11-24 to 11-27-2020 Bandon Thanksgiving and a night at Harris Beach

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Site A47 had more privacy than we

Between the time we made our reservation and our trip to the coast, COVID numbers began rising in Oregon and the governor once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining.  One of the reasons we chose Bandon over Brookings for this trip was to have an opportunity to spend some time in the little shops and restaurants that make Bandon so charming.  The weather forecast was for rain most of the week, so we wanted to have other things to do than walk the beach.

We traveled north via I-5 toward Roseburg and turned west toward the coast via Highway 42.  However, instead of following the Google Girl directions to stay on Highway 42 all the way to HWY 101 and then back south, we thought the quicker route along 42 S made more sense.  In hindsight, Google Girl sometimes gets it right and we don’t.  I spent most of the time hanging on while Mo navigated the very narrow, very winding road toward Bandon.  It was not fun for me, but I think it might have been for her.  She used to drive a TR7 among other sports cars.

Don’t try this route in a motorhome

It rained a bit along the way, but the afternoon was dry enough that we had time to enjoy a walk along the beach after we settled into our site.

The campground is about a mile from easy beach access at the Coquille River Lighthouse

We were a bit disappointed in the condition of the lighthouse

Adjacent to the town of Bandon, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.

A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled.

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for Coquille River Lighthouse and decided it was no longer needed. An automated beacon was placed at the end of the south jetty, the dwelling was disassembled, and the lighthouse was abandoned. The lighthouse stood neglected for twenty-four years, until Bullards Beach State Park was created on the north side of the river. The grounds of the original eleven-acre light station were included in the park, and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse.

Over the years there have been several attempts at restoration, since park funding isn’t sufficient to maintain the old lighthouse.  In normal years, the lighthouse tower is open for visitation from May through September, however at the moment the old lighthouse looked quite sad.

The air smelled so incredibly fresh, and the surf was loud enough that we could hear it in camp across the dunes at least half a mile from the beach where we were camped. 

There were high tide and surf warnings posted for the next couple of days so one evening we drove through town in the dark to the south jetty where we could watch the huge noisy waves breaking over the jetty rocks.  Lots of warnings for “sneaker waves” kept me alert and when a big one came roaring in I immediately jumped back into the car.

It rained off and on that first night and the next morning dawned cloudy and wet. We settled into the MoHo for a cozy morning before driving the a mile south to Bandon to explore the small town.  The rain came and went all day, usually with a downpour at just the moment we would head for the car after visiting a shop.  About half the shops in town were open, with masks and social distancing, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Second Street Gallery, Winter River Bookstore, and the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique, where we had two tiny cups of creamy drinking chocolate, to go of course. 

This photo is from last year when there was still inside service

The rain poured down as we ran to the car with our little cups of chocolate. I also purchased my first ever macaron (not a macaroon).  I wasn’t impressed, although I do think that maybe the high humidity at the ocean makes it hard to make a light crispy meringue cookie. Who knows.  I don’t have to try again.

We then meandered around the famous Cranberry Sweets.  The store has been in Bandon for more than 50 years and specializes in all sorts of cranberry confections.  I learned that more cranberries are grown around Bandon than anywhere else in the west. Although Bandon is referred to as “The Cranberry Capitol of the World”, more research informed me that most cranberries come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply of cranberries with Wisconsin producing more than half of all cranberries in the US.  Massachusetts harvests another third, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington produce most of the rest.  So much for “Cranberry Capitol”.

Still, the shop was charming and old fashioned, with lots of candies and confections behind the counters.  The hostess told me that they usually had lots of samples around the shop but due to COVID we had to settle for a little bag of free stuff. 

I decided it was time to get some fish and chips to go and tried out Tony’s Crab Shack where I was politely told that Tony didn’t fry ANYTHING, and perhaps I might like to try to fish tacos. Made with fresh caught crab and halibut, they were delicious.  Everything in town was take-out only, with all the restaurants closed for inside seating. We returned home in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all night long.  Funny how wonderful rain on the roof of a motorhome can sound, especially when accompanied by the roar of the ocean.  Great for a good night’s sleep!

The next morning was Thanksgiving, and we woke to beautiful clear skies.  I had precooked much of our dinner, and simply had to reheat the turkey, bake the sweet potato, mash the potatoes, cook a pot of Stove-Top stuffing, and open a jar of gravy.  It wasn’t gourmet, but was completely and totally delicious for the two of us and our socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.

On our first day in camp I discovered the tsunami evacuation trail.  The path is narrow with signs leading to an area high on a heavily timbered hill behind the campground where people are instructed to assemble if the tsunami warning horns go off.  It would do no good to attempt to drive out of the campground in that situation since most of the highway is in the tsunami zone.

It was a lovely little trail, with moist moss, and lots of mushrooms in the duff under the trees. 

On this beautiful morning it was a perfect time to share the trail with Mo.  Mattie loved the trail and we enjoyed walking in a place where there were no dogs or people around.  Mattie gets so excited when she sees other dogs and always wants to “play”.  That entails lots of energy and training time, trying to get her to sit and calm down.  Walking around the campground can be challenging sometimes when all I want is a nice simple walk.  The trail was perfect for that.

It was surprising how full the campground was on this holiday weekend.  By the time Thursday rolled around, all sites were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time celebrating.  We even saw an outdoor TV broadcasting a football game. 

After our early afternoon dinner we went for another great beach walk, and were amazed that the weather was so perfect.  There was very little wind and the temps must have been in the 50’s.  Beautiful day. 

Home again to the MoHo where after many years of hearing about it, I actually figured out how to cast the phone to the TV with the included app on my Samsung phone.  We turned on Netflix on the phone, and with our unlimited Verizon plan we were able to watch movies and even live television on the big TV with the right apps.  My daughter Deanna told me about this capability a long time ago, but I never managed to figure it out until this trip. On a chilly evening having some TV was great entertainment.  The Verizon signal in the park was perfectly adequate to stream a movie.

Bullard’s Beach State Park has some beautiful picnic areas

On Friday morning we took our time with a lazy breakfast, a little bit of news, and some reading time before packing up.  Checkout time wasn’t until 1PM, and we only had a little over two hours to travel along the coast south toward Brookings and Harris Beach State Park.  I didn’t make a reservation for Harris Beach, thinking that winter on the coast would be open without a problem.  We planned to arrive around 2 in plenty of time to snag an open site before evening.  Things have changed in the camping world!  When we arrived the park was completely full except for one site, the only ADA site in the park, number 37 in the B loop.

I must say I was grateful for once to have my little blue disability card to hang from our windshield.  We settled in to enjoy our last evening on the beach and Mo built a nice big campfire.  Only problem with the campfire is that the ADA site has a very tall metal fire ring, I suppose so that it is safer.  It took a very long time to get that metal warm and I spent campfire time in LOTS of clothes and blankets trying to warm up.

One of our favorite holiday treats are the wonderful lights at Azalea Park in Brookings.  We knew that this year the big light show wasn’t happening, but the city of Brookings was attempting to do something at least and made arrangements for businesses that usually displayed their lights at Azalea Park to put lights up on both sides of Highway 101 and down into Harbor.  We hopped into the Tracker at dusk to go check out the show.  I must say that it was a bit of a bust.  There were a few nice lights near Fred Meyer, but the rest of them were scattered along the road with lots of space in between displays.  Oh well, at least they tried.  We heard the next morning that someone had stolen one of the big displays on the very first night of the show, the 4 piece Dragon.  So sad.  Maybe that is why so many businesses chose not to display their lights in the unprotected lots along the highway.  Eventually the dragon was recovered.

Here is a photo of the dragon from the park show last year

The next day we didn’t have to check out until 1PM and with no rush to get back home we enjoyed every last minute of park time.  I took Mattie around the campground, and walked out toward the overlook that has such a beautiful view of Harris Beach.  I felt no need to climb down to the water. 

There were so many people on the beach I was amazed.  More people and dogs running around on Harris Beach than we have ever seen even in summer.  I guess as many people have said, RVing is the great COVID escape and everyone and their dog or dogs is on the road and filling up the campgrounds.

We left in brilliant sunshine, driving as far as Cave Junction about 30 miles west of Grants Pass before we encountered the fog.  Grants Pass is often foggy in winter, sometimes without any lifting in the afternoon.  This was one of those days.  I always say, if we must have fog, we might as well have it at the beach.  It was nice to get home to our cozy house, the steamy hot tub, and TV without having to figure out the casting thing.  It was a great four days of ocean time, and a perfect way to handle a quiet Thanksgiving for just the two of us.

11-09-2014 Bullards Beach and Bandon

Current Location: Humbug Mountain State Park, 50 degrees F at 5:30 AM and clear starry skies

I have been awake for far too long, deciding that since I couldn’t seem to sleep, I might as well process photos.  Great way to spend the early dark hours of the day.  One thing about camping on the coast is the constant moisture.  Even on sunny days, things don’t dry out much, and at the moment, almost all the clothes that I brought on this trip are in some stage of dampness, including night clothes.  Geez.  Better to just get up and sit by the cozy space heater with my one completely dry tee shirt and jammie bottoms on and dry out a bit.

Bandon (20 of 24)After three lovely days at Sunset Bay, it was time to move south toward our next destination along the coast.  With only 69 miles to go all the way to Humbug Mountain, we decided instead to drive the short 22 miles to Bullards Beach and spend a night in that very large park, with all the amenities. 

camping route coast 2014Bullards Beach State Park not only has a dump station, which we used on the way in, it has a good Verizon and ATT signal, so we had both internet on the MiFi and iPad and telephone on the ATT iPhone.  Like most RV travelers, we have found that having both service providers seems to be the best way to handle the varying availability of different signals.  I have been in locations where the ATT phone worked great and there wasn’t a Verizon bar to be found, and the other way around. Seems to be a regional thing, and those coverage maps aren’t necessarily that accurate.

Bullards Beach SP CampgroundBullards Beach is a huge state park, with several sites saved for first come first served, but we were surprised when we arrived at 11AM to see how many of those sites were already filled.  There is a check-in time of 1PM, but it seems that no one cared that we arrived early.  This time of year there are camp hosts, but no one manning the entry check-in booths.  Park your rig and do a self check in within half an hour.

Another reason for staying at Bullards Beach was to give ourselves plenty of time to wander off to Bandon without having to continue south on the highway.  We could play at leisure, and have plenty of time in the later afternoon for a long walk to the beach.  And I do mean long.  It is 1.25 miles to the beach from the campground along the new boardwalk trail that traverses the wet lowlands between the campground and the beach dunes.  It is a bit longer if you take the easier paved and not sandy trail to the beach parking area south of the campground.

Bullards Beach SP Campground site 55Once settled in, on the C loop space 55, first on the agenda was traveling the short distance south to Bandon to find a grocery store.  Stocking up on a very few necessities didn’t take long.  The only large grocery in Bandon is Ray’s, a local chain, with the nearest Safeway showing up many miles east at Coquille. 

face rock creameryAmbling down the highway south toward the older part of town, we first encountered Face Rock Creamery. If you click on the previous link, you can read the interesting story of how Bandon brought this into being. In the location of the old Bandon Cheese Factory, bought out by Tillamook and then destroyed, Face Rock Creamery has a gorgeous new facility where you can watch cheese making and sample their wares.  They specialize in flavored cheddars, with one version of an aged cheddar, a few kinds of pepper jack and cheese curds, which seem to be very popular.

face rock interiorWe took advantage of the amazing ice cream, requesting the single scoop child’s version, and getting something that was very close to two big scoops of ice cream for a buck fifty each.  Geez.  Taking our treats upstairs to the comfy wooden tables overlooking the cheesemaking factory, we watched not only the cheese process, but the many people coming into the store buying cheese and gourmet goodies.  I would say this has been great for Bandon.

Just next door to the cheese factory is a nice quilt shop, and I spent some time perusing the goodies but managed to get out of there with nothing more than a great pattern for another project to add to my list of todo’s.

Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique Bandon OregonParking downtown in the Old Town area, we wandered the streets where I had an eagle eye peeled for the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique.  A year ago, when visiting this town with friends Maryruth and Gerald we experienced their “drinking chocolate” and I didn’t want to miss it this time. 

Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique Bandon OregonI love being in this little shop, all decorated with chocolate colors and very modern and trendy.  I noticed as we sat in the comfy sofas that it was almost entirely women entering the shop and every single one of them left with something yummy.

downtown BandonWe continued to explore the little shops, with art galleries, funky souvenir shops, coffee shops and clothiers until I was tired of all the slow walking and we both decided it was time to get back to the campground and walk the beach.  Somehow slow walking wears me out much more than walking out in a real stride.

Bandon (13 of 24)Just before we got back to the car, however, we found the most amazing museum.  The Washed Ashore project is one of the most creative and impressive solutions to beach trash that I have seen.  Angela Pozzi, an artist and educator at Washed Ashore had said “It’s a project to show the everyday person how much garbage is coming up on the beaches,” she says. “I aim to grab people with the power of the sculptures, which are beautiful and then become horrifying.”

Bandon (18 of 24)We wandered the museum, mesmerized by the gorgeous colors and beautiful sculptures that were created entirely from beach garbage.  In addition to the work in the museum, there were extensive photo exhibits showing the scope of the project.  I know from personal experience that many of our beaches are horribly littered with trash, and I know there are efforts to encourage people to carry a trash bag and attempt to clean up what they see.

Bandon (16 of 24)This, however, is a huge effort that might actually make a difference.  Plastic.  It is all about plastic.  I know I have a life filled with plastic as we all do, and while I have been aware of the issues to some extent, seeing this project made it much more real to me.  We are killing our oceans and our animals with plastic.  It is sobering.  I hope to pay more attention in the future and do my part.

Bandon (17 of 24)After visiting the museum, we traveled the short distance south of town along the coast and found a public beach on the South Jetty just across the the Coquille Lighthouse.  With the huge recent rain storm and low tide, the beach was thick with people carrying buckets picking up something.  Mo said, “They are getting something, we had better go check it out”. 

Bandon (21 of 24)Spending a bit of time wandering and picking up stones, we found some of the famous Oregon beach agates to add to our rock stash.  It was nice to see dogs playing on the beach, and of course it brought back sweet memories of the many beaches we have shared with Abby. 

Bandon (22 of 24)This trip has been a bit different.  No dog, no kitty, and in case you noticed, no bikes and no kayaks.  Even without the extra toys along, we have certainly managed to stay busy and active.

Back to our campsite, we had enough time for a late afternoon walk to the beach.  As I mentioned previously, it is more than a mile to the beach from the campsite, and even with the new boardwalk, much of the trail is deep sand. 

Bullards Beach iPhone (6 of 9)There is a large horse camp near the beach, and after walking along the surf for a distance, we found that roadway leading south, with hopes that we could walk back via the paved road.  The route home was easier but much longer, and with all that sand walking, I felt like I had trudged many more miles than the 3.5 or so that showed up on the GPS!

Bullards Beach iPhone (2 of 9)The next morning, before we continued south toward Cape Blanco, I walked again to the beach, this time avoiding the sandy trails and taking the nice partly paved bike trail leading from the campground to the beach. It is a simple 2.5 mile round trip, and I learned something new about the beach grasses along the Oregon Coast.

Bullards Beach iPhone (4 of 9)Planted in the 30’s in an attempt to control the constant blowing sand, European beach grass is terribly invasive and has taken over most of the dune landscapes on the coast.  Unlike the native sea oats on the southeast beaches, this grass isn’t native and isn’t protected, but it still does the trick of stabilizing the dunes. Like rabbits in Australia, we sometimes change our environment without understanding the full extent of what we are changing.  Unlike the rabbits, maybe it isn’t always a negative thing.Bullards Beach iPhone (9 of 9)

Tomorrow we move south again toward Cape Blanco and the lighthouse, Port Orford, and Humbug Mountain State Park.