The Oregon Coast is the Most, Well Almost

While sitting here this morning working on the blog, Lysette asked if I could look at some pictures with her. The photos we scrolled through were of Toohey, capturing a playful youthful looking dog, acting so puppyish and vibrant. For those not reading his bio, he is in his 13th year, has a chronic right front leg gimp from arthritis, and foggy eyes. However the way he has been playing on this trip and the photos Lysette captured that day on the beach makes you think about life and how we should all simply enjoy the moment and chase the stick. Not focusing on the negative fears, aches, and pains of the moment, not worrying about age and all the hurdles before taking on something new, but to be active and enjoy life. Be in the moment as Toohey, excited as he instinctively runs free and gimpless on the wet sand with the anticipation of the stick whirling over his head signaling all the fun that is about to be had.

Maybe the dogs ability to live in the moment versus considering all the choices, fears, and other life hurdles resembles how we should all live. For Toohey the moment – the stick equals happy, run, and play with his pack. If he were human, he would likely stand and watch the stick fly by, then sit there telling everyone who would listen how old he is, how bad his arthritis hurts, and how many procedures the doctor has tried on him to relieve the pain. He instead, instinctively responds to the stick, and is happy. So get up and chase your stick, whatever your stick may be.

So far, the introduction to the Oregon coast has been an inspirational boost of the journey that we hadn’t expected. As you might have picked up in the previous post, the undertone of our journey was that of missing the wilderness experience of Utah and Idaho. We have been loving this part of Oregon from the agricultural areas along Highway 42 on the approach to the coast to the awe moments when we first saw the beach and Pacific Ocean. The beach views are spectacular with huge rocks jetting out of the water. The rain forests leading to the beach are rich and lush with large, tall trees providing shade. The beach air is cooled by the cold sea water. The northwest climate sends cold waves of air across the beaches, fog that can change in a moment, and tides that provide a spectacle to behold as they engulf the huge pieces of protruding earth and leave shallow tidal pools. There is seafood freshly pulled from the ocean or served fried with chips. There are roadside stands selling fresh organic blueberries. The place is different and simply energizing, giving a sense of a true seaside vacation. The most enjoyable part has been watching Toohey respond to the beach environment of which he has never had, the new smells, the fear of the attacking surf, the goofy look when he chases me running free from the leash. All in, it has been a refreshing change of pace. 

We got to the KOA early, a day before our original reservations so we had one night in kamp E-9 before needing to move the next two nights to kamp B-12. We had a pleasant, easy registration, set up kamp, and showered. After 10 days without a hot shower, showering was a bit of paradise to me. Following that, we ate a light dinner and slept. KOA stops keep providing me entertainment with each one being part of the brand, yet unique. This KOA Journey comes equipped with a food vendor set up in a flashy booth, resembling something from a county fair, with a lighted marquee promoting cold drinks, corn dogs, nachos and yes, even fried Oreos. The health of the patrons stepping up to this epicurean’s dream jewel needs no further descriptions. The last night of our stay we had one dad circling the park with his two young girls in his personal golf kart playing music loudly. The KOA party kontinues, but rest assured, at quiet time it gets quiet and we sleep well knowing we have a klean, secure place for the night giving us a base of operations each day. And, should we need it, a fried Oreo.

Port Orford, OR

The next morning, clean and well rested, we woke and dashed to Port Orford to get the laundry done and wash the Tacoma. We quickly reset with excitement of getting to the beach, moved sites to the original one reserved for two nights and dashed out to see stuff. Our direction was the drive 9 miles south, along Highway 101 back to Port Orford to see the ocean and beach. Port Orford is marketed as the oldest beach town along the coastal highway and, if true, it hasn’t developed much since. A small town with the feel and soul of a town surviving on the ocean harvest of crabs and fish along with the masses of folks who drive the road north and south to see what we are seeing. 

The first view of the sea down from atop the cliffs was breathtaking. Massive rock formations sit from the edge of the waves to beyond the surf allowing the imagination to dream up what the coast looked like before Mother Nature took it back. To say it is spectacular is an understatement. Lysette’s camera shutter popped and Toohey and I gasp at the greatness of the view. He more at our excitement. We moved the rig up the road just to the south side of town (one block) to the Battle Mountain Overlook parking lot. From there we walked Toohey to the beach where he had his first introduction to the sea and surf. He quickly went to work learning smells while developing his relationship with the surf. His initial encounter with waves was funny, when the edge of the foam break would crawl up the beach he would nervously run and hop to get away, as if it were attacking him. I guess he loves water but has never had water be so aggressive towards him. He would eventually get more relaxed with it but never fully trusting it. The most difficult part for him was to not drink the salt water after spending the last two months being encouraged to drink all moving water as it was fresh and clean. He quasi listened and seems fine from the little he did digest. 

We walked about a mile south down the beach, enjoying the large rock formations with arches cut through from the waters wear. The water was as cold as any mountain stream I’ve stood in since we left, only allowing me to pause for a minute before getting out to warm up my feet. I made faces from beach debris which has been a funitvity of mine for years. The pretty wildflowers booming up the cliffs didn’t quite grab our attention as much as previous stops as the show today seemed more to the west.

After we got back to the car, we moved us and the Tacoma to the dock restaurant called Griffs on the Dock (two blocks north). The dock part seems to be the main commerce center of town with some fishing boats in dry dock and others in the water working the day. We watched one crew unload a large haul of sea urchins and a man with an audience of seagulls watching him bait his net for a pending fishing trip. We ordered fish and chips for lunch, fully recognizing that the fish likely isn’t local, but a comfort food for me when sitting near water or when simply seeing it on a menu. Before we left, we ordered two large local dungeness crabs from the fresh seafood counter, fully cleaned, boiled, and on ice for us to pick and aww through later for dinner. 

After lunch, and a drive another twenty miles south to see more of the coast, a stop for gas and groceries, we headed back to the home at the KOA for some Kasual Konversation and Koors Banquet. 

Dinner was fresh crab, wine and beer, and some dessert. It was a good day, a day of completely different environment and activities, but one we embraced with curiosity and the energy we have been sharing on tis trip.

The next morning came quickly and we made the decision to get out early for a drive and exploration north up the coast. The town of Charleston sits west of Coos Bay which is the largest town in this coastal area. Charleston, not the largest town by far, has a fresh seafood place, Chuck’s Seafood, which was recommended by a Travel Angel as a place to get fresh fish from the boats. They also can their own smoked salmon and tuna which said Travel Angel purchases by the case. After a nice leisurely drive on small roads off of Highway 101 through pretty country side, inland from the coast, we found Charleston and Chuck’s. We went in and they were sold out of the fresh Chinook Salmon, so we purchased several cans of the canned smoked and regular Chinook. We then drove west to an overlook point where Harbor Seals and several varieties of Sea Lions sun, or in case of today, fog, on the rocks after feasting on the rich foods along the coast. It is reported that whales and a variety of birds also make this place home. We enjoyed seeing these animals and listening to their specific calls, trying to identify which is which based on the information provided on the signs. It was a spectacular display with the fog over the rocks, the incoming tide waging war on the protruding rock surfaces, birds doing their bird thing and of course, the cool breeze. We made several other stops, including face rock, along the this area to view cliffside overlooks of wildlife and the gnarly looking surf as waves crashed along the coastal cliffs and rock features. 

Afterwards, we drove to Coos Bay using this time to grab some loot from the ATM, drop in on a Fred Meyers for grocery options, and head back towards the home. On the way, we added stops for a second beach walk to allow Toohey a stretch and some water, then to pick up some local blueberries at a road side stand. The evening was a salad and canned smoked salmon from Chuck’s which was delicious topped off with a nice glass of Abacela Temperanillo.

Waldport, OR

The move day from Koastal KOA 1 to Koastal KOA 2 was here. We untied the lines from the dock cleats, faced the bow north, and set sail. We rolled back through Bandon and Coos Bay, into unknown territory north along the coast. The first thing of interest that we came up on were the huge sand dunes of the Oregon Seashore National Forest.

Having just typed “National Forest” I guess there were some less expensive camping options here, even equipped with toilets, the one I used having appliances that were square and stainless steel, similar to what you might get in a jail cell of the local penitentiary.  Anyway…

These dunes are big, extend for miles and are used by ATV and dune buggy enthusiast. The dune buggies are much fancier than the Speed Buggy driven by Shaggy in the Scooby Doo cartoon.  We would see these dunes and dune buggy types for a large portion of the day from the time we left Reedsport to our arrival in Waldport. 

The section of highway between Haceta Beach to Yachat (no, I didn’t just misspell yacht) was the most spectacular we’ve seen. The high cliffs, gnarly rocky edges being smashed by the huge waves was simply amazing and worth a return for more photos. It seems the more north you get the higher the cliffs and the more dramatic the coast is.

We motored through Waldport, across the Alsea Bay Bridge, the first left into the KOA Kampground. Our site number 30 sat high on the bluff overlooking the bridge and bay, with pretty kool views when standing and no fog. 

The fog has been one of the spectacular weather displays we have experienced along the coast. You can see the ever present fog bank just off shore, a wall of surface level clouds looming, waiting for you to dare to get warmed by the sun or to stop and step barefoot on the beach. The wall of fog sits off the coast, sometimes rolling a little fog bit over the beach just to remind you it is there in case you are feeling warm and confident, then taking it back. You can exit your vehicle at the roadside pullout thinking how nice the sunny warm day is, but rest assured, it will pounce inland at lightning speed, stealing your warmth and sun, adding some wind to assure discomfort if unprepared. It is actually an amazing weather event and one that certainly dictates the fashion advice known as layering. The fog we encounter provided drama to the senses and our experience would have been lessor without it.

Site No. 30 was level, set up easy, and we were in for the day. We shared a quick beer and wine at the site then set off for the KOA Nature Walk that was a small, single lane path to the shore line beneath the Kamp. We walked the shore which provided sand up high in the dry bits and wet rocky mix down by the receding water line. There were a few other families doing their beach thing, a few water birds, to include one which we believe was not well as it never moved from its spot even as we passed by. 

A run over the bridge and into the small town of Waldport was how we started the next day. From the bridge, we stopped and looked back at our kamp then down at the seals swimming up river to nap away their seafood feast. Our trip for the day started off going north to the town of Newport which had a bustling old Main Street that sits along the wharf, has a large seafood processing facility where the fishing boats off load their catch. Directly across the street from the seafood processing plant was a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum with gawking humans walking by wishing the COVID would go away so they could pay money to gawk a little closer. The marina was full of working fishing boats which is a good sign for finding fresh caught fish, which we did. At the advice of a friend familiar with Newport, we purchased some fresh halibut and Chinook salmon to cook at kamp. We wandered a bit more of the main drag, docks, while Lysette tried to capture seals who obviously didn’t model well for the camera. We then made another provision stop, before a quick drive to Nye Beach. Nye Beach was the first established beach community in the area, had cute older buildings, and a park like atmosphere. 

We then moved south, passing Walport and Yachats ( and no, I didn’t just misspell yachts) to an area of coast we weren’t able to fully appreciate the previous day on our trip north. Cape Perpetua is a cliffy, rocky, ragged coast line, some of the most lush green and interesting pines or fir trees and greenery. The short walk down through the forested area reminds me of the tropical island that the Swiss Family Robinson became stranded on in that Disney childhood classic. The beach and rocks displayed an enjoyable show of waves rising and crashing, filling crevasses, all with the incoming tide. This all took several stops along pullouts with short walks. Toohey, of course, chased sticks into low surf (when safe) and smelled lots of new stuff. 

One of our favorite two moments of this drive included seal watching at Strawberry Hill. The waves were crashing into shore, filling and emptying a large rocky crevasses while three seals bobbed in the surf and submerged. The three of us found a nice flat piece of rock with a little windbreak for warmth, just to sit and watch the show. One of those moments where we just enjoyed being with each other and watching the world work around us. Special.

The second most favorite, and one way more dramatic was long thin pull out with a walk down to the ragged rocky shore. The show was best seen at high tide or storms, according the sign, and you can see why. Straight in front of the overlook was a large rock hole, about 10 feet in diameter that would fill with water and burp out the surf from an obvious hole beneath. It was quite interesting to watch, especially from up close. The video below likely won’t do it justice, but was way cool.

At the same stop was a blow hole, and I don’t mean that name you use to describe the person who gives you a lot of unsolicited advice. This is another water spectacle that occurs when the surf meets a narrow hole in the rock forcing the water and air to discharge, much like you’d see from a whale as it surfaces. This feature, combined with a large surf that would charge and explode along the walls of the rocky crevasses, was simply entertaining. The lady, sitting at the end of the crevasse nearest the exploding water, was equally as entertaining as she obviously just wanted to get wet, and her husband/camera man videoing each opportunity hoping not to miss the moment. All in, a great fun stop and one not on any of our maps.

We drove back to Kamp for Toohey’s nummies and beer and wine while we prepared the fresh fish and salad for dinner. Both the salmon and halibut were amazing as was the last glasses of Genache Rose’ from our winery stop.

Astoria, Oregon

We made the move today to Astoria KOA which is actually in Hammond, sitting across the street from the Fort Stevens State Park. Before we left, we made sure to get a quick run in to stay on track with fitness. We pulled anchor and turned north, into the wind. Our only planned stop north was to visit a friend who lives in Portland but was staying at the family beach house in Nehalem. The house was a beautiful old Victorian style beach house with cedar shingles, spectacular views of the beach and waiting high cliffs a perfect place for a quick stop over. We enjoyed the time and conversation, made even nicer by great host, and while maintaining social distance. After we left them, we made one stop to see a beautiful overlook, then another to see Haystack Rock. Haystack Rock was made famous as the large rock featured in the movie The Goonies. From there, the drive got busy with traffic and commercial stuff through Sea Breeze before turning off the 101 to the 104 just a few miles before hitting the KOA Resort. 

For those keeping track, the KOA “Resort” is the beast, monster, Thor God of KOA’s with all the amenities and size to earn resort status. Added amenities that come with resort status include sitting in your camp and texting orders to the store for ice delivery to your site and ongoing trash pick up all day long. The place is huge and packed with humans, about a four minute walk to the closest restrooms, which were clean and cleaned frequently. The walk actually required us to assemble the bikes for restroom runs as sometimes speed it a necessity. A truck just went by which I believe was security and had a Golden Retriever hanging its head out so we labeled it the K-9 unit. Ha. And each morning a KOA train, actually being pulled by an ATV with a horn that sounds like a train:

This just knature moment just happened at No. 438 North Jetty, KOA Astoria, OR

Our site is located at the end of North Jetty Rd. No. 438. It is a loop cul-de-sac with a tether ball system and two horseshoe courts. One of our distant neighbors on the cul-de-sac stopped by to remind us that he was also at the KOA at Waldport last night with us. We’ve become recognized KOA’rs….

After dinner, we went for a walk around the place to check it out. We both discussed the anxiety we feel since being along the coast. The initial positive energy the coast offered has turned into much more stress of needing to move every other day, traffic, and the huge increase in dodging people, not to mention finding our next camp along the western edge of the Olympic Peninsula. We both look forward to getting away from this and getting back to more remote living in larger spaces. But until then, we carry on. 

We woke to a short rain shower thumping along the roof of the home then took care of business before heading out on a run. The KOA is located just across the street from the Fort Stevens State Park giving access to the beach, wonderful paths, good roads, and some other really cool stuff. We took our run there, following paths through natural surrounding of smaller, moss covered pine forest with plants to include deep green ferns and other tropical looking and healthy ground over. The path eventually opened up to the beach where you are met with a rusted out skeleton of the bow section of a hull, commonly referred to as a shipwreck. We took pictures, ran a short distance down the beach which was really wide and flat with the low tide. We passed a human doing yoga, several families with children and dogs on leash, and a variety of trucks that ventured down there. We left the beach emptying a small cup of sand from our running shoes before stopping by a freshwater later to get Toohey a drink and a swim. We returned to Kamp, ate breakfast and Lysette finished scheduling our lodging for tomorrow night and our ferry to Whidbey Island.

We then set off on an early afternoon bike ride around the state park which turned out to be more interesting that we had originally thought. The paths went through some amazing Oregon forest, allowed several access points to the beach and Columbia River overlooks, and the military batteries used to protect the river entrance from invading forces. We made it to the end, the South Jetty for an overlook south along the shore then headed home to relive Toohey from his primary job, protecting the assets.

We followed the bike ride with a quick laundry anticipating the next stops on our trip, then a quick trip to see Astoria. Astoria is a port town sitting at the mouth of the Columbia River and separated by a large bridge between it and the state of Washington. The feel of the somewhat small town is more a suburb of Portland with the topography of Seattle. From the port side docks and the main business district, there is a significant hill that goes up providing those residents who occupy many of the older frame cottages a spectacular view of the Columbia River. We made the drive up with a heavy foot on the gas in 1st gear hoping to not have to stop mid point and use the already used clutch to restart as the incline is significant. The prices on most aren’t quite Portland or Seattle prices but you do pay for the view.

After a short walk along the docks, we boarded the vessel, turned her south back to home.

Today we leave the coast of Oregon crossing the magnifanct bridge over the Columbia River for a quick sleep at a horse farm in Port Angeles, WA and then a few nights in the drive way of a good friend on Widbey Island, WA. Our journey up the Oregon Coast has been a mixed bag. The coastal scenery has been delightful as it mixes in and out with the lushness of the coast, the cliffs, and the quaint little beachside and marina town. The seafood has been a the perfect change adding a culinary spark and seeing Toohey become a beach hound, fun to watch. But the traffic, the people, the KOA’s, have all added a level of stress. We are ready for a change, again, and change we’ll get.

8 thoughts on “The Oregon Coast is the Most, Well Almost

  1. Great stuff and I’ll take Toohey’s advice and live in the moment and ignore old age aches and pains.

  2. Thank you, Toohey, for the life advice! I’m enthusiastically chasing a big stick this week, with all of that good childlike (doglike) eagerness that is naturally bursting from within. And I’m so glad you are taking your humans on this grand adventure. We camped the southern portion of the Oregon Coast a few years back & really enjoyed especially the top chunk and the southern most chunks. I got unexpectedly soaked-sprayed at that amazing tide-burp hole at Fort Perpetua that you guys described. Loved all of these the photos (especially of Toohey) and the fantastic writing here.

  3. A grand metaphor for living life in the moment… There’s a lot to be said about chasing sticks; a fog to wash the land and sooth overcharged brains; rivers always flowing surely to the sea; and the road that starts at your doorstep…
    Poetry in motion…
    Wonderful reading!

  4. Sounds like the trip is going well and I enjoy reading the updates. Matt Hutch told me you guys stopped by to see him at his grandmother’s place, hopefully you had a good visit with him.

  5. I proposed to my wife in Brannon, Oregon (awesome ocean seaside), and got married in Portland.

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