Much to my surprise, we have had quite a few people ask us our opinion of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). I think for some people, the PNW is like a mystical dreamland. Plenty of recreation opportunities, beautiful green landcapes, the rolling ocean and coast. It does sound pretty dreamy, right?. These people were thinking of possibly moving there at some point, and were curious what we thought?
Most of our experience revolves around the shoulder season, so while we had some beautiful, sunny days, we also had our fair share of rain and bad weather. We’ve been through Medford, Crater Lake, Bend, Portland, Battle Ground, Mount Rainier, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver BC, Whidbey Island, Port Townsend, the Olympic Peninsula, La Push, Astoria, and Lincoln City from the end of August through the end of October. Although foggy and a little drippy, we didn’t run into some serious rain until we hit La Push and the Olympic Peninsula during mid-October. From there I felt like it was a constant downpour down through the Oregon Coast. We did hear from locals that rain that heavy in October was fairly a-typical, although the ranger at Cape Disappointment told me that it was supposed to rain “all winter”. That was not encouraging.
What We Loved:
Coming form living in a high Utah desert, having everything green and lush was definitely a nice change. Tons of old growth, tall trees, beautiful mountains, and lots of diversity in the terrain. The diversity in landscape led to many unique experiences which we couldn’t really find anywhere else. Two of our favorites were hiking in Silver Falls State Park viewing 10 different waterfalls, and crabbing along the Oregon Coast.
Oregon & Washington State Parks are beautiful, well-kept, and have great camping sites for both tents and RV’s. Oregon Parks have free camp showers, while Washington’s were coin-operated (not expensive but annoying). We also loved visiting the National Parks, although due to weather we had to save the North Cascades National Park for another visit. We had beautiful weather at Crater Lake, and while Mt. Rainier National Park was beautiful, it seems like it always rains there, so I don’t feel that experience was atypical. Whidbey Island was definitely a favorite, and we would love to go back and explore more of it finally make it out to the San Juan Islands.
We absolutely loved the Rogue River Valley, Medford, and Grants Pass, Oregon. In fact, its hit our list as one of two places we would possible want to live once we settle down somewhere. I don’t really consider it the Pacific Northwest, however, as its more Central, Southern Oregon and not very cool and wet. We spent a week there right around Andrew’s birthday when it was fairly hot, and just recently again for a week in November during the chillier temperatures.
What We Didn’t Love:
The constant rain. Kind of obvious, right? While not a horrendous downpour most of the time, the weather was very overcast and drizzly quite a bit. The biggest mental problem I had was not “wasting” the sunny days. If the forecast called for even partly cloudy, I felt such pressure to get out and do something while the sun shined as I didn’t know the next time we would see the sun. How annoying.
The mold. After leaving the wet side of Oregon and taking a trip over the mountains to the “dry” side, we realized how much mold we had collected. You guys, my bike shoes were moldy. For reals. Many of our items kept in the back of the truck were covered in mold, as well as some cushions and even our curtains! It was disgusting. We stripped off the curtains and couch cushion covers (back by the kid’s bedroom were the worst offenders), and used Clorox wipes to try and clean up everything else.
Being trapped inside. As one of my friends put it, “If you let the rain stop you, you won’t get anything done.”. I’m pretty sure that is a learned mindset, because all I wanted to do on rainy days was curl up with a book and drink hot chocolate. Turns out, that gets old after 4 days in a row. We just had to outside and do things anyway. Sam had a better attitude about this than I did, and some days for me were better than others. Coming up with indoor activities in a small space is a lot harder than living in a house and doing the same. There’s just not enough room! Perhaps living in a house would help with this, but I’m not sure I want to commit myself to finding out.
The mess in the Airstream. When everything is wet and muddy outside, you are going to track it indoors. It just happens. Mitigating wet floors, mud, wet shoes, clothes, jackets, and umbrellas is not exactly fun for days on end. Where’s my mud room when I need it? We got really good at pointing our electric heater at a pile of shoes, or clothes hanging outside the wardrobe, and then running our ceiling fans to bring in some cool air fro outside to keep the Airstream from completely overheating. We would also hang jackets and other items in the shower to keep them out of the way, but they never dry as fast in there due to lack of airflow.
Conclusion? While the PNW is absolutely beautiful, and I think everyone at some point in their life should visit, I don’t think we could live there. I simply just crave the sunshine. The weather during the shoulder and winter seasons is too overcast and wet for the activities we like to do, and I think I’d just go crazy!