|This is the story of Seven Days in May. I submit the idea that our cousin Don missed his calling and should have been a travel writer or humorist. But we are blessed to travel with Don and Joan as they gracefully move through their lives. Those two remind me of what "The Golden Years" are all about. I mean that in the very best way ... The Editor.
|Click on any of the below thumbnail pictures to see a larger version. Oregon is a beautiful State.
May 13 to May 20, 2007
Five years in the planning with each year to be the one we would make that trip down the Oregon Coast to the Redwoods and the Trees of Mystery in California. It is mid-May of this year before the puzzle pieces of our lives arranged themselves for this to happen. Maybe it was the waiting, the planning, the hoping that made this such a tremendous trip. What ever the reason, the trip filled treasure troves of memory pages.
The month of May came around without much hope of a trip again this year since the trip must come before Memorial Day weekend. Hordes of vacationers through the summer fill the State Park Campgrounds we intend to stay during this trip. Too much to do yet to wind up “hobbies” and to bring the camper trailer into line for taking it along. Gasoline prices spiking higher again this year and reason of concern, but then next year they will be higher yet … so. The week of May 6th looks to be the best weather for a Coast trip but it’s May 11th before the “irons” pulled from the fire had time to cool. By the morning of the 13th, the pickup was revving and roaring in the driveway, anxious to test it’s new treads. Tamed it long enough for the camping trailer to reach out for a hookup, then we three … the pickup, the trailer, and us … are down the street by 9:30 am., that Sunday morning of the 13th.
Sunday … the 1st Day.
Normal Coast trips head us directly west and a connection with Hwy 101 at Lincoln City. We’ve seen all that before so we head 110 miles south on I-5, beyond Eugene, beyond Cottage Grove to Exit 162 that takes us to Drain, Oregon and across to Reedsport on the Coast to really begin our TRIP. This day the planned stop-over is to be Sunset Bay State Park just south of Coos Bay and Charleston with probably a two night stay as there is lots intended here, but first there is the Coos Bay Bridge of such humongous length and a much more humongous elevation!! Eyes straight ahead, stay in that narrow lane, go slow, shake a little bit, shake a whole lot…. no problem!! Finally pulled into a really neat campsite about 2:00 pm. with lots of time to start exploring the area. Shore Acres, a Botanical State Park just 2 miles beyond us, and one of the most important stops, was our first draw. This is a five acre Garden mostly of neatly trimmed formal hedges outlining various areas of flowers and walkways. The outer fringes are less formal and of greater relaxing feeling. Rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom, showing radiant colors against a backdrop of native shrubs and fir trees. A large pond with a few water lilies within which, two large metal sculptured herons stood guard to protect the pond from the normally expected fish. They did a good job, no fish!
Evening fast approaching so further exploration slated for tomorrow. Bastendorff State Park Campground real close so we check out that out yet this evening. Beautiful but essentially empty, and we visualize a change of campsites for the next night. We are about a hundred feet higher elevation at the campground and allowed a view of Bastendorff Beach and the Pacific Ocean stretching beyond. We drive to the beach but too windy for a comfortable, enjoyable beach walk this day. We return to the trailer for a delicious supper prepared by my master chef (Joan) brought along for such. Time to un-wind from the day before a grateful night sleep.
Monday … The 2nd Day
Double order of eggs, sausage, and pancakes started our days this trip, and seemed necessary to carry the day. Today we figured to tour Golden and Silver Falls located 24 miles out Coos River Highway to the northeast of town. Missed finding the road the first time but we did stumble across finding the Boardwalk up town, along one of the many bays and sloughs of water that flourish in this area. Information says the Boardwalk to be along Hwy 101 northbound as well as the route to the Falls, so we map our route coming in from the south. A large sign indicates the Boardwalk ¼ mile ahead. A whole empty block for us to park alongside and we negotiated that without trouble!! This Boardwalk of some five blocks encompasses shelters for an early century barge that plied the waterways, and another for protected viewing. All shelters and walkways thoughtfully designed to enhance ones viewing and visiting pleasure. Shelters of massive construction, the walkways wide and of irregular design, jutting out across the water of some distance. All this, plus the view across the bay thrilling to have witnessed!!
A return south on Hwy 101, a locating of Coos River Hwy, headed us out towards the Falls that are said to be magnificent. The road out is narrow … to pretty skinny. About 5 miles along this road of 25 mph curves of utmost frequency, we have this log truck pulling two loaded trailers and traveling at least 40 mph through these curves with trailers swaying and following if they must, coming at us lickety bender. We are on the outside of the hills, a shear drop off of 15 feet alongside the white fog line created some anxiety! In our desire not to become a statistic, we turn around at first opportunity but not before a second log truck confirmed our decision!
We checked out the boat basin in Charleston before venturing to Cape Argo State Park beyond our campsite, as this too a must see. Great overlook of the ocean but didn’t hold us long. Suddenly we have seen what we came here to see, time to gather the trailer and move on, although only a one day stay. Shortest route south from Charleston is by Seven Devils Hwy to Hwy 101 and Bandon. When will we understand that highways are often named for a reason? Equally exciting views off both sides! No traffic, allowing time to drive slowly and … say a prayer or two!
Our next stop is Bullards Beach State Park only 30 miles from Sunset Bay State Park and a campsite superior to the last. It’s only 3:00 pm. so time to check the beach by Coquille River Lighthouse, to see the massive driftwood accumulated there, and to walk the sandy part of beach to the lighthouse. Pretty windy again this evening so the lighthouse a welcome reprieve. Near 4:00 pm. when we got there but didn’t know they close the doors at four o‘clock. We were having a great visit with the hosts so wondered why one was putting a padlock on the door. Are we going to have to stay the night? No, only way to shut down in evenings. Learned they are from Silverton, short mileage from Hubbard. Still time for a quick tour of Bandon, Oregon a couple miles away to check the boat basin, a brief view of “Old Town”, and the Boardwalk they have.
Tuesday …. The 3rd Day
Cloudy this morning but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the friendly mosquitoes looking for breakfast. Well, somebody’s got to feed them!! We hit the streets of Old Town Bandon by 10:00 am. to check the shops and enjoy the wonders of their created Boardwalk of equal splendor and magnificence, to which they additionally graced with planters of blooming flowers. A quick lunch at one of the many restaurants before re-connecting the trailer for a pull out at 1:00 pm. to our next stop at Harris Beach State Park, just north of Brookings. From Bandon we pass through Port Orford and Gold Beach on our way, stopping mid-way between these towns at the Pre-Historic Gardens of Dinosaurs to thrill in these ancient creature replicas and the quaint development of this park to accentuate individual dinosaur statues hiding amongst the native trees and shrubs as if this their natural habitat.
We arrived at Harris Beach Campground and a more beautiful campsite than any before at 4:00 pm., 90 miles from our last set down. As in previous evenings, the campground is quiet of wind but the shoreline is breezy, to the point that we can wait for tomorrow. This evening a first for a campfire … a chance to charcoal the hot dogs, flame the marshmallows!
Wednesday …. The 4th Day
We gathered ourselves early this day for the journey farther south, into California, to the Trees of Mystery, a destination granted 35 years ago when our kids were early grade school age. This is a special day, not only to make this trip to the Redwoods, but also because this is Joan’s Birthday. I might tell you her age but like a lot of women say about such, “Why do you need to know?” And so I won’t tell you, except she is two years younger than my upcoming 72!
The huge Paul Bunyan statue with his blue oxen were there to great us at the Trees of Mystery like they were 35 years ago. Paul didn’t have anything to say this time as he did when our family visited prior. Maybe he too needs glasses and a hearing aide to know we were there!!! The trails through these Redwood forests is a truly humbling experience to see these ancient warriors of 300 to 400 year old trees of such majestic heights reaching to 200 to 300 feet. The diameters are tremendous, the tallness and straightness of each a site to behold. Some have limbs outreaching and sometimes side-shoot trees develop from these, reaching also for the heavens. There is the Trinity Tree with three separates having grown into one. The Cathedral Tree is a magnificence of seven trees having grown into a semi-circle and is the scene of celebration for many weddings. Wooden rail fencings along the paths of this multi-terraced area and the hand hewn logs to make the seating benches, all adds to its solemn and spiritual expression. The whole trail is guarded by this wooden rail fencing which adds to the allure and mystic. Farther along the path are carvings of various peoples and creatures carved only with chain saws by some ingenious persons. A high in the sky tram will take one through the tree tops of this area to better visualize the majesty of these trees and view the surrounding hills and valleys. Time, heart rate, and a “one foot on the ground guy” wouldn’t allow me this excursion!! Visiting their gift shop we did find a special treasure souvenir and also some freshly made fudge. One girl was busy making fudge and the other girl behind the counter offered a small tasting sample of the dozen types. I said sure, I’ll have a ½ lb sample of that one! The girl making the fudge twirled around and said, “What?” “Guess it doesn’t hurt to ask,” says I. Counter between saved the day! A gracious 10 minute visit made the day for each and for all, as well as the pound of fudge for us!
It is 5:00 pm. before returning to Brookings and still light enough, time enough, to tour Azalea Park with the splendid outlay of the park featuring huge (10 foot tall) wild azaleas in their full bloom of pink fragrant flowers. Rhododendrons of several varieties and several flower colors in full bloom, also greeted us along the winding paths of this park setting. Perfect timing!! Various foliage plants and native shrubs interspersed accentuated the colors. We were able to glory in such beauty, such peacefulness, such spiritual emotions brought, as we are alone in this couple acre park with the tranquility such allows!!
The sun is still shining, temperature about 65, no wind, no breeze. Time to hit the beach for a good stroll yet this evening on a sandy beach of rarity along the southern Coast of Oregon. Lot of out crops of gravel and small rocks along this beach. Rocks are sometimes just rocks but not necessarily so when found on an ocean beach. Maybe too, because of the leisure to look, they are found. Joan started picking up a rock or two of interesting colors. The farther we walked the more she seemed to possess. Joan is lagging behind while I stroll and one time I look back to see her bent over with both hands on the sand. I go back to help her up thinking her back was hurting. No, just the center of gravity shifted when she bent to pick up another rock. We continue on and again I feel her lagging. Yeah, she’s way back there!! Her coat is off and on the sand, she has both hands pulling as she backs into a forward motion!!! A compromise is made … Joan figured I could be trusted to carry some of her treasures; however, I noticed too that she was still walking behind me!!
Thursday …. The 5th Day.
It’s cloudy this morning with heavy dew and no wind. This time we travel to Cape Blanco State Park north of Port Orford and five miles off Hwy 101. Each of the State Park campgrounds has been better than each proceeding we’ve stayed at. Cape Blanco by far is the best … for beauty of the park, privacy of each site and protection of any wind. We follow a trail pointing to the beach that evening but find we must be 800 feet above the ocean. There is a really terrific view from this open meadow on the crest of these cliffs. We sit a long time enjoying the magnificent beauty of miles of beaches, of white ocean surf lapping the sand below, and of vistas in the distance.
Since we arrived at Cape Blanco about noon, there is a lot of time to explore the area and to drive to Cape Blanco Lighthouse where a terrific view of the Coast line from this 800 foot height awaited. From the viewpoint parking area, a thread of asphalt of one car width leads down the hill around some curves and back up to the lighthouse that is open to the public this day. Trail too steep, too long, too narrow for driving attempt, and certainly for any hiking attempt! We look, we marvel, we move on.
Literature says that Floras Lake nearby, is one of the most beautiful lakes along the Coast, so of course we check it out. Big disappointment to just find a body of water surrounded by barren sand dunes and only sparsely of trees in the campground adjoining. The drive out there more rewarding to see the entire wild iris’ blooming in fields and along the road, wild azaleas in pinks, rhododendrons of pinks and reds are all in full bloom throughout. Every old tree stumps left about, crowned with huckleberry plants and other natives growing splendidly atop of each, and of course, the brilliant yellow of the scotch broom blooming everywhere along the Coast and along every road throughout Western Oregon. Cranberry fields found along the way but the greater acreage is at Bandon.
We trip into Port Orford to watch fishing boast lifted by crane from the waters of this well protected bay, and to walk the really short beach within this cove. No wind, an enjoyable day throughout!! No trip to the southern Coast complete without stopping to visit, to tour some of the Myrtle wood factories that abound. The one in Port Orford the best, the most informative, the private tour given as if we were VIP’s. We contributed by relieving them of a few raw boards looking for a new horizon.
Friday …. The 6th Day
Again the sun is shinning this morning, another pleasant day ahead. We are headed for Tugman State Park just south of Winchester Bay/Reedsport today, but the pickup claims to be thirsty again so we re-tract to Port Orford just for him. Gas at $3.39 here compared to a range of $3.45 to $3.49 along the Oregon Coast but spikes an additional 10 to 12 cents in California. Hubbard was at $3.35. Only a 75 mile trip again today so we are into the campground early at 11:30 am. to drop the trailer and tour the local towns and countryside. In Reedsport there is the Umpqua Discovery Center that we definitely wanted to visit … if we can find a way to get from here to there. It’s located in a depressed, defunct Industrial area of vacant asphalt lots, partial buildings, and then through a fenced entry looked to be off limits. We got there and found a modern architectural building of unique design abutting the Umpqua River and another vast Boardwalk. The outside impressive but didn’t lend merit to the marvel inside. The self guided tour of the building takes one along a nature trail of mural painted walls eight feet high and throughout. We judged it to be 150 feet in total length. These all painted by a local lady artist. Each done is such detail of views from mountain tops looking over forested lands with native birds and some animals. These lifelike drawings are of exacting detail. Background audio of wild animals that would be present in these settings, lure the viewer into thinking you truly are there. The trail within, leads up and down, through various passages and through unique wildlife settings. Indeed it was worth the time and the $7 fee. Besides this, another potion of the building takes you through the pioneer days of the area and the handcrafts of the native people of an earlier era.
We checked the Umpqua Lighthouse out of Reedsport but no entry. It is not in use anymore and tours beyond the fenced enclave by appointment only, from an annex a ¼ mile back down the road. A view of the sand dunes and dune buggy get-about a 150 feet below, not worth the drive out to here.
Still early enough this evening for a walk along the shores of nearby Eel Lake. This freshwater lake, one of many in the area, is too huge to walk around in a day, so we didn’t try with only an evening of time. Back to the trailer before a few drops splattered on our well being, and another super supper before the lights faded on another glorious day for us!
Saturday … The 7th Day.
We are at our crossroads. East from Reedsport to return home today or continue on north along the Coast for one more night? Lincoln City is only 95 miles. Northward, Ho!! (I just had to say that! I could be another John Wayne, huh?). We have four campground choices along the way, Beachside, South Beach, Beverly Beach, and Devils Lake. The first two we didn’t like. We’ve stayed at Beverly Beach before and they have a great site just for us. So we stopped! A walking beach here of immensity and so we did. For the walk? I don’t know. For the rocks? Must be, as any rock of two colors is a keeper! Next time to the Coast … I’ll bring a wheelbarrow, or better yet, an ATV with a trailer!
But wait, the afternoon is still young. Depoe Bay is just 7 miles north where there are so many terrific gift shops, where the ocean always roars at the seawalls, and where my cousin Kelly McCarter has a shop. Always a pleasure to spend even these few precious minutes visiting him. And so it was again this Coastal trip!!
This whole week has been of gracious weather but this night the drizzle started and the low spots are filled by morning. Not a hard rain but a constant until we break the summit of the Coast Range in the Van Duzier Corridor, to home. The rain and cool begin again just after we’ve unhooked at home.
We did a lot, saw a lot, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Baffled friends and nearby relatives that we could be gone camping for more that two nights, and certainly not for the seven nights of this trip! But then, I guess the surprise to us was as great, as the surprise to everyone else.
The Extras of This Trip
The Central Oregon Coast allows greater beach access, greater beach area for walking, and Hwy 101 is generally flat to low hills. Not so beyond Reedsport where the highway scales mountain peaks and overlooks steep, far-down cliff sides to the ocean. Only an occasional walking beach. Shore lines of numerous and jagged rock formations extending into the ocean from shore, an indicator that land protruded a great deal farther out in ages past. At Harris Beach near Brookings we were able to walk among some of these monoliths and grasp somewhat, the significance of this changing shore.
The highway beyond Reedsport shows many, many areas of shifting of the land. Patched highway sections abound where the landsides have required a re-building for passage. Hwy 101 has seen a tremendous upgrading over the years to provide frequent passing lanes on nearly all hills making for less stressful travel for those hurrying. For those of us infrequent tourists, a slower pace through these tree-guarded byways is truly welcome to savor all this loveliness!!
The State Park Campgrounds beyond Reedsport are so immaculately kept, the shrubs trimmed and sheared, the grass areas all mowed to perfection. Everything so crisp and clean. Campgrounds less than 1/3 full until the weekend when we stayed at Beverly Beach near Depoe Bay / Lincoln City. That one probably the most popular along the Coast and it’s already 85% full by 1:00 pm. this Saturday, even now before Memorial Day.
We had stopped at another Myrtle wood Factory (Woods of the West) south of Bandon but didn’t learn much about the making of all the exquisite gifts they create, and which we later viewed in their gift shop removed from the Factory itself, but we learned about and saw nature at it’s finest in his backyard. Probably no where else but here do we find 12 to 15 varieties of scotch broom plants, from the common yellow blossom through the range of color variations to a dark maroon. These are all self produced, self developed variations in a wonderful country setting, wild in nature, contained within a 50 foot radius. Why here? But then, why anywhere? Hummingbirds at his feeders in 50 and 100 in number. Birds seldom seen or heard about nest or migrate through. A sanctuary protected from the severity of the Coastal elements and governed by one so thrilled with nature!
Thank you much for coming along with us as you read this story. Hope someday you too can make this trip or one of similar nature as your location dictates! This world is filled with so many wonders, with so much beauty, how can we have been so blessed, to have been so granted!