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Meandering up the Oregon coast

August 6, 2009
Oregon Coast 2009 087

Underwater cameras are handy at tidepools

Who says you can’t camp for free on the coast anymore?

We’ve had tremendously good luck with sneaking in a night’s sleep at beautiful spots on cliffs above the ocean, right down in the sand dunes, next to the beach…  If we could get this RV onto sand we would’ve tried even more!  A few nights we went to sleep seeing city lights over dancing water – beautiful – I feel rich.  Police showed up to run our plates one night but didn’t even knock on the door and let us sleep. I think as long as you’re self-contained (other people sleeping in cars have been left alone too) and quiet and only staying one night, maybe it’s easy to overlook. We were prepared to move inland to forest to avoid camping fees, but didn’t have to afterall.

For those wanting to try this themselves, consider:

the scenic overlooks off 101 just north of Manzanita, above the cliffs

unpaved bay access lots in Nehalem Bay

the beautiful rest area north of Astoria, just after you’ve crossed the bridge into Washington and turned right (upriver) less than a mile

in Astoria, any of the wharf areas along the waterfront allow parking – we went to bed looking out at such a wonderful view, and when I see the Astoria Chamber of Commerce Discover publication, I see they used a cover photo from almost exactly the same place we slept for free.

north of Seaside there is peaceful Del Rey beach access (great hidden parking lot in the dunes) and Sunset Beach access just north of that, where we were blissfully overlooked.  Good thing for Seaside, too, because we dropped a bundle in their town in return.  Holt and Mazie most enjoyed an amusement park feature – the little hand-cart train cars they pedal with their hands, and they raced the automated train on the track alongside and won, passengers cheering them on, both feeling pretty strong.

Oregon Coast 2009 154

We love, love, love this motorhome.  We have our own cozy comfy beds each night but a new spectacular view out the windows each day.  The kitchen is really handy, a good sized fridge keeps us fairly stocked up (although I’m even less likely to fire up the oven if it’s hot) and after coming back weary from exploring, we do feel the haven of coming home.

We did have a few splurges – For two years we’ve been craving a fish and chips at the delicious Pelican Pub in Kiwanda and it did not disappoint.  (Although to my breakfast dismay they’ve dropped the coconut-coated french toast.)   In Astoria we splurged again on a meal out at the Wet Dog Brewpub which I enthusiastically recommend.  We had an outstanding pitcher of Beer Bitch’s Bitter and more delicious fish, and crazy good burgers.

Starting to wonder if the coastal towns should pay us to visit.  We had wonderful luck with weather our whole time on the coast, as Portland was at 106 degrees, and we were with sunshine in the 70s.   Just like last time we visited the Oregon beaches, moving up the coast, as we reached different towns we heard people exclaim it was their most beautiful day so far this year.  The tidepools at Cape Kiwanda were fascinating, starfish and anemones and barnacles and little crabs.

Paid camping at Kiwanda (bunnies in the Webb County campground eat out of the kids’ hands) and Ft. Stevens State Park was well worth it for the showers, laundry access, and interesting locations.  At Ft. Stevens we got to hear a little presentation about the “Incredible Edibles” throughout the campround, so of course my kids were dedicated sour red huckleberry gatherers after that.   Blackberries are now ripe and plump and Mazie and Holt are surely making a dent in the population of Oregon’s Himalayan brambles.  Ft. Stevens has miles and miles over bike paths, up and down hills, and riding through them together was a family dream now that Holt’s riding and Mazie Jane leads our little pack.  People always stop to marvel at Holt’s little two wheel bike.  I am realizing, with my heart in my throat,  that we are in for it when he’s 12, as he already begins to try tricks he’s seen bigger kids do, like riding without holding the bars (flat hands, extended fingers, steering the handlebars with his palms only) and screeching his brakes as he skids sideways.

The only thing we didn’t get to yet was crabbing, which we’ll try when we’re back on the south end of Oregon’s beaches in a week or so.  The crabs are apparently just now filling out their still-soft shells with flaaaky soft mmmmmeat, so mid-August may be a good time to try a hand.

We saw, washed up on the beach at high tide, a sting ray with what appeared to be a big foot+-wide bite out of it, serrated like teeth.  Could be from a propeller but it sure looked bite-like.  Trent and I both took long runs on the beach.  I swear running barefoot in sand over time could cure a whole lot of lower body and foot imbalances.  It certainly challenges the arches.

Astoria’s Maritime Museum opened our eyes to a world I hadn’t thought about much  before, the port life  and trade on the  river.   The local river pilots, who climb on each incoming international barge to steer it through the shipwreck-littered Columbia Bar, have an extremely mentally and physically demanding job.  Some of the ships moving through there have only around 3 feet of clearance between the draft of their hull and the 40 foot bottom  of the river. We walked through dock after dock to wonder at the fishing boats, and on the morning radio the day’s river traffic is announced, so when you see a barge of crushed cars, you know they’re going to China, and that you should check out the center of the ship for some sort of unusual feature I couldn’t explain or remember. And you then know the name of the cargo ship slipping by at 3pm and where she’s taking her load of wheat.  It was eye-opening.

Just had excellent overnight visits with second cousin Terri and Harry Gamble, and Jeff Wallach & Renee Renfrow with the bonus of her dad Chuck, my Grandpa’s cousin.  As much as we enjoy the variety of what we’re seeing,  visits with people we don’t often see have been an immense treasure of this trip so far.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. MomE permalink
    August 8, 2009 1:40 am

    Thank you so for allowing us to enjoy this trip with you. I absolutely live for your posts. The pictures are all so good and a story in themselves. Those sweet kiddies haven’t a clue how fortunate they are. One day they will……..

  2. Kate permalink
    August 12, 2009 4:01 pm

    I love your narratives; such perfect descriptions of all these wonderful places! This sure is turning out to be an excellent family adventure.
    Our fam was on the Atlantic side of the States while you’ve been on the Pacific side–visiting family in New England turned out to be a blast. We lucked out with the weather there, too. So sweet to hear Mazie’s message about riding horses when we returned home.
    Look forward to checking in with you soon,

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