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.

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