For anyone who’s lived or traveled in the Northwest, Highway 101 is a familiar route along the majestic Pacific Coast. We all have our special memories of winding through the narrow byways, crossing arched bridges perched between cliffs, peering over the edge of the road down to the crashing waves on the rocks, and gasping as the car squeezes through trees so tall you can’t see their tops and being quite sure you’ll hit their massive trunks.
I was about 9 years old on my first road trip from Seattle down the coast with my family of 5. I remember motels and delivery pizza, ocean swims and getting rolled by the waves, trying to wrap my arms around the redwoods, riding the elevator to the Sea Lion Caves, and of course, Disneyland. Later when I was 15, my 18-year-old sister and I spent the summer driving the highways in a mail truck named Mehitable that Mom had transformed into a chartreuse camper van complete with bunkbeds. In high school, my best buddy and I tent camped our way down the coast of Oregon, hiking the trails, watching the rain, cooking over the campfire, and enjoying the carefree life of a teenage summer.
For Marty there were family camping trips when he was 15, visiting Gold Beach, Avenue of the Giants, riding the jet boats, and picking blackberries for Grand mom’s cobbler. Years later with his own kids in tow, he camped in many of the same places, meeting up again with parents and grandparents along the way.
All these trips along with plenty of others in between have given us masses of memories that have been jarred loose as we rumble down the highway in our Galloping Goose. We’ve visited many of the same places we saw as kids, and have enjoyed similar moments of awe as we look out across the wild coast or walk under giant trees. We’ve also looked back on our shared memories from our trek down the coast 25 miles west of Highway 101, as Happy Dance transported us south from Alaska three years ago.
So where have we been this trip? Since leaving Ventura and starting our travels north, we’ve stayed mostly along the ocean, with a few inland excursions. We’ve ridden jet boats on the Rogue River, climbed around blow holes and tide pools at Cape Perpetua, walked on silent carpets of needles through the Redwoods, said hello to Paul and Babe, battled the winds while walking on sandy beaches, and been dropped into a 300’ sea cave to see one (yes “1”, they like to be outside in the summer) Stellar Sea Lion.
Enjoy the highlight reel…
The Avenue of the Giants
We camped in the tiny town of Myers Flat and spent most of our time wandering along the many trails through the big trees. If you’ve never been to see the giants it’s definitely a must-do item for your list. Standing under trees that are 1,000s of years old, is mind boggling to say the least. After craning your neck to look up at the tree tops you then look down to see a carpet of giant ferns and tiny shamrocks everywhere you look; you feel so tiny in a silent world of green.
Gold Beach and The Rogue River
Marty has always talked about how much fun he’d had on his trips up the Rogue River via the jet boats that were once used to transport mail up to the isolated towns up the river. It was finally my turn and we opted for one of the 80 mile trips that left in the morning. As it turned out our skipper was a grandson of “Jerry”, of Jerry’s Rogue Jets fame, so in between crazy 360’s, banging through rapids, and dodging waves over the bow, we were entertained with plenty of great stories from the good ol’ days. The weather was perfect; a chilly foggy morning that broke into a warm sunny day – perfect for getting drenched, followed by a yummy home made meal served on the patio at the historic Lucas Lodge. An awesome day – oh and Marty was r-r-r-right!
The Oregon Coast
We spent many nights along the coast in different campgrounds, enjoying foggy mornings and warm days and crazy winds in the afternoons. We stopped at lots of roadside viewpoints, a few tourist traps for good measure, and took many short hikes along the coast or down to the rocky cliffs. There were a couple spots that we really enjoyed. Cape Perpetua with its crashing waves, tidepools, Thor’s Well, Cook’s Chasm, and Devil’s Cauldron was spectacular on the incoming tide. We drove out to Cape Blanco Lighthouse and were nearly blown off the cliffs; it was cold, but oh so beautiful.
The Mighty Columbia
We spent a couple of nights at Cape Disappointment State Park, which is located next to the northern jetty on the Columbia River. It’s another fantastic campground and we were parked within a few steps of the beach and the crashing surf. We walked down the beach and out to the end of the jetty to see the Columbia Bar and watch the ships come in. Even on a flat calm day, there is a large swell running in and when the tide changed so did the swell, we could only imagine how intense it would be on a stormy day.
One of my favorite people moments on the trip was watching Marty and a campground neighbor giving each other tours of their motor homes. For this to be even the slightest bit interesting I need to set the scene for you. Picture my cute grey haired Marty in his cheery MA Graphics t-shirt proclaiming his Happy Place, while talking to a tough looking Mexican 20-something parked next to us, dressed in a Bob Marley t-shirt, with tattoos for sleeves, knife on his belt, pony tail and low rider jeans. Pretty soon they are both laughing and sharing stories, and Luis is explaining; ”I’m not gonna lie, I’m a farmer”. What a riot listening to Marty learn about pot farming. I love moments that bust us away from stereotypes.
We’ve also learned a few things on our first RV trip; Oregon State Parks rock, sand dunes are hard to walk across with a new hip, a group of puffins is called a probability of puffins, Lucas Lodge makes the best fried chicken and biscuits, and camping is much more expensive than sailing! We’ve also learned (or maybe been reminded) that we’re really spoiled; we like our lonely anchorages where the only footprints on the beach are ours or the coyotes, we like only having to fill the gas tank once or twice a year, and we like swimming in water that is warmer than 50 degrees. There’s a lot to be said for RV-ing and we’re excited to continue exploring, but we’re also getting antsy to return to our life on the sea. It’s kind of hard to complain though…life on the water, life on the road…both are awesome!