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I Missed the Pacific: Back Camping by the Big Water

Following the Montana Roadtreking Photo Safari, we hung around for a few days in the area, but both Sharon and I knew we had unfinished business to tend to, and would soon be back on the road again, west to the ocean. It had been a long time since we were there.

The last time we were on the Pacific coast was before Yan’s 2013 meetup. The fall of 2013 and the spring and summer of 2014 we spent entirely in the east, enslaved by the evil Jim Hammill OK, OK, working on a few projects at the Roadtrek factory, including helping build our gorgeous new CS Adventurous. We spent both holiday seasons with family in Florida, as usual, but hit the road this spring to renew our love affair with the west.  April, May and early June we visited New Mexico, the Eastern Sierras, Yosemite, Utah, and Wyoming before ending up at the Montana Roadtreking Photo Safari, so we had satisfied our need to experience the mountains and desert. Now it was time for the ocean.

I'm just out here for the scenery. Honest.
I’m just out here for the scenery. Honest.

Back in 2012 we spent seven months along the Pacific Coast Highway, April through October, boondocking along where it was legal and using oceanfront National Forest campgrounds where it wasn’t, and managed to spend practically every night right on the water. Our self-contained Roadtrek made it possible.

Northern Oregon official motto.
Northern Oregon official motto.

Who would have thought we could get this kind of access to oceanfront living with such a modest investment? Certainly not the local property owners who were our neighbors, and I got the old stinkeye more than a few times from these unfortunate souls who would knew they would still be there when the property tax assessment arrived, whereas I would be down the road by then.

So we headed west, following the same general path Lewis and Clark covered 210 years ago.  West across Montana, over the Bitterroots at Lolo Pass, and down through the brown hills and plateaus of Idaho and western Washington until we hit the Columbia River. After spending a night in a rest area, we followed the river through the 1,000-foot lava flow bluffs, past Mount Hood, floating like a giant snowcone in the blue distant haze, and through the Cascades. The temperature dropped 10 degrees, the humidity increased, trees replaced grassland, and we were out at Seaside, smelling salt air.

Beautiful day spot at Manzanita, OR.
Beautiful day spot at Manzanita, OR.

The north Oregon coast is beautiful, but because of its proximity to Portland it’s more geared to beach houses and resorts, not the wild coast found in less populated areas. We drove down to Manzanita and sat in our favorite spot for the afternoon, but the problem of where to stay became pressing as the sun lowered into the ocean.

imageWe ambled back north a few miles and found a spot overlooked by the maintainers of propriety – right on the water and without a “no overnight parking” sign. Jackpot.
And then the western sky faded, and I saw what I had been missing back east – Venus and Jupiter hanging in the western sky, and a string of tiny lights along the sharp horizon line separating the dark ocean from the dimly lit sky. Fishing boats.

They’re out there all night, each with its bright mast light, moving slowly back and forth over the course of the evening, searching out the best spot to fish. Some are so far out to sea their light winks off and on as they ride the big waves out there.  I would watch them for hours when we were here before, imagining the scene on deck. What a life they must lead, out there in the deep water, trying to catch enough fish to pay for another tank of diesel so they can do it all over again.

So I sit here late at night, listening to the surf and watching the fishing boats. It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing there’s nothing on the calendar, and months of good weather ahead out here. I think we’ll just noodle up and down the coastal highway until we get bored with it. It will probably will be a while before that happens. I think the next thing on the calendar is Thanksgiving back east.

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