On September 28, we crossed into Oregon from Idaho, about half way up the state at Vale where the wide open land looks more like high plains of Kansas with grasses and open spaces. The first night in Oregon, we camped in a quiet county park, Bully Creek, along a reservoir. The day we left, we watched campers arriving and getting set up for the opening weekend of deer hunting season.
We were headed to Bend and our guide book suggested that we make a slight detour north on our way through central Oregon and stop at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in the rugged canyons of Ochoco National Forest and we are so glad we did. This place is a treasure of a place and a must stop for amateur fossil buffs. This place is geological wonder. At one time millions of years ago, this place was a tropical land with towering trees and a collection of mammals whose fossils have been collected in the strata of rock and volcanic ash that got laid down between 45 million to about 5 million years ago.
There are fossils from 100 species of mammals, including dogs, cats, oreodonts, saber-toothed tigers, horses, camels, and rodents. We visited the Sheep Rock unit which contains many of these same fossils, as well as turtles, opossums, and large pigs. More than 60 plant species are fossilized in these strata, such as hydrangea, peas, hawthorn, and mulberry, as well as pines and many deciduous trees. One of the notable plant fossils is the Metasequoia (dawn redwood), a tree thought to have gone extinct worldwide until it was discovered alive in China in the early 20th century. We spent a remarkable midday here and loved the exhibits which were among the most informative that we have seen in our travels when it comes to explaining the history and the geology of the area.
We arrived at Tumalo State Park in Bend for two nights which was about two nights too short. Bend sits on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. The Sisters Peaks, slightly north and west of the town, reach upwards of 10,000′ and it was easy to see how this town has become so attractive as a place to settle. As my friend Carol would say, “Very fun”. Our measure of a town, as our loyal followers will recall, is the number of book stores and coffee shops and these two criteria put Bend right near the top.
The next stop was Champoeg State Park which was close to where we would be dropping off our Airstream for its makeover. This is an historically interesting park and we would end up returning here for a couple of nights in the following week to complete some of the detail work of life on the road, like laundry and accounting and correspondence.
After dropping off our T2 at Ultimate Airstream, we headed to the coast for one full week at an Airbnb in the town of Seaside. This was a perfect location for our week of exploration of the northern Oregon coast and we picked this town for its location and access to multiple Lewis & Clark historical sites. It was a great decision and we luxuriated in the historical significance of the area. We discovered that the Corps of Discovery actually made it down to Seaside in January, 1806 and set up a site to extract salt from the water to use in preservation of their food stores.
We visited Fort Clatsop, the winter quarters (1804-1805) of the Corps of Discovery for the four months that they were here and we learned that in their entire four months on the Pacific Coast, they had just 14 days without rain. Ugh!
From Seaside we did day trips south to the very cute town of Cannon Beach where friends of ours have spent Thanksgiving with family for decades. We walked on the gorgeous beach under sunny and cool skies feeling grateful for all we have been given.
Another trip on a rainy day took us to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, in Tillamook where we sampled the best of their creations and left with a pound of three-year old sharp cheddar that rivals what we love from Vermont. We will be ordered this online as we work our way back east, it is that good.
One Sunday morning we treated ourselves to breakfast in downtown Seaside at the Osprey Cafe and loved every self-indulgent bite of our special-of-the-day Andouille sausage omelet and shrimp and grits (guess which of us ordered which!). We also were treated to New Orleans cuisine at lunch in Cannon Beach at the Sweet Basil’s Cafe with a rich and wonderful salmon and clam chowder that was unique and superb.
After reuniting with T2, we headed further down the Oregon coast to the town of Newport. We settled into our campsite at Beverly Beach State Park in on a rainy and cool night, grateful for electric and water to keep us comfortable in the cool Oregon weather. We wandered further down the coast to a gorgeous place called Humbug Mountain State Park. From our campground we walked ten minutes to the wide open beach with its black sand.
The beach was the repository of huge pieces of driftwood, a testament to the ferocity of the Pacific on days other than the tranquil and calm ones we experienced. Another day we hiked up the trail behind our campsite to a piece of the Oregon Coast Trail and the old bed for Highway 101. The uphill climb through the pine forest rewarded us with stunning views of the beach and Pacific, a couple of hundred feet straight below. This place was so lovely that we added an extra day to continue the explorations of nearby Port Orford.
The town of Port Orford is unique as a fishing village and port. It is the westernmost incorporated city in the contiguous United States. I will always remember our time here for the event that we missed. Here’s the story. We decided to head into town on Sunday for a special lunch at the highly rated fish place, The Crazy Norwegian.
Peter was craving fish and chips with locally caught Pacific cod. After a yummy lunch we headed to the library for some wi-fi time and noticed there was a huge number of cars in the parking lot. I wandered in and asked what was going on and the librarian told me it had been a special lecture about Portugal. Incredulous, I asked if it was ending soon and she said it was. After a few minutes, I walked to the now empty room as the presenter was packing up his materials. He told me that he talked a lot about the Azores since there were so many people from the islands in the area. I asked which islands and he said, “Faial and Sao Miguel”. Sao Miguel is the ancestral home of both sets of my grandparents, so this was a big deal for me.
There were about 50 people who attended the talk and I asked him where they were from. He pointed to the now-empty chairs, “This one was from New Bedford, Massachusetts. This one from Fall River, Massachusetts (where my parents were born), this one from Dartmouth, Massachusetts. And they all live around here now but they want to learn more about their ancestry.” How cool is that? I travel totally across the country and find on a Sunday afternoon in Port Orford, Oregon that my people are ever-so-close by. Next time, as Peter reminded me, we have to START our visit to a new town with a trip to the library to see what events are coming up. Noted.
We headed down the final stretch of the Oregon coast on a magnificent Monday morning, stopping at the many lovely pullouts along the way, ending at Gold Beach and then Brookings, where the stunning panorama of the shoreline was taken..
We covered the entire 350 miles Oregon coast, from the Washington border to the California border, with the exception of a stretch from Tillamook to Newport. We were blessed with the most beautiful weather, sunny and cool, and reminiscent of New England and Cape Cod and fresh seafood and all things known and familiar except this was the northwest and it was the Pacific, and not the Atlantic, and it was all new and it was a treasure. The sixteen days we spent in Oregon were an invitation filled with details that we need to discover next time. Perhaps some volunteering at one of the lovely state parks lies in our future. Stay tuned…
From the comfort of their newly renovated Airstream, Liz and Peter continue to plan their pilgrimage to here, leaving Oregon for California and new adventures as year three continues to unfold.