Bikinis in the Pacific Northwest, car camping, illegal skiing, and of course supporting the local businesses. I was looking forward to this spring break from the time I booked my flight to San Diego with my boyfriend in January. I was ready to ball out on vegan food, take a dance class in Los Angeles, and take more beach bikini photos than my phone could even store, all in celebration of my birthday! Alas, the trip was cancelled, but I wasn’t about to let my week of zero educational responsibilities waste away in boredom.
My boyfriend, who works in the Navy, went to great lengths to get his time-off request approved for the trip, so it was important to me that he got the most out of his time away from work, too. I wanted to go somewhere I could still wear my bikini, and a cold, windy, gray PNW beach wasn’t going to cut it. We brainstormed where we could drive on such short notice that would result in bathing suit-worthy warm weather. California was just too far to drive for a weekend trip, and every other warm city would have required flying. Then it hit me: hot springs!
There are a handful of different hot springs in the Pacific Northwest. Many were either closed due to COVID-19, or they weren’t natural hot springs. The best option within driving distance was in Umpqua National Forest in south Oregon. We also noticed that it wasn’t too far from Willamette Pass Ski Resort, which was scheduled to remain open through the end of spring break. Done. We would hike to the hot springs the first day, ski the second, and use the rest of our time to explore.
The next matter to solve was the question of where we would be lodging. I thought it would be cool to try car camping. I had never done it before, and Pinterest makes it look like the next best low budget, aesthetically pleasing couple’s date that everyone aspires to experience. Good thing my boyfriend has a Subaru! [#notsponsored] So, we cleared out the back, put the seats down, and loaded it up with blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, food, a mattress topper, ski equipment, and the rest of our trip essentials.
Day one: Thursday. We got driving out of Seattle, toward Portland. We decided to drive as far as we could before we needed rest. We got as far as a Walmart somewhere and spent the night in the parking lot, beneath the all-night-long fluorescent lights.
Day two: hot springs. We got back on the road the next morning around 9:30am. We were in Umpqua National Forest by about 11:00am, changed into our swim suits, made the short hike to the springs, and got to wading. Thanks to the high water temperatures and multiple separate pools, we didn’t worry about contamination or inability to continue social distancing. Each party kept to themselves in their own individual bath, which was the exact laid-back, quarantine alternative that I was looking for. After we finished, we got some local vegan pizza from Old Soul Pizza in Roseburg before we got on the road again. It was the only vegan option on the menu and tasted better than at least 90% of the vegan pizza I’ve had in Seattle. Just saying.
Day three: Airbnb. After another night in the Subaru Suite, this time in La Pine Oregon State Park (cost was ambiguous so we paid $20 and just hoped that it was satisfactory based on other overnight campground costs, haha), we prepared ourselves for a day of skiing. On our way to the pass, my boyfriend suggested we double-check that the ski resort would be open and to our dismay, it was not. So we made our way to our Airbnb in Bend, OR. Admittedly, staying at an Airbnb put us at a higher risk of coming in contact with microorganisms than did sleeping in the car; nonetheless, we took the risk and just continued to disinfect everything in our sight. Aside from a slight potential risk of infection, the location was an exceptional value. The Airbnb was a cool experience, in and of itself, with ten chickens, two pigs, a goat, and plenty of feed to last your stay. In town, the vegan options were plentiful and the coffee was excellent. If you’re ever looking for outdoor adventures, Bend is a PNW excursion hub.
Day four: going home. As we were driving through the pass, we came across what looked like locals hiking the mountain and skiing or boarding down independently, undisturbed by the fact that none of the lifts were operating and the mountain was officially closed. Shortly after, per request of my boyfriend, we made a pit stop at Timberline Lodge, a landmark of the classic horror film The Shining. Driving up the hill was when we noticed where the snowboarders were trekking to illegally ride down the mountain. My boyfriend, jokingly, asked if I wanted to join in. After all, my skis weren’t getting any use just sitting in the back of his car. Intrigued, I said “why not?” and decided to ski down in my boots and bikini–one last adventure before we stopped again in Portland, and then made the home stretch to Seattle.
It wasn’t the social, beach vacation filled with late nights out and $50 vegan meals that I had planned. But it was the best alternative to staying inside that I could think during this time. And sunny!
Just know that the real fun was free and found in the true enjoyment of being outside with a loved one, isolated from society, propaganda, and internet access. So get creative with your activities and ask yourself which gifts you’ve found amidst this time of stress and uncertainty.