In May we started off in Astoria Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River and traveled as far south as Tillamook along the central Oregon Coast. In June we continued south to the redwood forests of northern California. The first stop on this leg of the trip; old friends’ house in tiny Yachats, the self-proclaimed Gem of the Oregon Coast.
After surviving a crowded RV park outside of Tillamook over the Memorial Day Holiday it was a special treat to set up our rig in a quiet, flower-filled field at Dave and Su’s house far up the Yachats River and nestled in against the Siuslaw National Forest. The fern-lined Yachats River flows past their house and elk browse in nearby fields – it was an idyllic setting for the next five days.
Yachats is set in the most dramatic and beautiful part of coastal Oregon. And, we had arrived just in time for Yachats’ first Pride Days, a celebration of the gay and transgender community complete with Gay Bingo night hosted by drag queen Bunny Fu Fu. Of course we had to go.
It seemed we brought the sun with us and as we rested up for bingo night Dave walked us up the road to his neighbors’ farm; a nursery of succulent plants they raise for florists all over Oregon. It was operated by an old couple, Jeri and Roy, in their 70s and 80s, and it was inspiring to see not only the plants, but Jeri and Roy still working them as they have for the past fifty years.
Just south of Yachats are the spectacular headlands of Cape Perpetua with its iconic lighthouse. Along the coast of Yachats are rocky outcrops full of tidepools extending into the ocean. They were full of lime-green sea anemones and, . . . starfish! Usually a common sight along the Pacific coast, over the past few years a mysterious disease had wiped them out and the coast seemed to be missing something without them. So, it was a special treat to see them returning.
We spent long, lazy days riding mountain bikes up the logging roads, hiking through old-growth forests, or walking along the coast. We inflated our kayak for its first trip on a local lake to test it out before hitting the ocean with it and it worked great.
We visited nearby Newport with its colony of local sea lions lounging on a wharf at the waterfront and toured its kitschy museums. We visited Florence with its pleasant “old town” spread out along the Siuslaw River and ate our fill of fresh clams and crab.
But, it was time to move on and we hitched up the trailer as a cold rain began to fall. Unfortunately, the rain had softened the grassy field we had set up in and even in low-range four-wheel drive the wheels of our one-ton Ram pickup spun uselessly in the slick grass and mud.
No matter; we attached a cable from Dave’s pickup truck to our Ram and with his truck also in four-wheel drive we were able to haul the truck and trailer up to his driveway leaving ugly scars in the daisy-filled field we had called home for the past week. Dave and Su said not to worry about it and we drove off; sorry to go, but ready to continue our journey south. The next stop; Cape Blanco, the westernmost point in Oregon.
The Oregon Coast flattens out after Cape Perpetua starting with a fifty-mile stretch of sand dunes from Florence south to Coos Bay and then climbs into the low, forested hills of the Coast Range. The area passes through heavily logged private timberlands and state forests while the dunes and beaches are infested with dirt bikes and dune buggies roaring around. We were becoming disenchanted, even thinking of just driving on into California, until we reached the turn-off for Cape Blanco State Park.
As we drove up the access road through sheep farms and fields we wondered if this would be worth it until we passed through the park boundary and reached the cape, and it was spectacular. Oregon’s oldest lighthouse was perched on a windy bluff and sea stacks shaped like whales jutted out of the ocean far offshore. For $22 per night we set up our trailer in a private, forested slot overlooking the ocean and even had water and power (no sewer attachment though). Even better, there was hardly anyone in the park. Now this would do fine for the next four nights.
We set up our outdoor kitchen and relaxed with a burger and asparagus dinner as the late afternoon sun began to set. Unfortunately, that was the last time we’d see much of the sun for the next three days as a cold, windy rain settled in that night. Still, we enjoyed Cape Blanco immensely and toured the lighthouse and the historic Hughes House built in 1898 on a lonely bluff over the tidelands.
We visited nearby Blandon and its easy-going “old town” district. One morning I woke up early and hiked down to the beach and then around the rocky cape below the lighthouse finding tidepools with more starfish and even a Pacific giant octopus washed up on one of the lonely beaches there. Another day we hiked out to the beach where the Sixes River pours into the Pacific and surprised a pair of racoons bathing along the empty beach while harbor seals eyed us suspiciously from the surf. Cape Blanco ended up being our favorite park along the Oregon Coast.
As much as we liked Cape Blanco it was mid-June and the redwood parks of California were calling us. From Cape Blanco south to the California border the Oregon coast again climbs into dramatic headlands with remote beaches and spectacular sea stacks standing offshore. It’s a magnificent drive from Cape Blanco into California. We stopped at Port Orford to walk its tidy little bay with its small but unusual fishing fleet which instead of being docked in a marina is hauled out of the water each day with a massive crane and stacked on a wharf. We hiked along the beach and rocks a Pistol Creek near the California border. Then we approached the California border and – sun!
The Oregon coast is hauntingly beautiful in the fog and rain, but by now we were ready for more light and warmth. As we drove around Crescent City California to our campsite for the next four days we were stunned by the gigantic redwood trees along the highway. But wait till you see the big ones! That will be in our next report.