Better Living Through Coastal Explorations

One year living in Washington.  Exactly two nights in a tent that entire time (not counting my kayak trip in Mexico). A shameful number.  Especially considering my past.  I used to spend 40+ nights outside each year.  Even in Alaska, where the long winters reduced outdoor opportunities, I still managed 10-15 nights in a tent each summer and fall.

Enough of that nonsense.

With nothing better to do on the new year holiday and the weather crap, I worked, preferring to take the day one week later.  A 3 day weekend and unseasonably warm weather.  A perfect opportunity to head down to the central Oregon coast.

My departure delayed for various reasons, I arrive late afternoon to the state park.  Ahhh, state parks.  Crappy little pieces of nothing, with campgrounds full of drunken veterans loudly regaling their buddies and everyone in the surrounding twenty sites with stories of “‘Nam”.  At least, that was my experience in Ohio.  Which makes it amazing that I ever learned to thoroughly love camping.

Campgrounds are not my favorite, state parks less so.  But Oregon state parks are amazing, and they are the best way to experience Oregon’s coast.

And thankfully, in the middle of winter, they are pretty quiet.  Except for a group of kids playing for an hour, quiet reigns supreme.  I find myself wondering where everyone is.  The RV’s seem lifeless.  RV-pocalypse.  Definitely different than what it will be like in summertime.

I cook dinner – tortellini with spinach and dried tomatoes – in the dark.

My dear old friend Monique calls.  I’ve known her since I was 16 and it breaks my heart that I have not seen her in 4 years.  We hang up, I start walking.  A 3 mile walk via headlamp.  Around the empty campground loops, down to the beach.  It is a noisy hike, filled with barking seals, croaking frogs, unidentifiable birds, crashing surf, and the breeze rustling the dry dune grasses.

After, I settle into my camp chair to read books for a couple of hours – one on the history of quantum mechanics, the other a writer’s tale of his travels through the ‘Stans of central Asia.

Up at sunrise.  Not that ‘sunrise’ means much when it’s raining lightly and the sky is steel grey.  But still.  Low tide is conveniently just 90 minutes after sunrise.  I drive 6 miles to another state park known for tide pools and sea stacks.  But this low tide is still relatively high, and the sea too unsettled for tide pool photography.  Still, I happily shoot photos and explore for over an hour.

Making my way back to the park and my tent, I stop at a few other places.

(as always, click one to see them larger and view as a slideshow)

Lunch.  Leftover butternut squash soup. PB&J (of course).  Well-fueled, water bottle in my coat pocket, I set out for a hike.  The park has 7 miles of trail.  I hike all of it.  Dunes, forest, transition land.  Misty rain.  Not enough to be troublesome.  I see only 2 people the entire time.  Marvelous.

Back at the tent.  Raining harder now.  I eat a salad, then continue walking.  The option is sitting in the tent for hours.

Evening.  The rain has (mostly) stopped.  Shower.  Hot shower.  Just one of the pleasures of camping at an Oregon state park.  My daughter calls, filling me in on her latest horse adventures.  Happiness.

Dinner.  The last of my soup.  Some fruit.  Perfect.  I finish one book.

Morning.  I pack up, slowly.  I have done this countless times for 20 years, but I remain slow at it.  My outdoor partners must be annoyed or amused at my seeming inability to complete something so simple in a timely fashion.  I would be annoyed.  I get annoyed with myself.

Back up the coast, stopping when I feel like it.  I purchase some smoked Chinook salmon from a stand in one of the small towns.  I can already taste the roasted potato-smoked salmon chowder I am going to make.