With DiCicco and his roommates still sleeping, I packed my car and made some coffee for the road. I left Portland at 10am headed northwest. I drove through pounding rain which turned to sleet and then snow as the road gained elevation before descending to the Oregon Coast. I reached the small coastal town of Seaside, WA and drove my car all the way onto the beach where I planned to cook some breakfast and get some work done on my computer. The ferocity of the ocean was like nothing I had ever seen. 40mph winds and a looming storm front churned the water. As far as the eye could see, the ocean was a violent whirlpool of whitewater, constant and unrelenting. Sand dunes run up and down the coast interrupted only by massive bluffs where the merciless ocean wears away at mossy granite cliffs. The dunes are covered with long and dry amber grass which was neatly combed northward by a biting wind. When the sun was able to peak through, the grass was illuminated and contrasted beautifully with the dull pastels of the ocean, the stormy sky, and the gray sand. When it started to rain, I decided that I would continue driving up US 101 to cover some ground while being outside was not a good option. The massive storm which has been covering the American West for the last several days let up slightly when I reached the Cape of Disappointment. The cape is recognizable on a map as the small curlicue which juts out from the southern Washington coastline. Just south of the cape, the great Columbia River terminates at the Pacific Ocean.
2 days earlier, DiCicco and I drove east along this aquatic behemoth. We went hiking up to the top of the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States. This awe inspiring waterfall drops from a woody precipice over 200 feet to a pool below, where it creates a deafening roar and fine mist, soaking the throngs of day visitors mawing down king size candy bars and overpriced potato chips from the visitor center snack shop. A small foot bridge crosses the pool at the base of the falls which flows over another lip creating a much shorter second fall before cascading the final 200 feet under the highway and into the Columbia River. Here it becomes part of the 1.2 million cubic feet of water that eventually empties into the Pacific every second.
It was there that Lewis and Clark first spied the Pacific Ocean after crossing the continent, and it was there that I was reminded of far braver souls who struck out on far more raw adventures. I spent several hours hiking up and down the coastline along the tops of rocky cliffs and the shelter of secluded coves. This cutthroat fringe of continent is a far cry from the sandy beaches of southern California--greater in both solitude and magnitude despite being carved by the rage of the same shining sea. Standing below a weather beaten lighthouse far above the churning water, I could see the sets of 20-foot waves rolling towards the cliff base hundreds of feet below. A salty breeze wafted into my nostrils and I could smell the West, a scent that will forever lure the adventurous wanderer.
After returning to my car, I picked up highway 101 and continued North through hail the size of golden nuggets, which managed to put a decent sized crack in my windshield. I stopped in a small cafe and treated myself to a steaming bowl of white clam chowder. As darkness descended from the East, I returned to Interstate 5 and charged on towards the Canadian Border, anxious to settle into a hostel bed which awaited me in Vancouver, but sad to be bidding farewell to a country that despite its current standing in the eyes of the world has enchanted mankind for thousands of years with its diverse landscape and opportunity for adventure.