Great American Road Trip: Part 5

Westport-San Francisco-La Push

July 31 — Aug 5, 2018

After exploring the Olympic National Park for a few days, I wanted to get in some surfing, but I needed both wax and a new set of fins for my board. I had heard that there were a few surf shops down in Westport, WA. I left the beautiful Olympic Peninsula and headed south along US-101.

The drive from Humptulips to Westport is really beautiful. You pass through a mixture of wetlands, mountains, bays, and forests. I arrived in Westport and grabbed a campsite in the Twin Harbors State Park. While the park was a relatively standard state park campsite, I found the price of $30 to be a bit steep given the facilities available. You even had to pay extra for showers here. With my self-contained camper, I maybe should have opted for a spot on the street somewhere.

The next morning I headed up to Westhaven State park, which was the only place that seemed to have surf that morning. The waves looked pretty small for my 5’11” shortboard shape, but it had been 9 months since the last time I surfed and I figured I’d give it a shot regardless of the conditions. They ended up being mediocre, but at least I was able to catch some waves.

In the parking lot after the surf, I made some burritos and got chatting to my parking lot neighbors, who were two surfers from Victoria, BC. They were visiting Washington for the long weekend, and we talked a lot about surfing culture in British Columbia and places like Tofino on Vancouver Island. Really nice people.

The next stop on my journey was Astoria, OR — home of The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop. I had heard the town had great breweries, good food, and a cool tower you could hike to. I opted for a couple beers at Fort George Brewery, followed by dinner and a couple more beers at Buoy Brewing (they had some great Pilsners here). I stopped on my way at Dilk Tire Point S in Raymond, WA to have them plug a tire that picked up a nail (the people in this shop were all so friendly and welcoming I felt like I was hanging out with some neighbors). The next day I went down to Cannon Beach, then back to Portland, where I had to catch a flight the next day to San Francisco.

Coastal dunes with the famous Haystack Rock in the background.

Once in Portland, I had a low-key night of doing laundry, washing my car, and climbing at one of the boulder halls in town.

San Francisco

I flew down to San Francisco for a total of 48 hours, in order to have an onsite interview with one of the companies I have been pursuing. I got to stay with one of my good buddies from Florida State. He took me disc golfing, surfing, walking up big hills, and to some delicious Korean food in the Inner Sunset. It’s always a fun time hanging out with Joey.

View of the Sunset, Haight, and some of downtown San Francisco from Grandview Park.

The interview was Friday morning (it went well!), then Joey and I grabbed a late lunch before heading back to the airport. On the flight from San Francisco to Portland, we flew over both the Carr fire and the Mendocino fire. At the time, the Mendocino fire was the second-largest fire in state history (now the largest). It was both impressive and saddening to see just how massive this fire was from above. Flying at over 500 mph, we were seeing flaming hills and pyrocumulus clouds for at least 45 minutes of our flight.

Our flight leaving SF was delayed about an hour, and so I didn’t get back into Portland until after 10pm. I decided that I’d just sleep in my van in the airport long-term parking lot instead of trying to drive into town to find a place to sleep on the street. The next morning, I decided I would head back north with the goal of making it to Canada.

Back to Olympia

I picked up some groceries, watched some live stream of my friend Sandy competing in the Isklar Norseman competition (this is an insane event and Sandy is a total badass who was able to finish the race at the top of a mountain), then head back up to the Olympic Peninsula. Since I got a late start to the journey, I chose the Hoh Rain Forest as my destination for the night, and found a great spot just off the forest service road.

Finding peace and quiet in the wilderness

For the first time camping in the wilderness, I felt a strange discomfort with just how quiet it was at this camp spot. There was very little wind, I was far enough away from the river that there was very little white noise, and yet I felt somehow exposed to anything or anyone that could come my way. After dinner I just called it an early night and laid in bed watching “Into the Wild” to remind myself both how alone I could possibly be, but also how great this voyage I am taking really is.

The next morning, I head to La Push (just opposite the river from Rialto Beach). The surf was firing, and I was ready to finally catch some good waves on this wild coast. The water here was notably colder than in Westport one week earlier, and I was one of the only surfers without a hooded wetsuit on. I lasted about 2.5 hours before I started shivering, then head in to make some lunch and enjoy the sunshine.

I set up my hammock between two downed tree trunks, read some of my book, then had a relaxing nap in the sunshine while the waves crashed in the background. When I felt ready to surf again, the waves had unfortunately gotten much smaller and were not breaking well with the tide. So I enjoyed the setting sun and slowly packed my things to head about 45 minutes up the road to a National Forest campsite. In the morning, I’d try my luck to catch the ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Canada.