t stop until I got to New Orleans.  When I arrived at my hostel, I parked on the street and headed inside.  Everyone was very nice and very friendly.  This is the type of hostel where you can sit in a room with a bunch of strangers and instantly become best friends with everyone.

I hung out for a bit and chatted with people from Paris, New Zealand, and Australia about their travels around the world.  After a few hours, I decided it was time for dinner.  I looked around and found a restaurant called “Tacos and Beer” that was only a block away!

I sat at the bar and ordered some tacos to go.  As I was waiting for my food, I found out it was karaoke night.  I was not interested – I was waiting for my food so that I could take it back to the hostel and eat.  Then the DJ called out to me.  He must have seen me sitting at the bar and thought I was drinking, because he told me it was my turn to sing.  I told him no thanks, I was just waiting for my to go order.

“That’s ok, you can sing while you are waiting on your food.”

Ok, he got me there.  I looked through his books and found a song I HAD to sing! Lonely Island – “I’m On A Boat.”

The restaurant was completely empty except for a party of 6 or 8 sitting in the back corner.  As I started singing, they all got up and hit the dance floor, singing and dancing along with me.  I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to turn an empty bar into a party in less than 3 minutes.

The next morning, I talked to the owner and asked for suggestions on where to go.  New Orleans was one of Aaron’s favorite places and it was my first time there.  The owner was very happy to give me suggestions on what to do.

I hopped on a streetcar towards the French Quarter.  I got off near downtown.  My sister-in-law said she spread some of Aaron’s ashes by the water, so I had to find that place.  I walked by Harrah’s and the outlet mall towards the water.  I got some frozen yogurt at Pinkberry.  I wasn’t fully recovered from the altitude sickness, so I tried to minimize walking.  There was so much more I wanted to do, but I was exhausted so I headed back.

 

When I got back to the hostel, they were having a huge barbecue on the patio.  I ate some food and hung out with my new friends and chatted some more about what places they were visiting next.

The next morning, I headed out for Florida.  I was tempted to drive around Biloxi to see what it was like, but couldn’t find anything of interest.  Also didn’t see anything I wanted to do in the 66 mile stretch of I-10 through Alabama.  I was tempted to stop by the beach in Florida’s panhandle, but hesitated because there might not be enough trees to hang a hammock.  I found a campground that looked perfect in Apalachicola National Forest, just outside of Tallahassee.  Unfortunately, it was hunting season, so camping was out of the question.  I ended up staying at a motel and heading straight to my hometown of Gainesville in the morning.  I finally arrived to see my friend and her six dogs.  And I made it to the end of my road trip before Thanksgiving!

After six weeks and over four thousand miles, I arrived at my destination.  I left Washington not knowing my final destination – only that I was stopping in Dallas for a picnic.  I learned a lot about myself and about travel over these six weeks.  Previously, I didn’t think I was cut out for a cross-country road trip!  But it was an amazing opportunity that I am so grateful to have experienced!

 

Previous road trip posts:

Part 1: Cross-Country Road Trip: Washington and Oregon

Part 2: Cross-Country Road Trip: California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas

Part 3: Cross-Country Road Trip: Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico

Part 4: Cross-Country Road Trip: Texas

Part 5: Cross-Country Road Trip: Mississippi, New Orleans, and arrival in Florida

 

 

 

WDS 2017 and Whitewater Rafting

WDS 2017 and Whitewater Rafting

A few weeks ago, I flew to Portland, OR, for the World Domination Summit.  Ooh, sounds intriguing!  What is the World Domination Summit?

It’s a conference for people who want to live their lives on their own terms instead of blindly accepting what is prescribed by society.  We are a global community of adventurers seeking to change the world for the better.  Some of us are entrepreneurs.  Some of us are location independent (which means they travel so often that they don’t need a “home base”).  But all of us reject the idea that society set limits on what we can and can’t do with our lives.

I was so grateful that I was able to attend this year’s conference.  I had been sick for two months, but feeling well enough to attend.  My first event to kickoff the conference was the whitewater rafting trip that I led.  I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t be able to go rafting, but I decided to wait until the morning of the trip to see if I felt well enough to raft.

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Group photo after rafting. Photo credit: Sean Ho; Back row: Kristin Brethova, Joanna Hoang, Mark Allen, Olena Zhygylevych, Josanne Johnson, Martin Breth, Monica Gill, Drew Hitchcock, Sean Ho; Front row: Dana Massaro, Steve August, Rebecca Palmer from EntreLaunch, Kam Kubesh

I was ecstatic when I found out I would be able to go with some minor modification.  And it was such an amazing experience!  We started out as a group of strangers, including one from Singapore and one from Ukraine. We overcame our fears together.*  We paddled together.  We swam in freezing water together.  And after we conquered the rapids together, we celebrated with a meal in front of a gorgeous view of Mt. Hood.  We had a great group that bonded after a wild day on the river.

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Mt. Hood as seen from our lunch table.  Photo credit: Josanne Johnson

Whenever we saw each other at meetups, academies, and parties, we felt like we were with our tribe.  The group had such a great time on the trip, people were still hearing whitewater rafting stories near the end of the conference!

Later that night, I checked my schedule and found a sustainability meetup I couldn’t miss!  I was about to rearrange my schedule when I realized the event was full.  I decided to go anyway.  When I got there, I discovered that none of the people who RSVPed showed up! And it did not disappoint.

The group organizer, Rebecca Wilcox, had been living in Sweden for several years and attended grad school for sustainability.  She shared her experiences living in a country where people are more aware of the environment than in the United States.  Muffadal Saylawala quit his Wall Street job to get back in touch with nature.  He now owns an eco-hostel in Nicaragua, despite lack of recycling facilities there.  We shared our visions for building a sustainable future and gave each other great ideas on how to implement them.  I have always been interested in sustainability and was looking for ways to apply my engineering skills.  This meetup made me realize that it is possible to travel around the world to learn about sustainability and to help communities work towards their goals.  I am currently saving up to make this round-the-world trip happen.

That afternoon, I attended a meetup on how to improve your live-streaming video on your social media.  I had never used live streaming video and I hadn’t really planned on it.  But I ended up learning a lot and I’m so glad I went.  I learned that social media algorithms favor live video over everything else.  Most importantly, I got lots of great ideas on how to keep my audience engaged.  These ideas are sure to boost my social media to the next level!  Stay tuned!

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An old friend and a new friend meeting Vanessa Van Edwards with me at the World Domination Summit Kickoff Party.

After being misunderstood my whole life as that woman with crazy ideas, I have finally found my community.  Instead of telling me that I’m crazy for wanting to travel, and that I should forget about it and go back to my corporate job, they say “I want to do that too!”   But most of all, I was floored by how unconditionally supportive everyone is.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a supportive community of like-minded people.  We inspire each other to come up with creative ideas and do our best work towards dominating the world with kindness.  I can’t wait to see what our community creates by next year!

 

*Watch the WDS Rafting group overcoming our fears by jumping off of a bridge!

 

 

Throwback to Cave Rappelling and Yosemite in California!

Throwback to Cave Rappelling and Yosemite in California!

In the summer of 2012, I was sitting at my desk at work when my boss ran in.  Very excited, she said, “You’re about to get a phone call.  They are going to ask you two questions, and if you answer correctly, you might be sent home immediately to pack a suitcase and catch a plane to go work on a winery in California.”

That was the most exciting news I could possibly hear at that time!  I was so bored in Excel hell.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the office and get some hands-on experience!  I don’t remember what the two questions were, but I must have given the correct answer.  The next day I was on a flight to San Francisco for a business trip to Wine Country!

At the winery, we worked long 16-hour days outside on a construction site.  They worked us hard, but we had one day off every week.  I decided to take full advantage of this short “weekend.”

The night before my first weekend, I left the winery in Livingston, CA, and headed to San Francisco.  My phone somehow got bricked within a few hours of landing in San Francisco, so I had to navigate the old fashioned way – with a map and handwritten directions.  I visited a friend from college who (like every time I visit) tried to convince me to come back to do the Escape From Alcatraz Shark Swim competition that he does every year.  It’s easy to see why we are friends.

The next morning, I drove three hours to Moaning Cavern.  I read about the place in a brochure about ziplining and rappelling and decided to try it out.  It was in a very remote place with no cell phone signal.  The roads and buildings made it look like I was transported back to the 1980s in a one-horse country town.

The “parking lot” was a field of dead grass.  There was a white trailer in the corner.  I started to panic.  “I drove three hours to the wrong place! Where the hell am I??”

I got out of my car and looked around. A few minutes later, I heard screaming from overhead as someone flew by on a zipline.  Yes! This is definitely the right place!

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The entrance to the cavern

I went inside and registered to rappel.  There were a few people ahead of me in line.  The entrance to the cave was on the ground level, so I didn’t have to worry about climbing up before the rappel.

When it was my turn, they fitted me with a harness and hardhat, and taught me how to use their rope system.  Then they opened the gate and let me in.  It was a dark narrow tunnel.  Cool!  Not what I was expecting, but it looks like fun!  I climbed down to about 15 feet to the first platform.  After the platform, I had to maneuver around a rocky area to get to the next section, which was also a tunnel.  After about 10 more feet, the tunnel opened up, and was just a flat wall.  This is going to be easy, I thought.  All I have to do is walk down the wall.  But I was wrong.

When the tunnel opened up to a flat wall, I could see the entire cave.  It was breathtaking!  It looked like something I would see on a SCUBA dive, but without the water.  I climbed down a bit more.  For a split second, my brain was tricked into thinking I could swim over to the far side of the dimly lit cavern to get a better view.

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The cavern wall opened up and my feet couldn’t reach the wall anymore

The cavern opened up even more – my feet were too far away to touch the wall!  I was dangling from a rope 150 ft in the air!  I panicked and for a moment forgot how to use the device to climb down the ropes.  Then I realized I was stuck; the only way I could move was to use the device.  I struggled for a second, but then it came back to me.  It was fascinating to be able to see the walls of the cavern up close.  On my way down, I could see people from the walking tour (read: too scared to rappel, but still wanted to see the caves).  I waved hello to them and continued my descent.

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Cavern selfie

I finally made it to the bottom!  Still shaking from the adrenaline rush, I got a selfie inside the canyon.  And then it hit me:  If the entrance to the cave was on ground level, then I’m currently 165 ft below ground level.  How do I get back up?

Climbers join the walking tour at the bottom of the cavern.  The tour guide pointed out some named features inside the cavern.  Shortly after, it was time to go up.  The way up?  A 17 story spiral staircase made entirely of WWII scrap metal!  As an engineer, the idea of an old rickety spiral staircase erected from used scrap metal was more terrifying than rappelling down the cavern!

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The view from the top of the spiral staircase

I made it all the way up the terrifying spiral staircase and back to the lobby.

I did it!  It was awesome!

But I wasn’t done yet.  Since I only had one day off, I had to maximize my time by squeezing more than one adventure into a day.  I headed off to Yosemite National Park.

 

 

After a two hour drive, I arrived at the entrance to Yosemite National Park.  This was my first time at a National Park.  I pulled up to the hut and was handed a map.  I figured it would be like a theme park.  Pay for parking, get handed a map, and given directions to the main attractions.  Wrong, again!

After driving a few miles without seeing any signs, I pulled over to look at the map.  The entrance I just drove through wasn’t even on the map.  I had no idea what I was looking at.  I decided to just keep driving, and I’d probably come across a sign eventually.  Several miles later, I still hadn’t seen a single sign.  I started to wonder if I drove all the way out here for nothing.  Maybe I was at the wrong entrance?  Maybe I won’t be able to find anything and still make it back to the winery at a decent hour.

Finally, I saw a sign.  There was an arrow pointing left with a name (presumably something that was on the map), 65 miles.

Sixty-five miles?!  I already drove two hours!  I need to be somewhere now!  Not in 65 miles!  I decided to pass on that one.  Too far.

After what seemed like another lonely 10 miles, I found a parking lot with people walking towards a rocky path.  Not exactly what I was expecting, but I figured it was my best chance at seeing something before the end of my short weekend. I parked and saw lots of other people there.  It turned out to be Olmsted Point.

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Olmsted Point (the big and little domes near the horizon), as seen from wherever I was when I got lost.

Among the rocks, there was a path down into the valley.  It was gorgeous! I walked around and soaked up the view.  I took a few pictures and headed back to my car.  I felt like there was more to see and time was of the essence.

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I found a paved path among the redwoods.  It was so humbling to be among such enormous trees!  Being from Florida, I had never been on a real hike before (except in Costa Rica).  When I first got there, I preferred the paved path.  But after walking among all of those trees, the paved path in the middle of a forest seemed very artificial.  I understood why real hikers preferred unpaved trails.

I decided to keep driving a bit further.  Just past a campground was the entrance to Hetch Hetchy, which I honestly had never heard of but recognized the view.

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Hetch Hetchy
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While crossing the bridge, I discovered that Hetch Hetchy is a dam!

There is a trail that goes around the lake.  After walking over a bridge and then through a tunnel, I came out around the left side of the lake and started hiking.  The trail was magical. Despite the long day, I felt more and more energized with each step along the trail.  As nightfall began, the trail became darker and darker.  I started to wonder if I’d encounter a bear.  A coworker told me he had gone to the non-touristy parts of Yosemite the previous weekend and had a close encounter with a bear.  I still wasn’t sure if I was on the touristy side or not.

305027_10101895299596233_1125771702_nThe trail turned out to be much longer than I expected.  I turned around and raced the darkness, trying to make it to my car before nightfall.  Lights illuminated the inside of the tunnel.  Though the sun had set completely, the moon was very bright.

I got back in my car and started my journey back to the winery.  But first, I stopped at the campground to use the restroom.  When I entered the restroom, I was greeted by an awesome sign:  step-by-step picture instructions on how to poop in the woods.

293077_10101895300170083_800385655_n While there was running water and flush toilets, there weren’t any lights.  (Sorry for the glare in the middle of the picture.)

As I left the restroom, the park ranger came to ask me if I was leaving because they were just about to close the park gates.  I made it out just in time!

On my long drive back to the winery, I reflected on all of the awesome experiences I had in just one day.  I was in disbelief!  I had seen more in a short weekend than I had in any other weekend in my entire life!  I am so happy that I had the opportunity to make this happen.

Cross-Country Road Trip: California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas

Cross-Country Road Trip: California and the accidental stop in Las Vegas

I was very excited about my next adventure on this road trip – camping in the Redwoods in my hammock tent.  On my way, I drove through the Northern California desert. There’s a lot of desert to drive through before you get to civilization.  I got run off the road for having a “Love Conquers Hate” poster in my car.  It had the names of all of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub victims on it.  I don’t understand how someone could be so hateful that they become violent towards a complete stranger for having a memorial poster in their car.  Just like I don’t understand how someone could initiate a mass shooting to begin with.  It just goes to show there are hateful bigots everywhere, even in California.

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Aside from the haters, being off the grid for a few days was very liberating.  But coming back to civilization was very stressful.  I stayed in Redding, CA for a few days to rest before continuing my adventures.  That was before I learned that off the grid adventures were more relaxing and energizing than anything in town.

My campsite was somewhere in the Redwoods, far from cell phone reception and civilization.  I made sure to stop by REI to get hammock extension straps to be sure the straps were long enough for the trees.  There were lots of other people at the campsite, and they were all very friendly, though none of them spoke English.  They asked me if I came here to work, and it took me a long time to figure out what they were talking about.  What jobs could there possibly be that are off the grid in the forest?  Eventually, I figured out that they were all there from other countries to trim marijuana leaves.  Apparently, it pays well.

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I stayed there three nights.  I spent the days reading books, exploring the forest, and going on hikes.  I found the lookout point on the main trail, but got lost on the way back to the campground.  It was starting to get dark.  I wondered if they had bears and wildcats.  Luckily, I made it out of the woods before finding out.

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The next stop was Monterey.  I stayed in a very welcoming hostel just a block from the coast.  I explored the beautiful beaches and enjoyed the nice cool weather.  I got a massage on the pier, and went on a tour of an old lighthouse.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The full Redwoods camping trip and Monterey photo album is on my facebook page.

I fell in love with the coast and decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway the rest of the way.  The roads were narrow, winding, and on the side of a cliff.  But there were spectacular views of the ocean.  Here is a picture from the Pacific Coast Highway, just outside of Big Sur.  You can also check out the rest of my Pacific Coast Highway pictures.  Check out the waves crashing at Monterey Bay:

 

My next stop was at a friend’s house outside of Los Angeles.   It was good to take a break from the road for a bit.  I got a chance to get an oil change on my car, as well as have some job interviews over the phone.

14642475_530517580471970_9029717842036202476_nHe let me experiment in his kitchen with homemade dog treats.  His dog loved the treats, but unfortunately they got moldy a few days later.  We also went to an awesome local food truck rally.  Over the weekend, we hiked to the place where the TV show MASH was filmed.  Thanks, Marcos!

You can find the rest of my MASH hike pictures on my facebook page.

I had originally planned on heading straight to Kanab, Utah.  But I got a late start on the road.  I decided to take an unplanned trip to Las Vegas, NV.  I stopped for gas just outside of town.  Guess what the gas stations have?  Slot machines!  Inside the gas station!  I was amazed, but gambling isn’t my thing so I did not partake.

I found a hostel on The Strip in Las Vegas for $30/night.  It turned out to be a party hostel (no surprise there!).  There was a huge fenced in backyard with a bar area.  Everyone met up and went on a bar-hopping excursion together, so I didn’t have to deal with any unwanted drunken shenanigans.  I found an Arepa restaurant not too far from the hostel, so I walked down and ordered some food.  When I sat down, I looked out the window and saw The Stratosphere!

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The last time I was in Las Vegas, I did not know you could pay $100 to jump out of The Stratosphere at 855 feet high!  Ever since I found out, I wanted to go back and jump.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford it this time, but I at least wanted to see it up close.  After dinner, I went over to the base of The Stratosphere and watched two people jump out.  I was very excited, and hope that next time it will be me jumping out of The Stratosphere!

 

 

 

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

Cross-Country Road Trip: Washington and Oregon

Cross-Country Road Trip: Washington and Oregon

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.

 

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Dee Wright Observatory
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Spectacular views along McKenzie Pass

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.

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Umpqua Hot Springs overlooking the river

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.

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The view from my hammock tent at the campground outside Crater Lake

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.

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The rare self-serve gas pump in Oregon

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