As has been my tradition on Thanksgiving weekends for a decade or so I skipped the Turkey and the day wasted making it and headed to the coast. I’ve landed at various places over the years, from Umpqua Lighthouse State Park south to Harris Beach State Park. I’ve done extended day trips down into the redwoods, and gone as far north as Pacific City to listen to an old friend play some tunes at my favorite dive bar (that goes back to my first days in Oregon, but that’s another story). The coast is a great place to spend some time at around Thanksgiving, there’s usually a couple days of decent weather, and with the yurts and cabins at Oregon state parks you could always find shelter from a storm when one arose. Now with the truck camper that won’t be required on future trips, I’ll just carry the shelter in the bed of the pickup. Since I just bought the truck camper, this was going to be a bit of a hybrid trip, a couple added nights in the camper, and a couple nights at Sunset Bay where I had a yurt reserved well in advance of the camper purchase.
We left Bend Tuesday night after work, in the first real snowstorm of the season. We only got a few miles south on 97 before we ran into traffic. It inched along at first, but eventually became a parking lot.
The view for the next 5 hours
This ended up being the WORST traffic jam of my LIFE! It took us a grand total of 6 hours to go from Bend to La Pine, a total of 29 miles! Once traffic started moving we never did see a wreck or even signs of a wreck with tracks leading off in the snow to the road shoulders as I expected. I never did hear of anyone being hurt, and still haven’t a clue what left us sitting there for so long. There are no side roads or detours to take heading southbound on this stretch of road so we just sat there wondering if we were ever going to move. Finally we did, only to run into another backup but this time we could backtrack to a side road and that got us out of the mess and on our way. Needless to say we didn’t quite make it as far as we planned that night. At about 1:30 a.m. we rolled into Valley of the Rogue (not my idea of camping but it had to do) and got a few hours of sleep.
We were up and on the road by about 8 or so, a were quickly headed down highway 199 to the Redwoods. Luckily we survived the restroom stop, the fly appeared to already be full…
Once you start down Hwy 199 from the California border you hit a tunnel and it’s like entering another world. Tall trees and beautiful water are at every turn. But about the time the North, South and Middle forks of the Smith River all come together you have really reached your destination.
Giant redwoods abound and crowd the road at every turn. If you really want to get to the good stuff (big trees that will blow your mind) you hit the Howland Hill Road. Then you just need to decide which trail to start hiking. We started with the Stout Grove.
It is impossible to give these trees any justice by photographing them. You just need to see it for yourself.
After a short walk through the Stout Grove we continued down the road. I just love this drive.
We hit another short trail, the Nickerson Ranch Trail and took in a few more big trees.
Then it was back to the truck and onward to find a campsite. The November days are short you know!
Gold Bluffs Beach campground was going to be our destination, with beach and trail access, plenty of sun, and no trailers allowed, what could go wrong? Well, we reached the turnoff to Davison Road and it was blocked right from the start. “Landslide ahead” the sign read. And with that plans changed. I pulled out the map and looked at other prospects. Since the day had turned so sunny my thoughts were to hit something near the beach. We first headed to Patrick’s Point State Park, and found a run down looking campground, little sun and muddy camps and decided to move on. Heading north we made a quick swing into Big Lagoon County Park, and while it looked better than Patrick’s Point it wasn’t looking too good either. So I headed to what I thought was a sure thing, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Most of the campground was closed for the season and the part that was open bordered on disgusting. Muddy sites with slimy tables and no sun to be had beckoned for the mere price of $35. I made a couple loops but it just looked dismal. We moved on. I’ve never paid anything close to $35 for a basic tent site, and these sites at California State Parks not only cost that much, but offered nothing in return. Knowing that we were headed north the next morning we left the redwoods a day early and made out for Harris Beach, north of Brookings, Oregon. On the way we enjoyed a wonderful sunset at the Klamath River mouth overlook before making the dash back to Oregon.
Luckily Paul and Babe left a few big trees standing. We waved goodbye to California and moved on to Oregon….