Sunday (June 13): I’ve passed the mid-point of this trip; I planned 35 nights away and I’ve completed 19 nights. The time is going by much too quickly.
The weather forecasts were correct: the rain continued overnight and well into today. During the night, the rain was very heavy at times. Whenever I woke up I would check around the trailer to see if any water was leaking in. Not a drop! I am one happy camper!
I left the campground late morning and headed toward the Tillamook Air Museum about 20 miles away. With the 100% prediction of rain for most of the day, an indoor activity seemed like a good idea. However, I didn’t get there as planned.
While driving along Highway 101, I noticed some interesting fog patches clinging to the hilltops in the distance. I turned into the rural area and headed toward the hilltops, stopping occasionally to take photos. Eventually I found myself on a narrow country road winding between farm properties and open valleys. It was beautiful. There were very few places to pull over to take photos, so I would often stop in the middle of the road, get out, snap a few photos and get going again. With such little road traffic, this was pretty effective.
At the end of the road, I entered a small county campground, the Kilchis River County campground. The ranger at the entrance kindly encouraged me to drive around and check out the campground. It is nestled in the woods and the sounds of the Kilchis River drifted up from below. It seems so remote, yet is only about 6 miles from HWY101.
Satisfied with the results of my foggy scavenger hunt, I got back on course and drove out to the Tillamook Air Museum.
The museum is housed in an enormous wooden hangar, designed to store blimps. Its size makes it easily visible from the highway a couple of miles away.
Upon entry, I was a bit underwhelmed. I expected to see numerous displays of full aircraft, something I’ve experienced in other smaller air museums. Instead, the, hangar interior featured three full aircraft, a few jeeps, some trainer cockpit displays and an smallish tarp-enclosed display room with small aircraft and vehicles. The far end of the hangar was closed off to the public and appeared to contain about 20 recreational vehicles. Heck, I would have enjoyed looking at those!
I made the most of it and eventually left to head back to town to get some food supplies.
I stopped at the Tillamook Creamery and took a couple of photos of the crowds of people at the facility. The creamery is offering self-guided tours, with moderated numbers of people allowed in. A long line of umbrellas protected the owners from the steady rain while waiting to move indoors. The outdoor concession area was equally packed.
After returning to the campsite, I noticed the rain was lessening, so I ventured down to the beach for a last visit. The rain politely waited for me while I meandered along the water’s edge until I was satisfied. By the time I returned to my trailer, the rain reappeared and baptized me one more time.
Tomorrow I’ll head north and cross the Columbia River into Washington for my last beach campground visit.
Saturday (June 12): My time in Newport came to an end and I left around noon for another couple of hours on Highway 101 traveling north. I didn’t get too far before I came to my first side trip.
About ten miles north of Newport is the turnoff for the Yaquina Point lighthouse. It’s a short drive to a large parking lot (thankfully!) near a visitors center. The lighthouse is a quarter-mile walk from the parking lot. It was a sunny afternoon and the walkways and lighthouse viewing area were well attended by others enjoying the pleasant Saturday.
After taking my standard battery of lighthouse photos, I spent some time looking at the wildlife in the area, specifically a large rock located a couple hundred feet from a viewing area. The upper part of this rock was covered with various birds. I took a few photos of the vast numbers of birds when I noticed some commotion near the rock. A bald eagle had begun scouting the area and several seagulls began harassing the eagle to encourage it to move along. The bald eagle ignored the seagulls, made a couple of passes over the rock, then approached more closely but it didn’t seem to score a meal. In a matter of two minutes, the eagle flew away.
I was furiously changing settings on my camera in an attempt to get a decent photo of this bald eagle in flight. I was able to get one clear shot of it, out of a few dozen attempts. With my camera fully ready, I waited a while to see if the eagle would make another attempt; eventually I walked back to my car and continued on the road.
I remembered the weather forecasts for my destination indicated rain would be coming in during the late afternoon, so I didn’t want to delay my arrival too much. My usual preference is to set up before rain begins, and then enjoy it from the dry interior of my trailer.
The drive through the Tillamook countryside was beautiful, with lush green hills and open spaces. Since this is the home of Tillamook cheese, I assume the open spaces represent cattle grazing areas.
I reached the campground at 4:00 pm and set up my trailer. I’m staying about ten miles north of the city of Tillamook at the Barview Jetty County Park campground, which is very close to the beach. The campground is popular with families; a new large playground is the centerpiece of Kid Heaven here. The RV pull-through spaces have full hookups for a modest price of $38 per night.
Even with the imminent threat of rain, I didn’t resist the urge to check out the beach. A short walk of 200 yards led me to the small dunes and beach. The sky was gray with a heavy fog/mist along the shore. More kids were playing on the sandy natural playground. I only had time for a SWOTB (short walk…) before the raindrops made their appearance. I upped my pace and returned to my trailer for dinner. By 6:00 pm the rain became much steadier and heavier. The forecast says the rain will continue until Monday morning, about the time I’ll leave.
Tomorrow I plan to visit the nearby Tillamook Air Museum, located in an enormous wooden hangar designed to house a blimp. It promises to be a great indoor museum and I hope it also promises to be dry!
Friday (June 11) The rain woke me up around 4:00 AM, so I knew Friday would be a good day for indoor activities. I noticed my satisfaction with having taken care of the trailer repacking the previous dry afternoon.
I had purchased a timed entry ticket for the Oregon Coast Aquarium, so I got up and got ready for my 9:30 AM appointment. The aquarium is modest yet very well designed. Some of the more tactile exhibits were still closed due to Covid. With the limited time entries, the facility was not crowded. I spent about two hours walking through the exhibits and taking photos. The walk-through underwater tubes are my favorite, with various fish swimming around, over and under the walkways.
In the afternoon the weather had dried out a bit, but the wind was still strong and cold. I met up with my friends at Roque Ales and Spirits for some pre-dinner beer tasting. I tried a flight of four beers and each one was uniquely tasty.
After some spirited conversation, we drove across the bridge and met at Local Ocean, a highly-recommended seafood restaurant on Newport’s bayfront area. This is one of their favorite restaurants and we were seated at the upper level corner window looking out over the bay. I ordered the wild king salmon dinner and it was superb! The salmon was cooked to perfection and the combination of vegetables and linguine was a delight.
Afterwards, I rode shotgun in their Class B RV and we took a driving tour to nearby Nye Beach and Agate Beach. We walked out on Agate Beach but the chilly wind was too strong to stay long. We drove back to the bayfront to my car and said our good-byes. It was fun to spend the time with them and experience a terrific restaurant. This was a great way to spend my last evening in Newport.
Thursday (June 10): The first order of business was a morning LWOTB.
After a light breakfast, I made the short drive to Yachats, a small hamlet about 25 miles south of Newport. I had driven through Yachats on the way to Newport and made a note to check it out.
Yachats is a cute village with a vibrant food/drink/craft section. I noticed a tiny little shop called “Just Local.” The shop featured hand made craft items by local artists and crafters. I immediately discovered two items that I admired and made the purchase.
I walked down by the shoreline and took a few photos, then headed back up to the main street (HWY101) to look for lunch. I chose Luna Sea Fish House and ordered a bowl of clam chowder with garlic bread. The clam chowder was excellent, so delicious that I am declaring it better than the Hungry Clam chowder I had been comparing everything else to. So: Winner, Winner, Clam Dinner!
After a quick stop at a chocolate shop for a few(!) items, I drove back toward Newport. I continued in to town and checked out the Yaquina Bay area. The Yaquina Bay bridge is the centerpiece of the bay and is also the primary north/south route through the area. This bridge is another engineering marvel by Conde McCullough. The bayfront area is packed with restaurants, coffee shops, novelty stores, fish markets, and believe it or not – a Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
I returned to the campsite and began re-arranging the mess of items in my trailer and car. With a forecast of rain on its way, I decided it was time to get it organized and put everything back in the trailer. I felt the trailer had dried out enough, and I did not want try to take care of this while it was raining.
By late evening, the wind began to blow harder and the clouds got darker. It would occasionally drizzle, but I knew a bigger storm was on its way. I hunkered down for the night and promptly dropped off to sleep.
Wednesday (June 9): I slept solid after all the excitement on Tuesday. The bright sun and blue sky tempted me, so I dressed quickly and walked 1/4 mile to South Beach. The crisp air was refreshing and I walked barefoot in the shallow surf. The water was stunningly cold but after awhile my feet were so numb I didn’t notice. A few others were also out on the beach on that morning. As I walked along, I began searching for sand dollars that washed up on the shore. Most of the ones I saw were partial pieces and any round ones had been chipped open by the seagulls.
After about 45 minutes of intense searching, I had found 4 undamaged sand dollars. I was rich! I looked up and noticed how far I had walked. Actually, I had no idea how far I walked because I couldn’t see where I started. I wandered back and eventually located my starting point and walked back to my campsite. I made coffee and breakfast and started planning my day.
A former coworker had contacted me a couple days earlier; he and his fiance were staying at a nearby Thousand Trails campground during the same time I would be in Newport. I reached out to him and arranged to stop by their campground for a visit. I met his fiance and another friend, took a walking tour of the campground and checked out the beach nearest to them. I wondered if I had kept walking that morning if I would have ended up at their beach. I estimated it to be about four miles away.
We agreed to meet for dinner on Friday afternoon and I left to run some errands. I needed to get a few supplies to finish my trailer cleanout from the previous day. When I returned to my campsite in the afternoon, I took an unplanned two-hour nap. I guess I was tired.
After an early dinner, I headed back to the beach for a sunset LWOTB. I found a few other shells and took photos of the sunset and beach objects I came across.
My Steps app let me know I had accomplished my steps goal for the day!
Monday (June 7): It was time to pack up and advance to my next destination: South Beach SP near Newport. I left Sunset Bay campground a little after noon; the drive was estimated at two hours, but with some planned stops I guessed it would be late afternoon before I finished the day,
My first side trip was to check out the Umpqua Lighthouse, just a few miles off Highway 101 near Reedsport. The lighthouse was located among some older buildings and was surrounded by a fence. Signs in the area indicated that no tours were available. A nearby museum and gift shop were both open and a few visitors roamed the grounds.
I didn’t spend much time in the area and noticed I was getting hungry for some lunch. I planned to stop in Florence for a meal so I continued north. I rolled in to Florence around 1:30 in the afternoon, found a large parking space near the waterfront and began exploring. The waterfront has several streets of stores, restaurants, art galleries and coffee shops. A few restaurants with water views were also open. Before eating I walked around the spectacular bridge that spans the Siuslaw River. It is one of the several bridges designed by Conde McCullough, a bridge engineer for the Oregon State Highway Department in the 1930’s.
I took the above photo of the waterfront from the middle span of the bridge. I don’t tolerate high locations with wide open spaces, so walking along the bridge’s narrow walkway next to speeding cars was a test of nerves. Thankfully, nobody got the impulse to lay on their horn while passing me.
That was enough excitement for one day, so I sat down at an outdoor table at the International C-Food restaurant overlooking the harbor. It was a pleasant day and the large restaurant building blocked most of the strong breeze. I ordered fish and chips and chowder for lunch (my third tasting of this combination for this trip.) I think this restaurant’s chowder was just as good as the Brookings Hungry Clam’s chowder. I still give a nod to the Hungry Clam for their more generous serving, though.
After finishing lunch I planned my next diversion. I knew the Haceda Head lighthouse was just a few miles north of Florence and I had read that some great views of the lighthouse were available at turnouts along the edge of the highway. I scoped out the area on Google satellite maps and strategized my attack: I would drive past the turnouts to identify the best ones and then turn around at the lighthouse parking lot and return on HWY 101 to the turnouts. As I drove near the area, I could see the incredible views of the coastline and lighthouse and picked out the best turnout.
I continued up to the parking lot to excitedly begin my return trip. However, I managed to end up in the part of the parking lot that had a sign posted (much too late to be useful) that there was no trailer turnaround. The parking lot was one driveway with right-angle parking spaces on each side and a dead end at the far end. Several cars and people were actively moving about and I knew this was going to be very interesting. Trying to remain calm, I scoped out a couple of open parking spaces on my left and an open one on the right and decided I was going to turn my trailer around in spite of that damn sign’s opinion. Immediately I noticed several cars waiting behind me, so the pressure was on.
After a couple of the back and forth maneuvers I got the hang of it and got the heck out of there in a hurry. That was enough excitement for one day, so I took a deep breath and aimed my car for the highway turnout. It was open when I arrived and the view was better than I could have imagined. The sky was clear blue with puffy white clouds, the water below was blue with terrific waves crashing on the beach, and the lighthouse stood out sharply against the rocky terrain. After the mundane view of the Umpqua Lighthouse, the Haceda Head Lighthouse overachieved. Not satisfied to show you just one photo, I’ve included four images from wide to up close.
I was satisfied with all the effort it took to get to this point and capture these images. Now I had just one more u-turn to make to get back on the path to Newport. Rather than drive farther south to find a suitable place to turn around, I quickly flipped the u-turn right out of the turnout when traffic was clear and drove north again. I should have layed some rubber just for effect. I continued on leisurely and enjoyed the remainder of the drive.
I reached South Beach State Park and parked in my campsite around 7:00pm. After the lengthy time in the car, I was ready to set up and wind down. However, when I opened up my trailer I was greeted at the door by a jar of salsa. Looking up I noticed the refrigerator door slightly ajar and several other food items strewn across the floor. Annoyed but not dismayed, I started to gather the items and then I noticed something awful. A large plastic jug was laying on it side on the floor near the rear of the trailer. This was the jug that had a block of ice in it to help keep the fridge cold during the drive. But the block of ice was very small and the puddle of water (previously know as ice) on the floor was very large. I knew water damage was serious and began quickly emptying out my trailer. I located the places where the water had reached inside some of the compartments and dried it up as much as possible. I opened all the affected hatches and emptied them to make room for ventilation. This was not how I wanted to set up for the evening!
I stashed most of the trailer items in the car and repaired the refrigerator door. I noticed a small threaded hinge pin had worked itself loose, allowing the door to sag and render the latch useless. I tightened that screw down super-tight, got the door back together and called it a night.
Sunday (June 6): Coos Bay is called “Oregon’s Bay Area.” I walked around town on a quiet Sunday afternoon and checked out the city by the bay.
Coos Bay has a newish short boardwalk on the waterfront, featuring a small harbor and historical displays. The downtown area is busy with Highway 101 as its main traffic corridor. It was hard to get a sense of the vibe since many places are closed on Sundays. It was clear that the city is interested in displaying culture and art.
Back out near the state parks, I discovered a Bureau of Land Management park and beach area called Bastendorff Beach. A small campground is situated near the entrance road; continuing on the road leads down to the beach. It was windy and chilly, but the long beach beckoned me, so I ventured out for a walk.
This is a popular beach, about a mile long with flat, reflective sand. A large rock seawall indicates the north boundary of the beach. It is dog-friendly with plenty of friendly dogs and owners. I was able to get in some “dog time” with occasional wet canine visits as I walked.
As I strolled along the water’s edge, I was lost in time. The rhythmic sound of rolling waves has a way of quieting my mind and before I knew it I had reached the rock seawall. After climbing up a few large boulders, I was able to witness the activity of waves on the opposite side.
The walk back was directly into the headwind, so it was a brisk walk. I picked up a few seashells (on the seashore) along the way as I returned to my car.
The weather forecast calls for clouds and a chance of rain in the evening, so it sounds like a perfect chance for sunset photos. We’ll see!
Saturday (June 5) After a delicious farewell breakfast with Claudia and Bruce (yumm!) I left Harris Beach SP around noon and turned north on HWY101. I had about 110 miles of travel ahead of me and I planned to make a few scenic stops along the way.
Highway 101 follows the coastline with occasional stunning views of the ocean. As I drove past Meyers Beach I was reminded of the sights and sounds of walking on that beach a few days earlier.
My first scenic stop was Cape Blanco State Park. Just 9 miles north of Fort Orford, Cape Blanco SP includes a campground in the trees on a bluff and a lighthouse. The road out to the park area is a typical country road with occasional repair spots and some gravel stretches. It was windy on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The lighthouse is a short walk from the parking lot. Tours were not available on this day, but the exterior was easily accessible.
Back on the road, I continued to Bandon, where I planned to eat some lunch/dinner (linner?). Bandon has a cute “old town” area along the waterfront. I walked into the Fish & Chips Chowder House and ordered….fish & chips and chowder. (It was tasty, but Brookings’ Hungry Clam Cafe still holds the title of “best chowder” for me. I’m sure I’ll continue to verify that on this trip). The meal was substantial, so I packed up the uneaten half for later.
Bandon Waterfront and Harbor
I checked out Google maps satellite view to be sure I could drive out to the local lighthouse and be able to turn around with my trailer. The lighthouse is located on a point, past the Bullards Beach State Park campground. The beach area was active with beachcombers, kite-flyers and families. And yes, there was room to turn around with my trailer.
The Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon
After some rock-hopping around the lighthouse, I continued to Sunset Bay SP near Coos Bay, Oregon and checked into my campsite. Sunset Bay SP campground is a little rustic, the restroom and shower facilities are dated yet functional. The campground is well appointed with trees and has great access to the coastline. My campsite is a bit funky with the firepit and picnic table situated on the same side as the hookups.
As sunset was approaching I drove over to the lighthouse lookout spot. This makes three lighthouses in one day. The lighthouse here is located in the distance on Gregory Point, so the best views of it are from a few shoreline viewpoints. With a long lens + 2x teleconverter, I was able to get a pretty good photo of the lighthouse.
Cape Arago Lighthouse
I followed a trail along the edge of bluff and learned that it would occasionally open up for another great view of the pounding surf. In many spots, I was startled by the sheer drop-off with no railing. That made the view even more exciting!
Inspired by the great lighting and views, I continued on. This turned into an accidental long hike, since the trail just kept going. Every opening revealed another stunning view of the late (and later) evening oceanfront.
At some point I began to wonder if the trail would loop around to the road or if I’d have to turn around and follow it back. I followed my intuition and continued forward until I found the main road, and eventually my car.
Note to self: check out a trail map before walking off into the woods!
I returned to the campground and happily settled into my trailer for the night
On my last night in Brookings, the sunset was promising to look very colorful. I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked toward the trail that leads to the top of the bluff overlooking the beach. (See previous post for more about this bluff)
As I had hoped, the view was clear and the sky was dramatic as the sun set into a distant fog bank.
A couple watches the wave action on Harris Beach.
At last, the grand sunset!
I enjoyed my five nights at the Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon. The campground was very comfortable and the time spent on the beaches in the area was rejuvenating. Today, I’ll travel to Coos Bay for the next leg of my journey.