Saturday, June 23, 2012

Discovering the Southern Oregon Coast

June 18-23, Brookings and Bandon, Oregon
Harris Beach State Park--Brookings, Oregon
When we crossed the border into Oregon from Klamath, California, we both felt an emotional tug as it has been nearly ten months since we left Oregon on our first year of living full-time in our motorhome. Even though I have never been to the Southern Oregon Coast, it looks very much like the Oregon Coast I know and love: a rugged coastline with bluffs overhanging rocky shores, wind-shaped trees, and often deserted stretches of beach. We were also lucky to have sunny weather with highs in the low 70s and very little morning fog--a rarity here.

Our plan was to stay three days in Brookings at Harris Beach State Park and then move northward about 80 miles to Bandon where we booked three days at Bullards Beach State Park. Since school is now out and summer has officially begun, it is not too easy to find sites at the state parks on the coast, but we lucked out.  Oregon State Parks have an excellent reputation of being well-maintained and managed parks with large sites in lovely settings.  Harris even had full hook-ups with 50 amps, sewer, and cable for $27 a night.  We are also impressed with the full offering of recycling bins as so many parks on the east coast and in the south had no recycling available.

Another "welcome to Oregon" experience for me was a visit to Fred Meyers, a Northwest one-stop shopping store that carries everything from groceries to paint (kind of like a Super-Target). Having lived in Corvallis for almost thirty years, one becomes quite familiar with Fred Meyers as there is no Target or Walmart in the area.When my boys were little, I could practically do all my Christmas shopping at Freddies.  I didn't realize I missed this store until we saw the sign in Brookings and felt at home. I have to say the Brookings Fred Meyersmay be the best I have ever been in as they had several aisles of organic fruits and vegetables and a full seafood case. Okay, enough about this little highlight, but a good grocery store goes a long way when you are traveling around the country and you are not a Walmart shopper.

The seaside town of Brookings was smaller than I had imagined, but thankfully still non-commercial like many of the Oregon coast towns--very few chain stores or restaurants--except Fred Meyers, Ace Hardware, and a Dairy Queen. The park had a great trail to the beach or you could walk down a steep road to get to the sand. We opted for the trail and were impressed with the dogs adeptness at choosing the best rocks for descending down a fairly windy and steep path. The only drawback both days we went to the beach were the strong winds. I forgot how much the wind can blow on the beach.  Our site in the park was well-protected by trees so we didn't notice how hard it was blowing until we reached the sand. I asked a local about the frequency of such wind conditions and she said Brookings was usually less windy because it is a harbor, so we must have just been unlucky about the strong wind.

One of our reasons for coming to this area was to ride the jet boats down the Rogue River.  This is something Vic did many years ago and he was anxious to do it again. The mouth of the Rogue River is at Gold Beach where the jet boat tours begin. You can choose three different lengths of trips from 64, 80 or 110 miles. They were all between 5 and 8 hour trips ranging from $50 to $100. I wanted to go for the longest one, but being more prudent with our money had us choose for 64-mile ride upriver. The Rogue, one of the original eight rivers named in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968,  flows 215 miles westward with its source at Crater Lake. Because of the act, several dams on the river have been removed or modified and sections of the river require special permits to protect the river from overuse. Archaeologists date the river's earliest inhabitants to history about 6500 B.C. from artifacts of their nomadic and hunting lifestyle. In the 19th century, clashes between the Native Americans and settlers arose from the development of the Applegate Trail through the Willamette Valley (an Oregon Trail alternative) and the discovery of gold (hence the name Gold Beach) as part of the migration southward during the California Gold Rush. Sadly, many of the Rogue Valley Indians were removed to the newly established Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations in the northern part of the state. As settlers began to fill in the area, a notable development was the creation of mail service via boat up the Rogue. Since 1895, the United States Post Office has operated mail service by boat on the Rogue, one of only two in the country with the other being on the Snake River in Eastern Oregon. We were able to experience the historic mail service firsthand as Jerry's Jet Boats holds the contract for mail delivery so our boat met up with a mail truck at a small dock in Agnes and exchanged large bags of mail. 

Another interesting part of the Rogue history occurred as a result of  Zane Grey's influence, the famous novelist and fisherman, who lived on the Rogue in the mid 1920s. Several of his western novels included events that took place on the Rogue making it a popular attraction for some of Hollywood's famous actors of the 30s and 40s such as Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Tyrone Power, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, and Ginger Rogers. Jerry's Jet Boats had a small museum with photos of some of these celebrities staying at rustic little cottages and enjoying fishing adventures along the Rogue.

Our jet boat ride ended up being on a perfect day. The wind laid down and the temps rose to the high 70s inland with barely a cloud in the sky. The best part of the trip was definitely the wild life which included a large family of sea lions, two deer, at least ten Great Blue Herons, a half dozen Bald Eagles, one river otter, and the proud display of one large Chinook Salmon caught by a passing fisherman on another boat.  This was definitely a day I yearned for an SLR camera with a zoom lens.

Day three at Harris Beach State Park seemed to come early and we packed up for a drive of less than two hours to Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon.  The two parks seemed quite similar with roomy sites and 50 amp hookups--although we did not get a site with a sewer. Bandon is another small, quaint town--smaller than Brookings--with no notable franchise places, not even a Fred Meyer. L

Bandon is perhaps best known these days for its world class golf resort: Bandon Dunes. We took a drive through the resort and were surprised at the size of it. There are four distinct courses here now with the first, Bandon Dunes, being built in 1999. Not being golfers, we have only heard about the resort's fame; apparently it is similar to the courses in Scotland, where the game of golf was born. The secluded shoreline, bluffs, dunes, open meadows, and exposure to the elements offer a challenge to even the most experienced golfers. And, at $275 a round, it must be good golfing.  
One of the amazing Bandon Dunes courses--internet photo
Bandon Dunes main lodge
A lily pond adjacent to one of the courses
A young doe wandering on the Bandon Dunes grounds
About 4:30 a.m. on our first morning in Bandon, we were awakened by the pitter patter of rain hitting the motorhome roof. Its gentle, but incessant sound was distinctly Oregon rain.  Much of the rain we have experienced in the last ten months has been short downpours with sunbreaks to follow the same day.  This rain sounded like it might stick around awhile and sure enough we had two full days of it.  We couldn't feel too sorry for ourselves not being able to do some outdoor activities as about one-third of the campers here are in tents. They had a heck of a time staying dry and entertained, especially those with small children.  We looked for a Red Box ($1.00 video rentals) to no avail, but found a small section of the local grocery store with DVD rentals for $3.00.  (We had no satellite reception and no channels on the local antenna to entertain us.)  After finding a great little cafe on the water for clam chowder, we cozied up in the motorhome and watched a fairly engaging collection of recent release movies: Rebound with Catherine Zeta Jones--a cute movie featuring Jones as a "cougar," better than we thought it would be; Higher Ground with Vera Varmiga--both a slightly creepy and  fascinating look at one woman's journey with faith via fundamentalist religion;  The Space Between with Melissa Leo--a poignant look at a post 9/11 world that brings together a flight attendant and a 10-year-old Muslim boy; and lastly, maybe my favorite of the four, a movie called Take me Home about an unconventional road trip across the United States in a taxi. There you have it--our almost two days of rainy weather movie parade.

On our last day in Bandon, the sun was peaking through a gray sky and there was no pattering on the roof.  Suffering from two days of "motorhome fever," Vic took the dogs for a long walk in the park and I took a bike ride. After the ride, I made arrangements to meet with some local Portuguese Water Dog breeders I knew about from seeing their stud dog in the national magazine called the Courier.  It turned out they had one stud and three bitches (two were his sisters) and they also do some traveling in their RV. Two of the dogs were from an Australian breeder called Bluegrace and the stud dog happened to be the son of a dog I fell in love with a few years ago called Deuce--small world.  The brother-in-law and his wife were also West Coast Swing dance instructors, one of our favorite dances. We enjoyed about an hour in an open area near the park talking and sharing PWD stories as well as travel and dance adventures. One central topic that I was interested in finding more about is their commitment to a raw food diet for their dogs, a Bluegrace imperative. It was useful to learn how they make it more manageable by looking for cheap cuts of meat or sales and preparing 12-16 oz. daily portions of meat chunks for their dogs.  Bluegrace advocates the inclusion of almost any raw bones, but these folks err on the side of caution in this respect and bone much of the meat. I was also curious about the cost which for them runs about $5 a day for two dogs. ( I need to get in with some hunters and find a source for elk and venison scraps.)  I must admit the dogs's coats were shiny and silky.  Makes sense to go the raw food route since it is what they would eat in the wild, but not too convenient on the road. Our dogs eat grain-free kibble (Wellness Core) which is at least a high quality dry dog food diet. I am inspired, however, to throw in more meaty bones and eggs to supplement the kibble.  

Neil with his two Portie girls, Vanilla and Nygella (Bluegrace dogs)
Ray and his Porties, Al and Sadie ((Sunnyhill and Driftwood dogs)
Our final adventure of our last day here was to see the Coquille Lighthouse, one of eight original lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. The skies were growing dark with the threat of more rain, but it was fun to imagine the lighthouse serving as a beacon over a hundred years ago to those brave mariners who sailed the Pacific Coast.

The Coquille Lighthouse circa 1896
Piles of driftwood from winter storms cover the Bandon shores 
We are excited to be returning to the Willamette Valley tomorrow where we will stay for the next month to reunite with friends and, hopefully, my son Brooks who promises to make a trip down from Astoria. We are keeping our fingers crossed for sunshine in the valley.  


  1. we are going to finally move across the Cascades and head towards Astoria where we will stay a week and of course the weather doesn't look near as appealing as where we have been staying in the Tri-Cities...

    1. You might be surprised. Rain was forecast here in Bandon the last two days and it has been mostly sunny, but cool with temps in the 60s. My son recommends The Big O, The Wet Dog, and Desdemona for Astoria watering holes. Enjoy!

    2. You might be surprised. Rain was forecast here in Bandon the last two days and it has been mostly sunny, but cool with temps in the 60s. My son recommends The Big O, The Wet Dog, and Desdemona for Astoria watering holes. Enjoy!

  2. Small world. We also love West Coast Swing watch, not do do as we have 3 left feet!


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