When I initially booked my trip October trip to the Smoky Mountains, it was to be my first solo trip. I had booked the trip back in April and had a while to wait before traveling. A few months after booking the Smoky Mountains trip, I was headed to Nevada for work. Since I hadn’t yet been to Washington or Oregon or really any parts of the Pacific Northwest (PNW), I decided to make the most of the time out there and take some personal days and explore prior to working. The trip happened to be over Labor Day weekend and now officially became my first solo road trip.Below is a map of the overall trip plans. It was to be a total 17 or so hours of over 3 days. This meant about 6 hours of driving per day.
My flight to Seattle was a direct flight on Spirit Airlines from BWI to Seattle that took off around 7 AM. I booked a direct flight on purpose because I only had 3 days to get from Seattle, WA to Carson City, NV. Since I was flying a different airline there and back, I had to pack simply. I have a small carryon, my Northface backpack and my Longchamp bag that I used for packing. The flight was uneventful, which I’m always grateful for. I’m a window seat girl, and on this particular flight you could see Mount Rainier as we flew in to Seattle. It was one of the coolest experiences and sights from a plane I’ve ever had. You could see it a good 20 – 30 minutes before we got close to it just peeking out of the clouds below.
The flight landed around 1 PM PT. I headed to Avis to get my rental car and hoped it would be speedy. It was not. It took about an hour to get the car as there were people waiting for cars, but they didn’t have any returned yet. It wasn’t ideal, but I finally got my car and could hit the road. The driving for the day was going to be about 6 hours without stops. The route was a direct shot south from Seattle to Eugene.
I planned to go into Seattle and explore for a few hours before driving south. I went to the Public Market, the original Starbucks, and Kerry Park.
Kerry Park has the most amazing view of Seattle and Mount Rainier. I didn’t plan on going there initially, but after some browsing on Instagram, I found this park and drove to the top of the hill to take in the incredible views.
In total, I spent about 1 hour in Seattle from the time I parked until I left Kerry Park. It wasn’t much time, but enough to do some exploring. Now I was headed south out of Washington and into Oregon.
I stopped at a Starbucks on my way south and had realized I hadn’t really eaten much yet that day aside from some type of chicken on a stick at the Public Market. I got some food and caffeine and started south on route 5.
Around the Portland area, I started to see smoke billowing in the distance. I had no idea what it was at first, but then realized it was the beginning of a wildfire. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was at, but you could see it for miles and miles. I continued on my way and got to Multnomah Falls. Even though it was about a half hour detour each way to stop at this falls, it was worth the time. If you have ever been to Oregon or follow other travelers on social media, you’ve probably seen photos of the falls before. It’s 611 feet high. There’s a bridge about halfway up you can go on, but I had a few hours to go to get to my hotel so I didn’t venture to the bridge.
As I was leaving the falls, I realized that the smoke was coming from deeper in the Columbia River Gorge. I looked up the fire online prior to leaving the falls and found out the Eagle Creek Fire had only started a few hours earlier by a careless teenager. Over the next few days and weeks, I kept up with the specific fire in this area and saw the destruction it had on the area and the falls and bridge just after I saw it so beautiful and green.
Headed back toward Portland, I found a park called Rocky Butte. You drive through some developments and up a pretty large hill and at the top is a park with rock walls. You can park at the bottom of the rock walls, and walk up to the top of the mountain with views of Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.
Since the sun was already setting, and I was still a few hours from the hotel, so back on the road I went. I continued south on route 5 passing from Washington into Oregon. The smoke from wildfires thickened the longer I drove. Although smoke is from something so devastating as a wild fire, it makes for a beautiful sunset to see the rays peaking through the smoke. It makes the sunset more like a watercolor painting as the hues all blend together.
I got to the hotel, the Valley River Inn, and checked in around 11:30 PM. Considering I had been up since about 3 AM that morning and had only a short nap on the plane, I was beat. I got a wrap from the cafe area, ate, and went to bed.