Some people I know have many friends they have known since childhood, and some still maintain contact with friends from grade school, high school, and college days. Maybe I moved around too much throughout my lifetime. Still, I managed to keep some treasured friends for a very long time. It is hard for me to believe that Phil and Joanne have been my friends since 1977. Is it possible that it has been 45 years since Phil and I started working together in soil survey?
Phil and I in 1984 in the St Joe NF
Phil was the first person to take me to the field in Bonner County, Idaho, where we dug pits together and tried to put together the puzzle of soil types in those holes and make a coherent map of how they occurred in the landscape. While mapping soils with Phil, I met and became friends with his wife, Joanne. They were around for so many milestones in my life. When they returned West in 2012 after many decades in the Midwest, I was thrilled to have a chance to again spend time with the two of them.
Here are Phil and Joanne with their firstborn son, at my wedding in 1980. For blog followers who know daughter Melody and friend Maryruth, they are on the right side of the photo.
Phil and Jo have been campers, hikers, and backpackers for years but only recently made the jump and purchased a motorhome. When Joanne called me a couple of weeks ago and said they were possibly picking up their new rig on March 15, Mo and I were excited. First on the agenda would be overnight at Sunset House, where we could compare RVing notes, and they could enjoy their first night in the Unity. Joanne was excited and wanted to head for the coast after their night here.
Great idea, but as most RVr’s know, getting a last-minute reservation on the Oregon Coast is nearly impossible. I went to Harris Beach State Park campsite reservations on the web and wasn’t surprised to see that all sites were reserved for the next few weeks.
They planned to arrive on Saturday, and on Friday morning, I thought I would check one more time. Sure enough, not only 1 but two sites were available. Even though it was Spring Break, someone had canceled Site A10, front row overlooking the ocean, and Site A7, just across the road from A10. I had 15 minutes to confirm the reservation and took a chance that Phil and Jo would be on board with my choice.
Even though sites in every state park on the Oregon Coast are booked for months in advance, cancellations sometimes appear. It pays to be flexible and vigilant and never give up until the last minute.
Traveling south to Grants Pass from Eugene, our friends arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday. Mattie was thrilled to see Joanne again. When Mo and I traveled to Ireland in 2015, Joanne and Phil kept Mattie for three weeks, saving the trauma of boarding her in a kennel. Joanne and Mattie have a sweet bond.
The four of us checked out their Unity 25-foot motorhome. We talked about the little details of RV traveling that we so often take for granted. Before supper, there was plenty of time to go uptown to the Weekend Brewing Company, a relatively new spot in Grants Pass. The beer was great, and the location was trendy on this sunny afternoon. Dogs sat indoors with their proud owners, food trucks provided sustenance, and kids and families played on the green lawns in the sunshine. I somehow never thought of a brewery as a place for kids.
Back home, I loaded up a large cod filet with spices and lemons, popped it on the grill, and made coleslaw and roasted veggies. We decided it was a great time to open the bottle of Bokish Verdejo that we purchased on our recent trip to the Lodi wineries.
WeatherUnderground predicted decent weather for Sunday and Monday. The days would be cloudy but with no rain. Sun would arrive in full on Tuesday, but that didn’t matter. Any day at the beach, even cloudy ones, is good. With the park just two hours west and check-in at 2 PM, we had a leisurely morning before leaving Grants Pass around 11:30. The drive was easy. Anyone who has driven Highway 199 knows it is narrow and winding. There are turnouts, but sometimes they are a bit short. I was in the lead and tried to ensure that any turnout I used could accommodate both rigs.
Pulling into the park just before 2, we settled into our respective sites quickly. Even with the cloudy skies, the ocean view was lovely from the A row. A short walk around the park before dinner allowed me to point out the various trails down to the beach and the Bluff Trail.
Supper was easy, with pre-cooked veggie taco meat for Phil and Joanne and spicy beef taco meat for us. Homemade salsa and lots of condiments rounded out the meal. Before supper, Mo started a campfire, and by the time we finished eating, the coals were almost ready for marshmallows. Lucky for me, Joanne brought chocolate to stuff into the hot marshmallows to melt into gooey goodness.
Even with the park full of kids celebrating Spring Break, the park was surprisingly quiet all night. Monday morning, low tide was at 8:30, and Mo and I headed for the beach in time to see one of the lowest tide levels we have experienced at Harris Beach. At first, I lamented the lack of sea stars on the rocks, but I discovered many as we walked north along the water’s edge. The sea stars species are at risk, and it was a thrill to see so many of them tucked into the rocks.
Mattie loved her walk, as usual, tearing around in the sand and leaping over the little streams on the beach. She found rocks to climb and enjoyed the ability to run leash-free on the nearly empty beach.
We returned to the park in time to ask a ranger if there was an available site for that night. When we asked on Sunday, they told us to check again around 10 AM on the day we wanted to stay. We were lucky enough to get another canceled reservation site right next to our existing site.
Phil and Jo ran a few shopping errands with our little car before returning to the park to prepare for our afternoon excursion. We planned a walking trip to Chetco Park Trail, where Mo and I had taken Mattie on her first visit to Harris Beach in 2015. The trail isn’t long, paved near the entrance, and reasonably smooth and nearly level in most parts.
The parking lot is a surprise unless one knows where to walk beyond the sewage facility. Near the trail’s beginning is a nice new dog park where Mattie could run. We saw many dogs on our walk, but there were none at the dog park when we arrived after our walk.
The views from the peninsula are beautiful, with pristine beaches below the rocks, wide-open ocean vistas to the West, and tiny wildflowers tucked among the windblown shrubs and grasses along the trail.
We ended the afternoon with an early supper at Super Fly Martini Bar, a trendy place Mo and I discovered in December when we visited the festival with Maryruth and Gerald. As before, the martinis were stellar, and the food was delicious. We had excellent service, good hot food, and an atmosphere that wasn’t noisy despite the holiday week.
After supper, Mo drove around town a bit, showing Phil and Jo some of the things we love about Brookings. Sadly I got no photos of our lovely walk through Azaela Park, where the rhodies were beginning to bloom. I showed Joanne the Azalea Light Festival pictures from our previous visits in December. Already plans are made for reserving sites for the four of us at Harris Beach during the festival next winter.
Once again, we concluded our evening with a campfire and marshmallows. Phil and Joanne decided that the park was so wonderful that they wanted to extend their reservation for another night. The following day they walked the beach at low tide, but not before checking with the ranger for a site for the coming night. They were successful!
I learned that even though everything is fully booked, it is sometimes worth it to double-check with the park rangers for possible cancellations or open sites. As I told Phil, I would always have a backup plan if this didn’t work, especially in the summer. There is nothing worse than having no place to go and having to settle in somewhere unknown in the dark.
Mo and I enjoyed Tuesday morning with brilliant sunshine lighting up the skies. We took our time getting ready to leave the park. With check-out time at 1 PM, there was no hurry.
I took a bit of time to hike the short but steep trail up to Harris Bluff. I went alone so I could test myself a bit but I did take the phone. The view was worth every slow, careful step!
We watched Phil and Jo drive by to their new site before heading up the hill to wish them goodbye and happy travels.
One last note. Mo and I often hook up the Tracker outside the park at the parking area along the upper trail. We learned that it isn’t smart to expect that area to be empty, and I had to return to the parking lot adjacent to the dumpsite to have room to hook up. Neither of us is comfortable hooking up in the park roadways.
Our trip home was uneventful, with some traffic and sunny skies. We were parked and unloaded within an hour of arriving at home. I talked with Joanne this morning. They were happy with their decision to stay another night, even though it meant that Joanne had to cancel some necessary appointments. Her last words to me were, “I can see why people want to do this all the time. I want to run away forever.”