Redwoods National Park casts a mood along the lines of Mirkwood, the dark forest of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Hobbit trilogy, inhabited by giant spiders, overseen by the Eye of Sauron, home of Gollum, a land terrorized by the occasional raid of marauding Orcs. It is damp, mossy, cool when not cold, and packed with large trees and many fallen logs each large enough to burden a single lumber truck. There are no giant spiders, but we saw banana slugs, yellow creepers that eat anything. This is where we almost lost Bugger. It would have been lovely under better circumstances, and deserves mention for what it is: nice but something less interesting than Sequoia NP, or just the lower half of Yosemite. It likely would have been more comfortable in the summer, but it looked pretty good as it is in our rearview mirrors as we set out on the Pacific Coast Highway, or CA- and OR-101.
Kat and I approached OR-101 with a measure of trepidation; 101 is mostly a single lane in each direction broken up by turn-outs and climbing lanes. The highway does wind and is steep in places, but in general is easily drivable even pulling a heavy trailer at 40 to 45 mph. Cars can average 50 if the driver knows the road. The scenery is magnificent on sunny days when you will see deep blue water, a lighter blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds, and crashing white-topped swells breaking up on brown rocks the size of office buildings.
Our first stop yielded one of our all-time favorite campgrounds – Cape Blanco S.P. near Port Orford, OR — which has a well-kept, fully functional lighthouse and features water and electric connections in its paved and widely spaced sites. Its sites are all walk-ins (at least before summer), and with our Monday arrival we landed a prime location. Our first Oregon coast meal was clam chowder and fish ‘n chips served at The Crazy Norwegian in Port Orford. Each was an excellent example of two regional specialties, and I am pleased to note that up here everyone offers malt vinegar with fish ‘n chips.
Umpqua Lighthouse S.P. near Reedsport came next. This is a small, reservable campground with a few electric sites, sewer and water, plus space for maybe 30 tents. The weather was cold and damp (hey, you’re in Oregon in spring: whaddaya expect?) but the local seafood market sold us some big Pacific oysters, too big to chomp on the half shell, yet became fine Bienvilles and roasted garlic cheese-toppeds. Kat found a local bakery and its sour dough baguette served as a wonderful sponge for their left-behind sauce.
66 miles north on OR-101 we set up housekeeping at Seal Rock RV Park. There’s not much to see at Seal Rock now (most whales migrate earlier or later) so our day trip took us to Newport and its famed old Nye Beach. Nye Beach is also a neighborhood with steep narrow streets, ancient homes and storefronts, salt air, with the roar of the ocean as background music. It felt like San Francisco. When I write about food in the next blog, I’ll tell you all about The Chowder Bowl.
Long and short: respect OR-101, drive sensibly, and you need not fear it.