Last month I wrote about the great boondocking stretch of beach south of Yachats, OR – now I’ll tell you about a similar and equally spectacular section of the Pacific Coast Highway that’s just as boondocker-friendly. We have spent weeks at a time here the last three years, watching the ocean and enjoying the cool summer weather.
I call it Pistol River, but nobody’s ever heard of that, which is to be expected because there’s really very little in the way of towns and other development on this part of the coast – just the way we like it. The only town of any size is Gold Beach, at the mouth of the Rogue River. Where I boondock is south of town between Gold Beach and Pistol River State Park. There are a dozen or more pullouts overlooking the ocean and the huge offshore rocks that characterize this section of the coast.
It’s all public land, and Oregon state law allows you to park (not camp) in any pullout not otherwise marked for twelve hours at a time, as long as you aren’t in a state park. We usually spend the night at the northernmost pullout or down by the mouth of Pistol River just north of the park, and our days at different spots in between. Smaller pullouts are better – you get less traffic from the day trip people swooping in, jumping out, taking a photo, and zooming off again. Those people make me nervous – we’re used to a slower pace of recreation.
When you run low on groceries or fresh water, just drive up to Gold Beach. There are two grocery stores, half a dozen gas stations, two with propane, fresh water at the Visitor’s Center on the south end of town, and a free dump at the beach end of 5th Place in the middle of town. The local merchants are glad to get your business- they’re a small town trying to make a living, not a bunch of chain stores. The employees bought the grocery store from the owner when he wanted to close it, and they’re keeping it running, so when they say, “thanks for coming in”, they really mean it. Get provisioned up and head back to the beach for a few more days.
Life takes on a slow, easy pace here as you whale watch, walk the beach, and drift off to sleep watching the phosphorescent surf that sometimes appears here in late summer. Deer come out of the forest at dusk to get their salt from the ocean – it’s strange to see deer on the beach, but there they are. There are sea otters, all kinds of seabirds, and blackberries and wild strawberries growing in profusion all along the shoreline. You can tell this place doesn’t get too many visitors.
We first stayed here two years ago, heading south down the coast after Labor Day, and the weather was cooling rapidly so we headed down into California after a week or so. Last year we spent the entire summer on the Pacific Coast Highway, and hit this stretch both coming and going – we probably spent most of a month here all together. This year we’re hanging out here and up by Yachats for just about all of late July and August, so we’ll get plenty of time in. There’s just no hurry as you savor the end of summer up here in the north, knowing you can prolong it by heading south when the weather cools off.