Saturday, August 28, 2010

Southern Oregon Coast Treasures

One of the things I love about traveling without a fixed plan is the flexibility it affords us. Sure, sometimes we end up camping somewhere we might otherwise have avoided. But for the most part, we find fabulous off-the-beaten-path spots, local treasures and family favorites that further extend our Great-Places-to-Revisit-in-the-U.S. list.

Beverley Beach
on Oregon's coast was not a planned stop. It was getting toward the end of the day, and with no reservations on the coast route, I figured we'd better pull over before others settled in to the last available spots. We followed the state's signs to this expansive campground just in time and slipped into one of the last available spots. Of course, it wasn't the least expensive spots; those were long gone. But for $27 we got a full RV hookup spot complete with cable, sewer, water and electric hookups. We don't have most of those, but we took advantage of the situation and recharged the trailer battery, used the water to rinse the clothes that had been agitated all day in our trailer laundry tub, dumped our water tank and refilled anew. We were only about 50 yards from Highway 101, and the campground is one of the more tightly-packed parks we've seen in our PacNW travels, so it wasn't particularly quiet. But the trees helped provide a park-like setting, and we were only about 75 yards from the beach. The restrooms were ample and clean, and the beach long with both sand for castles or digging in ones toes as well as river rock for stacking. Despite the relatively crowded camp, I would stay here again. Our fellow campers were polite (we didn't hear a single generator after dark or before breakfast), and the proximity to the beach was wonderful. Oh, and the wild blackberry picking was superb.

Our plan was to hit Bandon the next day, but I was distracted by the views along the way, the great tide pooling at Yachats State Park, and finally drawn off the highway by a small driveway that headed inland, clearly away from the highway, to Cape Perpetua Campground in Siuslaw National Forest. Now THIS was a find! For $22 for our family of four, we found a nice, flat camping spot complete with clean fire ring, picnic table, hedges for shelter, a year-round creek that bubbled serenely and the cleanest flush-toilet bathrooms I've ever encountered in a Forest Service campground. Plus there's a wonderful trail system that lead through old-growth forest, up to a visitors center which provides shelter from coastal weather and nearly 180-degree views of the coast and friendly, knowledgeable, locally raised rangers. We enjoyed our evening in camp with guests from the neighboring site. (The young couple had been SCUBA diving all day and didn't have the energy to put up their fire, so we invited them to ours. Great way to meet interesting people.) It was a shame to leave in the morning without exploring many of the trails and without stepping foot on the beaches here. The tide pooling is said to be fantastic here. But we did make our way to the top of the cape for a short loop hike through the headlands before pressing on south.

In Florence, Oregon, we happened upon the final farmers' and artisans' fair of the season. We picked up some SCRUMPTIOUS boysenberry syrup, walnut vinaigrette dressing and various jams from Grandma Alice at 'Tis Tasty. Along the way, we also found a nice, small-town used bookstore with its own coffee counter, wi-fi, and comfy feel. Unfortunately, in the two floors of books, they didn't have any children's books of note. Their collection was limited to four shelves each about four feet wide full of used bookstore castoffs. Maybe we hit them on a bad day, but we DID manage to pick up an autographed copy of a hardback we'd planned to purchase later closer to the holidays, so our stop certainly wasn't a complete bust.

We made it to West Coast Game Park in time to enjoy lots of the animals before closing. Unlike any other petting zoo we've visited, this one includes far more than the typical friendly goats. Hoofed animals wander the grounds freely, enjoying animal-appropriate treats served in perhaps a little less animal friendly cake cones (more traditionally used for ice cream, but the animals don't seem to mind). I'd never heard a deer "bark" before our visits here. They all begin barking shortly before closing time as they clearly begin heading for the barn 0r nightly feeding area. We also saw a goat begin laboring, but weren't able to stay long enough (thanks to closing hours, not a rush on our part) to see the kids born. Keepers bring out various other animals to areas designated specifically for animal interaction. On this visit, we pet a Caracal cat, fed, petted and played with baby Bengal tigers, pet possums, groundhogs, ferrets and skunks, and played with African black leopard kittens. I'm torn when it comes to zoos and captivity, but any way you slice it, these are magical opportunities.

With our schedule entirely askew, I pulled into the next intriguing campground. Well, it was more like a sharp veer as I spotted the state parks sign, complete with "vacancy" posted. We headed about 4 miles out onto Cape Blanco where we enjoyed a very cold night in the trees, a "night in" rather than around the campfire, chess at the dinner table, and a leisurely dinner of walking tacos. Hot showers in the morning were treats before we set out for California.

Finally, we arrived at E's other intended destination - the feet of Paul Bunyan at the Trees of Mystery. Personally, I think holding the trees ransom and charging $28 for three people to walk the property is exorbitant. On the other hand, it is private property, they have installed a gondola to help just any-ol'-body get to the top for nice views across the forestland and out to sea, and the Paul Bunyan stories entertain families on the way back down, so this time I shelled. But only after E & V got their fill of Bunyan, who, though stiff "due to a hard mattress," interacts with visitors from around the world. He has an easy, hearty laugh and is willing to answer just about any question visitors may pose. (He's also quick to hassle men who stand under Babe's nether regions for a photo. "Hey! What are you doing down there? And why is it always the guys who pose there," he asks with a hearty laugh. If he weren't so stiff, he'd probably reach down and give the guys a friendly,manly, jocular punch on the shoulder, too.)

From here, south to camp at Patrick's Point State Park. We know we're back in California when the parks become more crowded, unfortunately less well-kept, and 30 to 50 percent more expensive. Welcome home.

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