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COLUMN: An Easter weekend on the road leads to a new love for Oregon

‘I have been craving the seaside and needing the solitude,’ says Chilliwack Progress editor
The sun sets on the central coast of Oregon on Good Friday, March 29, 2024. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)

I spent my Easter weekend far, far away from my loved ones.

Instead of planning to seat dozens of people, hiding eggs for little ones and filling myself up with scalloped potatoes, ham and chocolate, I pointed my car toward the central Oregon coastline, and disappeared for a few days of camping.

It’s one of the fine privileges of empty nesting, being able to completely abandon your traditional norms to make way for new ones. The Oregon coast has been at the top of my to-see list for the past 30-odd years, but life’s other needs have always come first. Mostly, the need to plan our family trips around whichever tournaments we had to attend across the Pacific Northwest.

For the most part, our holidays were within earshot of a multitude of soccer fields across Washington and B.C., arenas up and down the province, and track facilities from Langley to Kamloops.

But without kids to haul around, and no need to plan for 5:30 a.m. ice times, my options for travel destinations have grown tremendously. And not just locations, but the exact activities I can delve into.

I have been craving the seaside and needing the solitude for some time.

I probably didn’t have to camp in Yachats, Oregon to explore tide pools at dawn. But there was nobody to stop me, so why not?

And with our beautiful mountain surroundings right here in Chilliwack, I know I didn’t need to detour to Mt. Hood to stick my head in the spray of a waterfall. But it sure felt wonderful to be there. One could even say there was magic there, as the sun sparkled down through the trees and into the overspray.

No matter where I go, I never really leave the innately curious reporter tactics at home. It’s just so ingrained in my being to ask people questions, to observe. So every stop along the way has the potential to meet new people and hear new stories.

What I heard from the people I met was not always pleasant. Americans are clearly anxious about their current state of affairs, particularly when it comes to human rights.

By chance, I was in the historic waterfront community of Newport on Easter Sunday, which this year, happened to coincide with International Transgender Day of Visibility. I noticed a large pink and blue flag flying high above the street at a small gift shop, so I climbed the stairs to chat with the staff.

One was a woman working there was celebrating her one year of being clean, and showed me the tattoos on her chest of the dates that she overdosed and was saved. She told me her story, and her struggles and fears, and how hard it is to get treatment of any kind in their city.

The other worker was a transgender woman, who looked me in the eye and confessed her greatest fear: “In 10 years, I’ll probably be living in a camp.”

She meant a detention camp. And there I was, enjoying my freedom to camp wherever I was and as whoever I was.

The store stop was an unexpected one along my 1,500-km solo road trip, but one that sticks out as one of the most important. It wasn’t on my carefully constructed itinerary, but getting to know people along the way is always a goal of mine when travelling.

I cannot help but ask people about themselves, to learn about where I’m visiting by finding out if I’m even welcome there.

One person in the touristy stop of Astoria, Oregon noted that locals are seeing more Canadians than anyone can remember in recent history. Another told me she fell in love with the state’s coastline on a road trip, and moved there a year and a half ago.

I heard stories of division and fear among some of the people, but also enjoyed the beauty of Oregon and its incredible amenities, forests, parks, trails and highways. All of the superlative words like majestic, romantic, sweeping beauty, and so on, are applicable here.

So instead of ticking Oregon off a list of places I’ve been, and moving onto the next location to visit, I have wholeheartedly committed to returning as soon as possible, and making it my Easter weekend tradition.

Jessica Peters is the editor of the Chilliwack Progress.

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