September 30- October 4, 2023.
Central coast sights
If I’ve learned one thing on this trip, it’s to not over-plan. As an obsessive planner, this lesson did not come naturally. With so many sights to see on the coast, we put this strategy to use as we drove south from South Beach State Park towards the Carter Lake Campground.
Aaron picked Ona Beach as our first stop. Along our short walk to the beach, we picked enough evergreen huckleberries to fill our berries. Bushes loaded with ripe berries lined the trail. Apparently, we were the only ones to notice. They were delicious.
Next, we stopped at the Waldport Heritage Museum, where we learned so much about the bridges connecting sites at the coast. Without these bridges, we couldn’t do this road trip. We also learned about Lewis Southworth, a Black settler who purchased his way out of slavery and came to become a prominent community member in Waldport and then Corvallis.
We kept driving, pulling off at the brown signs that caught our attention: Devil’s Churn, Spouting Horn, Neptune Beach. Then, on a recommendation from an Instagram friend, we stopped at Fred Meyer to scramble up the impressive sand dunes behind it. The coast is full of curiosities, history, nature and more!
We camped at Carter Dunes so we could get a nice hike in early the next morning. After filling up on huckleberry pancakes, we hiked about a mile through coastal forest to the beach. There, we took our shoes off and wandered along the beach. The bright sun reflected off the ocean surface, filling the sky with light. Not one other person was on the beach, a classic sign of having hiked to the Oregon coast.
Shore Acres and Sunset Bay
Next we drove to Shore Acres State Park and made lunch in the parking lot. It’s tempting to want to stop at every little cafe or fish and chips shop to eat, but those receipts add up really fast.
We packed up our picnic blanket and reading materials, then looked for a scenic place to sit and read by the ocean. Along the way we made several stops to ooh and aah at the scenery; Shore Acres is an exceptionally beautiful place. Here, the crashing ocean waves carve unique sculptures in the soft rock and tenacious, old pine trees cling to eroding stone edges like Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger.
I did some reading, then meandered among the cartoon-like rock formations. I sat quietly on a sandy patch, simply watching the waves crash for what felt like hours. The sea is enchanting.
We continued on to Sunset Bay for an evening of camping. We arrived at high tide, so the water in the bay nearly reached the edge of the parking lot. The next morning, however, much of the beach revealed itself. Rocks jutted up from the sand, with tidepools between. We poked around looking for critters, then I returned to the van to finish up some paintings for the art show.
On our way to Boice-Cope Park/Floras Lake, we stopped in Bandon so I could pick up a couple of bottles of Bandon Rain. I tried several flavors before settling on cranberry and blueberry. It’s not easy to find these ciders out in the wild, so I was glad to make the stop.
That evening, rain poured down and wind shook the van. I scoured the van kitchen for comfort food and discovered I had all the ingredients to make a queso sauce. It was so easy and really delicious over tortilla chips with all the taco toppings. When you’re living on the road full time and you love to eat a variety of meals, it’s important to learn how to cook creatively in a small space with limited cookware and ingredients. Queso is now on my menu of food options!
In the morning, I needed to stretch my legs, so I took a quick walk to the ocean. The tide was high and furious. I didn’t make it too far before I felt like I could get crushed between the incoming swells and the sandstone headland. I walked back in the aggressively blowing wind and watched the birds; this is becoming one of my favorite things to do at the coast (bird-watching, not walking head first into wind).
Harris Beach State Park
It was packed; I was glad to get my reservation in that morning. The following day, I arose before the sun so I could catch the entire sunrise. It was research for the otter artwork I planned on painting for this year’s holiday card. It was a little eerie hiking down to the beach through a tree tunnel in the pitch dark, but once I reached the beach and saw the pastels begin painting the sky I realized it was worth it.
I walked barefoot along the edge of the water, pausing to peer into the small tidepools that were beginning to form. The tide was still pretty high, so my route dead-ended at a tall cliff with no way around. I stopped there and called my dad. We talked for so long that by the time I headed back, an entire beach formed in front of the previously impassable cliff.
We had one more stop to complete the Oregon coast drive: Crissey Field. Although it sounds like a place to catch a ball game, it’s actually a nice beach with a visitor center, picnic tables and plenty of parking.
Since I had a nice place to sit and spread out my art supplies, I chose this location to work on the 2023 seasonal card painting. I’d already sketched out a sea otter design and I thought, what better place to paint otters than at the edge of the ocean?
When Aaron had a break from work, we chatted with the ladies at the visitor center for a while. They hooked us up with postcards, eclipse glasses and other “Welcome to Oregon” paraphernalia. I asked if we could walk the beach into California and they said yes, so that we had to do.
I slipped off my shoes once again and we set off on the sand. As we strolled along the crashing waves, we watched the pelicans play. They seemed to “surf” the waves by flying down low, a couple inches from the top of the water, then gliding over the top of the rolling wave as it raced for shore. It was beautiful.
There was no sign indicating that we’d crossed state lines, but I kept looking at Google Maps until it said we’d made it. In ten days, we made it from the Northern end at the Columbia River to the southern end at this random point in Brookings. Another adventure crossed off the list.