The days I spent driving down U.S. Route 101 in Oregon through Highway 1 in California were some of the best days of my life. Admittedly, I was malleable for the molding. I had just gone through a breakup and was getting ready to start a summer-long tour alongside the ex. I decided to take a detour on my way from New York to California, where the tour began. I drove across the country to Seattle and then down to Portland. I went west from Portland until I hit the Pacific and then I drove south and didn’t stop driving south until I hit San Diego. I pulled over at just about every lookout and inhaled the fresh scent of pine. Hardly developed at all, the journey down the 101 and the 1 is dotted with plenty of scenic lookouts.I picked wildflowers and stretched beneath the perfect West Coast summer sun. The hills were steep and a new picture-perfect landscape seemed to await me at every turn. The waves crashed violently against the rocks below. I listened to my favorite songs on repeat and forced myself to keep my eyes on the road ahead, rather than the views of the ocean to my right. I set up a tent and camped overnight at Harris Beach State Park. I woke up shivering without care, awe struck by the beautiful ocean before me. I saw Redwood Trees for the first time in my life. I walked through them, shaded by their enormous branches, one afternoon. I crawled inside of one in disbelief. Taking the long way to California for this trip was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. The bliss that accompanied me on this route never entirely left. When I think of my happy place, I often reflect back on the images I will forever hold from this trip.
If you make this drive, stunning scenery is inescapable. You’ll pass through or beside dozens of National and State Parks and Forests. Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Humbug Mountain State Park, Prehistoric Gardens, Rogue River National Forest, Redwood National Park, Humboldt Lagoons State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Arena Rock Marine Natural Preserve, Point Reyes National Seashore, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Los Padres National Forest to name just a few.