The northwest coast – along the shores of Oregon and Washington put us in the mind of our time in Korea, except for the chilliness. The area is beautiful with dark green forests filling the space all the way to the cliff edges that mark the end of the continent. Below the cliffs are small coves of beach, or maybe just some rock pools. During our week driving north from the Redwood forests of California to the Olympic peninsula in Washington, we had only one completely drenched and rained out day. The sun was out! But it all stayed quite cool.
We first went through the Boardman State Scenic Corridor, along route 101 as it keeps to the cliff tops. At one point we were surrounded by mists at a particularly high rest area, but Zoe and I braved a hike down to the beaches below where we hoped for some tidal pools. It became quite an adventure as we ended up sliding down a huge sand slope. The sun was out in full force down below. Slim Jim ran up and down the beach, we raced some see snails into tide pools, and touched all the anemones til they sucked into their spines. Bryan and Avi joined us when Avi woke, though they missed the fun slide down. The way up turned into a crazy bushwhack up a rocky slope, through low twisty shrubs, and finally out onto a grassy headland.
We stayed at Humbug mountain state park for a night. The campground was nicely tucked up a treed valley keeping it out of the fierce wind from the shore, but a short walk down the creek led out to a lovely huge stretch of beach dominated by the steep green of Humbug Mountain. Though the water was too cold to swim, we still had a blast digging holes, and eating our packed dinner. In the morning, Slim Jim and I enjoyed a tranquil walk along the empty beach to see the sun rise from behind the mountain.
As we continued along the coast, it was interesting to stop as we felt the need. In Port Orford we loved their Battle Rock park and the twin beaches on either side. While Avi and Bryan scaled the rock to learn about the battle, Zoe and I found a cool sea cave through the bottom of it! Our favorite little town, by far was Bandon with its small active waterfront area, the great fish and chips, but especially our visit to the Washed Ashore gallery. Zoe read about their art in her Highlights magazine years ago, and we visited a showing at the Chicago aquarium a couple summers ago. Now was our chance to see the workshop, and participate in created some pieces to be used on an art installation! We all sat down to cut, staple, drill, and piece together bits of plastic from the beaches to create orange coral and yellow fish scales. This town was really a highlight of the trip!
Another fascinating place we all loved was the Oregon Dunes, specifically by Hall lake. This day use area had a lake surrounded by pine forest on the east side, and huge sand dunes along the west! We climbed the dune to see the ocean past a sea of dunes beyond it. The place was so fun! The kids rolled and ran down the huge dune into the water, they dug giant hideouts, and Bryan and I could just chill out and see the whole area. Even Slim Jim loved to run on the dunes, and chased the kids the whole was down to the water once before running the whole way back up! Another day, we popped into the town of Lincoln to scope out their beach in search of a glass ball that the local artists release daily. No luck, but we did get to see a whole bunch of lazy sea lions basking across the sound.
In from the coast there are thick forests we camped in, and then beyond the mountains that carry them open up some more arid grazing land again. The area of green lush coast is surprisingly slender. For a day, we popped over the mountains into the city of Eugene – good thing, too, as the camper needed a small hard-to-find part and we were able to get one! We did have time to bike the nice trails along the Willamette river and rock climb The Columns right near downtown before heading back to the coast via another little college town, Corvalis.
Back out on the beaches, we simply loved the Oregon state parks. There aren’t really any boondocking places to camp along the coast, and the parks have the nicest spots along beaches and up river valleys. We visited the Tillamook cheese factory, as all good tourists do, and got some tasty ice cream and a giant brick of super sharp cheddar. And then we visited some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time in their adorable town of Manzanita. It was such a good time, we forgot to take pictures. Sad face.
The far northwest coast of Oregon is where the Columbia River exits to the Pacific Ocean, and this is where Lewis & Clark finally turned around after traversing the continent. We visited Fort Clatsop where they overwintered and complained of the non stop rain, we sat in the bunks, and learned about their gear and rifles. Its was really neat. But, honestly, we loved our time at the nearby Fort Stevens State park better. This huge park has one of the biggest campgrounds in the US, but we loved the miles of paved bike trails, the firm flat beach we biked along and saw an old shipwreck on, and the really really fun geocaches we could get along the way!
From Oregon we ventured into Washington state and a much calmer seaside. We spent a few days at the Navy Rec Area at Pacific Beach – one of which was our single day of complete downpour. It was quite nice, though, to be forced to relax, watch some of the free rental movies, get food from the cafe, and play some new borrowed games. It really was the perfect spot for a down day! Avi and I did spend some time on their beach when the sun was out, and we attempted a bike ride which ended in gunked up gears. But, really it was a nice end to our time out on the northwestern Shores.