The road to California – Part 6: Familiar territory.

(continued from Part 5: Coast)

Covering so many miles, seeing so many new things, constantly exploring places you didn’t know existed…a road trip is certainly an adventure.  Like all good adventures though, the rewards come with an exhaustion that slowly builds up.  There is a sort of comfort in the familiar; a quiet sense of permission that it’s ok to relax – that you don’t need to constantly be active.  Coming full circle and now retracing our tire marks on the pavement, Waterton was familiar territory where we could spend a couple days relaxing before making the final push home to Winnipeg.

Portland Volkswagon Van

Arriving at our Portland hosts’ home, we pulled into a parking spot behind this classic Volkswagon van.  Hello Portland!  Turns out this sweet ride belonged to our hosts’ son, who was back from university for the summer.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Strapped for time, the car stayed parked for the couple days we were in town while we adventured around the area we were staying in.  Portland streets are a poster for mixed usage: residential, commercial (often local as entrepreneurs are highly supported), food/coffee trucks…there seems to be a little bit of everything found on any street corner.   It is one of the most walkable cities out there.

Heart Coffee

While Stumptown is renowned for their coffee, I personally prefer the lighter roasts that the smaller Heart Coffee Roasters does.  These folks are passionate about what they do.  Of particular note is that you can select your beans and brew type independently, which, for the coffee connoisseurs out there, can make for some interesting side-be-side tastings.  Here, we tried a Yirgacheffe bean brewed via the traditional pour-over technique and compared the same bean brewed using the Aeropress, a method gaining popularity in the western world.

Hawthorne Hophouse

One of the best things about staying with locals is that they can point you to what they are passionate about, which are often incredibly unique gems.  In this case, our host was very involved in the Oregon craft beer scene.  Pointing us just up the street to the Hawthorne Hophouse, we stumbled into a pub that served us beer brewed in a neighbour’s garage.  When that keg runs out, it is replaced with another unique keg in the queue.  With 24 taps, there’s a lot of new beer to try every time you swing by.

Looking out from the tent

Back in the woods with a private front porch.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Now that it was early July, the Going-to-the-Sun Road had just opened  – previously it had been closed when we tried to traverse it earlier in the trip.  It is not a speedy road like an interstate, due to sharp curves, steep elevation changes, tunnels, waterfalls over the road, snowcover, and the people slowing down to take in the incredible landscape, but it is still a shortcut since a long detour would be the only other option for traversing this massive mountain range.  Besides the beauty of the natural surroundings, the road is an engineering marvel, taking you through mountains and along the edge of steep cliffs.  The old photos of workers building it are stunning: link.

Snowcover at Logan Pass

Despite the sunshine, plenty of snow persisted at Logan Pass.  Here at the crown of the continent, a lot of hiking trails don’t open up until August.

Moody Mountain Clouds

Moody clouds roll over mountain tops.

Waterton Prince of Wales Hotel

Waterton’s Prince of Wales Hotel was built on a grassy hill overlooking the valley in which the townsite lies.  From its doorstep, you can see around you for 360 degrees, feel the prairie wind as it funnels into the mountains, and quietly experience Alberta’s most diverse ecosystem.

Twilight view of the Waterton Valley

Twilight view of the Waterton Valley.

Fjallraven Vintage backpack

The day pack that was carefully packed every morning for the day’s adventures.  A nod of appreciation to the gear that we rely on every day.  Everywhere I go people are interested in my backpack.  Unfortunately, I inform them, they are only available in Europe.  Until now that is!  Amazon has started stocking them.  This pack is the Fjällräven Vintage 30L.

Goat Lake ascent

One last hike into the alpine.

Up into the clouds

The weather was turbulent, shifting from blue skies to thunderhead clouds moment to moment.  Traversing the final steep ascent to Goat Lake, we entered the clouds.

Raining at Goat Lake

A crack of thunder welcomed us as we crested the final ridge to arrive at the lake.  Being in the thundercloud was unnerving, the vibrations rolling through us as if we were in a bass drum.

Calm lake reflections

As quickly as the weather arose, it passed and the little valley was peaceful again.

Green meadow

With clouds still looming around us, we decided to turn back instead of tempting fate and continuing up Avion Ridge.

In a cloud

Shifting visibility, in a cloud.

Waterton Lake at night

Good night mountains.

Prairie driving

Back on the prairies, with a straight and level road, we covered ground like it was nobody’s business.

Prairie road rearview mirror

Looking back.

Prairie skies above the road

Looking forward.


Previous: Part 5: Coast.