We started out the Retailer Tour going through areas most people probably don't strongly associate with having tons of health food stores, co-ops, and all the stuff we've been seeking out on this trip. Obviously there's plenty of healthy awesomeness in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada to discredit those assumptions, but those states are just better known for other things.
At this point in our route however, things change. We're in the Health Belt now: California, Oregon, and Washington. These are the states most notorious for their populations of hippies and hikers, their sprawling wilderness areas (spanned by the Pacific Crest Trail), the 'birth place' of health food culture (Los Angeles), and Portlandia, which frequently spoofs the latest alternative health trends to come out of its titular city.
Appropriately, we begin this stretch of our trip at Mt. Shasta, a new-age spiritualist Mecca famed for its chakra aligning properties, energy vortices, and the possibility of an as-yet-undiscovered Lemurian city resting underneath its peaks. More importantly for us, it's the home of Berryvale Grocery, the biggest health food store between Ashland and Redding, with all the resources of a big-city establishment despite its relative isolation.
Berryvale is almost always busy, absolutely brimming with people, many of whom come for their popular deli and cafe. They have an unbelievable 'backyard', with a huge, open lawn surrounded by edible herbs and flowering plants, perfect for picnicking with whatever organic fruits and snacks you just picked up. Their body care section is also unbelievably good. You'll find stuff here you won't find almost anywhere else. Oh, and you can see Mt. Shasta from the doorstep - bonus!
The tent camping here is great too. There are tons of dispersed camping opportunities in the Castle Craggs wilderness, deeper in the Trinity mountains, and on Shasta's less travelled Northeast side. Some of these you'll need a vehicle a bit more formidable than the Prius we're driving, but plenty are easily accessible for city-slicker sedans, or are just a modest hike in from a trailhead or pull-off.
Either way, the wilderness here is truly wild. Hiking down from Heart Lake at dusk we had a close encounter with a black bear browsing down the trail. The bear was busy eating and didn't take any notice of us, so we walked back a bit to the nearest clearing and waited a spell for it to move on. When we headed back down, the trail was all clear, but we calmly kept our eye out for the rest of the hike, just in case.
Berry season is at full steam (maybe that's what the bear was browsing for?) in this area, and once the season hits, it just feels silly buying these at the grocery store anymore. You can find blackberries and raspberries all over the place in the Pacific Northwest throughout the summer, literally in parking lots, on the sides of roads, and of course on beautiful hikes too. Picking them is tedious to some, but if you just get into the zone and enjoy the momemt, you'll have a massive basket full of deliciousness in no time flat.
Always be sure to ID your berries if you aren't knowledgable yet about your local foragables. There are plenty of resources online and at your local library to help you get started, and unlike mushrooms which are often hard to identify until you're more familiar with their anatomy, the structures of berries (and their leaves and stalks) are less foreign to most people's eyes, and are a much easier place to start exploring the edible world around you.
From Mt. Shasta it was up to Ashland, where we camped on Mt. Ashland surveying the land we'd just traversed. It's a great campsite, especially considering it's free, but be warned that at times the winds here are viciously strong. Setting up our tent in the evening was quite a struggle, but by morning the winds had settled down and the views are just incredible there.
Down in the town of Ashland, the community food co-op is the place to go for organic eats served hot and fresh all day. Their deli has burritos, sandwiches, juices, smoothies, soups, a salad bar, and more. It's seriously impressive, and the quality is no joke. The other health food giant in town is Ashland's own Shop N' Kart, which from the outside looks just like a regular discount grocery store, but on the inside will blow your mind with their massive kombucha selection, craft chocolate, organic produce, and cutting-edge natural body care products. The prices are unbelievable too, there's really no other place quite like it.
Finding free camping between Ashland and Eugene was a real challenge, but we somehow managed to find an underutilized BLM spot named Skull Creek Campground, a modest drive west of the small logging town of Glendale, OR. It's nothing fancy, but it's pretty accessible and you're surrounded by cedar and pine trees when you're there. We collected some tips and used them as shoe fresheners - and they worked great!
Further north on the way to Eugene is a small town called Canyonville, with a great little health food store called Promise Natural Foods that is an absolute treasure. It's been around forever, has a wonderful cozy vibe, and is undergoing some awesome new renovations that are going to make this place a great road trip destination. They've got kombucha on tap, great local organic produce, and most importantly a ton of organic baked goods they make in-house that are crazy affordable and delicious.
Eugene has so many cool little health food stores it's too many to list, but a couple of our favorites were Capella Market and Sundance Natural Foods. Capella reminded us somewhat of Shop N' Kart farther South in that it didn't project the image of 'health food store', but then you notice there's a flyer for organic heirloom tomatoes on sale in the window. Once you're inside there's all kinds of good stuff, especially in body care.
Less than ten minutes away is Sundance, which has hands-down the most intense produce section we've ever seen. They have so many varieties of plums, pears, apples, berries, everything, it'll just about bowl you over if you're into that sort of thing. Their prepared foods are simple but great, and they go on sale closer to the end of the day to make sure there isn't any waste - and there never is.
Crossing the mountains from Eugene to Bend is a very interesting experience, especially if you aren't familiar with the weather of Eastern Oregon. After Eugene we camped in the Willamette forest where our tent was thoroughly saturated by the misty rains that always envelop the Western Cascades, then the following day in Bend we dried the tent out almost instantly in the high desert on the Eastern side.
Bend is a surprisingly small and quiet city, but it has a lot of personality and some very unique places to stop and stock up. Devore's Good Food Store is a super tiny, super cute market that focuses on great produce, with a big refrigerated section of meals and snacks and sauces they make in house. Folks here take their produce seriously, and that shows even in the parks. Hollinshead Park has a beautiful community garden that was teeming with life when we went, showing clear evidence of tender love and care from the local community.
Central Oregon Locavore is the crown jewel of Bend though. It's a localist's dream come true - an entire store consisting exclusively of products made in the Pacific Northwest, mostly from Oregon, and many of them specifically from the immediate area! We've seen other places with the same idea, but no one has done it so thoroughly right. You can actually shop at this place like it's a normal grocery store! They've got more than enough fresh fruits and veggies, body care, canned goods, and various food staples to keep your pantry stocked.
From Oregon, we're cutting right down through the heart of California to Southern California and the big cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, including many hidden treasures in the mountains surrounding them! It's been awhile since we've been in a sprawling urban area, and we're curious what we'll be able to find in terms of secret camping spots.
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