San Francisco

Road Trip USA: San Francisco to Seattle

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The mist shrouded us as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and tailed us through Point Reyes National Park and up as far as Bodega Bay before a bracing ocean breeze cleared the fogs and we travelled north into bright sunshine, the sky filled with swiftly scudding clouds. We were travelling the 800 miles or so from San Francisco, via the hip city of Portland, Oregon, to Seattle. We were sad to leave the city of fogs and freedom behind us, but keen to see what the Pacific Northwest had in store.

We drove north along Highway 1, taking the scenic coastal road as it wound its way along the edge of the Pacific. At times we were glad to be driving on the right, so we were further from the precipitous drops! We passed Fort Ross, where the Russians had an outpost when they controlled Alaskan territory in the early 1800s, and stopped to visit the lighthouse at Mendocino. We took the amazingly winding Highway 20, then the famous stretch of road known as the Avenue of the Giants, and drove awestruck between the towering redwood groves, pausing only to allow some elk to cross the road ahead of us. We camped for the night.

The following day we forged on towards Portland, left California and the coast behind, and headed into the mountains of Oregon. We took the time to visit the Oregon Cave National Monument, squeezing through this cave system. We went through Grant’s Pass, and detoured through the stunningly beautiful Crater Lake National Park, its volcanic nature everywhere evident, and then through the tribal lands of Warm Springs, where we visited their fascinating museum.

We arrived in Portland tired but happy, found our lodgings, and fell quickly asleep.

The following day we spent exploring Portland. We mooched around the art galleries, little bistros and microbreweries, noting that evidence of the ‘hipster scene’ was everywhere. This also seems to be where many of the refugees from the aftermath of the 1960s hippie movement have washed up, creating a pleasant sense of mellow nostalgia to Portland’s quirky streets. This is an eco. paradise, with strong links to the nature which surrounds and suffuses the city: bicycles, vegan cafés and recycling schemes were everywhere.

After leaving Portland, we travelled up into the Cascade Mountains, travelling through rugged scenery from Oregon into Washington State.  We took some time to admire the peak of Mount St. Helens before heading into Mount Rainier National Park, driving on between the dense forests and volcanic peaks.

Seattle surprised us. We had assumed we would be greeted by rain, but in fact we entered the city under clear blue skies – which are a rarity if the sitcom ‘Frasier’ was anything to go by. The city we found seemed like a mix between the world of that long-running TV series, and the alternative music scene culture from which Nirvana and grunge emerged in the 1990s – a strange but enticing mix of the genteel, moneyed and refined, and the grimy, quirky and alternative, Seattle seemed an oddly enchanting place. We had only one day to explore, then it was time to move on once more.

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