This trip has blown my mind in unexpected ways. We’ve had the most amazing opportunity to live as we never have before; the chance to wake up, change all of our plans, and end up in a place that we’d never even heard of when we opened our eyes that morning. The second segment of Oregon quenched a coastal thirst we didn’t even know we had…
Sunset Bay and Cape Arago
We bid adieu to our friends in Cape Perpetua, and continued south to Coos Bay. We’d decided ahead of time to spend a few days there, as we read that there were a lot of outdoor activities in that region.
We pulled into the small parking area surrounding the bay in the late afternoon, and set out to stretch our legs and catch the sunset. There was a path to the left, so we decided to let fate guide us up, up, up into the woods. It was one of those afternoons where the light filtered perfectly through the trees. As the trail leveled out, we rounded a bend, and were treated to an overlook that must be one of the reasons the bay holds its name. It was the kind of sunset that made you gasp, then hold your breath because it’s so beautiful, that words make it feel cheaper. The waves crashed on to the shore as we stood together, quietly soaking in the scene before descending back to the campsite at dusk.
The next morning after our usual two-hour long breakfast and coffee routine, we suited up to visit Cape Arago. One of my favorite things about this year off are our mornings. I am in general a pretty antsy person, and I often make myself “earn” the right to sit still. This is not the case for mornings out here, and I am loving this new version where I can just sit still to look outside, read, or chat over some tasty morsels and a few cups of coffee. Cape Arago is a separate park just a few miles down the road, and we hit the slippery beach access trail to explore the rocks and sands below. As we approached the water we could hear the barks of sea lions getting louder and louder, and we were so excited we found ourselves jogging to the lookout point. Anne’s brave soul headed out onto the rocks (no park rules were broken during this process) to get a closer view, while I headed to the other side of the beach to get my eyes on a waterfall that was spilling over the side of the cliff above, on to the beach. As Anne circled back to meet us, she pointed out that I had just walked right past a dead sea lion that based on it’s lack of decomposition, must have washed up on the shore very recently. We took turns getting closer sans puppies, and it was incredible to look in to the lions mouth at its teeth, skin, hair, and even its nausea inducing black, bloated tongue.
Simpson Reef Overlook
After our beach exploring, we hauled ourselves back up to the car, and headed to the Simpson Reef overlook. I’m so glad we stopped there not just because it was a wickedly perfect spot to watch hundreds of sea lions interact, but because we met some new road friends. Mark, Laura, and their two girls are from Alaska where they run a zip line company just outside of Denali National Park. They are travelling the coast in their Eurovan, and as we compared travel notes, it’s turns out that we had hit up many of the same spots along the way, just missing each other by a night or two. We exchanged ideas on trip stops and locally loved destinations before parting ways with the hopes of running into each other again.
After returning from our explorations of the day, I was walking the dogs around the campground when I met a nice fellow from BC who had just purchased an envy producing Airstream trailer. We got to talking about the trailer, then our lives and he asked as most people we meet out here do, about our journey and how we ended up at this place that brought our paths together for a night. Now, while I hug every morning out here with open arms, in the evening as the sun begins to set, I have a hard time not evaluating my day by tasks completed. In the city, I tend to live my life by a to-do list. Out here, when evaluating the things I’ve done for the day, I sometimes need a reminder that we are learning, exploring, and seeing so many new things all day, every day, that I need to put that list away. The kind BC fella was telling me about how they were headed back home for the winter before renting their place out for two years travelling in their new Airstream. I asked him to tell me more about what they planned to do each day when they were out on the road and he explained that they read, explore the area, spend time together and just in general take it pretty easy. I told him that I was having a little trouble with the fact that I wasn’t actively accomplishing things everyday and he said, “It’s not about accomplishing things, it’s about seeing things… because seeing things makes you better in here (points to heart)”. It was such a genuine response that I found myself heading back to van with his words ricocheting around my mind. Meeting people out here is one of the best parts of this journey, and I truly believe that each of these interactions weaves a new thread around my heart, and in my mind.
West Coast Game Park Safari
Taking a year off involves planning and sticking to a budget in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do without the amazing Ms. A. That girl… she can run numbers like nobody’s business! Our entertainment budget isn’t what we’d normally have for a “vacation”, because a year in duration means it’s a new lifestyle. As a result we’ve passed a lot of gimmicky things along our coastal route that we’ve ignored, but one billboard had us both hooting at the top of our lungs… West Coast Game Park Safari. WCGPS is a walking safari that promised we’d get to hang out with a baby tiger… A BABY TIGER Y’ALL!
As we walked through the doors we were both smiling like kids on Christmas morning, and phewie we sure weren’t disappointed! Over the course of the next few hours, we spent one-on-one time with a baby bear (even Anne), tiger, bobcat, and caracal. Anne played hide and seek with a playful two-year-old African lioness (the lioness was caged so as not to eat her) and it was incredible to watch the giant cat respond to the attention. With our camera full and our “WOW” tanks empty, we hit the road again, and made our way to our last overnight stop in Oregon.
I thought that OR had already thrown it’s best at us, but the southern coast proved to be the perfect coda featuring incredible rock islands and boulders jutting from the ocean.
We settled the van into the site that would be our home for the next few nights, and headed out to get some fresh air. As we were stopped at a vista point, we met an Alaskan gent who was riding his bike from Bellingham to the southern coast of CA, then across to FL. We ended up catching the sunset with him while chatting about our adventures, then we headed to the beach below. Harris Beach is so incredible, it’s secured a firm spot in my top five favorite beaches. The largest off-coast OR island sits just off it’s shores, and the giant boulders look like something out of a pirate movie.
Over the next few days we strolled the shore viewing starfish, muscles, sea cucumbers, and Peregrine falcons that were moving through the sky like fighter pilots. Our stay coincided with Halloween, and in lieu of our normal hitting the town to get saucy, we made a delicious stew over the fire in our Dutch oven, and shared a few toasts to the friends and family celebrating afar.
It was a magical few days on the southern OR coast, and some of the brightest of my campervan memories to date. We left Harris Beach and a few miles later crossed the border back to where our road trip adventure began… the Golden State. We’ve already explored many places in CA, but this time around, we were determined to hit up a few of those less travelled towns. Over the next week, adventures unfolded before us in many a quirky California town.