Central Oregon Coast

21 Apr

haRVey has now completed his first 5000 miles and needed an oil and filter change. Having made phone calls to Ford garages on the coast route we had been unable to locate one with the ability to accommodate an RV in their workshop so a trip inland was needed. Wanting to make a necessary detour as much a part of the trip as possible we looked at the map and decided that highway 38 along the Umpqua River looked an interesting drive and would take us close to Cottage Grove where a suitable workshop was located. Robert read in one of the many pieces of tourist literature we have collected, that along the 138, a road leading off the 38, there were a large number of waterfalls. I checked out campgrounds and found one along the 38 at Elkton and one at Sutherlin where the 138 joins the I5 this would then take us North to Cottage Grove, it all looked like a perfect side trip and with a call to the service centre to book us in for Tuesday at 10am we decided to make it a two day trip.

With the weather still a little cold and rainy we congratulated ourselves on our timing as we set off, much better to be travelling on days like this. From Bullards Beach we drove along the coast for about an hour passing through Coos Bay up to Reedsport before turning inland. The Umpqua River is broad and beautiful at its estuary, the steep banks being wooded and green down to the waters edge. As you travel further upstream the damp nature of the environment was obvious from the moss clad, rock face at the side of the road and the overhanging tree branches also heavy with moss which had ferns growing on them. The 38 is a truck route, well maintained and not too challenging for the driver to be able to enjoy the surroundings. There are a few small habitations along the way, houses dotted by the waters edge ideal for fishermen but not much else. We arrived at the Elkton campground far more quickly than we expected and had passed it before we realised we had arrived! There not being an easy turning spot and it only being lunchtime we decided to press on to the 138 and make Sutherlin the overnight stop. It was at this point I began to question what Robert had read and where these waterfalls actually were. When I looked at the information and the map side by side I realised that the part of the 138 they were on was a continuation starting 12 miles south of Sutherlin then 70 miles or so east toward Diamond Lake on the other side of the I5. Luckily the bit we were travelling was interesting and a very worthwhile trip without the waterfalls!

We spotted Highway Haven RV Park just like it said in the instructions by looking for the yellow barn, it was very yellow, we also spotted a huge white board which looked a bit like the ones you get at cricket grounds but bigger, this it transpired was the movie screen on which they have drive in movies where you tune your RV radio to a certain station for the sound and sit in your own ‘living room’ and watch the movie. Chicago was to be screened in the coming days but that night there was no movie on so we couldn’t test it out.

Tuesday

We needed to be up early (8:00am is now considered to be early!!) as we had 40 or so miles to travel north to get to the Ford garage by 10am. We woke plenty early enough as it was quite cold, Oscar (the character on our weather station) told us it was 1.3degrees C outside and when I opened the blind IT WAS SNOWING! Looking across to the big white screen last night I could see mountains beyond it, this morning its whiteness blended in with the white out of the snow. Not only have we broken the tow rope on the sunshine the snow has caught up with us!

We layered up, I topped off with my Specials Lab black fleece which is reserved for the coldest of weather (still thinking about you all) and we turned the heater up full blast and set off. The snow eased as we arrived at Cottage Grove and it transpired everyone had been caught out as they rarely get snow this late in the year. We handed in haRVey’s keys and sat in the waiting room whilst the mechanic did his stuff. It was a very strange feeling watching someone else drive him away from us, not at all like when you take a car for service, far more personal, after all this is not just haRVey its our home!

About two hours later with a new filter, fresh sump of oil, and a 21 point check all completed with flying colours we set off back to the coast with great anticipation of an improvement in the weather. We pulled into the Scottsdale Park day use area along the river for some lunch and whilst there was blue sky above there were also huge black clouds which from time to time deposited copious amounts of rain and hail on us.

It was early enough that we thought we could get to Umpqua lighthouse and the campground there for the night but the campground turned out to be small with just a 20amp electric supply and the lighthouse closed 20min before we arrived. We took some photos and had a brief but chilly walk around the area below the lighthouse and headed off to the Jessie M Honeyman State Park.

After a tour of the available sites we settled in one near the entrance between a tree and some bushes, it wasn’t very wide and meant once the slides were out there was not much room around the sides but as it was only for one night it was fine. The Park has three lakes and borders the huge sand dunes which dominate this area, after tea we walked around one of the lakes nearest the dunes, it was brim full after the recent rain, none of the California drought here!

Wednesday

We are now at the beginning of the central section of the Oregon coast, we have given ourselves three weeks to travel up to Washington State, a week through there, before crossing back into Canada by May 2nd when our tourist visas run out. The South section had not been what we expected and we were pleased when we left behind the dunes North of Florence and were once again driving on the edge very much like highway 1 in California. Heceta Head Lighthouse is the next on the route but we were not sure it was open. To get to it you have to cross a bridge which we noticed was another engineered by a guy called Conde B. McCullough, we had crossed several along the way which were attributed to him. We parked haRVey below the bridge and walked the half mile or so up the path to the lighthouse on the headland. It was open and we were greeted by Richard one of the volunteers who took us around and told us about it’s past. It was notable that the Keepers here had two large houses, the head keeper having one for himself, the other for the two assistant keepers and their wives and children unlike Cape Blanco where three families lived in one house, what luxury!

Walking back down the track and looking at the bridge which changed their lives so radically, bringing electricity and an easy route for supplies to there home we suddenly realised how recent all this history was. The bridge was built around 1930 – 32 not much over 70 years ago.

Back on the road just before Alsea bridge we had identified there was an interpretive centre which we thought might prove interesting. Inside was a great display covering the native Alsa tribe, the first white settlers in the area, how the river was traversed before the bridge and how the original Waldport bridge had been engineered by McCullough along with information on his other bridges and the 200 or so that dot Oregon and span some of the mighty rivers which spill out into the Pacific Ocean. We came away with heads full of more information and a realisation that the bridges are as big a landmark to explore along the coast as the much publicised lighthouses.

South Beach State Park at Newport was very quiet when we pulled in, we chose a spot in a quiet corner and as the sun had arrived back with us and the wind dropped, sat outside for a while before a walk to the beach and tea, another busy day.

Thursday

The southern area of Newport is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is in the top 10 of US aquarium so we felt well worth a visit. The Campground is an easy walk (one and half miles) away along the Elk Estuary and with a much brighter morning we set off for a day out on foot. The Harbour has a private campground so we called and checked it out for future reference. In the annex area we spotted haRVey’s cousin a Fleetwood Bounder in the same external colour scheme but a 36Z (slightly different internal layout) the blinds were drawn so we didn’t have a chance to chat which would have been nice.

We spent around 3hrs in the aquarium, looking at the various exhibits which included our favourite the sea otters. The highlight we felt were the three tunnels housing various fish in the first two and the third being all sharks. I particularly liked the leopard sharks with their spotty patterns.

We followed this with a visit to the Rogue Brewery where we had hoped for a tour, however we arrived at 3.20 and the tour, the only one of the day, started at 3pm. We made our way upstairs to the tasting room (bar) and restaurant and took a seat overlooking the Marina. We were given a complimentary small glass of beer then Robert chose 4 of the 40 or so beers on offer to sample. Only having had a coffee and muffin since breakfast time we thought it would be a good idea to eat something too so ordered 2 bruchetta (bread made with their own brew beer) and some Idaho chips. I won’t go into too much detail, you may be too jealous, it was very yummy! As I don’t like beer Robert also drank my free sample meaning he had 6 small glasses each a quarter of an American pint. I now know why it’s called Rogue brewery…… I drank orange juice and lemonade.

Friday

From South Beach Campground we crossed yet another Conde McCullough bridge on highway 101 to Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in North Newport arriving just in time to have a coffee overlooking the ocean before it opened at 12 oclock .

This lighthouse only saw service for four years before it was superseded by the Yaquina Head light which was in a more visible position. It is positioned on top of the house rather than in its own tower and the house has been beautifully restored to allow a glimpse of what life would have been like for the family living there in the 1870s. As usual the volunteers were on hand to answer our questions and we chatted for quite some time to Jack and Pat Peyton who not only help out here but at other lighthouses too and had a wealth of knowledge about the US lighthouses in general.

Just along the coast at the Yaquina Head there is a really nice interpretive centre which we called into before driving out to the lighthouse itself. Among the memorabilia and information we discovered one of the lighthouse keepers had been a man called Henry Hill, the middle name of both Robert and his father! The rocks below this, the tallest of the Oregon lighthouses, were covered with thousands of sea birds, Common Murre, Guillemot and Puffin all vying for prime position for nesting with more bobbing in the sea below, it was quite a spectacle when a huge crowd of them decided to take off for a fly around the rocks, I imagine it’s a bit like musical chairs, last one back has no perch for the night!

Having spent so long at the lighthouses our home for the night became a site at Beverley Beach State Park, we were lucky to get one as the Ranger informed us they were very busy, Depoe Bay a few miles along the coast were having a Crab Fest on Saturday (all the crab you can eat for $15) which looked like it was going to be very popular. We were intending to visit Depoe Bay too, but for the Whale watching centre!

Saturday

In order to be the early birds and get a parking space we set off fairly sharp on Saturday morning arriving at Depoe Bay just about 10am. We managed to park haRVey on the main road in a good spot for him to be out the way and walked back to the Whale Watching Centre which had just opened. Along with the narrative boards around the walls and various bits of whale bone etc they have huge picture windows and binoculars allowing whale watching from a good vantage point with the benefit of a ranger on hand to answer questions. The ranger had seen whales earlier and pointed out the best position to scan for the tell tale blows of their exhalation as they surface. I was surprised how close to shore this was until she explained that a rock shelf just below the windows drops vertically to around 30 to 40 feet deep and not much farther out it drops again to around 60ft, plenty of depth for the whales to come close and feed. Our patience was finally rewarded when first the ranger spotted a whale blow and after we had ‘tuned in’ to the correct area Robert and I spotted it too. We probably watched for around three quarters of an hour whilst it dived then surfaced and blew two or three times in quick succession, then dived again for anything from three up to seven minutes before surfacing again, travelling from South to North across the bay. We are now the proud owners of ‘I spotted a whale’ stickers which we feel we have truly earned.

Leaving the centre behind we walked into Depoe Bay itself to take a look at the boats on show and the harbour too. The mouth of the harbour is about 50ft wide with rocks on either side and while I am no expert when it comes to navigation I would think it would be a challenge to manoeuvre a boat into the harbour especially with a rough sea. We thought a photo was in order to record this and as we stood to compose the picture the coast guard boat which was moored in the harbour suddenly took off, tooting loudly as he passed out into the rough harbour mouth. We thought it was all part of the Crab Fest celebrations and are still not sure if it could have been an exercise but the boat came alongside a small craft not far off the shore outside the harbour and eventually threw it a line. After a little while and some manoeuvring the Coast Guard boat towed the other back into the harbour, the smaller boat often being lost to view in the huge swell.

The road from here runs inland slightly to Lincoln City and then splits, the 101 taking a route further inland, we took the scenic Three Capes Loop to stay by the coast. The first tiny township you come to is Pacific City, a cluster of nice modern homes and some older ones along the estuary and then along the ocean road. We were amazed to see behind a row of shops an airstrip with small aircraft arriving and departing, this was Pacific City Airport!

Cape Kiwanda is another dunes area for ATV’s and a Scout Camp to the right of the road had a great ATV track with dune buggies etc all lined up waiting to race. Robert commented scouts was not like that when he was a lad, I replied perhaps because Nuneaton has no dunes!

Cape Lookout Campground is situated just behind a low dunes area and the lovely flat sandy beach below the cape itself. We wanted to walk the Cape Trail and thought perhaps our early arrival would allow this. We drove around the site a couple of time before deciding where we would pull in and were just about to start our manoeuvrings when a guy from the RV in the first site started waving to attract our attention, I thought maybe he wanted to tell us the site was taken so opened my window to talk to him. As soon as he spoke I recognised not only a UK but a North east accent, and it was haRVey he wanted to talk about!

As usual a conversation struck up and Alan and Sue introduced themselves as formerly from Hartlepool ( just south of ‘home’ for us) where Alan played for the Football (Soccer) team before emigrating 30 years ago to Canada, what a small world we live in. We pulled into the vacant site next door and began an exchange of RV details, they too own a Fleetwood, coincidentally very similar to our Bounder in layout and purchased almost exactly at the same time.

Sunday

We did not fancy walking the two and a half miles uphill to get to the start for Cape Lookout trail, so took haRVey to the trail head car park to begin our walk. The first mile or so was reasonably easy, a bit rough in places but dry and with some spectacular views to the sea 800ft vertically below us. The path began to deteriorate into sections where it was difficult not to walk in the thick mud there being no other option. Eventually we arrived at the Cape Head, a small area fenced off at the end of the trail and we stood and chatted with a group of probably ten other walkers who like us in two and threes had battled the mud to the end! Was it worth it? We decided on the way back that we could probably have seen most of the views without walking much more than a mile and a half and thus avoiding the worst bits, but, it was good fun and good exercise too.

This was probably the best day weather wise we have had since California and we were able to sit out and enjoy a cuppa and nibbles when we got back before tea and then a late walk on the beach to watch the sun go down.

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