We hadn’t planned on returning to the beach, but when Mo’s brothers said they were gathering in Nehalem for some family time we decided to go. At this time of year the mountains are still getting snow flurries, the California deserts are getting a bit too warm, and most of the waters we love to kayak are still a bit chilly. Another trip to the Oregon Coast was added to our calendar for the month of April.
Ever since we have had the MoHo we try to make sure that we get out at least once a month on some sort of camping adventure. The only years we didn’t completely succeed was when we were selling our homes and the apartment building in Klamath Falls and Rocky Point and building our present home here in Grants Pass. It was a bit hard to get away then, especially when our lives seemed to be all about hauling the trailer around with mowers and yard equipment trying to keep all our places in order. Whew! So glad we have only one home and yard to manage now.
Even though we had a few warm days here at home, the weather on the coast was predicted to be chilly and possibly rainy. What is new!? We planned accordingly, and decided that hauling the kayaks along wasn’t particularly important. Dan and Don recently purchased new inflatable kayaks and planned to try them out for the first time on the Nehalem River. Last time we kayaked with them on the Nehalem, Mo and I both decided that exiting our kayaks from the water to the dock was way more work than we wanted to do. Never again. From now on kayaking for us will be in warm water with nice easy launches so we can get back out of the boats without a lot of pain. I discovered last summer that if the water is warm and the launch is reasonable I can get out with a simple roll into the water. Looking forward to more kayak time as the weather warms.
After our days at the beach, with some lovely sunshine interspersed with lots of wind and chilly clouds we were glad we hadn’t bothered to load up the boats. With only three days to spend with family, kayaking wasn’t a top priority.
Dan had saved a spot for us in Nehalem Bay State Park, in Loop F. Loops A, B, and C are all reservation only throughout the year, but D, E, and F are first come first serve through April. It was surprising how full the park was, with A, B, and C completely filled. Dan and Chere, and Don and Wynn arrived on Monday to get sites for all of us so we had a place to be when we arrived. By the time we left, most of loops D, E, and F were almost full.
Most of the state parks along the beaches in Oregon are a bit inland, with a trek over various distances of sand dunes to get to the beach. South Beach, where we often go near Newport, is especially distant with a long sandy slog for at least half a mile to get to the beach. Here at Nehalem Bay, the slog over the dunes is only a few hundred yards. Still a bit difficult for old legs and knees, but at least we can get there without having to drive a long distance to an easier access point.
The arrangement was for each family to bring their own main dish but share our evening meals together. On our first night, Wynn assured us she had plenty of soup for all. She made a yummy tortellini soup with a rich full tasting clear broth that was a delicious and warm meal for the windy, chilly evening. It was so windy and cold that Mo and I didn’t even bother to trek the few hundred yards to the beach. Instead we hunkered down after supper in the warm MoHo to watch a bit of Netflix cast from the phone. With a great cellular signal and no local TV to speak of, this is a great option for us. Especially since we are so spoiled with recorded TV that we can barely stand to watch commercials.
The next morning dawned beautifully. It was Chere’s birthday, but she told Dan that she didn’t mind him spending some time with his new boat as long as she got to pick where we had her birthday dinner. The guys readied Don’s boat for its first launch while Dan explained why his boat was still at home. Seemed there was a problem and the company has to replace the boat they sent him.
We drove the short few miles back to Nehalem and the river launch in the brilliant morning sunshine. The guys managed to get the boat in the water and to figure out how to get in the rubber boat. One of the reasons for the inflatables is that Dan and Don think their ladies will have an easier time getting in and out of them than they do with the hardside boats. I had no desire to even try. The Saturn is a bit more like a sit on top, with a strong bottom that is rigid. You can supposedly stand up in one. Not me! I’ll stick with my treasured Adirondack until I can no longer figure out a way to exit. One nice thing about the Saturn inflatable however, is that it is self bailing. It is actually a sea worthy kayak that can take the waves and when water gets in, it flows out without letting more in. A nice feature. On a warm day I would love to launch it on a beach somewhere in some nice easy waves. Mo thought it might be a good idea to be sure to tether the thing to your body somehow in case it dumped.
The guys and their wives went back home while Mo and I drove to Manzanita, another nearby town, to visit the beach. Chere said that is where they often go because the parking area along the beach is right adjacent to the water, without all the dune hiking. The beach was nice, and there were lots of dogs and people walking about in spite of the windy chilly air. Even though the sun was brilliant in Nehalem, it was foggy and windy at the ocean. Mattie did her thing, running wildly in the sand until she finally stopped, panting. She loves doing that, but I have noticed that she wears out a bit sooner than she used to. Maybe a bit like her moms.
We drove around Manzanita a bit to explore the small, somewhat upscale town. Unlike Nehalem, Manzanita has some fancy shops, eateries, art galleries, and a coffee place that fit in perfectly with the vibe of the town. Signs for Black Lives Matter, organic dark chocolate, hand dyed yarns, and organic candles were scattered throughout the shop. I stood in line for a really good cappuccino while Mo waited in the car. Couldn’t resist taking photos of the charming little place. It reminded me of places we visited in California coastal towns.
By noon we returned to camp to meet with family for the drive to Tillamook, where Chere was excited to visit an area with several food trucks, her choice for an early birthday meal. When we arrived, however, most of the trucks were closed and the stiff chilly breeze made outside dining less than pleasant. We decided instead to hunt for an indoor dining venue. The Pelican Brewery was just across the street, but with limited inside dining, it was more than an hour wait. Chere suggested returning to Manzanita but Dan was much too hungry to wait another hour for our meal. We searched around town and finally found a place to park right in front of The Dutch Mill Diner.
Dan and Chere with a pal
Wynn and Don
It was a 50’s diner with juke boxes, lots of 50’s music, and hamburgers and milk shakes. I think it was a perfect choice for Chere who loves all the 50’s stuff. Lunch was good too, and Mo and I shared our sandwich and milk shake. We have been doing that more often lately, a great solution to the huge meals that most restaurants like to serve.
Dan loves to go crabbing, but he doesn’t like crab that much. He had a successful day on Monday, but none of us were in the mood for it for dinner, so instead Dan offered his big beautiful crab to some campground walkers who were thrilled to get it. They couldn’t believe their luck.
Returning back to camp, we rested a bit before joining the rest of the family at Dan and Chere’s place for a birthday celebration. I made a lemon cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese frosting back home, packing the parts and waiting until this day to put it all together. Funny moment was when we realized that the MoHo might not be perfectly level when I couldn’t get the 4 cake layers to stay upright, sliding sideways on the lemon curd filling. Took a bit of doing, but finally the cake was good enough to take over to Chere’s for the candles and birthday song. After cake we laughed and visited, skipping the fir since the evening was so chilly.
On Thursday, Mo took another walk on the beautiful Nehalem Beach. The dune hike wasn’t too much, and we spent a long time out there walking and enjoying the sound of the ocean. Mattie had her usual wild run, eventually settling down into a nice walk with us. Mattie is almost 7 years old, and does seem to be slowing a bit in her healthy middle age.
Mo and I played some cards and as evening came we all gathered at Chere and Dan’s camp table for shared supper. This time we did eat our own food, splitting a hot dog between us, and sharing the mac salad I had brought from home. Again, I made all the parts at home, but didn’t build the salad until that afternoon. It is still fresh and homemade, but much easier than taking time during a camping day to chop stuff, and boiling macaroni and eggs. We circled around the lovely campfire for a time before calling it a night. Once again, with the chill and our full tummies I didn’t bother to bring out the marshmallows.
When we originally planned this trip, we though it would be fun to travel east from Nehalem toward Silver Falls State Park to visit the waterfalls and maybe check out the Oregon Gardens near Silverton. I tried to get reservations at Silver Falls, but not surprisingly, the park was completely full. There are 12 first come first served sites in the park and we thought we might take a chance to see if we could get one. Our backup plan was to attempt to get a space at the Silver Spur RV Park, a decent enough place near Silverton where we have stayed in the past.
With hard rain predicted for the rest of the weekend at Silverton, and no sure place to stay, we had second thoughts about driving inland. There are very few ways to get across the coastal mountains between the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast that don’t involve curvy, narrow roads. We decided that if we had to drive a curvy narrow road in the rain we might as well take the coast route home. Somehow once we had decided to do that I felt much better. We could check for possible open sites at any of the beachside state parks that dot the coast route all the way to Brookings.
Beachside State Park with no dunes between the campground and the beach
As expected, it was raining hard when we got on the road Friday morning, but as always, rain or shine, the Oregon Coast is incredibly beautiful. Driving south toward Newport and Florence I realized once again that the section of the coast between Newport and Florence is my favorite. Highway 101 in this section is curvy, perched high above the ocean with views that stretch forever. It is here that the famous lighthouse at Heceta Head is located, one of the most photographed places in Oregon. Of course, my only photo was through an open window in the rain this time, but I took it anyway.
Many of the state parks along the route had “campground full” signs posted on the highway, especially the ones near the bigger cities. South Beach was full, and that is a big park! It was Friday after all and we knew that getting a spot could be iffy. Just about half way between South Beach and Florence, is Beachside State Park. It is smaller and closer than many of the other state parks, and the camp sites are right on the beach, no intervening dunes. However, the campground is sandwiched tightly between the beach and the highway, without a lot of spaces for rally big rigs. That and its lack of proximity to a bigger town might have something to do with the fact that there were spaces available on this Friday afternoon.
We settled in and realized that it was barely noon and we had plenty of time to relax. We walked the beach, played cards, and took a short walk or two around with Mattie. It was a quiet time, much different than it might have been if we had tried to go inland.
On Saturday morning we left around 8:30, traveling Highway 42 inland from the coast toward Roseburg. In my opinion, this is one of the better roads between the coast and I-5. This time of year everything is greening up beautifully. I was surprised at how much farther along the springtime green was here than it had been farther north toward Nehalem. Amazing how much difference a latitude difference of a couple of hundred miles can make from north to south.
I’ll leave you with a photo of the MOST PERFECT marshmallow I have ever roasted. No dry crackers or chocolate needed. Mo’s campfire at Beachside was a perfect bed of coals for this one.