8/15/2018 to 8/22/2018

Driving the Chilly Foggy Oregon Coast & Fun On The Sand Dunes

Wednesday & Thursday 8/15/2018 & 8/16/2018     We left Widow White Creek RV Park in McKinleyville, CA this morning and drove to Oceanside RV in Gold Beach, Oregon. We are driving up Highway 101 which took us through part of California and then it follows the Oregon coastline. We’ve never been to Oregon and were hoping for the beautiful picturesque coastline we’ve seen in so many pictures. We were disappointed this first day, it was extremely foggy, dreary and chilly the entire day. After we arrived at the RV Park and set up we took a short drive into town to see what it was like. We found a very small restaurant called “Behind the Red Door” and decided to give it a try. We chose our food from a nicely designed chalkboard and the owner and chef took our order. The food was very tasty and he talked to us some about Gold Beach and a few points of interest. Later we took a walk along the beach. The beach was covered with a huge amount of driftwood. The skies never cleared and it remained cold and very windy. This is a big fishing community and the smell of fish filled the air. Most of the people staying at the campground also had boats. I was talking to the guy next to me and he told me this area is great for catching salmon. We are camped right next to where the Rouge River empties into the ocean. He explained that this time of the year is when the salmon are starting to migrate up the river from the ocean. Every day we saw at least 30 boats crowded near the mouth of the river trying to catch those salmon. But they weren't the only ones. We also saw a lot of harbor seals swimming around looking for food. A couple of them were also resting on a sandbar.

On Thursday I spent most of the day trying to make reservations for upcoming RV parks. This has become very time consuming and more and more difficult. I had a hard time finding spaces in Oregon and a lot of the parks don’t answer their phones or return calls. I finally was able to get most of the spots lined up for the next three weeks or so. We grilled steak for dinner with some side dishes and afterward took another long walk along the beach. The weather was a little better today, not as misty and a little clearer sky.

Friday 8/17/2018     We were continuing on today in Oregon along the 101 to a town called Florence.  This is the town I had a very difficult time finding a place to camp.  Once we came near Florence, I realized why.  This area has about 40 miles of sand dunes that stretch along the coastline and is the haven for OHV enthusiasts from all over.  I managed to find an RV Park called Wayside but it is almost completely a residential trailer park with about four spaces for travel trailers.  They had me squeeze into a spot wedged in between their office and another fifth-wheel trailer.  I was a little anxious when I first saw the spot but I managed to back in without too much trouble.  Needless to say, our view is very limited.  But it's quiet and close to town and the sand dunes.  I just grilled another steak and we relaxed for the rest of the day.

Saturday 8/18/2018     We noticed a couple group sand dune buggy tour companies on the way in so I researched them yesterday.  Both companies websites said they were booked for the weekend.  I wanted to experience a dune buggy ride on the sand dunes so this morning we drove to the first company and asked if they had any cancellations or openings.  They actually did have room for two on a sandrail buggy that was leaving in a few minutes.  We had to drive the truck a short distance to the location of the dune buggies to begin the ride.  Our driver's name was Sean and he was not only a great driver but tried to be humorous also.  The dune buggy sat a total of eight riders and we had to wear goggles and seat harnesses.  The ride began very tamely but as soon as he reached the wide-open area of sand dunes, he floored it.  We were flying up and down steep sand dunes and riding on the edge of some of the highest ones. It was a very thrilling, high speed, wild ride and we were disappointed that it was only a half hour long.  The sand dunes were filled with mostly single OHV riders and a few dirt bikes.  I'm not sure how we all managed to avoid colliding but we did.

After we finished the buggy ride we drove a few miles down the road to the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park.  We stopped at the sand dune day-use area and started walking toward the beach.  It was an uphill walk through fairly deep sand which uses a lot of energy.  At the top of this hill, you can see the beach area below, several people were in the water even though it was way too chilly for us.  You can also rent sandboards here and try sand surfing down a steeper hill.  It didn't look like much fun to us because it's a very hard climb through deep sand to get to the top and then most of them were lucky to have a short surf a few yards down the hill until they fell over.  We did climb up the surf hill and continued down the other side because I thought we could circle back to the parking area.  I was wrong and we ended up trying to walk on the side of the hill in deep sand that slides down as you walk on it.  Then we had to walk through a thick weeded area without a path but we eventually made it back to the truck.  

We drove further down Highway 101 to The Heceta Head Lighthouse.  It is another historic lighthouse that was built in 1894 and is on the tip of Heceta Head which is 13 miles north of Florence.  It is 56 feet tall and stands 205 feet above sea level and is still in working order.  It was the brightest light on the Oregon coast and the light could be seen up to 24 miles offshore.  It is supposedly the most photographed lighthouse in the U.S.  Near the lighthouse is the old assistant lightkeeper's house which had been turned into a bed and breakfast and of course, there's a small gift shop nearby.  It was an up-hill half mile walk to the lighthouse where we were treated to breathtaking views of the Oregon coast, the beach below and the historic Cape Creek Arch Bridge built in 1932 resembling a Roman aqueduct with only a single offset arch.  P.S. - today was still very windy and chilly but the sun and blue sky finally appeared and we were able to take some nicer photos.

Sunday 8/19/2018     Today we visited what is known as the Historic Old Town section of Florence which is also the Port of Siuslaw.  I'm not sure if they have it every day or not but today there was a small farmer's market.  Didn't really see much produce, it was more crafts, plants, etc.  It was a very nice walk down a boardwalk and sidewalk near the pier where all the fishermen were crabbing.  We saw dozens of crabs being pulled apart on the cleaning tables.  We just strolled around for a while and enjoyed an ice cream cone even though it was chilly.

After walking the boardwalk we took a drive on the road that runs next to the ocean.  It's called the South Jetty and the first area we came to was a staging area for off-the-road vehicles to unload and access the sand dunes.  This staging area was at the bottom of a very large hill where the OHV's kept riding their four-wheelers, motorcycles, and jeeps up and over the hill and back again over and over.  We continued driving the beach road where there were several small parking areas where you could stop and take a walk to the shore.  Oregon beaches are not easy to get to.  You have to walk up a hill in deep sand and when you reach the top, you have to walk down in deep sand sometimes through very tall sea grass.  It's quite a workout but the payoff is a beautiful coastline where you can walk the beach for miles.  

The beach road eventually came to an end at the Siuslaw River where it empties into the ocean so we turned around and headed back to Florence.  The company that took us on the thrilling dune buggy ride yesterday also has an easy-going version of the sand dune ride.  This buggy, which was built from an old school bus, holds about 25 people and takes you on an hour-long tour of the dunes.  It was much tamer than our previous ride but just as enjoyable in spite of the freezing wind blowing on us.  You were able to take your time and view the amazing dunes and coastline.

We passed the Sea Lion's Cave on our trip to the lighthouse yesterday and even though it received many bad reviews on Trip Advisor, we decided to give it a try.  Where else would we get to take an elevator 208 feet down into a massive ocean cave filled with sea lions?  Most of the bad reviews complained about the smell and that the sea lions weren't in the cave.  Luckily there were about 40 sea lions sleeping on large rocks in the cave and the smell wasn't really that bad.  They have a short video you can watch and an outside viewing area where many years ago they entered the cave by a trail and stairs.  After we rode the elevator back up, we walked along their boardwalk to view the outside viewing area of the sea lions.  There were more sea lions lounging here than in the cave.  It was a nice visit and I don't feel they deserved the bad reviews.

Monday 8/20/2018     Today we packed up and moved further north to Pacific City, Oregon. Traveling on the 101 along the coast is a lot slower than traveling on an interstate highway such as Route 5. The speed limit varies anywhere from 55 where it's straight, down to 25 around some of the curves. Plus you drive through small coastal towns where the speed limit is also reduced. But we are seeing some beautiful sites on the Oregon Coast Scenic Byway.

Tonight are staying at another Thousand Trails campground. I reserved three nights at Thousand Trails Pacific City which is near Cloverdale, OR. This is another very large campground with over 300 sites. One thing we hate about Thousand Trails campgrounds is that they do not assign you a spot. After you check in you have to drive around the campground looking for an open spot. If you are not familiar with the campground this can take quite a bit of time. Plus it seems like there is also a "competition" with all the other trailers doing the same thing. The roads were narrow and the corners were tight but after while we found a pretty good site with water and electric. Once we got set up I had to climb on the roof and trim a couple of branches that were scraping the sides of the trailer. We really didn't have any special places we wanted to visit at this stop so we just enjoyed the rest of the day at the campsite.

Tuesday 8/21/2018     We took a drive today on Sandlake Road and Cape Lookout Road.  I used Google Maps and it looked like a nice, scenic ride and it was also a big loop through Cape Meares State Park.  I stopped at one of the pull-offs along the way and took a walk down to the ocean to take a few pictures.  We continued driving and of course, when we got closer to the park we noticed the road closed signs.  They didn't post a reason for the closure but that ruined my plans to take the loop.  Luckily, the road went as far as the Cape Meares Lighthouse and we were able to park and take the walk down to the lighthouse.  It is only 38 feet high and it is the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast although it sits upon a 217-foot high cliff.  It was a pleasant walk and we were able to use the short, metal, spiral staircase up into the lighthouse to see the view.  It really was quite tiny but fun to look through the clear and red glass panels.  On our way back up to the parking lot, we stopped at a few lookouts to enjoy the view.  After the lighthouse, we decided to drive into a nearby town called Tillamook for lunch and to do some shopping.  I checked out Trip Advisor for a restaurant to eat and found a steakhouse that everyone seemed to like.  I found a place to park and we walked to the restaurant but, of course, it was closed for remodeling.  Not my lucky day.  We walked right around the corner and found a diner.  The food was good but the service was very slow.  After lunch, we did some shopping and returned to the trailer for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday 8/22/2018     We had nothing planned today so we just took a long walk around the campground. This campground is gigantic and we walked about 2 1/2 miles to see it all.  Then we took the trail down to the beach and walked along the shoreline for another two miles. Again, it was cold and foggy so the pictures aren't the best.

Thursday 8/23/2018     Today we packed up and headed to Washington.

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