Note: blog time has fallen quite a ways behind real time, I am no longer near any of the place I’m writing about today!
July 8, Sunday
Coastal Oregon is not the easiest place to find free camping, especially on a summer weekend. After leaving Joni’s friend’s property after a nice quiet 4th of July, Joni and I caravan towards the coast, where we spend one long evening trying to find a place to camp, and eventually land a spot down a road off of 6 east of Tillamook.
This morning we retrace our route west on 6 and stop at Tillamook Creamery where I have ice cream for breakfast (don’t judge), and tour the factory where cheese is made. I’ve seen the process before in my home state of Wisconsin, but Tillamook is a much larger operation. And of course, we sample the cheese too. It’s worth a stop, and there is RV parking.
After that, we head up 101 to Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rock.
I’ve been seeing other RVer’s gorgeous pictures of the Oregon coast for years, and it’s scenes like this that I drooled over most – beautiful rocks sticking out of the ocean like great monoliths. Despite the overcast and chilly weather there are a great number of people already here, but Joni and I have an enjoyable walk along the beach.
After that we eat in town, then continue up the coast.
Our second stop is the town of Astoria, where we park and hike the Cathedral Tree Trail. The tree itself is very fun looking, it almost looks like the trunk ends well above ground level and it’s standing on it’s roots (more about this phenomenon coming up next post).
The trail ends at Astoria Column, a decorated observation tower that overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River. Climbing up it is much like ascending a lighthouse, a dizzying circle of stairs. But the view from the top is well worth it.
The clouds are breaking up and the weather has warmed, looking back towards the forest is my favorite view of the day, the lighting was just really good.
After that we walk downtown Astoria for a bit, and have ice cream again for dinner at a neat little place called Frite & Scoop, don’t judge. Well okay, you can judge on this one. In my defense this is the only time in my life I can remember having ice cream for two meals a day. I won’t be needing it again anytime soon after this extravaganza!
After a long day of adventuring, Joni and I cross the bridge into Washington. I have now been to all the western states in my RV! But I’m too tired for much partying. We spend the night at Dismal Nitch rest area just across the bridge, which actually has a pretty fantastic view of the river mouth and isn’t dismal at all (the name came from early explorers to the area). The night passes without incident.
July 9, Monday
Another long driving day. Joni, being a vandweller, is use to sightseeing while she travels – it’s kind of a necessity when your home is your vehicle. I on the other hand am use to driving quite a ways to a new camp spot, and then using that as a home port while I take my truck and see everything within a day’s drive. We’ve been following Joni’s style of traveling more, which I’ve enjoyed because it’s something new and I like mixing things up. But it’s also more tiring with the trailer, having to find somewhere to fit my longer rig to walk the beach, hike the trail, etc. and I’m ready to stop and park the Casita for a while. So today is a long-haul drive, going up the coast along 101.
Washington has the nifty thing called a Discover Pass. For $30 you get access to all the state parks for a year, but with one you can also camp for no additional cost at the little DNR campgrounds operated by the state. These campgrounds are primitive and often small, often consisting of 15 sites or less, and most are not big rig friendly, but with my size I can fit into most of them.
Our camp for the next week is one such spot, Hoh Oxbow Campground just off of 101 along the Hoh River in the middle of nowhere. Verizon is slow, AT&T signal is nonexistent, but it is right along the river, which runs a pretty blue-gray color.
I take site #2, which is probably the only site that gets any sun at all – about 2 hours in the early afternoon (which is juuuuust enough to make work if I charge my laptop in Joni’s van every couple days). With a trailer this spot is a looong back-in, it’s at the end of a cul-de-sac which is too tight to turn around in with my rig, fortunately I’m really good at backing up, so I just back all the way down the short road into the spot. But look at these trees! It’s sprinkling when I arrive around 4 pm, and it just feels like a rainforest.
July 11, Wednesday
Today’s suppose to be a work day, but neither Joni or I are feeling it. So we take the afternoon off to drive to Olympic National Park, which is very close by. In particular, we drive up along the Hoh River to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, and hike two of the trails there: the Hall of Mosses and Hoh River Trail.
The Hall of Mosses is my favorite. There’s a kind of maple tree that grows here that must be very good habitat for moss, because they get covered in it, to the point that they start looking like swamp monsters. There are also some really clear streams here, the kind salmon spawn in. Alas, it’s the wrong time of year for that, but the trees are nice!
July 12, Thursday
Day off! A scheduled day off this time. We board Joni’s van and drive north to Forks where we park and walk the downtown for a bit – there’s not a whole lot to it. After that we head west to La Push and Rialto Beach. By the time we arrive it’s nearly 1. I brought lunch with me and of course Joni has her whole kitchen. While we’re eating in her van, a fog bank rolls in. After eating I jump out to get this picture.
It’s nearly 20 degrees cooler along the coast than it just just a few miles inland, which is a new experience for me. I find it fascinating. When I lived along the coast of South Carolina, I could count on it being a few degrees warmer along the coast in winter and a few degrees cooler in summer than farther inland, but nothing like this! Alas, the fog obscures the beautiful islands of the inlet so I have no photos of them. Joni takes a picture of me on the driftwood though, of which there is a lot here!
But wait, there’s more.
After Rialto Beach we continue north to Clallam, where one can see Vancouver Island across the way in Canada. It’s a nice little stop with a more beach-y kind of beach, if that makes sense. It’s sandier and mostly clear of driftwood.
After that we continue west to Cape Flattery, the most northwest point in the continental US. It’s on Native American land, and you need a $10 annual pass to access their public areas including the Cape, but it’s well worth it. At the end of Cape Loop Road is a parking lot, and it’s a short walk to the good stuff along a trail with some elevation change and tricky footing in places. Not something I considering at all challenging, but it could be difficult for someone who’s more mobility limited.
We’ve come too late in the day for the best photo opportunities, with the sun directly ahead of us over the ocean, but it’s still pretty nice.
Reportedly, if you come out at high tide, the crashing waves can be felt on the cape. There are a lot of caves and hollows in the rock along the shore that the water churns inside of, the coast is very rugged here. And very beautiful.
We’re out closer to low tide so I do not feel the waves. But we do get to see more of the rocks that would be underwater at high tide, so it’s an acceptable trade off.
It’s not exactly busy here, but we when we start along the trail we are not alone. After being out on the cape for a while, the other people who are out here turn back. Joni and I have the place to ourselves. Just us, the waves, the wind, and the birds.
I’ve discovered in my time on the road that I’m not the type to have specific destinations in mind as I travel. I prefer to go where whim takes me, and I always enjoy the adventures that come of it. I did not have in mind when I thought of visiting the PNW this summer that I wanted to make it here to Cape Flattery. But being here now, it feels right. I am exactly where I should be.
By the time Joni and I leave the cape it’s getting late, way past dinnertime. We stop at Linda’s Woodfired Kitchen in Neah Bay and have amazing pizza. A great way to end the day. By the time we get back to camp it’s almost dark. I sleep well that night.
The companion travel video for this post can be found here.