If you had asked me in the summer about the rolling hills through Washington, covered in trees, I would have undoubtedly spoken of the evergreen colors. Pine trees as far as the eye can see, green year-round. It was not until this weekend, driving through the state after the beginning of autumn, that I truly recognized the variety. When I saw the changing colors, the golden and scarlet hues spread across the mountains, I realized how many different trees there were across the landscape. The stunning colors were amplified by the golden sun setting across the forest.
Autumn is my favorite season. The crisp fall air, leaves changing color and falling to the ground, shorter days, and an excuse to cozy up by a fire. There is a simplicity to autumn that I cherish.
Last year, autumn began a season of grief for me. Losing my father to cancer was something that I was in no way prepared for. I wanted to find a way to honor him on the anniversary of his death. So we booked a tiny home outside of Portland, nestled among the pine trees, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. My dad used to marvel at tiny homes, sending me resources on modern homes built out of shipping containers and recycled materials. He lived small in so many ways: minimal possessions, a lack of clutter, always tidy and organized. He would have loved this forest retreat.
Our drive down from Washington was picturesque, and we looked forward to cozying up for the night in our tiny abode. As the sun rose over the forest on Saturday morning, I set out for an early morning walk with our golden retriever, Ember. The ground was still frozen, crunching under my feet. I took a moment to stop and listen to the birds. My dad used to marvel at nature on his regular walks through the forest, noting when an animal had stopped to soak up the very energy he was also enjoying.
The peaceful sunrise set the tone for the weekend ahead. I found a stillness and serenity that I had been longing for. I know I could find those feelings at home, if I only took the time. This setting was the perfect reminder to do that. Feeling the crisp air, watching the sunrise, and listening to the birds chirp overhead reminded me how much wonder there is to be found in nature, if we just pay attention.
After a cup of tea on the deck and another moment of reflection, it was time to head to the coast.
We drove through Oregon wine country, soaking in the fall hues and rolling hills. The winding roads took us through old-growth forests and over one-lane bridges. On adventures like these, the drive is half the fun. We get to explore the area, stopping off at local restaurants and shops, discovering treasures along the way.
Our destination was Pacific City. We trekked up the sand dunes of Cape Kiwanda, taking in the views of the coastline and Haystack Rock. Ember happily explored the beach with us, dipping her paws in the cold ocean water.
We then headed into town for lunch before driving up the Three Capes Scenic Route. Cape Lookout gave us another gorgeous vantage point for the coastline, and we were delighted to see a whale in the distance. It was a breathtaking view and an unforgettable experience. Along the route are several natural areas to explore. We hiked a small trail, breathing in the forest air, before heading to our hotel for the evening.
If you have the chance to stay in Pacific City, Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa is a peaceful retreat. Our room faced the coast with gorgeous views of the sunset. We watched the sky change from celestial blue to stunning shades of yellow and orange. Cozied up on the balcony with a Pendleton blanket and (another) cup of tea, I was again reminded of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. The dark sky was soon sprinkled with stars and the bonfires on the beach carried the scent of s’mores.
Sunday morning in Pacific City called for coffee and fresh pastries. The morning fog around Haystack Rock made things hazy and grey, but still beautiful. We enjoyed one last walk along the beach, with waves lapping at our feet, before heading back home.
The sky cleared up for our drive back to Washington and we saw more of the gorgeous autumn colors along the countryside. The weekend gave me a chance to enjoy autumn while honoring someone I miss every day. I saw the Pacific Northwest in a new light and came home feeling refreshed.
Grab a friend, pick a direction and go – a magnificent adventure awaits.