Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Few Days in Newport, OR

We've spent the past three nights at South Beach State Park, at the South end of Newport, OR. Just like our last two Oregon state park stays, this large park has been busy every night and especially on the weekend; September is really popular on the coast! Note for those with tall rigs, there are plenty of low hanging branches to watch out for at the state parks.

South Beach State Park is bounded on the West by the Pacific Ocean and on the North by the jetty to Yaquina Bay. From the jetty you can view the impressive Yaquina Bay Bridge and watch a steady stream of fishing boats enter and exit the harbor.

Sunset along the jetty with the Yaquina Bay Bridge as a backdrop.

A long liner returns to the harbor after a day on the ocean.

About a mile from the state park is Wilder Disc Golf Course. This turned out to be the most challenging course we'd ever seen, with the best signage ever! You play through thick forest, across deep, steep ravines, surrounded by dense undergrowth. We learned to stage ourselves so we could (hopefully) see where each others discs went...the foliage was so thick it was extremely difficult to find the discs at times. Very tough course!

Lots of trees, notice the dense bushes to Hans right...we spent a lot of time searching for our discs!

South Beach State Park has a wonderful trail system with options that will appeal to every activity level. There are easy paved trails, wide, mostly level bark trails, and our personal favorite, the single track trails that took us into the rolling dune forest. And, there's the beach to walk on too.

Walking through the dune forest.

Looking South towards the jetty.
Notice the crowds on the beach on a Friday afternoon!  ;-)

One evening we went out to dinner with our friends Dennis and Sheryl at Local Ocean, a really wonderful seafood restaurant on Yaquina Harbor. We enjoyed everything we ate and I bought some fresh caught tuna from their market as well.

Walking the harbor after an early dinner.

Lots of California Sea Lions in Yaquina Harbor.

Brian Booth State Park is just a few miles South of Newport and within its boundaries is the Beaver Creek Marsh and several miles of trails. We parked at the welcome center on Beaver Creek Road and hiked about 4 miles that included marsh land (on a seasonal trail), forest, meadows and rolling hills. There are also water trails for kayakers.

There are a variety of forest trails in the reserve.

Beaver Creek.

We tried to go to Rogue Brewery on Newport's South Bay but at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon they were so busy there was a 30 minute wait just to have a beer! Even though they had dozens of people waiting we still saw an unused dining room/bar that would have accommodated another 50 customers...looks like a business that could use better management of their resources.

Fortunately our trip to the South Bay harbor was not a waste. Just outside the Rogue establishment is the Port of Newport Fishing Pier in the shadow of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. This long pier is a very popular place on a Saturday afternoon. Dozen of people were crabbing off the pier and sea lions were cavorting in the water too. We spent an hour enjoying the action all around us.

We watched a young woman pull crabs out of several traps with no gloves!
Red Rock Crabs are so prolific around here that crabbers are encouraged to take all they can.

Dangerous looking claws!

Playing and fishing along the pier.

This morning we played the 9 hole disc golf course at South Beach State Park. By far the easiest course we have ever seen, this wide open, short hole course is great for families and beginners. It has posts instead of baskets.

Each hole has a long and short tee and very few tree obstacles.
You can see the white pole that is the "basket" just beyond and to the left of the red tee.

This afternoon we'll set up camp at Bullards Beach State Park for a few nights. Friends Dennis and Sheryl will join us for our last stop along the coast before we head inland to visit my daughter and son in law. We've been extremely fortunate in the weather department lately and will have a couple more gorgeous days before the rain begins. September truly is a perfect time to visit the Oregon coast!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Making Our Way Down the Oregon Coast and We've Been on the Road for Two Years!

Summer may be winding down but you wouldn't think so along the Oregon coast. The State Parks are still full on the weekends as folks try to grab some beach time before the rainy season sets in. That's why we made sure to make reservations at several State Parks well into the month of September.

A couple of weeks ago when reviewing our upcoming reservations we discovered we'd missed a single night, a Friday night no less. Fortunately we found a site large enough for our 5th wheel at Fort Stevens State Park, conveniently located between Long Beach, WA and our next stop Nehalem, OR, for the one night.

We packed a lot into our 24 hours at the Fort! A 2.5 mile hike around Coffenbury Lake. A sunset drive to see the wreck of the Peter Iredale on the beach. A 17 mile bike ride that included the tip of the peninsula to view the mouth of the Columbia River as well as a visit to the historic military sites in the park. There are extensive bike paths throughout this enormous park that take you through beautiful forest and salt marshes. This turned out to be an excellent stop over and would be worth a return visit.

Moon rising over the Peter Iredale.
On a warm summer evening it was impossible to get a shot without people on it!

We've spent the last few nights at Nehalem Bay State Park. For our first outing we wanted to make a loop hike out of the peninsula we are camped on. Bordered on the West by the Pacific Ocean and on the East by the Nehalem River, the peninsula is four miles long and is home to deer and elk, we even saw a sign about a recent bear scat sighting.

We ended up hiking 7 miles, a lot of it on sand (both hard packed and very soft), plus some bushwacking when the shore disappeared along the river or near the jetty. We did see fresh elk scat, but unfortunately no animals in the flesh. It was a tough 7 miles, but we really enjoyed the bushwacking and wayfinding parts!

On the river side of the peninsula we had the beach entirely to ourselves.

Taking a little used trail through the interior of the peninsula...on the lookout for wildlife!

Back on the river...

The jetty was packed with driftwood for us to clamber over to get to the beach side of the peninsula.
The dots above Hans' head are fishing boats hanging out at the intersection of river and ocean.

Our friends Dennis and Sheryl met up with us at Nehalem and we got to meet their new puppy, Phoebe.

Phoebe is a five month old ball of fire!

The four of us took at hike at Oswald West State Park, just a few miles North of our campsite. We first checked out the beach at Smugglers Cove then took the Cape Falcon trail hoping the foggy, drizzly conditions would clear up by the time we reached the viewpoint.

We were a little too late for tidepooling but the colors on the rocks were interesting.

Dennis and Sheryl crossing a stream.
The damp conditions made for some very slippery spots on the Cape Falcon Trail.

Burls and plants growing on trees.

Hans goofing around on the edge of a cliff!

Sea foam art.

We took a drive into Tillamook one day, stopping along the way to do a little hike at Kilchis Point Reserve. This is a new reserve and trails are still being built but we were able to walk a couple of miles through pretty forest and out to the edge of Tillamook Bay. Lots of interpretive panels on these easy walking trails.

An unusual start to the trail!
The first quarter mile is very fancy, but turns into a pleasant gravel path, then further in becomes dirt track.

In Tillamook we visited the famous cheese factory and enjoyed reading about the history and process of cheese making...and noticed most people went straight for the free cheese samples without even stopping to read the information panels! The place was packed and very touristy.

We also visited the much nicer Blue Heron French Cheese shop, where there are plenty of samples plus wine tasting. During the drive between our campsite at Nehalem Bay and Tillamook we passed the charming towns of Nehalem and retrospect it might have been more pleasant to walk those two cute towns than deal with the crowds in Tillamook!

Our last full day, today: September 10th, is our two year anniversary as full time RVers! What a blast we've had these past two years and no end in sight yet. Today was no exception. We started the day with a hike up Neahkahnie Mountain.

Neahkahnie tops out at 1600 feet and can be accessed from two trails. We chose the shorter 3 mile round trip South trail with 900 ft elevation gain. It's a relatively easy ascent through beautiful coastal forest to a viewpoint, just below the rocky summit, looking South over the quaint town of Manzanita and Nehalem Bay State Park.

Manzanita in the foreground, with Nehalem Bay to the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right.

We were excited to finally see a rough skinned newt on the trail!
As much as we wanted to touch him, we did not...these newts exude a strong toxin!

Afterwards we celebrated our On-The-Road Anniversary with an excellent lunch at San Dune Pub in Manzanita. Seriously good Chipotle Bacon Burger and Sweet Potato Fries, plus we tasted the Fort George Vortex IPA for the first time and it is a winner!

Nehalem Bay has been a wonderful stop and tomorrow we continue our coastal crawl, moving on to South Beach State Park. Here's a few more shots of this beautiful place we got to call home for a few days.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Good Bye Long Beach Peninsula, You've Been Wonderful!

Today we leave Long Beach Peninsula and the state of Washington behind. Western Washington has been a perfect place to spend the summer with its cool temperatures, a diversity of terrain and charming small towns we've had no shortage of great hikes and interesting exploring to do.

From the moment we arrived the Long Beach Peninsula charmed us with its laid back and friendly beach vibe. I've already posted about the first part of our week here, now I'll share how we spent the rest of the week.

I first mentioned the Discovery Trail in my last post; a couple of days later we rode our bikes from our site at Cranberry RV Park to the North end of the trail, two miles away, and proceeded all the way to the Beards Hollow trail head at Cape Disappointment another six and a half miles (Discovery Trail map). This portion of the Discovery Trail is the easiest, winding through the grass covered dunes, the elevation change is minimal. Beyond Beards Hollow you can drop another couple of miles into the town of Ilwaco or climb a bit into Cape Disappointment State Park. This a beautiful, peaceful trail and I would enjoy riding or walking this again and again.

Sculpture of Capt. William Clark and the 10 foot long sturgeon he found on the beach.

Cape Disappointment rises from the low dunes behind Hans on this cloudy day.

Once the Labor Day weekend crowds subsided we drove into the small town of Long Beach. Long Beach is the most kitschy, touristy beach town on the Peninsula, with lots of hotels, restaurants, arcades, sweets shops and amusements geared towards families. One of the most unique stores is Marsh's Free Museum, a large shop filled with funky antiques and taxidermy plus modern tourist junk for sale.

To get to town we drove the beach highway!

Unfortunately the tide was coming up and not all of the hard packed beach was as wide as in the previous photo!
We scared up a flock of seagulls as we kept to the water line!

Mural depicting 1920 cranberry harvest in downtown Long Beach.

We took a day trip into Astoria, OR. This lively port town has several miles of waterfront walking, a bustling downtown with unique shops and restaurants and lots of wonderful turn of the century homes perched on the steep hills overlooking downtown. It put us in mind of a mini San Francisco or Portland.

The Oregon end of the Astoria - Megler Bridge.
The covered portion is being painted and caused some traffic back ups as traffic was down to one lane.
Old pier pilings abound on the Astoria waterfront.

Several large ships were anchored on the Columbia River waiting their turn to dock.
Along with the old pilings, there were several abandoned structures as well.

Heron on pallets.

Yarn art in downtown Astoria.

Towering above the city is the Astoria Column, a 125 foot tall column built in 1926. It's open to the public and you can climb the 164 step spiral staircase to a marvelous view.

Sorry this is a little crooked, but it's the lightest shot I had that showed the wonderful paintings that cover the tower!
The clouds were building quickly during our visit.

From the tower you get a spectacular view of Astoria and the full span of the 4.1 mile long Astoria - Megler Bridge
connecting Oregon and Washington.

This zoom shot shows some sandbars in the ever changing Columbia River near the bridge.
The black specks to the left of the visible sandbar are birds perched on another sandbar.

We visited Cape Disappointment State Park one day where we hiked a few trails, viewed both lighthouses and visited the very well done Lewis and Clark Interpretive center in the park. Note: trails throughout the park do not link up well, it is easier to drive to each trail head and do each trail individually.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is $5/per person (in addition to the Washington State Park entry fee) and contains an extensive historical timeline of Lewis and Clark's journey from St Louis to the Pacific Ocean including a short movie. There is also a bit of information on the lighthouses and the many shipwrecks that have happened in these treacherous waters. This was one of the better museums we have visited lately and well worth the entry fee.

North Head Lighthouse warns ships on the ocean side of Cape Disappointment.

We saw a couple of bald eagles.

The Cape Disappointment lighthouse warns ships navigating the treacherous mouth of the Columbia River.

We enjoyed a really lazy last day, driving to a beach North of us and having lunch at the edge of the dunes with a warm summer breeze waving the dune grasses and shifting sand particles across our toes.

Nothing but wide open beach...

With occasional passers by.

Our last evening we made some new friends whom we met on RVillage, John and Karen are full time RVers that summer in a park in Ilwaco, WA. We'd noticed during our drives around the peninsula that the area is extremely friendly to RVers and many folks buy lots and set up their rigs for the summer. After spending one week here, it is easy to see why people love it so much! We had a delicious dinner at John and Karen's getting to know them and with any luck our paths will cross again somewhere, sometime!

So I failed to get a picture of us with John and Karen, but I got one of me with their adorable little PJ,
short for Pepper Jack!

We spent our week on the peninsula at Cranberry RV Park, a small, full hookup, adults only park about two miles North of the town of Long Beach. Our site (#6) was difficult to get in to, but once we were parked we enjoyed a peaceful stay. On clear nights we could even hear the ocean about a quarter mile away. The sites are pretty close together but not as bad as some of the other RV parks we looked at in the area. This is a very friendly place to stay and is extremely dog friendly, the owners two standard poodles follow her around constantly (off leash). There is a Verizon cell tower about one block away so we enjoyed a blazing fast 4G signal!

We loved our time on the peninsula and we will definitely return. We'd probably look for another RV park since our rig was kind of large to get into the sites at Cranberry, though we really appreciated the low-key, helpful, friendliness at this RV park. Along with Cape Disappointment State Park, there are numerous other small RV parks on the peninsula to choose from.

Today we head into Oregon and make our way down the coast for a couple of weeks. September is looking like the perfect time to hit the beach, the crowds have dispersed and the weather is beautiful!