Author Archives: divyakustagi

Oregon Coast : Beauty and the Beast

May 10-12th, 2019
Shoreline Drive and ATV ride

The nature has such diversity to itself that it never ceases to enthrall and empower while also being able to pacify and please every patron or a critic likewise. One can get lost in the heavenly beauties of the serene scenes, or get galvanized upon subscribing to audacious adventures! A sane balance of both these facets is what we experienced on our weekend getaway to the wondrous Oregon coast.

This was the roadtrip we were planning since a couple of months with Nikhil’s friend Rahul and his wife Siddhi accompanying us. All of us were pretty excited. We started from Seattle at 10am on that friday and the day’s agenda was to drive through the ‘scenic US highway 101’. Driving south initially through I5, we soon diverted towards 101 near Astoria, where we had lunch at the pier 11 pizza onlooking the columbia river, surrounding mountains and long famous Astoria-Megler bridge. After this delicious lunch and some yummy ice-creams on the way, we continued driving. The curvy roads at an elevation alongside the shoreline with tall lush green mountains on one side, vast and beautiful pacific ocean beholding rocks, houses/resorts, viewpoints on the other — this is one of the best drives I have ever been on! After driving through a long stretch of this scenic highway, we reached the airbnb vacation home booked at the Oregon coast city Waldport, at around 7pm.

The rhythmic roar of Pacific waters, the sea-bed extending so far and wide that the gaze covered entire horizon, the waves crashing against the shore, the gritty sand showcasing waverly patterns — witnessing these comforting and enthralling scenes beyond the glass walls, we stood, in sheer joy! This was the sight from our airbnb vacation home! We could not have asked for anything more in this setup – the first floor hosted a lovely living room, two sides opening up into several large windows almost covering the whole wall, cozy furniture collection, sharing an open kitchen whose counters also offered this beautiful sneak-peek outside, the ground floor having a bedroom opening up into a beautiful deck having barbecue grill and the classic wooden seating, stairs down to a backyard which directly opened up onto the sands! Yes! We fell in love with this lovely vacation home 🙂  The Walk down the backyard offered a breathtaking sunset view – the orange balloon floating on the vast water bed, gradually descending down, leaving a beautiful orange tint which reached all the way to the shore, finally going down after putting up a colorful show on the horizon! The chilled waters were pleasant to see, but put us into playing kabaddi with them! We also played frisbee, had a long jump competition on the sands and so on. A lot of fog and mist gradually encircled the beach at dusk, which added to its beauty while giving us a feel of being on a private beach! The colder surroundings made us head back home. Our bedroom housed huge window on the beach side. Sleeping to the rhythmic buzz of the waves and waking up the next day to see the beach and the sand directly from our bed felt like a bliss 🙂 Never before had I stayed so close to the sea! Full marks to this vacation home on everything!

The kitchen was well-equipped, it had an amazing collection of cutlery too. We relished fluffy and tasty omelettes alongside the crispy garlic bread toast sandwiches filled with yummy aloo stuffing, variety of veggies marinated and baked to awesomeness, also had nicely heated up methi parathas, chana masala and mutter pulao.  We had a charming double date on the shore, with Rahul-Siddhi accompanying us on this trip. Lovely people they are and we all had a very nice time together!

Not just the shoreline drive, also the vacation home contributed to the beauty of this weekend getaway. But what was the ‘beast’ then? Here comes the powerful 900cc two seater ATV which we drove! Going up and down the dunes, doing lateral curved turns and skids, gearing up through the changing arenas of sand — this was an experience one of its kind! The Oregon Sand dunes at Florence was the abode of all these thrilling ventures. Some of the world’s largest and most beautiful dunes are located on the Central Oregon Coast. Glistening valleys, vast hills of shifting sand, the desert atmosphere make these dunes truly a must see!

Full marks to fun and excitement : we started off with an exciting guided 1 hour Sand Rail Tour from the Torex ATV Rentals, which helped us explore what’s in store on the dunes. It was a 6 seater ATV, and the tour guide took us all around showing different terrains, marked up regions, tree islands and water bodies while giving us thrilling and beastful experience of the highs and lows of the shifting sand. He also made us understand key protocols to be followed while riding these dunes on our own : like locating a fellow rider from a decent distance using the tall orange flags attached to their ATV, identifying deep fall patterns of sand and technique to avoid them, wet sand around water bodies and distance to be kept around them, and so on. It indeed was an adventurous tour where we also saw multiple two-seater, single seater bikes, 6 seater-tour ATVs putting up stuntful show while we experienced one awesome ride. After heading back to the ATV rental booth, we signed up for a one hour 4-seater 900cc ride to further explore the dunes on our own. Nikhil having had an experience of driving a similar one before, started off and took us to the dunes. We were by ourselves and even more excited; he tried mimicking few portions from what our guide had taken us on previously. After few minutes of fun on the wheels, he offered Rahul to check-out the ride. Rahul was pretty comfortable and did wonderful on the dunes. We were in for more adventure! There was also a couple of small hiccups: first one when our ATV got stuck in the sand while attempting to go over a steep uphill dune, where we all got out of the ATV, pulled off sand beneath each tyre to make room for movement. It was also heartening to see so many fellow ATV riders stopped by to offer help! As Rahul accelerated, we could see the sand sprinkling out like a water fountain from behind! 😀 Another time, as we drove close to a tree island, all of a sudden the ATV kind-of halted not moving an inch ahead only for us to realize that the gear chain got cut-off! Getting out of the ATV, we could see the leather pieces fallen on the track we followed! We called up the rental guys and they were to our rescue in less than 10 mins to replace the gear while they swapped out ATV with a new one. Our fun continued!  

Me and Siddhi were excited and nervous at the same time, for as much fun it seemed, riding it was scary and dangerous too! Specially because it was our first time! I recollect reading a bill-board of some advertisement on our drive the previous day which read “When was the last time you did something for the first time?!” That was an inspiration! What a coincidence! It would be my very first time on the sand dunes, and of course my first ride on an ATV! There were butterflies in my stomach because of the sheer excitement! 😀 Siddhi was still not so keen to ride it, but I still wanted to. Nikhil offered me to try it out, and I hesitantly got on the wheels. I started off slowly being over cautious, gradually speeding up. I mostly drove on relatively flat dunes to get the hang of it, and eventually started exploring more uneven dunes. My initial feeling of scare also gradually turned into a thrill! I was shouting out of excitement at times and the joy on my face was evident 🙂 Looking at me doing it, Siddhi got excited and she agreed to ride the beast too; we had more fun except for a small portion where we bumped into a sand pit and felt some sudden jerk! Well that is what it is all about, it is not called the “beast” just like that! Everyone was fine and we continued riding more. Very soon it was time to head back. With a bundle of vivid experiences of this 1-hr ride we headed back to the rental location.

ATV ride was the main agenda of this trip and Nikhil and I kept wanting more! We chose to go back to the dunes for another hour! This time on a 2-seater 900cc beast, and I took control right from the rental location. It was roughly a half mile ride before we reached the dunes and navigated through the woods into the dunes; very soon reaching the wide open sand terrain! This time I was feeling more relieved and free – Of Course, it is only your husband with you and you can be as crazy and kiddo as you want! 😉 I started attempting more uneven dunes very early in the ride and drove up a very high dune, suddenly to realize it was a steep fall down! Nothing on the other side would be visible unless you climb up the top. Luckily I had breaks at that very moment, and retrieved the course of my ride! That moment gave me shivers! After this, there were plenty such goosebump moments where I tried riding across a very steep uphill several times, drove on full speed around small ups and downs of sand, drove up a very high dune and stopped to see fantastic views all-around, and so on. After I had satisfying time behind the wheel, Nikhil took over and then we had some real beastful experience! He tried many skids on the sand, several wavy dune areas, a couple of deep fall courses and much more! It was evident on his face that he was absolutely loving it, so was I 🙂 We had one heck of an experience! We switched seats a couple more times and further explored the arena; very soon our time ran out and we headed back. This first-time experience filled my excitement to the brim, and I was happy to have really tried something for a first-time. It sure motivated me to try out more, and I shall soon.

We drove back and had a late lunch at a beautiful river-side Italian restaurant, got back to our lovely vacation home, relaxed for sometime and then spent some nice time together. We played a lot of fun games on a VR playstation, the Nintendo Switch Wi, that was available at the vacation home! Cool isn’t it? We explored Bowling, Tennis, Golf and many more games on it! It was indeed a relaxing night. Next morning we checked out and visited a Tillamook Cheese Factory on the way back – the tour was informative as we walked past every stage of cheese making process while having a look at the live equipments pushing out huge blocks of packed cheese. Best part of this visit was that we could taste variety of cheese pieces for free! Yummy! We also relished the delicious garlic cheese fries on the way back. Rahul drove the entire stretch back and this was the first time Nikhil and I had time together on a drive (Else, he usually drives and we don’t have relaxing time together). We kept talking, playing and enjoying nice views together all-along. We visited ‘Bollywood Theatre’, an Indian restaurant in Portland where we had some delicious Vada-pav, Pav bhaji and a couple other eateries. Our ride continued, we saw the mighty Mt.Hood (which is like the Mt. Rainier of Oregon) and several other beautiful places on the way back.

This trip was rightly a ‘Beauty and Beast’ experience for me with serene shoreline drive, soulful beach and vacation home time, lovely tour buddies, enthralling ATV ride and much more! Truly a worth remembering ‘first-time’ something for me! So, get out and try something for the first time! Be a neophile! It is always more fun and amazing inspiration!

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Snowshoeing to Skyline Lake and Beyond

Hiked on : Sunday, 10th March 2019
Elevation Gain : 1500ft
Distance : 3.6 miles round-trip (Ascent – 2 miles, Descent – 1.6 miles)
Activity Overview

A quiet Sunday afternoon, no one around, standing on top of a mountain – amidst tall pine trees, scanning the horizon from left to right, I closed my eyes, stretched my arms wide, tilted my head upward facing the sky, and with all courage, fell back in a free-fall. Thud came the sound! Aw! Well, it definitely wasn’t an attempt to injure myself, but an act of sheer joy 😀 There was a flat smooth blanket of snow beneath me providing an amazing cushion for the fall! Lying down like this, on the shores of the frozen Skyline lake felt so relaxing! Yes, this was one of the moments from another lovely snowshoeing venture on a late-winter weekend.

Our journey started at 7:30am on that Sunday morning after we had a check of all necessary hiking gear and food to be taken along. The trailhead to this hike is approximately 80 miles drive from Seattle and is on the way to Leavenworth.The drive took us 1hr 45 min to reach the parking area opposite to the Stevens Pass Ski resort, driving on US highway 2 and further. Heading out, gearing up with the snow-pants, gloves, beanie and goggles, and carrying the microspikes and snowshoes along, we started the hike at 9:30am on the service road to the west of the parking area.

This winter in Washington and the pacific northwest was special in a way that it had seen greater amounts of snowfall all-around. The trail thus had snow right from the start-point; we began walking on only our boots for initial distance considering fairly hard firm snow. Very soon we had to switch to Microspikes or Snowshoes as the trail was turning out to be more snowy and slushy. We decided to put on Snowshoes, hoping that they would be a better choice further ahead on the trail. The initial climb was steep with distinct paths visible for skiers and snowshoers. The weather was cold too and that resulted in my blocked nose adding to the trouble of steep tiring climb. Yet, we kept walking and after some huff-puff and a decent amount of coverage we reached a Radio tower. The route to Skyline Lake is northwest from this point, leaving the service road and we followed the trail. We took many short breaks that helped me gather my breath and feel better. At the same time, we also enjoyed beautiful views of the Ski resort and the mountains across.

About an hour of climb opened up into something that resembled a huge playground with white glittering floor and tall green pine trees acting like a fence all-around. It was an absolutely amazing sight! Oh yes, this was the Skyline Lake! Frozen to the brim , with fresh layer of thick soft snow. There were only few people around savoring the beauty; Nikhil and I paused for a couple of moments before continuing to cut-through the snowy pathway right in the middle of the Skyline Lake. This was wonderful, but something ahead was better. In about 15 mins, following the ridge west for a quarter of a mile, we reached the beautiful rock garden just before a steep high point on the ridge. It featured enormous rocks, some huge house-sized and these looked splendid covered in fresh snow. We climbed up on one such huge rock that was relatively flat and was a good place to sit down and behold the picturesque views all-around. It turned out to be a bright sunny day with clear skies, building up the warmth around. By this time, I was breathing easy and relieved of the initial tiresome ascent.


Sitting on top facing the Steven Pass Ski resort, we got a panoramic view of all the four types of ski lines and the lifts – the green line in the middle just adjacent to the magic carpet, the blue one next to it, black and double-black towards the left, another line to the extreme right with periodic bumps for ski stunts. This was the same ski resort where I enjoyed snow showers on my very first outing in US to Leavenworth; looking at it from an elevation flashed those scenes on top of my mind and it was a nice feeling. Also the fact that I recently had started learning skiing made the views more relatable. But the best part up there was that the place was not at all crowded; there were only two more people on the summit and probably two more walking the ridge on hind side. Nikhil pointed to the Tye Peak on our left asking if I would want to climb some portion of it. It looked steep and I said, “In sometime”. He went on to explore the other side of the ridge and I stayed at the rock garden. In few minutes I saw him climbing up that slopy stretch! “Careful” I thought to myself, also, “I wanted to do it too! Huh!”. While I sat gazing at the horizon for sometime, the other two summiteers prepared to depart after which I had the whole place for myself! Soothing! I felt very peaceful on this snow-couch. Soon Nikhil returned and we opened up our packed lunch and relished the tasty pulao – it was like a date on the summit amidst glittering white wonder 🙂 We saw a couple of airplanes flying at a distance and leaving prominent white trails in the sky, which added to the beauty of serene scenes around. After more than an hour at the summit, another hiker came in; he offered for a couple of clicks, and why would we deny 😀 We posed, we then clicked more pictures, videos and experimented a ‘reflection in my glasses’ click. After a while, we put-on our snowshoes and backpacks to try that peak again. Walking on the hindside of the ridge, we saw more beautiful views of the tall and pointed Glacier peak and many more surrounding mountains.


This last portion of climb was steep and snowy, and I had to be focussed and careful. I followed Nikhil’s footsteps as he guided me up the hill to a point well past mid-way of Tye’s peak. What I witnessed from there was totally breathtaking! An even better and elevated view of everything around, including the Rock Garden where we had rested a while ago! It was just lovely! Looking back on the other side, the lined up cascades were stunning too. Having no idea of what this hike would be like when we started, little did I expect such views. Again, it was only two of us up there, and it felt merrier 🙂 We spent some peaceful and blissful time enjoying the beauty around and each-others company. We clicked more pictures; we saw a rock naturally decorated with snow and it resembled a person’s face, was nice. After few minutes, looking around one last time, we started the downward journey. Getting down was scarier and I had to be extra-cautious. I avoided looking down directly, for the deep valley would be more frightening; and kept focussing on every footstep following Nikhil’s way. It took more time to get down to the rock garden after which we walked around a bit amidst the tall rocks; the scene looked like a fantastic wall-paper! We indulged in some fun by rolling down small balls of snow which formed shapes that resembled cinnamon rolls rolling down 😀 The quite snowy mountain top had kindled the child within us 🙂


We walked back to the Skyline lake after having spent ample amount of time at the landmarks above it. To our surprise, there was nobody there too! We indulged in more funny activities : did several free-falls on snow, played catch – catch with a bottle cap (diving on snow for those catches was fun), carved large-sized N-D with our snowshoes and recorded few of these crazy moments on our cellphones. Just when we thought we had enough fun and decided to start the descent, we saw a couple of people getting down – a man with his pet dog, and a skier. Luckily we had wrapped up our craziness by this time and no one witnessed:D As we walked back, we saw another group sunbathing at the other end of the lake. It was already 2:30pm by then, and we tried looking for shortcuts to reach down. Making way through the tall pine trees was fun, and I enjoyed this portion as well 🙂 After a point, we joined the main service road trail and walked down on it, also ran down a few steep sections ( thanks to gravity and its pull 😛 ) Somewhere well-past mid-way, we saw snow structures that resembled fencing for tents – it was done by a training group I suppose; we had seen a bunch of people with a trainer on our way up. We continued walking down and after like an hour of entire descent, we reached the trailhead. Here we stopped to celebrate the completion of our hike and to get rid of our snowshoes. This was when we saw a group of 4 people who sledged down the path, it was faster and must have been much more fun (and of-course less tiring 😉 ). Wondering how strong the sleds were, Nikhil got so curious that he went on to enquire only to realize that the guy had bought them back in his childhood and he claimed that they probably don’t make such sleds anymore! Sad!


Well, all these were our bundle of experiences on this superb snowshoeing hike – nice elevation, a good climbing exercise and wonderful views. Another amazing feather on our hat of outdoor adventures as a couple! We reached the parking lot, un-geared and drove back home. By this time, I had become pretty comfortable with snowshoes and thus, this hike to Skyline lake was a very rewarding experience that filled me with plenty of cherishable moments and left me with furthermore cravings to venture into the ever pleasing mother nature 🙂

Categories: Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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