Part I – Oregon Sampler

It seems that every two years we do an outdoor adventure trip with our friends Matt and Jason, who Iive in California.  Having cemented a friendship with Matt while working together, I used to see him semi-regularly at events.  Now that I’m retired, we have to figure out other ways to see each other.  So we decided to do an “Oregon Sampler” trip where we meet in Oregon and spend a week together paddling and biking.  I have never been to Oregon so I was excited to not only see Matt and Jason again, but also to explore new territory.

We left early Tuesday morning to get the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles.  The trip was only 90 minutes and we enjoyed spectacular views of the Olympics, including Mt. Olympus.  We discovered that the US customs agents in Washington are not up to date on latest rules.  We had looked up whether we could take eggs, and the US website said that restrictions, due to avian flu, were lifted late March.  She insisted we leave our dozen eggs on the table.   How the flu is spread by me cooking eggs in my campsite, I’ll never know.  I hope she enjoyed the omelette she could make with them 😉

The drive down to our first campsite at Lake Sylvia, in Washington, was beautiful.  We stuck to Hwy 101, and saw a lot of different landscapes and towns.  The town names were very entertaining; I wish I could remember some of them. They were small enough towns that they don’t show on Google MapsSome things were familiar:  clear cut timber areas, logging trucks, blossoming trees, many shades of green.  We could tell this was a very wet area by the amount of moss  on trees, rocks and everywhere.  Bill read they get 177” of rain per year!

Lake Sylvia was a whistle stop of just one night for us.  I was smart enough to book a pull through site, right beside the bathroom, so we didn’t even unhitch the trailer.  We enjoyed the small man-made lake, apparently well-stocked with fish by the number of fishermen we saw.  

We left early on Wednesday so we could take our time covering the 250 km to the campground where we were to meet Matt and Jason.  We enjoyed the sunshine and warm temps, as well as the continued varied views and scenery along  Hwy 101.  It was such a nice drive.  We decided to stop in Astoria, just over the WA-OR border, on the mouth of the mighty Columbia River.  Fun facts about Astoria include that is was founded in 1811, and is the oldest city in the state of Oregon, first settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.   The city is named for John Jacob Astor, who made his fortune in fur trading in the early 19th century. Other famous visitors include The Lewis & Clark expedition, which arrived in late 1805, after having left Missouri in 1804, looking for a waterway route, on request from President Jefferson, through the Louisiana Purchase.  They were hoping for a ship to take them back east, but they were unsuccessful so spent a terrible winter of rain and cold and then returned overland in 1806.  

We crossed the Columbia on the Astoria-Megler Bridge (see above).  At 6.55 km, it’s the longest continuous truss bridge in North America!  It was pretty impressive.  The one stop we made in Astoria was the Astoria Column, on a hill 600 fi above the mouth of the Columbia.  After climbing the 164 steps to the top of the column, we enjoyed the expansive views of the river, other tributaries, mountains, and the city of Astoria.  With the clear blue skies and sunshine, it was a real treat to be warm.  We felt right at home when we heard the sea lions barking, way down on the water’s edge.  The column has been recently repainted, with vignettes from the Lewis & Clark expedition.  

We knew we would pass several beaches along the Oregon coast as we made our way south, so we had to choose at least one at which to stop.  So after Google searches, and listening to local opinions, we settled on Cannon Beach, home of the famous Haystack Rock.  It is a spectacular long sand beach, with many sea stacks of basalt rock.  Haystack is by far the largest, rising 235 ft above the shore.  We were lucky enough to be there at low tide, so we got our bikes out, and rode up and down the beach, spending some time tide-pooling looking for sea stars and other creatures in the pools at the base of the rock.  It was windy and coolish, but sunny and simply stunning.  A great place to stop.

We stayed on the 101 to make our way south to the campground.  Even though we often hugged the coastline, we still had ups and downs.  We stopped at a couple viewpoints to admire the coast and the ocean.  

Cape Lookout State Park is a lovely campground, right at the shore, behind the sand dunes.  We were lucky to have selected a site in the open so we enjoyed the afternoon sunshine ,and a walk on the beach, after we set up.  Matt and Jason arrived close to sunset so we made haste and walked to the beach to catch the colours.  You may see in one of the pictures that Jason is on crutches. He injured his foot days before the trip, but decided to come and spend some relaxing time. I’m so happy he decided to come, even though he won’t be able to do everything we will be doing.

The plan for Thursday was to paddle in one of the large bays here:  either Netarts or Tillamook.  But examination of the tide tables revealed that it was going to be very difficult.  With a low tide of 0.0 meters, the bays would be almost empty of water during the time that we would be paddling.  We noticed the large mud flats as we drove past them yesterday, so timing was not in our favour.  We did not want to get stranded in a mud flat somewhere.  So we did some short walks to an old lighthouse, saw the “Octopus” tree (250 yr old Sitka Spruce that never had a centre trunk) and glimpsed at the shoreline between cloud banks rolling in and out. 

Tillamook is famous for its cheese, with a large farmer-owned co-op operation.  There is a large cheese manufacturing plant open to the public, where we learned how cheese is made and packaged by looking down on the production floor.  And of course we had to try the ice cream.    So even if we didn’t paddle, it was a great day together with friends, topped off enjoying some time in our campsite, playing games, eating dinner together, another sunset on the beach, and chatting around the fire.

View from our campsite, afternoon and evening:

Yesterday, we drove the 100 km to another campsite, planning to take in the spectacular coastal views and enjoying the scenery. We decided to do an impromptu paddle on the Nestucca River/Bay, and what a treat. Under cloudless skies, warm sunshine, we explored the river and made our way, dodging sandbanks along the way (tide was ebbing), towards the ocean. While we didn’t go the entire way, we really loved being in our boats and doing a river paddle. We were fighting a bit of current on the way back, so it was a bit slower. Check our our route HERE. The squiggly route is us finding deeper water around the sandbanks.

The rest of the drive was spectacular. We really appreciate now, why people rave about the Oregon coast. It’s a mix of huge sand beaches, rugged coastline, and driving it is a lot of ups and downs, and curves, making it a fun drive. We stopped several times to take in the views.

Boiler Bay

So, loving Oregon thus far.  Spectacular scenery, great campground, renewed friendships and van life is good. 

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