The Oregon Coast (the rest of the story)

 As sometimes happens, I wrote many pages full of eloquent descriptions and exquisite details about the next few days that we spent on the Oregon coast, only to lose it all in the publish/review/draft/publish process.  After a big sigh, I just gave up and continued on to the next adventure. The problem with that plan, however, is that the next few days on the coast were filled with incredible kayaking experiences.  Now, instead of all the details (which I write for myself as much as anyone) this post will merely try to remember the best parts, the highlights of the rest of the week.

coast_day4 (12)  When we explored Pacific City, we saw the Little Nestucca River and Nestucca Bay, and made plans to return the next day for a kayak adventure.  On the Little Nestucca River, we put in at a boat launch east of Highway 101, about 3 miles upriver from the bay.  It was a bit exciting to put in on a new river, something unknown, and I was especially tickled to have five bars with 3G coverage on my iPhone.  I could zoom in on the Google Maps and see our route as we cruised down the river.  Fabulous. 

coast_day4 (13)The river flowed through the Nestucca Bay Wildlife Refuge and into the bay.  We chose our paddling time well, with the current and tide taking us down and the tide turning and again taking us back upstream, with only a little bit of effort required the last mile or so as we returned.  Nestucca Bay was beautiful, with a long peninsula protecting it from the open ocean.  Our route took us to the mouth of the bay, to the surf, and to a small beach almost completely empty of people.  Across the river, a group of horsemen gathered on the beach, and some crabbers trolled the waters, but it was quiet and clean, and beautiful.  A perfect kayak adventure for us.

coast_day5 (5)The day after that we returned to a park that we found on the Salmon River, near the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology south of the little community of Neskowin.  We were surrounded on three sides by reserves, conservation centers, Nature Conservancy preserves, and beautiful wildlands.  Even in the misty overcast, it was an amazing experience.  On this day I discovered a completely different relationship with rain, I loved it. 

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We kayaked downriver, not a long way, to the breakers, and found a tiny tidal island where we docked and cleaned out our boats.  The island slowly disappeared with the rising tide as we stood there, and we pushed off again and headed upstream. Once again, we were very nearly alone on a gorgeous beach on the Oregon coast on a summer day.  Not many places where this kind of beauty can be found in the midst of solitude.  It was perfect.

coast_day6 (1)We moved our camp to Beachside State Park for a couple of days, spent some time in Florence, in the old town part of the city, enjoying cappuccino and shopping, and had another great seafood meal at a different Mo’s. Mo and Abby and I had a wonderful time walking the beach and I took way too many photos of the gorgeous Solstice sunset on the 21st.

When we left the coast on Wednesday to head back home, the skies were really gray and dreary, but sunshine and hot summer temperatures waited for us as we traveled inland.

I wish I hadn’t lost what I wrote, but hopefully the photos will remind me of the very best parts.

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A link to the photos of kayaking the estuaries is here, and a link to the photos of Beachside State Park and Florence is here.

Exploring Pacific City and Lincoln City Day 2

Click here for more photos

coast_day2 (18) coast_day2 (12) Such a leisurely morning!  We slept in till 9am, something that never happens at home, and then had a simple cereal breakfast.  The weather was sunny and cool, with no fog or rain.  Pacific City was north of us, and we wanted to explore it after reading about what a delightful, quiet beach getaway town it was. Once there, we discovered Cape Kiwanda, with its gorgeous beach, and the home of Haystack Rock.  Another big attraction there is the fact that you can drive and park down on the beach, and there is a single huge sand dune mountain for climbing and sand sledding.  There were many people enjoying the sunny day, but it still didn’t seem too crowded. There were also a lot of dogs enjoying the beach as well.  It’s nice to have a place where your dog can be on the beach.  So many times when we would go to the beaches in California we couldn’t take Abby. We had a great time walking again, and this time the winds were really blowing, but it was still not terribly cold.  This beach is famous coast_day2 (24) for it’s dory launching site, and after watching some dory landings, we read the commemorative plaque about the history of the dories on the Oregon Coast. 

After our walk, we explored the Nestucca Bay Wildlife Refuge and looked for other camping and kayaking possibilities.  North of Pacific Beach we hunted down some small county campgrounds we found on the internet.  They are cheap, quiet, and off the beaten track, but not something we would choose.  Woods Campground in Pacific City isn’t much more than a parking lot, and the Wehalin Island Campground was barren and open, with less than a dozen sites.  It seemed to be filled with long term campers in vans and tents and wasn’t really very inviting.  It was also surrounded by a tidal flat, that might be lovely when the tide was up, but was rather yukky at low tide. These campgrounds are operated by Tillamook County, and for us would be a wide spot in the road to use for emergencies only.

Back to Lincoln City to find Mo’s Chowder House for supper.  Of course, we would want to eat at Mo’s!  After supper we checked out the flag shop, of which there are several, and bought a wonderful flower whirligig for our coast_day1 (25)campsite.  We also put up the chili pepper lights around our awning and hung the wind chimes.  Ahh, camping at it’s finest.  I did my share of tent camping and ground sleeping, but these days all the little delights of motorhome camping are great.  I guess it really isn’t camping, though, but it is wonderful.  A couple pulled in next to us this evening in their big Class A, and when I complimented him on his parking skills (these sites are small!) he laughed and we talked about how this really isn’t camping, but it really is fun. Now, the photo on the left may be a bit strange, but I found myself laughing as I realized that it’s hard to live without a “junk drawer”.  Even in a motorhome.  Doesn’t everyone have one?

Another campfire after our spaghetti supper ended another perfect day at the coast.

Off to the Oregon Coast Day 1

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coast_day1 (1) We left for the coast this morning at 9:15.  What an amazing morning it was at Rocky Point, with the sun shining brilliantly and the temperatures warming up at last.  A bit ironic to be heading for the cool coast when we have been waiting through such a long cold spring for some summer weather.  Still, it was exciting to get the MoHo back on the road again.  Diamond Lake Junction is just little over an hour north on 97 but there is a great little restaurant there that has probably the best breakfast in the world.  From the outside you wouldn’t have a clue, with a big sign that says EAT.  It looks like any dumpy little roadside greasy spoon.  I do think that breakfast there is the best I ever found, and this morning we made it before the 11am breakfast cutoff time.  Mo and I shared something called the “Bigfoot”; chicken fried steak, eggs, hash browns, and biscuits.  Even with two people eating, we couldn’t finish the entire thing and took some with us in a box for a later snack.  Something about that meal takes me back to a simpler time, like macaroni and cheese or fancy fruit jello salads.  I love the new style of eating, with fresh food, lots of veggie choices, and ethnic seasonings and styles.  Still, there is something of the  south in me that melts for chicken fried steak, childhood food, southern food.  Reading Laurie’s blog (Semi-True Tales of our Life on the Road) this year about their travels and eating adventures in the south made me want to go there just for the food!

coast_day1We traveled to the coast via HWY 97, over Willamette Pass on HWY 58, I-5 to Corvallis to HWY 99 north into Dallas, turning west on HWY 22 to HWY 101 to Lincoln City.  There are just a few routes across the mountains, and then a few from I-5 leading west to the ocean, so choosing is just a matter of preference.  We were settled into camp by 5, after eight hours driving that included our  nice breakfast break. Our destination this time is a State Park right in the middle of Lincoln City adjacent to Devils Lake: Devils Lake State Park.  Since it was high summer at the coast, we were smart enough to make reservations and we had a full hookup site, even with cable.  The campground there is nice, but the sites aren’t very private, and there were LOTS of kids around, riding bikes, making lots of noise.  The highway is close as well, and traffic is loud, but tempered a bit by the sound of the ocean, just beyond the highway west of us.

coast_day1 (15) After settling in, we explored the campground, found the delightful boardwalk through the wetlands that led to the highway, crossed the road and found the beach.  A two mile walk along beautiful clean sands was  perfect for us and for Abby, where she could be off leash after we left the state park boundary.  So many of Oregon’s beaches are gorgeous, but short, punctuated by cliffs and rocks and it is sometimes hard to walk any distance without being stopped by them.  This beach is long and clear, and you can walk for miles in either direction. 

Home to our campsite for the evening campfire.  The skies are clear and the winds are mild and temperate.  Wonderful end to our first day.

Shifting Gears Key West to Long Key Day 4

Photos of this day are here.

Day4 (1) When we drove the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West, the air wasn’t as clear as I might have liked, the skies were a bit murky. However, this Saturday morning we had gorgeous blue skies, warm temperatures, and balmy soft air. We took our time leaving the guest house, enjoying a leisurely morning walk to Camille’s, a little cafe that had received great reviews, especially for breakfast. As we walked toward the Southernmost Point on Simonton Street, we found more charming little conch houses (a term for any small frame wooden house in the keys) and another guest house completely hidden by gardens. I later read in Budget Travel that this guest house was one of a special few in the world. Breakfast at Camille’s was excellent, with banana walnut pancakes, real maple syrup, and fresh orange juice. yum again.

Back to the guest house, I took some photos of the house and grounds and we packed our belongings into the car (not touched in three days) and headed back north on the highway. With the car, we found parts of Key West that hadn’t been as easily reached on foot. We found Higgs Beach, Rest Beach, and the long and lovely Smathers Beach. I would have loved to have found these beaches earlier in our vacation, but there wasn’t enough time to really explore Key West any more than we did. If we can find a place for the motorhome, I can see us driving south in the winter and spending some quality time here kayaking, walking, and just relaxing.

On the way back north, we did see a couple of large state parks, and tried to check them out. Both parks charged $2.50 per person to enter, and neither would let us just ride through to check them out. From the outside, Bahia Honda State Park at MM37 looked wonderful, with a few large RV sites with some shade, and others without shade but with a waterfront view. Farther north, on Long Key, while parked along the entrance, we used the internet to check out Long Key State Park, also with wide spaces and beach front locations for several RV sites. We will definitely need to plan ahead, however, since they recommend getting reservations when they are first available, 11 months prior to your visit. It also isn’t cheap, with full hookup sites at $40 or more and no senior discount except for Florida residents. Still, I can see us planning this trip sometime in the next few years.

Day4 (36) Crossing the famous “Seven Mile Bridge” was beautiful with such clear skies to brighten the day. Stopping at the wayside to walk the bridge a bit, I was again mesmerized by all the colors of turquoise. Pigeon Key, just a tiny spit of land in the middle of the bridge, was only accessible via a 4 mile walk across the bridge. A new home base waited in Long Key, so we opted for a short walk instead.

Arriving at the tiny village of Layton, on Long Key, we were a bit disconcerted to see that we were somewhat isolated. The delight of our nice room made up for everything, and we unpacked our belongings and enjoyed the space. It was great to have our own bathroom again!

Day4 (55) After settling in, and realizing that the pace of this part of the trip would be a bit slower, we decided to drive to the rest of Islamorada and check out the villages. Islamorada is a collection of islands, separated by bridges, and all considered part of the community.

Checking out the reviews, we decided to try out the Island Grille. Voted Islamorada’s best waterfront dining, it didn’t disappoint. The ambiance was loud and festive, our table right on the waterfront, with a big fancy boat parked just a few feet from our table. The menu was crazy, and it took a long time to decide what to eat. Again, things weren’t cheap, so I decided to have an appetizer. I chose the “Tater Fondue”, a crazy mixture of crisp home-made potato chips made tantalizing with a balsamic drizzle, blue cheese and a hot blue cheese sauce, fresh finely chopped tomatoes, and scallions. It was the strangest combination I ever saw, and it was delicious!

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Ambling back to our comfy lodge just in time for the sunset, it was the end of a perfectly lovely day.

Traveling the California Coast

Copied from our old leather travel journal in April 2011

February 27 through March 7 2004

01friday010  February 7th, Friday morning we left Klamath in the Chevy van at 8AM and drove through snow and rain over Mt Shasta down I-5. Stopped in at the Rolling Hills Casino and then had breakfast between Corning and Williams. Drove to Calistoga via Clear Lake. The road was really curvy and narrow with a 16% grade! The valley was green and beautiful and Calistoga had great shops. We took Molly in the French shop for wine and hors d’oeuvres. Enjoyed a great dinner with wine and cheese in our Motel 6 room in Santa Rosa, a really small room. Gas in Santa Rosa was 2.09 per gallon.

02sat_northcoast013 February 28, Saturday morning we were up early and drove from Santa Rosa to the great pastry shop in Sebastopol. What a lovely little town! Drove out to Jenner, hiked around Blind Beach and collected driftwood. Drove down the coast, had lunch in Bodega Bay watching all the water birds from our table by the water. Drove over the Golden Gate, past the Presidio, and down HWY 1 to Pacifica and Moana’s old school, her ranch in Montera, the Moss Beach house, and then over 92 to Belmont. Had a great dinner at Fresh Choice and went swimming and hot-tubbing at our hotel.

03sat_drakes031 February 29 Sunday. We spent the day in San Francisco hiking up Coit Tower, walking Lombard Street, and down to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Went to Pier 45 and the great museum with all the old arcade games. Went to Bubba Shrimp for a great dinner at a perfect table while we watched sailboats in the bay. Home to watch the Oscars in our motel room drinking wine and laughing a lot together at the silliness.

March 1 Monday. It was raining hard today.  Moana dropped me off at a fabulous mall in San Bruno while she did her taxes and took Molly to the vet. We drove highway 82 back into San Francisco, Union Square, with the great Williams Sonoma store where I bought some wonderful Valentine plates on sale05sat_bridge040 for only ten bucks. We took the cable cars up California Street to Chinatown and had a wonderful Chinese dinner at Yee’s. We were the only non-Asians in the restaurant. We had fun shopping at found dominoes at one of the little Chinese stores. Also explored some of the big hotel lobbies and took some linen towels from the Ritz. Bad! Home to our hotel for a hot tub under the moonlight again.

March 2 through March 7 Sunday

The little red journal goes silent for the last five days of this trip, so I went to the photos to try to figure out what we did and when we did it. I am so glad that we now have the blog and that I have learned to keep regular updates. The p2004_03_California Triphotos tell a bit of the story, but for some reason the dates aren’t set properly, and nothing seems to be in order so that was no help either. From the photos, it seems that we spent a lot of time in the Arboretum in San Francisco at Golden Gate Park, and then traveled down the coast to visit the roller coaster at Santa Cruz and then on to Monterey to have a great dinner on the wharf and join a morning history walk through the town. We traveled down Highway 1 to Carmel and Big Sur and went hiking along the ocean cliffs there. Mo took my photo next to the huge artichoke in the Artichoke Capital of the World at Castroville.

We stayed mostly in Motel 6’s because we had Molly with us and they are easy and inexpensive. It was a wonderful trip and a great respite from the cold wet late winter days back in Klamath Falls.