Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Oregon coast with. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Oregon coast with. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, November 7, 2015

New Terriitory on the Oregon Coast with Four Wheel Camper and Friends - plus a Secret

What is it about oceans that makes us feel like masters of the universe? Who isn't spellbound by the surf and surge, the soaring seabirds and the deep sea beings, so close and yet a world away. Here friend Dave Frank gathers power and beauty, drama and danger, as he attempts to command  the Pacific Ocean. 

Usually PK and I head to coast alone, but in early October we joined a group of 12 in the Humbug Mountain/Port Orford area of the Southern Oregon coast. Basking here in the late afternoon sun with margaritas,  burritos, and old friends, we couldn't be more warmed.
For 40-some years, PK and I have traveled to the Oregon coast. It's where we met in the 1970s, and where we return periodically to refuel. We did so in early October, and as we made the return trip to our inland Rogue Valley home, we reveled once again in our good fortune to live so close to an ultimate power place—the Pacific Ocean's interface with the wild Oregon shore.

I say "wild" because the Southern Oregon shore, in addition to being relatively undeveloped,  belongs to everyone. In Oregon, not even Donald Trump can own a beach or block access to one. Since the Beach Bill  became law in 1967, all 362 miles of Oregon coast is open territory. If you can drive or walk there, it's yours. Is that great, or what?

As usual, we traveled in our little Four-Wheel Camper clamped onto an aging Toyota Tundra. Also as usual, when we stay in developed campgrounds such as the Oregon State Park's Humbug Mountain campground, we brought down the neighborhood.

With a pop-up camper, no matter how deluxe we think it is, we rank just a notch above tent dwellers, who are usually segregated without electricity, water hook-ups, or, of course, sewer connection.  (At this campground, however, the tent sites were the only ones on the creek! The fact that the creek was without water doesn't matter. Tent camping is encouraged in Oregon!) Directly across the camp road, however, we were hunkered amidst mammoth RVs. I have no problem with big RVs, but I don't want one.

Honestly, PK and I are a bit smug about our little 4WC. When we hear the generators rev up and catch the sterile glimmer of television screens, and people actually walking around in those those big boxes on wheels, we congratulate one another as we suck in our guts and co-exist in our roughly four-feet long, two-feet wide floorspace. The 4WC isn't for everyone, but for people like us who camped in tents for umpteen years, it is extravagant. It is bliss. It is luxury.

Our grandkids LOVE the 4WC. No sooner do we set up in their backyard than they're all over it. As you can see, we lack a dance floor, but we do enjoy a refrigerator/freezer, sink, 2-burner stove, furnace, queen-sized bed, and a decent sound system. And lights. And did I say heat? And an outside shower. And an awning.  Let's not talk about the toilet, though. Nothing to talk about.
Back to the beach. We have our favorite spots, including this overlook on the Indian Sands trail just north of Brookings.
We've hiked the steep trail to get to this view 20+ times. When we were younger, we skirted the edge of a rocky path with a straight shot to the crazy surging boils 25 feet below. We now enjoy danger from a distance, where a stumble doesn't necessarily mean certain death. 
But on this trip we discovered new wonders that somehow eluded us on previous visits, such as....

We'd never camped at Humbug Mountain, although we climbed to the top of the mountain years ago. And although we'd rented a motel room a couple times in nearby Port Orford, we had never set foot on this Port Orford beach, which is terrifying It's one of those super steep sloped beaches with huge waves that you don't want to play chicken with. Go there and be alone with the wind, sand, and robust waves. Take a little bag for your agates. Don't wade into the surf.
  Locals call it Agate Beach, but Tseriadun is the official name.
 Watch for sneaker waves! Also agates just lying about.
The Port Orford Lifeboat Station museum and associated trails are not to be missed if you have any interest whatsoever in how the early Coast Guard rescued ship-wreck survivors in this treacherous stretch of coast, and also how they lived in a structure that is now a museum. Even if you don't have an interest, you may develop one visiting the museum and trails.
 This tiny sheltered cove served as the Coast Guard's harbor during the years strong brave guys braved treacherous conditions to rescue victims of frequent shipwrecks. If you're going through Port Orford, take time for the museum and a short walk to see this cove, and......a trail along the bluff that leads to sights such as......
     Seals sunning themselves in perfect states of lethargy. We were mesmerized by them and also ....
Whales! Or maybe only one whale, which cavorted near the seal-covered rocks.

From Grants Pass, Port Orford is 153 miles, a three-hour drive.
Just up Hwy. 101 from Port Orford is Cape Blanco, the western-most point on the Oregon coast, where a lighthouse still beams and friendly volunteers will tell you that the lighthouse stairs are no longer safe since a recent minor offshore earthquake resulted in a lighthouse crack. New to me were the great trails and incredible views above and beyond the lighthouse.
Smart (older) hikers bring hiking poles when walking sometimes-steep-and-rocky coastal trails, 

A new-to-me beach on Cape Blanco within  sight of the lighthouse. Gail Frank leads the way.

The Secret
Fall is the best time on the southern Oregon coast, and don't discount winter; watch the forecast for winter weather windows. 

Unless you live within a few hours of the Southern Oregon coast, you may not be able to take advantage of counter-intuitive realities; late fall and winter can be the best times to visit. Unless you're a surfer with a wetsuit, the Oregon coast is not for swimming and sunbathing. It is all about drama and grandeur with breathtaking vistas and myriad hiking ops. If you can, skip the crowds, visit during the off season and enjoy the "Brookings Effect" which renders the southern-most Oregon coast mild and dry while rain prevails elsewhere.
This blazing sun visited the Southern Oregon coast on December 15, 2013. It was 70 degrees for two days in a row!  Off-season rates, empty beaches and big show-off winter surf  made this one of our best coast trips ever. Mid-summer heat waves in the inland valleys often mean coastal fog during what are usually considered prime vacation travel months - July and August. Not here.
A  December sun sets in Gold Beach, Oregon.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Oregon Coast Getaway with Four Wheel Camper

This is what you don't want to see when you visit the Oregon coast—a band of
thick fog sitting on Highway 101. It bodes ill.
Because when you see that fog bank ahead, here's what the
usually stunning scenery looks like. 
PK and I are always ready to charge off in our little Four Wheel pop-up camper, if even for a few days. Since the Four Wheel is the self-proclaimed "only true off-road camper," and we chose it so we could go places people driving boxcar-sized RV units can't, we usually shun massive campgrounds and opt for Forest Service camps, or we tuck into undeveloped pull-outs, cliff overhangs and shorelines. We weren't entirely successful in crowd avoidance during our recent two-night trek to Oregon's southern coast, however. More on that below.

When we left for the coast a couple weeks ago, we were fleeing the heat. We'd endured triple-digit temps alternating with high-nineties for what seemed like forever, but was really only most of July.  (Now we're living in smoke from numerous forest fires. See previous post if you like depressing stuff.)
This beach is in Northern California just a few miles from the Oregon border. We considered camping in the deserted nearby parking area in the spirit of our dear little camper, but dang, it was chilly, windy, and smelled of rotting fish. Also, fog was rolling in. Sometimes we have to practice tough love with the camper.

The Southern Oregon/Northern California coast is famously cool when the inland valleys are roasting. We left the ranch sweltering in 100+ temps and two hours later were shivering on the beach (alone, of course) with stiff winds challenging the worthiness of our wind jackets. We wanted out of the valley heat, but not in to coastal chill, wind, and fog.

 We ended up about 12 miles inland on the Chetco River just outside of Brookings, Oregon, completely out of the fog and into perfect weather. This is a Forest Service camping area, but without formal sites. There may have been as many as 50 people around, but we couldn't hear them.
We couldn't see them, either. We like this. (It looks like PK is
staring at the trees, but the Chetco River is the blackness beneath the trees.)
We weren't offended when a sweet little family used the swimming hole in front of our camp. 
Camping is a "special occasion" offering an excuse for drinking wine. I don't need much of an excuse, of course, but there are worse things. The slanted light did wonders for our plastic glasses. 

Easy dinner, mostly from the garden. Simple cucumber salad,
fried spuds with zucchini, onions, chard and basil, and Trader Joe's
hot Italian sausage.  
Next day we were ready for another go at the coast, but alas, the fog persisted and, for the most part, hid the Oregon coast's spectacular beauty.

This was the view from atop Cape Sebastian, which is usually mind-blowing. 
We stopped for lunch at the picturesque Griff's restaurant on the dock at Port Orford, having read positive reviews on Yelp! PK gave thumbs up to his fish and chips. My crab Louis ($17!!) was dinner-salad sized, came with a packet of Ritz crackers (!!) and left me hungry and crabby (hahaha). 

Here we are at the second-night camp, cheek to jowl with cold grumpy campers on both sides, at Bullard's Beach State Park. Oregon has a great state parks system, but our camper does not like super developed and crowded campgrounds.Bullard's Beach has more than 300 sites plus a bunch of yurts and an equestrian camp. Sites are neatly divided by vegetation, but it didn't work for us. 

The indignities! The Four Wheel camper (she needs a name!) gets embarrassed when out of her element. We can get by without power and water hook-ups for several days, but we use them when available, especially when we've paid for them. The white bucket catches sink water. Having campers directly across the way and on either side is, well, just not fun.
PK on the last steps of a mile+ trail from camp to the beach. 
Another beach to ourselves! At least 600 people, probably more like 1,000, were in the campground, but truthfully, this beautiful beach wasn't that inviting and I don't blame them for sticking close to their RVs. The temperature differential between camp and the beach was probably 20+ degrees, so people we saw along the trail were mostly underdressed. A tee shirt is not going to do the trick here. That's grey fog blowing in on a stiff ocean breeze. Sand is skittering across the beach, and I guess we gave it five minutes. Or less. The Oregon coast isn't like California with nearly naked people frolicking in the surf (Here you could die! And you would most assuredly need a wetsuit.) The Oregon coast in July .... unknown to tourists who have not visited during summer months.... is often chilly, windy, and foggy. My sister came all the way from Minnesota one summer, traveled the Oregon coastline from north to south, and didn't see the ocean for more than a few minutes. Best time to visit? Late August and September. Then you can get by with shorts and tee shirts and the Oregon coast will blow your mind and make your eyes and your heart ache at the beauty of it all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First road trip 2017, Southern Oregon Coast — with a boondocking tip

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We'd been retreating to the Oregon coast between Brookings and Gold Beach for decades before someone recommended this prime real estate—Thunder Rock Cove. See PK on the rocks on right? How insignificant we are on the land, and the sea dwarfs us even more.
Storms have hammered Southern Oregon for months, but the furies took a break early last week for two entire days. We heard the forecast, locked eyes, and said, Let's go!

So PK released the Roadtrek from its antifreeze-induced coma, I put together a quick camp menu, and we motored 80 happy miles to the Southern Oregon coast.

We are fortunate to live near the Pacific Ocean — such a power-source. It never fails to energize, inspire, and, during these surreal political times, calm. The crashing waves, the salty scent of sea air, the glint of slanted sun on the water, the glowering clouds meeting the horizon. It all dissolves poisonous anxiety and opens the mind to focus on what really matters. Family, friends, relationships is what it boils down to.

Aside from its stunning beauty, the Southern Oregon coast in the off season is more or less deserted.
   A view from the Cape Sebastian trail. We hiked about 90 min-
   utes round trip from the top almost to the beach and back
   and didn't see a soul. 
Like everyone else in Southern Oregon, we live a five-hour drive from major population centers. Lots of small towns here, and a minor city there, but Portland is five hours north and San Francisco is seven hours south. Hence our guarantee, at least during the off-season, of having regional natural wonders to ourselves. 

On our lovely lonely beaches we can pretend that the world is still all natural and pristine, population density is under control, our country is not in a period of political discord, and that maniacs around the world are not constantly committing crimes against humanity and nature.

Here the only aggression arises from a winter sea riled by natural forces rather than from ego-ridden flawed humans riled by each other and driven by pride and greed. 

Another view  from the Thunder Rock Cove trail, which is part of the
Pacific Coast Trail through the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

If you visit this part of the world, stop at as many pullouts as you can manage along the 26-mile Samuel H. Boardman corridor. Every single stop has a gem to turn over in your vision and your mind. 
PK at Thunder Rock Cove. Part of the trail follows
a creek with a waterfall or two. Ho hum. 
Boondocking Bonus

About that boondocking thing. I admit that until early last year,  I thought boondocking had to do with living in the boondocks, which we pretty much already do in rural Southern Oregon.

But no.

Boondocking, in camping terms, means parking your RV, or pitching your tent, someplace where you don't have to pay. And, of course, the trade off is you also don't have electricity or water hookups, restrooms, laundry, or any of the amenities that can dock you $30 to $60 a night. (We once paid $86 at a KOA on the East Coast near Acadia National Park but that's another story.)

Boondocking has become, I believe, something of a badge of honor. I learned this after we bought our Roadtrek Agile van in February 2016 and joined the Roadtreking Facebook group, aimed at travelers with small Class B RVs but open to all. If you have an RV of any size, or are thinking about buying one, check it out.

If you're rolling in a small RV, such as our van, you are self contained with water, heat, generator, and the all-important flush toilet. Why should you pay for camping? 

Too many commercial RV parks look like sales lots, just a bunch of big rigs lined up in a metallic row with a tree or two here and there. Or not. Little privacy. Gravel. Sad little plants. Sometimes clean restrooms/showers, sometimes not.

During our two-day coastal getaway, we scored a wonderful boondocking spot quite by accident. I glimpsed a car climbing a steep gravel drive on the ocean side of the highway as we were passing by. We returned to the area later and discovered a perfect hideaway.
I love this. We're super close to Hwy. 1 but we couldn't see the road and drivers couldn't see us. There were no pay envelopes in sight. Also no other campers.

As the photo below shows, we did have a fine vista to enjoy while sipping wine before our  dinner of leftovers from home. 

Here we are leveled up with Lego thingies, our plastic rug on forest duff and mud, deluding ourselves about keeping the van tidy. It never hurts to try.
Before I leave the boondocking topic, here's a tip.
If you have a self-contained RV, you can join, for $20 to $25 a year, a group called Welcome Boondockers. 

For $25, you can park your RV on a member's property. For $20 you can park on others' property and open yours to fellow travelers. The website shows hundreds, maybe thousands, of available driveways, fields, and whatever to park for the night, all over the USA and Canada and some in Mexico and other foreign lands.

We used Welcome Boondockers several times during our seven-week cross-country road trip last fall. It was great, and we met some fine folks. 

And while I'm at it, the ALLSTAYS Camp and RV app helps you find campgrounds and parks and dozens of other things RVers might look for, including "dispersed" camping areas, and Wal Mart and other businesses that allow overnight parking.

Dispersed camping, usually available on BLM or Forest Service lands, is free camping without amenities, the same as boondocking. 

Sky, land and sea from Otter Point north of Gold Beach, OR.
On the road there, we saw a large semi-hidden RV boondocking.

OK. Here's a confession: We were at the coast for just two nights, and we spent one of them at a hotel in Gold Beach. A hotel! Even when we had the private spot with a million $$$$ view.

I know. It's embarrassing.

But hear me out. It was Valentine's Day and we had reservations at a quirky gourmet restaurant in Gold Beach, Oregon, Anna's by the Sea.  Recommended!

The combination of Valentine's Day and dinner reservations propelled us to the hotel, where our dinner and our bed were just a few blocks apart. You make concessions when you're over a certain age and are no longer living paycheck to paycheck. 

We'll get our fill of  boondocking this spring as we travel to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

       Parting shots from the Southern Oregon coast

Standing in the surf can make anybody feel like Master of the Universe. 
One of my favorite Oregon coast memories is of this mid-December day when the temperature climbed to 70F and we spent hours hiking and relaxing on Lone Ranch Beach. Back home in the Rogue Valley, cold fog hid the sun and it was around 35F.

My niece from Minnesota marveling at an Indian Sands trail vista a few years ago. 

Same niece, different year, and a typical sunset on the Southern Oregon coast.

Guide to the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
If you plan to visit the Southern Oregon Coast, this guide is invaluable.

Three earlier posts, two about camping on the Southern Oregon Coast and one about a fantastic beach camp in Northern California. Pick and choose. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Winter Camping along N. California Coast with Four-Wheel Camper

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This huge Roosevelt  elk trotted past our camp along the Pacific Ocean in the Redwood National Park's Gold Bluffs campground. We saw hundreds of Roosevelt elk in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park area.
We guessed his rack was three- to-four-feet.
PK and I have lived in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon since the early 1970s. Through the decades, we mostly stuck close to home. Limited funds. Two kids. Two jobs. Two-week vacations. You know the no-thrill drill.

No complaints, though, as we had the Wild and Scenic Rogue River at our disposal and all the weekend rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, we could handle. Now that we're retired, we've started the exotic explorations we've always fantasized about, and in the past two years are fortunate to have visited South Africa, Uganda, and Nepal.

But we haven't forgotten where we live, not just Oregon's Rogue Valley, but the State of Jefferson, a collection of rural counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California where folks don't necessarily cotton to the mostly urban dwellers who govern both states. Hence various attempts to form a separate state have been launched, only to fizzle. Statehood probably won't happen, but in the meantime, residents of this mythical state cherish the flora and fauna that define the region. 
Elk hoof prints are large and distinctive, and
surprising to find on the beach.
PK and I hear the local forecasts on NPR each morning, which include most of the State of Jefferson. Lately, our Rogue Valley forecast has been foggy and cold, while the Northern California coast has been sunny and warm, temps in the high 50s being considered comfy. Let's go there, we said on a recent unacceptable morning during which the sun was not expected to penetrate the low-hanging gloom.  We drove a couple hours to reach our destination, but it's still close enough to call "home." And we were reminded once again why we love where we live.

One of the gold bluffs that give the campground its name. 
PK readies kindling for a campfire at our beach camp in the Redwood National Park.
Our Four-Wheel camper is perfect for such places, where large RVs, or trailers of any type, are not allowed due to the four-mile narrow rutted access road. But what a gift! An oceanfront campsite!
An early January sunset as viewed bundled up in our camp chairs. 
White crowned sparrows hung around awaiting crumbs. They didn't get any.  Multiple messages from national and state parks beg visitors to NOT feed the wildlife anything, even crumbs.
The next morning a minor stream crossing was necessary to reach the Fern Canyon trailhead, one of the Redwood National Park's favorite trails. But the car in the background could have navigated it.
Fern Canyon wasn't up to its usual glory as the bedraggled maidenhairs appeared to have suffered from cold. Or maybe they always die and come back. It's winter! What did we expect?
The redwoods, however,  never fail to inspire awe. We explored several trails winding amidst the ancient giants. 
Sore neck time.
Young redwoods cozy up to a much older tree. In time, their trunks may merge.

On the way home, we meandered along the Redwood Highway to Grants Pass, which follows the Smith River for a time. The Smith's delicate turquoise and breathtakingly clarity thrill me every single time since I first saw the river more than 40 years ago. 
Being alone on the beach is not unusual along coastal areas in the State of Jefferson. We'll be back to take advantage before the hoards descend for the summer tourist season. As daily listeners to weather updates for the N. California coast,  we believe summer visitors may not find summer conditions much different from winter. Year-round, temperatures range from high 40s to lower 60s.
However, we DID get lucky. The annual average January rainfall in this area is 11 inches.



When we first graduated from tent camping to the Four-Wheel Camper, we were old, relatively, in our 60s. We about died of happiness. After decades of erecting our faithful Moss tent in wind and rain, crawling out at night to pee, enduring an occasional rock under a sleeping pad, struggling to read with a headlamp, and waking in the dark with no place to go, our new camper was thrilling.