After eleven nights and 1,700 miles in California, it was time to pack up and try our luck elsewhere. The Oregon border was less than twenty miles away and I was looking forward to the change. I think back to when I entered California and the desert heat at Needles, and then all the places I have seen on my travels northward. From the mountains and redwoods, to the sandy and rocky coasts, I have experienced equisite beauty. Before this trip, I had never found in interest in visiting California, but that has changed.
I leave the KOA, very impressed with the accomodations and jump on HWY 101 passing through Smith River, the “Lily Bulb Capital” of the world. Chances are good that your ester lily was grown in this area. We cross into Oregon around 10:00 and the air is either smokey and filled with morning fog; I can’t tell which. As we drive through Brookings I see signs thanking the firefighters for their service. So, it might have been a smokey residue we encountered at the border.
We pull off HWY 101 just before the Thomas Creek Bridge construction. I have gotten used to waiting for a stop light or a flagperson to motion me forward as I have seen a decent amount of constuction. There are trails at the end of the dirt parking lot and I decide to head South which takes us away from the bridge but towards some beautiful coastal scenery. Full disclosure: I had no idea that Thomas Creek Bridge was an amazing structure until I drove over it or I would have headed North on the trail. The path we took was steep and emptied us at the very edge of the cliff providing us with an awesome sight of the ocean. Mabel, usually surefooted, balked at getting close, opting to stay near a tree. I somehow shed my inner “height chicken” and was able to duck under some tree branches to get a profile of the rocky cliffs. Its all abotut he photo!
The parking lot was empty when we arrived but more hikers had joined us since we ventured into the woods. Thankfully traffic was light and I easily pulled back onto HWY 101 to wait my turn to cross the Thomas Creek Bridge and what a sight it was. We travelled on our single lane, suspended high over the river, and I mean high! I was thankful for the guard rails. I will ask you to Google the bridge since I don’t have any pictures.
The Oregon coast was beautiful and different from what we say in California’s midsection. More rocks, giant at times, dotted the cold toughness that seemed to emanate from the shore. Tree lined craggy cliffs rode my left shoulder as we drove North, stopping many times to walk the beaches or look at the huge rocks. Mabel loved running on the beach and we usually had the place all to ourselves. The map shows many parks along the way and a few camping spots that we would have used if later in the day. My neighbors at the Crescent City KOA told me that the towns along the coast are all separated by around 26 miles. This was the distance a horse and stagecoach could ride back when Oregon was being settled. I didn’t test the theory but it still gave me comfort regarding gas station availability.
My original plans for Oregon were to pass through the middle and visit Crater Lake National Park. We would then cut over to the coast after travelling through Portland. Unfortunately, there were fires at Crater Lake and the park was three quarters surrounded or closed because of them. So, plans were changed to see more of the coast up until Florence and then head East to see the mountains. I would have liked to see Crater Lake but the coastal drive proved to be a beautiful alternative.
We reached Florence and then headed East on HWY 126, away from the shore and towards Eugene. I drove through Eugene but never found what I would consider the business sector so I consider my trip through, a “drive by”. We spent enough time driving the streets that I can feel okay with saying “I have been to Eugene” but not enough to recommend a good restaurant. HWY 5 took us North and I listen to the Seattle/San Francisco game on the radio and don’t know 99% of the players mentioned. I see my second Minnesota license plate on the trip and it has a White Bear license holder. The driver looks over but I don’t get a wave, what’s up with that? Somehow, I miss getting back on HWY 126 and remain on HWY 5, maybe it was the football game that distracted me. Whatever the reason, Mabel, as Chief Navigator, should have corrected our route. Would Chekov let Captain Kirk take an incorrect course heading? I think not.
Our aim on travelling East on HWY 126 was so that we could find a place to camp. The map showed a high concentration of little green triangles in this area so I was assured of finding something. We left HWY 5 at Brownsville and got gas at Sweet Home, the link to HWY 20, our new HWY 126. You can’t pump your own gas in Oregon, it’s a law that I just recently found out. Earlier in the day I took it on myself to fill the tank, I wonder what they thought after I pulled out. “Those Minnesotans are so self-reliant” or “Look at that Minnesotan, the nerve of that boy.” It is awkward paying with a card as the attendant swipes it for you and you tell them what type of gas and how much. The few seconds where the card is out of your control is a little nerve wracking. What if the attendant runs off with it? What if, hidden within his hand, is a skimming device that pulls all the information hidden in my magnetic strip? Things to worry about as I travel through Oregon. In this case I had to walk inside, it wasn’t a pay at the pump and I resisted the urge to load up on the sugary products that lined the counter. I’m not a fan of this law but then I am a visitor so don’t have any say. I bet they would tell me that if I decided to complain.
HWY 20 seemed to split the mountains and grassy fields lay on both sides of the road. The farmland stretches in abundance and cows are contently grazing, not paying any attention to me as I pass. There is a mist coming in over the mountains and I see a sign stating we have entered the Willamette National Forest. The farmland is replaced by trees and mountains.
Traffic has stopped and I don’t know if it is because of the usual construction or something else. We joined the others that had been waiting longer and turn off our car, no use wasting gas. Petrol is cheaper here, but “cheaper” is a relative term and still more expensive than what I encountered earlier in the summer. Someone passes along that an accident is holding us up and the road will soon be clear. Mabel is sleeping and only gets up once to look out the window. The scenery is ordinary to her after all that she has seen. She doesn’t tell me this exactly, but we have been together long enough that I can read her thoughts. We pass the collision between a pickup camper and Corvette. The drivers were standing next to the road and didn’t look hurt. The only casualty was the camper top lying on its side in the road. The Corvette already on a flat bed, boy I would hate to see that repair bill.
Trout Creek Campground comes into view and we turn down the tight, tree lined road/path. I do the usual predatory loop and see only one other camper, in a tent, occupying a spot. The whole place is ours and I choose a nice site near the river. The site has a long drive, not conducive to my sophomoric backing in skills, and I would have passed over it earlier in the trip. But I am a different person after 60 plus days and I give it the old college try. I not so expertly back Arabella into an acceptable position and who cares if I am a little crooked. There is no one in the park to critique my effort. No electric or water here so I can place her anywhere I like. We hear the river running over stones and walk down a damp path to investigate. A postage stamp size beach allows us to gawk at the river as the sky grows darker. It’s a nice site, very private and dark once night time comes. I didn’t realize how close to the highway we were and I can hear trucks above us, but the road turns out to be lightly used.
I will admit a bit of unease as I ate my leftovers for dinner. Mabel was right at home exploring the woods but my imagination was starting to get the best of me. All sorts of boogeymen lurked in the woods and I was glad for not watching any horror movies lately. The Blair Witch Project would have freaked me out and I was happy I wasn’t in a tent. For some reason the hard shell of the camper provides a feeling of security that may not be realistic. Yes, I can deadbolt the doors, but the plexiglass windows are not bulletproof. It wouldn’t be too hard to get into our cozy little shell.
My $6 Walmart sweatshirt smells of last night’s campfire and the smokiness is sweet. They sell redwood at the KOA office and the scent reminds me of the redwood boxes tourists bring back from exotic locations like Lancaster Pennsylvania. I like the smell, nothing like the smoky fires I sat around at Boy Scout camp.
I am getting anxious for home but it is a good feeling, an optimistic feeling. I am on week ten of the trip and although there is still a lot to see I am okay with going home. On most of my vacations, there haven’t been many, I don’t want the time to end and usually feel sour when back at home. This time there is excitement in seeing the family and what the next chapter of my life will bring. Even the prospect of a new job is exciting although the search for one is not causing the same amount of enthusiasm.
It was damp outside but I felt safe and warm in my little camper. Mabel stretched out in her usual position and we called it a night.
Thankful for a hard shell camper and the ability to turn off my imagination.