From McKinleyville we stayed on the US-199 heading north and got to Medford before too long. The road side scenery was still gorgeous and vibrant! At least a third of the way ran alongside the Smith River – every other intersection with the river we saw people lounging on the riverbank or along the rocks in the sun. 🙂 Around one bend the water was irresistibly clear at a little river access road they label Myrtle Beach, right off the highway… so we parked, quickly grabbed swimsuits and hurried down to the sunny riverbank about 40 feet below. The river isn’t too wide, but it’s deep & swift enough to be almost aggressively cold! The sun was pleasantly warm, but it took considerable effort to get that first icy dunk down 🙂 Wow! Super refreshing! We didn’t stay in the water for too long and only lingered long enough to jump in a second time and let the sun dry us off. Truthfully, we also couldn’t leave our gear & backpacks in the parking lot for long, but it was a lot of fun. And as a general rule if there’s a bunch of locals parked around a cool looking spot, it’s quite likely it’s a worthwhile stop.
So, smiling & energized we made only one more stop before we hit Medford, for buffalo jerky and smoked salmon. The jerky is just a bit sweeter than I’m used to with biltong (the pride of South African cuisine!), but we still enjoyed it! The salmon was mouth-wateringly delicious when we shared it with our couchsurfer hosts later who helped us demolish it.
Speaking of whom, our hosts Josh & Chelsea (both on Couchsurfing independently) are awesome, fun hosts!! We’re really lucky we landed two hosts living together, and they were so easy to talk to and have a drink with. They have both been to Europe and had really funny stories to tell 🙂 Between them they’ve hosted a tremendous amount of people as well – Germany, Austria, Lithuania… From these myriad experiences and interactions Josh is passionate about writing a book about toilets and bathroom customs/etiquette from all over the world. The way he described it over a beer at a nano-brewery, it sounds hilarious! We tried to give a couple of inspiring stories from our own experience too to contribute towards his unique project.
We met Josh & Chelsea’s roommates only briefly and I kinda feel bad to say I remember their ferrets’ names (Mask & Marsupia), but not theirs… Sorry.
Oh well… we were up and out the next morning and had a mid-morning stop at Mill Creek Falls on the way to Smith Rock State Park. The hike to the falls is so quick and easy, and it is absolutely worth it! Right off route 62 you’ll find the parking lot with a trail map to Mill Creek Falls which is really scenic, refreshing, with spectacular heights.
That night at Smith Rock State Park we paid our camping permit, put up our tent in the bivouac area (there aren’t individual camp sites) and made a quick dinner amid climber conversation and slacklines set up here & there. Even though the park is definitely more of a climbers’ paradise than a hiker’s weekend retreat, the rocks in the distance are beautiful, the area really laid back and easy to find, and it had an abundance of amenities.