I had a “three day weekend” last week, which for me falls mid-week. I had no idea that the weather would be so nice when I planned the extra day off, weeks in advance, but I had the hope that with that window, I could have a nice little trip to the Oregon Coast.
Ah yes, the coast. I grew up on the East Coast, Connecticut, with a brief stint in North Carolina. The past sixteen years have been spent on the West Coast, first a brief foray in California, and then here.* Like many a coastal native, I’d consider (and do!) a move cross-country to another coast than somewhere in the middle. There’s something about having the ocean at hand, even if it’s out of reach most of the time.
Growing up, my family regularly went to the beach. Granted, it was possibly the dumpiest beach in existence (Silver Sands State Park, aka “Milford Beach”) on a lowly, dirty arm of the Atlantic (Long Island Sound), but I loved my days there. As I grew older and got weird about my body, I became more ambivalent about “the beach”. For example, that year in North Carolina? For most of it, I lived less than five miles by bike from the beach. But I was fifteen and awkward, so I rarely went there.
And while Portland is relatively close to the coast, it’s still the furthest distance I’ve ever lived from the ocean. To get to the beach, it’s either a day trip commitment, as it’s a two hour drive one way. And if I wanted to bike it, it’s at the bare minimum a one day bike ride to get there. So while I always tell myself that I’m going to go to the ocean more often, it happens fairly infrequently. In fact, the last time I actually was on the Pacific Coast was in late 2014. I didn’t see the ocean at all in 2015. Sure, I saw both the Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia since then. While going to the sea is still cool and worthy, there’s nothing like that unrestrained ocean roar and surf, the idea of looking out into a blue horizon, knowing that Asia is still several thousand miles away at its closest. Lake Superior is great, but still doesn’t compare.
Time to remedy that.
On Tuesday morning, I hopped the Tillamook Wave bus from Portland Union Station to the near-coastal town of Tillamook (yes, where they make the cheese.) From there it’s a fairly easy 11 mile ride to Cape Lookout State Park, right on the coast. Cape Lookout has hiker/biker campsites that are my hands-down favorite along the Pacific Coast.** The sites are separated a bit from the main campground and resemble something out of the Ewok landscape, with tall Sitka Spruce trees above and salal everywhere. And it’s right next to the beach! In fact, I got the choicest spot (5) from which you can actually see the waves. All this for six bucks a night!
I spent two nights in the campground, hanging out, walking the beach. On my “off day” of Wednesday, rather than hike the Cape Lookout Trail to the end of the cape, a 10 mile round-trip from the campground, I decided to ride my unencumbered bike to Cape Meares, 12 miles north of Cape Lookout. Cape Meares features a cool lighthouse that was unfortunately not open, but the views around the cape are great. I also stopped in the small villages of Oceanside (for the beach) and Netarts (for supplies.)
I had to return to Portland on Thursday. Originally I considered riding all the way back, but in order to do it easily in a day, I’d have to ride along busy and narrow Route 6, which wasn’t that thrilling for me. (My more preferred routing back via the Nestucca River Road is about 20 miles longer than OR 6, 85 vs 68, plus has a lot more climbing, something I didn’t want to tackle in one day. If I had two days, sure.)*** Also, it got really hot for early April, a high of 85F/29C in Portland, a record for that early. As it was I practically wilted when I got back into Tillamook from the beach, as it was already hot there. So back by bus!
I hope to get back out to the coast at least once more this year, if not more. Heck, I should do a little tour down it…
*I did spend a full month in Arizona, but that doesn’t count, right?
**There may be better sites in Southern California, but I haven’t been to them yet.
***My original idea was to take the bus out on Monday afternoon, giving me two nights at the beach. Then I could do Wed-Thurs back along the Nestucca. Unfortunately, it was still rainy on Monday, so I scrapped that idea. I’d rather have two dry nights of camping.