Current Location: The Sunset House in Grants Pass Oregon
Let’s go to the beach! I suppose that is something said more often in summer, or even spring or fall, but probably doesn’t fall off one’s lips in the middle of winter, at least not in this part of the country. But now that we are at last settled into our home, Mo and I have been itching to get the MoHo on the road, and the beach is just two hours west. That was one of the reasons we chose to build our home in Grants Pass; it is a reasonably easy drive to the ocean, without having to live in the salt air and summer fogs.
Is it surprising that once again we ended up in Brookings at Harris Beach State Park? Probably not to readers who have been around awhile. What can I say about Harris Beach that I haven’t said several times a year for the last 15 years?! Brookings is the Banana Belt of the Oregon Coast, and is known for great December weather. With a foggy inversion hanging around Grants Pass for the last week or so, we were definitely ready for some sunshine.
The beach complied with a great day of sun and temperatures in the 60’s. At least that was the case when we arrived on Monday afternoon. Packing up was a breeze, the MoHo was nice and clean inside and out, waiting in the RV shed, everything we needed for a simple two night stay took less than an hour to load. We had to bide our time before leaving since we didn’t want to arrive too early. Check-in time at the State Park is supposed to be after 1pm. Perfect.
We left in fog, but by the time we reached Hayes Hill just west of town on Highway 199 the sun was so brilliant I had to find my sunglasses. Ahhh. The drive was gorgeous, as always, even with the water in the wild Smith River at fairly low levels due to the recent lack of precipitation. Someday I am going to make an attempt to drive that road in a car and stop often enough to capture some of the beauty of the river and the mountains and forests through this part of the coast range. Taking photos out the window of a moving vehicle can’t begin to do it justice, and since I was driving that was even more of a problem. I had the same thought today as we returned, and I wasn’t driving. I did manage to get a photo of the snow surrounding us at the higher elevations, thankfully not right on the road, but real photos? As I said, maybe someday.
When we first arrived, the front row appeared to be completely empty? Really? What a delight! We didn’t have reservations, insisting to friends who asked that they were completely unnecessary at this time of year. Approaching the park entrance, we had a bit of a shock. The front row was completely empty because most of the park was shut down for a complete overhaul of the sewer and water system.
There were only 2 sites along the front row that were useable and as we continued around the C Loop (most of the back side of A and most of B loop were closed) we saw that C4, one of our favorite sites, was open with a reservation scheduled for late December. Score! A big rig followed us in, and gave up and left the park, shaking his head at the vacancy sign. Vacancy doesn’t mean anything is useable for big rigs or that the available sites would actually have hookups. Most of the vacancies were tent sites. The park volunteers let us know that the work was supposed to be completed by mid June of this year. We will see. But I don’t imagine we will try to get back to Harris Beach any time soon. Loeb Park is open, and is only $24 per night, but it is up the Chetco River, and is some distance from town and the beach.
Thanking the RV gods for our good luck, we were in our spot and set up in no time. One of the nice things about C4 is that it still has the tall trees and overgrown bushes that used to make Harris Beach so charming and private. The new thought for the park is to take down many of the trees (they aren’t native), and trim all the hedges into nice even rectangles.
Much of the privacy between sites is gone, and while the views of the ocean are accessible, so are the views of your next door neighbors. I miss the old overgrown feeling of the park, but I don’t imagine we will give up camping at Harris Beach in the future. It is just too convenient to town, to trails, to wonderful beach walks, and to home.
The sun was still out, and there was very little wind. We knew the forecast for the next day called for 100 percent chance of precip with high winds, so we quickly set up camp and headed down to the beach. It was so wonderfully warm, with no wind at all, and our light jackets were almost too much for us. We walked north from the main beach parking area where we can let Mattie off leash when no one is around.
She had a great time tearing around in the sand. That little dog loves to run and is sooooo fast! It was impossible to catch her in a photo since I didn’t bother to lug the camera with me and only had the phone. We sat for a time watching the water and the sky, and letting Mattie play as the sun began to go down over the waves.
There was more entertainment on the agenda that needed to be enjoyed on an evening without rain. The annual Nature’s Coastal Holiday was once again lighting up Azalea Park with over 500,000 lights. We attended the show in 2013 and didn’t want to miss it. We thought a fish and chips supper before the show was a great idea until I started searching and found most every fish and chips place in Brookings and in nearby Harbor are closed on Mondays. Note to self, bring food for Monday nights in Brookings! Luckily I had some great chicken enchiladas in the fridge so we didn’t go hungry.
It was completely dark by a bit after 5 when we paid our nominal $2.00 fee to enter the park. The show was breathtaking, even more wonderful than we remember from our visit four years ago. I have never seen so many lights, wrapped around every bush and tree and even spread over the ground to look like flowing water. The pathways around the park were lit, the gazebo on the hill was a beacon that could be seen from most every vantage point, and the music was pure Christmas, with Bing Crosby crooning, and of course, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. I think the only light show I have seen that could come close to this one is the Christmas light show at Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida. I have no idea if they even still do that show now that Silver Springs is officially a state park and no longer a private amusement venue.
Everything was so lovely we had to walk around more than once to take it all in. Somehow all those lights and Christmas music are what makes the holiday the most fun for me. I am so glad that we went.
Afterward, we stopped off at Fred Meyer, the main shopping place in Brookings, and lo and behold out walked Doni, from Quilting and Life in General, a blog I have read for years. I had never met her in person, but recognized her face instantly. I can only imagine how it must feel to be leaving the grocery store and have some stranger accost you with, “Doni?! It is YOU! I have read your blog for years!” Doni is a quilter, and I found her blog through Paulette of Rick and Paulette from the very old days of early blogging. Such fun. And such a small world.
Yesterday we woke to hard rain and very dark skies. Somehow breakfast slipped in at almost 9am, unheard of for the two of us who are usually such early risers. The winds were high and wild and the rain was blowing sideways for most of the day. We decided it might be a day for a book instead of a walk, and wandered off to the Goodwill store in search of something used to entertain each of us. We also thought a stop at my very favorite local quilt store was in order, and imagine my sad surprise to find that the store was closed and the owner had retired last summer. I was heartbroken, but I guess after 30 years a woman can get tired and want to let it go. Our favorite bakery still had hours listed from 6am on Friday mornings through Sundays only, so I was glad I brought a stash of Christmas cookies that I baked last week to keep us fortified.
Fish and Chips are an important component of any visit to the coast, even a short one. We have spent several years passing by the Crazy Norwegian in Port Orford. Sometimes we pass because we are on our way somewhere coming or going, or the place is closed (probably a Monday). Nina talked about it often when she and Paul were staying at the lighthouse in Cape Blanco, and other bloggers have waxed poetic about the fabulous food to be found in the tiny establishment.
In spite of the driving rains, and high winds, we thought a 55 mile each way trip up the coast along Highway 101 would be a good way to spend part of a rainy day, especially with good fish and chips to reward us. The Crazy Norwegian turned out to be a great little place, with everything fresh and homemade. I loved the chowder especially, not too thick and homemade with some kind of herb that didn’t appeal to Mo but really tickled me. I think it was tarragon. The cod was from Alaska, and on the menu it stated that the supply of good fresh cod from local sources was too undependable, hence the Alaska version. It was moist and tender and done perfectly, as were the fries. The coleslaw was different, and the waitress said the secret ingredient was horseradish. It wasn’t my favorite. Coleslaw should have mayo in it! We were really glad we made the trip, glad to have tried out the Crazy Norwegian, but also decided that in the future we might be perfectly happy to return to the Sporthaven Marina that we found last time we were in Brookings.
Back to the RV in the rain, we settled in for card playing, skipping super since our two o’clock lunch held us over just fine, and reading our new books. I found a new author, Martha Grimes, and I am loving the book, “Dakota”. I think I’ll have to search out some more of her writings.
We watched the weather report, listening to the winter storm warnings for the coast range and for the Cascades, hoping that things would clear out by the time we had to leave at noon. I checked the weather channel this morning, and we played more cards while waiting for the snow to melt that covered the roads at the Oregon California border. I didn’t relish the thought of traveling Highway 199 in the snow. That road along the Smith is gorgeous and treacherous as well, with steep mountains formed from slippery serpentine rock that slides easily, and narrow lanes that drop directly to the river sometimes a hundred feet below the tiny almost non existent guard rail. Just ask Judy about that road! Ha!
By the time we left however, the temps were in the 40’s, the rain showed no signs of scary snow at least as far as Patrick Creek, and the road had no ice to mar our journey. Mo drove and I did manage to get a couple of photos out the windshield of the snow around us, but thankfully not on the road. When we got home, the sun was shining through the clouds surrounding Grants Pass.
Within a hour of arriving, we had dumped the tanks into our own RV dump, unloaded everything, and had the MoHo all backed into her shed, safe and sound. I made another batch of Christmas cookies, we ate our leftover fish and chips (of COURSE we had leftovers), I processed photos, and wonder of all wonders, here I am writing the blog! Photos probably won’t go in till later since tomorrow morning I am off to see daughter Melody and her family just two hours north in Eugene. So excited! Two hours isn’t that far, but it seems a long way after two years of having Melody living in the same apartment building with Mo and I. I really do miss having her close by and seeing the kids come and go and getting hugs on a regular basis. I’ll have to catch up on hugs tomorrow for sure.