Warning: this is a travelogue. If you don’t like travelogues don’t read this.
Or in other words, Yurting our way around the Oregon Coast
My Sweetheart’s birthday is the first week in July and we cast about for some kind of cool birthday present. Out of the blue, she came up with:
Itinerary for our July Oregon Coast Yurt camping trip.
Birthday present for myself and Arthur,and trip for my mother that includes her dog.
July 13 Monday to July 20 Monday. Seven days, six nights at Yurt or Cabin sites at Oregon State Parks, with one being Rustic Packer’s Cabin available through Federal National Forest. Most of the sites will be on Oregon coast, primarily central and southern coasts.
She spent close to thirty hours over several days the week of her birthday looking for yurt or cabin camping sites that would make it possible for us to include her mother who has some health issues and would not be able to camp as a tenter. The itinerary was exciting to say the least, and since she was doing this very close to our travel times, she had to take what she could get. Essentially we wound up with six nights at six different locations in Oregon (some of which were repeated on different days as they were the only spots available that met our requirements.
(By choice and a desire to not presume on privacy concerns, I refer to my wife as Sweetheart, my mother–in-law as Mom and anyone else who appears in this narrative by description – such as my stepson who is Mom’s grandson)
We drive a Toyota Scion which we have affectionately named our “Voodoo Blue” and Mom owns a Silver Scion that is five years younger but also has only half the miles on it as does our Voodoo Blue. We decided that the Voodoo Blue would carry most of our camping equipment and the Silver our luggage along with Mom’s aging Aussie Shepherd/Healer blend name Shiela. Since Mom did not want to be separated from Shiela (yes, that is how she spells it) that meant that I drove the Silver as lead vehicle and my Sweetheart followed in the Blue.
Loading the two vehicular “RV’s” in a way that included all the stuff we wanted to bring became what we affectionately labeled “Arthur’s game of Tetris” as I made all shapes and sizes fit quite snugly … with nothing on the roof or hanging out the windows. Our RV’s are pictured at the top of this article
– July 13 – Monday. pack and drive to Joy’s home in Tacoma. Overnight in her home. (Whewww – hot!)
We started packing prep on Sunday night, July 12, in our home in Spokane. Knowing we would have only a five-hour drive to Mom’s house in University Place (Tacoma), we were not rushed to get out of Spokane early. We loaded the camping gear we felt we’d need along with our personal luggage and left around 1:00 pm. The drive to Tacoma was uneventful and we arrived around 7:00 pm and to find Mom very excited about this trip.
– July 14 – Tuesday. take Joy shopping for any camping gear she might need.
Went to Fred Meyer and Big Five Sporting Goods to get most of the stuff Mom would need along with her catching up on some grocery shopping. Spent the evening in anticipation, not to mention my success in getting a window open in our bedroom and a fan to pull in the outside air, making our sleep much more restful.
– July 15 – Wednesday. 1st camp night. We begin our Yurt trip. Drive from Tacoma, WA to Portland area to Champoeg State Heritage Park site between Portland and Salem. Exit 278. In McMinnville area. Staying in Yurt D. (can google it online as Champoeg State Heritage Park, Oregon State Parks)
Champoeg turned out to be our real-live test-run where we would learn how well reality matched our planning.
Adjustments would be made.
For example, as Sweetheart is totally not excited about driving on Interstate 5 (known around here as I-5), I promised her I would not drive faster than 60 and keep to the right lane as much as possible. We left Tacoma with the Silver leading the Blue and my intention to stay in the right lane.
… which lasted oh, maybe, ten miles before I was cruising at 55 behind a slow moving tow truck that wasn’t pulling anything. All of a sudden I see the Voodoo Blue flash by on my left with Sweetheart focused totally on the highway ahead and urging me on.
So much for her timidity on the I-5.
Eventually, despite my message about nice-and-easy-does-it, she let me take the lead with the understanding that she had become unleashed as a freeway driver. We zigged and zagged as well as the rest of them, using all the lanes as needed to avoid slow vehicles, vehicles coming up behind us too fast or two or more semi’s trying to pass each other.
We stopped at a rest area 15 miles north of Vancouver, where I explained the next part of our journey. Just before reaching Vancouver, we took the I-205 exit and proceeded South and East around downtown Portland until we merged with I-5 by Wilsonville and continued south to the Donald/Aurora exit and drove to Champoeg State Park just out of Newberg, Oregon.
Since we were too early to check in, we drove to Newberg and found a park where we ate a supper from the Safeway Store deli. Then back to the park to check in and get our first up close view of a yurt.
Champoeg is pronounced sham-poo-ee. It sits right on the Willamette River and was hot – as mean hot as the heat wave in Spokane. We checked in and paid the fee for the extra vehicle. Fortunately both vehicles have a handicap permit hanging from the rear-view mirror and we were able to park both in the small lot nearest the yurts. But not close enough as we would have wanted.
I backed the two Scions up to the yurt side of the parking lot and, using a wagon, offloaded our luggage and equipment and carried them to the yurt.
Anticipating not-so-good skinny matttresses, we brought a double size inflatable mattress and a second double size elevated mattress which was perhaps 18 inches high. The plan was to put Mom in the lower bunk while we’d sleep on the floor on the tall mattress.
Only problem was neither mattress fit on the beds although we did force the smaller one onto the bunk bed where Mom would sleep. So, although it’s getting late and we’re really starting to tire, we proceed to move our stuff out of the yurt so I could rearrange the layout of the bunk bed and futon. This was mostly busy work and in order to keep Mom out of harm’s way and the dog out from under foot, Lietta sent her to the porch of the yurt.
We had brought with us a privacy shower stall and a portable potty with which we might avoid a long middle-of-the-night wandering to the public restrooms some 200 yards away. Gathering up the yet-to-be-assembled unused portable potty, Sweetheart handed the unused seat to Mom who was seated right outside the door. Mom was sitting there very calm and sedate holding a potty seat while we we scurrying about the yurt as quickly as we could.
Eventually I looked up and noticed Mom seated right outside the door like a kind of sentry and holding the potty seat in both hands. When I asked Sweetheart about it and she saw Mom faithfully guarding the door to our yurt with a potty seat in her hand, we all broke into hysterics.
The night cooled off and we all fell asleep, three adults and a dog … asleep in Yurt D.
We had decided that we would buy our food near each nightly location and had purchased what we needed for the next morning at the Safeway in Newberg. I usually got up around 5 or 6 and proceeded to work on breakfast since it dawned on us that we would need to eat quickly and repack the cars and be on our way by 1:00 each day.
We heard a knock on the door and a familiar voice asking if we could spare a cup of sugar. To our surprise and delight Sweetheart’s son (Mom’s grandson) showed up bringing fancy pepper bacon and, more importantly, a bag of quality coffee. The Trader Joe’s coffee we had was too bland, not tough enough for folks roughing it in the wilderness. We shared a breakfast of bacon, eggs, a vegetable and fruit.
Then it was time to get the heck out of there as we were headed for Tugman State Park south of Reedsport, Oregon and a little north of Coos Bay. With help from our breakfast guest we managed to leave 30 minutes prior to check out deadline.
July 16 – Thursday. Second camp night. We drive down the coast to William M. Tugman State Park in Reedsport, Oregon area. Staying in Yurt N, A Lots to see in this area, including Sand Dunes, Devils Churn, Thors Well, Seals, Umpqua Lighthouse, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Cape Perpetua, and more. (can google it online as William M. Tugman State Park, Oregon State Parks)
Our first night was history. Our test run completed and we knew what would work best for us. We never again during the trip inflated our mattresses, taking our chances on the actual bunk beds and futons. Food prep, loading and unloading began to take on almost a formal pattern based on my tetris process. I was able to load both cars using “Tetris” in less than an hour.
After leaving Champoeg around 1:00 we headed for the Coast. A few miles outside of Lincoln City I began to get drowsy and pulled over to walk it off. We decided to find coffee in Lincoln City and ended up eating a small meal at Pig N Pancake restaurant, one of a chain in Oregon where Sweetheart and I would often dine in Astoria few years ago when we lived in Bay Center on Willapa Bay about an hour away.
We proceeded south along the coast to Newport where we had stayed on more than one occasion with Mom and father-in-law in their time share at the Embarcadero Resort. Then south through Yachats, Waldport, and Florence before turning inland to Reedsport. Another 10-15 miles and we arrived at Tugman State Park. After supper I got out the keyboard and played for about an hour while the ladies listened.
This time we were able to park right next to the yurt. We had decided to tough it out on the yurt mattresses because this time the beds were bolted down and we couldn’t even think about inflating one of our mattresses. We had a light supper and I bought breakfast supplies in nearby Lakeside, Oregon on Eel Lake.
Then it was pack up and head for Brookings and beyond, the scareful nightmare we were dreading at Packer’s Cabin high up in the Siskiyou National Forest.
July 17 – Friday. Third camp night. Now we get really rustic. Historic primitive Packer’s Cabin in Siskiyou National Forest with Rogue River in the area. Federal at Forest Service at Recreation.gov. No water, no electricity, forest roads. (can google it online as Packer’s Cabin – see video link https://vimeo.com/59353105
North of Brookings we stopped at an overlook in Port Orford.
Sweetheart had this to say about our drive from Tugman State Park through Coos Bay and on toward Brookings:
Having driven finally through Port Orford with the first sight of the ocean, waves and rocks at a viewpoint, I jumped out of the car to almost run to see the ocean (which is what the trip was about=Oregon Coast.) Sea green blue, white waves, rocks jutting skyward as pillars, it was breathtaking!
At Brookings we decided to eat at a restaurant being aware that we would arrive with a little daylight but not much time to prepare a meal by candle light or lantern after dark. Then we headed toward the North Chetco River Road exit off Highway 101 and started up the road into the mountains of the Siskiyou National Forest.
The road was paved but winding for approximately ten miles … then it became mostly gravel and and bore the name of a US Forest Service Road that changed two or three times. I had been unbelieving that Packers Cabin at 25 miles north and east of Brookings would be an hour and a half driving. The gravel road switched back and forth up the side of the mountains even as it followed the Chetco River for a while. Eventually we are out of sight of the river and staring mostly uphill at 15-20 miles per hour.
At one point, I stopped. The road was shaded considerably and maybe 100 yards away on my left side of the road was a black bear digging or eating something. I honked the horn and he stood up, raised his head and stared at us a moment before bounding off into the woods and down the hill. Mom and I were suddenly quite uneasy. I got out of the car and walked back to where Sweetheart had stopped after catching up with us (she had been hanging back to keep out of our dust as much as possible.) I explained about the bear and told her to keep the AC on and the windows up.
We continued picking our way higher and higher up the mountainside. I had copied what I thought were detailed instructions on how to find Packers Cabin. But I was handicapped by my lack of trust that the Forest Service would provide adequate signage. According to my own estimates, I knew we were within 2-3 miles of the cabin which would be at the end of a short road running off to the right.
Up to that point, when we thought we might be lost, we kept on the same road and eventually came to signage which assured us we were okay and to keep climbing. But when I saw that road turn to the right I took it, not knowing how close the cabin was via the main road. By this time Mom is totally silent and gripping her seat with both hands. I know Sweetheart is getting frustrated and as we wandered down that wrong road I had taken, we continued only until the road trickled to a trail and you could hear the grass brushing the underside of our Scion.
I got out and explained the Sweetheart (who by this time had grown impatient) that I had chosen wrong and we turned around back to the main road and proceeded to continue our climb. Within a couple of miles we encountered a sign pointing to the right and reading “Packers Cabin.”
We had found it.
But there was a forest service road barrier bar blocking the way to the cabin which we could see below. Sweetheart mentioned a combination that was needed and that I assumed to be the lock on the cabin door. She insisted it was to the barrier so I got on my back and crawled under the barrier stanchion to see. There were two padlocks and we had no key. As it was getting dark, I got out my pocket flashlight and looked at the underside of both padlocks. One needed a key but the other had 4 rolling-letter thingies that unlocked when I entered the combination Sweetheart gave me.
I only offloaded bedding and lanterns and the ice chest for munchies to avoid tempting the wildlife. Shiela was the most nervous as she seemed to sense or act as if she sensed the the Call of the Wild was outside her purview.
Mom and Shiela took the back bedroom and we took the nearer. There were only three rooms: a main room/kitchen and two bedrooms with bunk beds.
We were tired. We opened the windows which were screened and the heat – which was surprising considering our altitude – abated. But me being a little shy on common sense, I neglected to even see if the shutters which I had loosened could be hooked open on the outside. So I didn’t hook them and several times enough of a gust slammed the shutter against the side of the cabin, waking us up and startling us with aroused imaginations.
I had fallen immediately asleep but I know Mom was struggling. At around 1:00 am, Sweetheart woke me up saying she hadn’t been able to fall asleep at all. Mom was awake also after the most recent shutter bang. However, both fell asleep fairly soon and after weighing all the what-ifs including driving helter-skelter back down that road with a medical emergency for either of them, I eventually fell asleep.
Morning was bright and friendly
but we were still in no mood for breakfast. Partly because when I first went outside I found prints on the back doors of both cars and our imaginations ran wild.
Mom says she saw what looked like a nose print on one of the windows.
Well, after using the outbuilding which had what the government calls a “vaulted toilet” we cleaned up, packed up and left. Because there was no water or electricity we had purchased four gallons of water for drinking and cooking and washing but only used one gallon. There was a pond nearby but it looked like drinking water for the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
So after a very brief discussion, we decided we would reward ourselves for our courage in staying the course, er, I mean, night. We would go back to Brookings and then south to Crescent City, California and find breakfast.
After a fine – almost spectacular California breakfast – we gave Shiela some potty break relief and after an argument, put her in the car and headed back to Brookings.
July 18 – Saturday. Fourth camp night. Back to civilization at Sunset Bay State Park in Coos Bay area on central part of the coast. Staying in Yurt J, D
Don’t forget the port-a-potty facility Arthur.
Sunset Bay State Park was nice. I’d come back for a 4-5 day stay.
July 19 – Sunday. Fifth camp night. We go back to William M. Tugman State Park in Reedsport, Oregon. Again we have all those visit these places options on southern coast Oregon.
Driving up the Coast nice and easy stopping here and there to look, appreciate, picture and remember.
Tugman second visit
July 20 – Monday. Sixth and last camp night. We go back to Champoeg State Heritage Park in the area of McMinnville and Portland staying in Cabin.
The road back to Champoeg
Champoeg Park Again
Well there you have it. The last night of our itinerary and Champoeg isn’t quite as hot as it was earlier.
July 21 – Tuesday. Will be bringing Joy to her home in Tacoma. Not yet sure of Ruger plans beyond – may stay overnight at Joy’s, may head out.
After tackling I-5 from Portland to Tacoma and spending a mournful night in Tacoma thinking about driving back to Spokane, we both expressed a sense that we were not ready to call it quits. So Sweetheart called Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco, Washington (our old Pacific County stomping ground) and reserved three nights in a row at one cabin. No loading and unloading every day. Mom was delighted as she too was not ready for it all to end.
T’was wonderful … except for the second day when we were reminded that in Pacific County there are essentially two seasons of the year: Rain and No-Rain.
I got to be their escort and troubador … serenading them to sleep on my keyboard several nights … except for at Packers Cabin.