Oregon Coast

Seaside to Coos Bay, Oregon – October, 2015 Barely more than a month after leaving the Atlantic Ocean we arrived at the Pacific. We don’t have any desire to travel that far, that fast very often but it was nice to know we could and it was still a pretty relaxing journey.

We were excited to see as much of the pacific coast as we could while it was still warm enough to enjoy. We had driven down the Washington coast and stopped at Astoria, Oregon one long weekend 8 years before. For this reason and because a friend recommended the town we started this journey in the town of Seaside, Oregon and spent the next 2 weeks traveling about 300 miles down highway 101 in Oregon.

The coast was amazing. Every curve brought another spectacular view. There are constant opportunities to stop and stroll another beach. Here are some of the highlights from north to south.

Seaside is a fun town and our favorite stop was at the Seaside Aquarium. It has a pool full of seals and you can buy anchovies to feed them. They are smart little buggers and when they see you approach with food, the whole lot of ’em put on quite a show trying to get your attention so you will throw them a snack. They are absolutely adorable!

We enjoyed a drive out to Cape Meares and a visit to Oceanside. In Oceanside a portion of beach is inaccessible during high tide so they have built a tunnel to it. It is awesome to come out of the dark tunnel and see the pretty, secluded beach.

Depoe Bay is known for gray whale sightings. We didn’t see any whales from town so we stopped at several other places they are often seen. We finally spotted some from Otter Crest Wayside Park. We saw a half dozen at a time and they kept popping up all over the place so I’m curious how many there actually were. Unfortunately the overlook was 500 feet above the water and it was impossible to catch a good pic of them.

They were amazing to see though and it was hard to tear ourselves away. But we finally did to visit nearby Devil’s Punchbowl State park. Very Cool!

And the views there were amazing.

Newport was a great little town. Their historic bayfront was pretty cool. They have a large population of sea lions that were quite amusing to watch and would have been more so if the smell (I presume theirs) was not so atrocious.

Cape Perpetua had Thor’s well and several blowholes. It was an awesome display of the ocean’s power.

Shores Acres State Park had a beautiful beach but the highlight was the formal gardens.

We stayed in 5 different campsites but the 2 most notable were boondocking in Chinook Winds Casino parking lot which is right next to the prettiest beach.

And our last camp in Oregon which was one of our favorite boondocks to date. There is free camping all along Bastendorf Beach Road which is more suitable for small rigs. But at the end of the road is a large parking lot with plenty of room. The county does have an RV park also but just ignore that and keep going. The area probably gets crowded in the summer but in October, even on a weekend, there were less than 10 rigs with plenty of room to spread out. An awesome beach was a short walk away but right in front of the parking lot is this view of the mouth of Coos Bay.

A few of our other favorite things about Oregon were the number of very cool old bridges.

I found Oregon’s birds funnier than your average birds.

And no sales tax!!

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Oregon – October, 2015 The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful area full of rushing water, lush forests, and mountains. Jim and I visited briefly many years ago and it made an impression. When we rescheduled our summer travels we knew we had to include this stop in our reworked plans.

We happened to get to town on a Friday and planned to spend the weekend. As full timers we do our best to schedule visits to tourist destinations during the week to avoid the crowds. We often stay close to home on the weekends or travel to our next destination. But Friday is when we happened to get there and we weren’t willing to stay longer for two reasons. We really wanted to get to the coast and we wanted to travel through Portland on a Sunday morning as opposed to a weekday. I hoped to get to the new campground at noon on Friday and do some sightseeing after lunch but when we got set up it was chillier than forecast and very windy so we didn’t see much that day.

Bright and early Saturday morning we ventured out to see the sights. It was pretty chilly so we started with a scenic drive up Larch Mountain Road. I expected it to end at a scenic overlook of the gorge. It was an absolutely amazing drive through an old growth forest. When we got to the top we discovered you had to walk about a half mile to the overlook. This was not what I was hoping since at the top of this mountain it was in the mid 30’s but we’d come all this way already so we threw on every stitch of clothing we had brought and hoofed it out to the overlook. Turns out it was actually an incredible viewpoint where you could see everything for many miles in every direction except the gorge.

Jim had just commented the day before that he’d love to see Mt. St. Helen but that even though it was not that many miles away he wasn’t willing to drive the 2 plus hours google said it would take to get there.

Unwittingly we had planned an outing that included this view of Mt St. Helens, in addition to Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. It would have also had a view of Mt. Hood if it had not been surrounded by clouds but I thought it was a stunning view nonetheless.

On the drive back down we stopped at the Portland Women’s Forum Park and finally got the beautiful view of the gorge we were looking for.

We visited the Vista House next but even by 9 am we had to do a drive by as there were no parking spaces remaining.

Finally it was warming up and we started visiting the many beautiful waterfalls.

Most were a short walk from the road.

But some were down a trail of a mile or more, like my favorite, Bridal Veil Falls.

We had to pass on some of the most popular ones as they had packed parking lots by 11 am. But we saw at least a half dozen beautiful falls, hiked about 5 miles total, and generally had a pretty awesome day despite the crowds.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake, Oregon – October, 2015 What a magical place Crater Lake is! And to think we almost missed it. By coming to Oregon so much later than we originally planned I thought we would have to pass on an item very near the top of our bucket list. After all it often snows at Crater by early October and we don’t do snow any more. But as we got nearer Jim pointed out that the weather was holding out pretty well. Lows were in the 30s but highs were sometimes reaching the 60s still.

We planned to pass through Bend, Oregon on our way through to the coast and Crater is only an hour and a half south of there. We debated several options. The main campground at Crater closed at the end of September but there seemed to be some boondocking options at Annie Creek snow camp. In the end we decided to stay near Bend which is at a lower elevation and enjoy slightly warmer nights, then make the 1 ½ hour drive to Crater to explore for one day.

Just before arriving in Bend the landscape changed dramatically. We had finally reached the part of Oregon that looked like we expected; BIG trees, lots of ’em, mostly evergreen. We enjoyed the drive to Crater early on a Thursday morning, arriving around 9 am. We spent the day driving the Rim Drive all the way around the lake.

Each pullout seemed to offer a more beautiful view than the last. And every time you thought the water couldn’t get any bluer, it did. Even from hundreds of feet up you could see the coastline under the incredibly clear water.

The day started out pretty overcast. The temperature stayed around 52 all day. When the sun was hiding behind the clouds it felt more like 30 and we kept adding layers but when the sun chose to shine, which it did for several hours around lunch, it felt more like 70 and we were stripping down to our t-shirts.

We walked the rim at Rim Village and visited the beautiful Crater Lake Lodge.

What a great place it would be to enjoy the sunrise.

We ate the soup we’d brought for lunch among the pines then hiked the Sun Notch Trail for the best view of Shipwreck Island.

The park has been experiencing the worst fire in its history but it is now under control. We passed a forest of what looked like burnt toothpicks on the way in and we drove through a small amount of smoke. The signs say it will continue to burn until a good rain or heavy snow finally put it out. But it didn’t appear that the fire got anywhere near the rim. The views were stunning even when you were looking away from the lake. The mist in this pic is actually smoke.

We are so very happy that we didn’t miss this opportunity to visit Crater Lake. Sure we expect to visit again for a longer period of time someday. But life is unpredictable and if that opportunity eludes us we will still have some amazing memories of this day and beautiful photos to remind us of the experience.

In Bend we stayed at our first Thousand Trails campground. They now participate in Passport America so we got it for $28 per night. The sight was water and electric and offered pretty good privacy tucked in to the trees but we were expecting this previously members’ only campgrounds to be a little fancier. To be fair, it had a lot of amenities that we didn’t take advantage of including a heated outdoor pool and hot tub that were still open.

Since this first visit we have stayed at more Thousand Trails and discovered they are just like any other campgrounds, some have better sites and amenities and some are a bit rustic. We have since joined their club. They currently offer zone passes for only $550 per year and had a buy one zone, get one zone free deal. You get 30 days of free camping with your pass so as soon as you take advantage of that you just got 30 days of camping for only $18 per night. After that, you can camp an unlimited number of nights for $3 per night. I estimate we will use it at least 90 nights just this winter and expect it to save us over $1000 in lot rent during that time.

There are some rules that are designed to limit peoples’ use of the parks so that everyone has a chance to enjoy them. You can stay up to 4 nights at a park then move to another and continue to stay at various parks 4 nights at a time. Or you can stay at a park up to 14 days. But any time your stay exceeds 4 nights you have to stay out of the system for 7 nights before you can stay again. So you can stay in the parks 2 out of every 3 weeks if you’d rather not move often.

Even though we bought the pass in Oregon we were almost finished visiting the northwest so we chose the southwest and southeast zones so it includes pretty much the entire southern half of the US. I was assured I shouldn’t have any trouble getting reservations in California throughout the winter and so far I haven’t. I’m certainly prepared for the possibility that I might not always get into the park of my choice, especially on the weekends.

Crystal Crane Hot Spring

Crane, Oregon – Sept. 2015 We finally made it to Oregon but are still on the east side of it which doesn’t look much different from the last three states we visited. I was looking for a place to layover for a day when I stumbled upon Crystal Crane Hot Spring on my RV Parky camping app. It was only about 20 miles off my chosen route so I decided to give it a try. It seemed as good a place as I could expect to find in this region to stop for a day and celebrate Jim’s 55th birthday.

We didn’t have very high expectations since the reviews varied significantly. I believe the key to enjoying this traveling lifestyle (or any way of life) is to keep your expectations low. I don’t consider myself a pessimist, in fact, quite the opposite. But when I read reviews and people complain about a park like this one I believe it is often their fault for having such high expectations. Exactly what can they expect when they pay $20 per night for a water and electric sight and get 24 hour access to a pretty amazing natural feature thrown in?!

We had a wonderful experience! They have a pond about 70 feet in diameter with a nice bowl shape about 7 feet deep in the middle. The bottom is covered with tiny black pebbles that did not hurt our feet and if we shuffled our feet tiny bubbles came up producing an amazing effect. The hot water coming out of the earth was about 104 degrees and they directed some of it out a pipe and also let some cascade over rocks, presumably to let it cool off. If you wanted the hottest experience you could stand right in front of that pipe. If that was too hot for you just move further away. If you went to the other side of the pond the water was around 95 degrees.

We enjoyed the spring each morning and evening. Right after the sun set each evening a big full moon would rise.

The first evening there were probably a dozen or so people in the pond, half of which were 20 somethings that got a little rowdy. But the pond was so big it didn’t seem crowded and they didn’t really bother us. The next evening once the sun set we had the whole thing to ourselves.

We especially enjoyed grabbing a cup of coffee and slipping in the water to catch the sunrise. We were generally the first there and then a few others would join. The mornings were especially quiet. Just a few heads bobbing around a steaming dark body of water all facing east. It was almost religious.

During the one day that we spent in the area we drove around to check out the sights. There were not many. They did have a pretty cool French round barn nearby. It was built in the late 1800’s and used to break horses in the winter.

The architecture was interesting. I’m glad they’ve preserved it.

I wanted to take Jim out to lunch for his birthday and there were few options in the area. The staff at the hot spring suggested lunch at the Diamond Hotel. As far as I could see the “town” of Diamond consisted of this establishment alone which included a small store, the post office, and a bed and breakfast.

Once there we were directed to an entrance on the back side of the hotel which included two adorably rustic rooms with interesting old pictures and a few animal heads decorating the walls. We were the only people there for a while. I mean the ONLY people, I finally went in search of the kitchen and hailed some service. The cook came out and got us some drinks then later a waitress, the same person from the front of the hotel that directed us to the back door, came to take our food order. The food seemed to take forever as well but the humongous burger and plate full of fries were extremely good and made up for the wait.

Jim ended up having a great birthday and was rested the next day and ready to get us to western Oregon.