June 24, 2020
Most campgrounds wake pretty early. But Redwood Bar wasn’t like most campgrounds. There were no designated sites, rather dozens of spots along the river where all you had to do was stop. We’d driven over some larger rocks the RVs couldn’t pass to get a place a few feet from a narrow part of the river that made just enough noise to fall asleep to. When we woke, a mist was hanging over the canyon with the sun already trying to pierce it with the promise of a beautiful day.
After a pancake breakfast and a splash in the river, we wandered over to our neighbor, who drove a Land Rover Discovery that was home to three people. Shasta and her two small children slept in the back of the medium-sized SUV after the contents had been spilled out onto the rocks to make room. I used to own a Discovery and slept in it once—diagonally and uncomfortably. Fortunately, she was smaller than me but it must have been cozy with two kids and a small dog.
Shasta said she’d been abandoned by her children’s father and was heading north to a house her grandmother had left her. Shasta was young and energetic, smiled a lot, seemed happy enough, and her kids were obviously delighted to be camping with mom. She said she liked to go slow and camping this way made her feel like she was on a safari. I thought about people we saw on the highway rushing to and from somewhere and realized that traveling the way we do should feel like a safari, unhurried and wide-eyed with curiosity and adventure and I took that away with me.
We broke camp and turned down the narrow one-lane road we’d come in on and immediately stopped for what had become our theme—more road work. But it was sunny and warming up and we were in no hurry.
Back on Hwy 101, we arrived at Brookings, Oregon, a pleasant small town with some pretty houses perched on a cliff overlooking spectacular ocean views. It was a place we’d talked about moving to someday for the views, but the dreary Oregon coastal weather wasn’t what we wanted. We stopped for some terrific coffee and filled up for $2.45 a gallon. Our biggest travel expense is gas and we were grateful for the low price.
Just north of Brookings, we pulled off the road at one of the many stunning beaches and hiked down to an enticing low-tide beach. Exploring the beach requiring fording a river inlet but even the resulting wet shoes were worth the reward of a nearly empty beach with enormous rock formations. This was the southern Oregon Coast we’d been so eager to see again.
Our next stop was a pull-off where we saw a sign boasting of the highest bridge in Oregon — the Thomas Creek Bridge. Before driving across, we pulled off the road and found ourselves hiking on a segment of the Oregon Coast Trail that led to a view of the bridge through the trees.
A few more miles up the road we stopped at a picnic area for lunch. It turned out we had stumbled upon another scenic attraction — Arch Rock. We took the short trail to the viewpoint before having our picnic. Three hikes so far and it was only lunchtime.
From there, we headed up the coast and took a side route from Hwy 101 where the land jutted out to sea at Cape Arago. Susan had read there were many places to hike there and much beauty along that section of the coast. There were.
We explored by taking both short and long hikes, hikes 4, 5, and 6 of the day—finding breathtaking ocean views, crashing surf, secluded beaches, and amazing overlooks.
The southern coast of Oregon has spectacular scenery and though we’d driven through it once before, this time we were unhurried and could pull off anywhere we thought looked promising.
When it was time to look for a place for the night, we pulled off the highway into a National Forest area with two campgrounds. After browsing through both, neither very full, we decided on Lagoon Campground.
We found a campsite tucked into the trees, surrounded by heavy undergrowth with the lagoon only a few feet from our truck.
The forecast had been for increasing wind and fog, and it was right on the money. We took our final hike of the day from our campsite along a beautiful coastal trail to the sand dunes the south-central coast of Oregon is known for. Much of the hike was in soft sand and with the chill wind blowing hard and the sun setting, we wondered at first if it was a good idea. But the trail ended in an otherworldly scene down the last dune, with fiercely blowing sand combined with fog nearly obscuring the ocean, which thundered in front of us.
The gale-force winds forced us back and despite the layers we wore, we were cold. I kept thinking about home where the forecast was for four more days of 100+ degree weather and felt better.
By the end of the day, we hadn’t driven very far but we’d hiked over ten miles on seven small hikes. Our legs told us ten miles was ten miles, whether one long hike or a bunch of smaller ones. After a late dinner, we climbed into bed listening to the distant roar of the ocean and the wind whipping through the short trees near us. When I woke up at 2 am, I saw that the fog was gone letting the stars shine and the wind had nearly died. It was easy to fall back to sleep.