On a Tuesday morning, in heavy rain, we pulled the MoHo out of the driveway and headed west toward the ocean. We were grateful that Oregon loosened some of the restrictions on campgrounds in our state, including some of the state parks and private RV parks. With our original reservation cancelled for the Turtle Rock RV Resort back in mid-March, there was no guarantee that our rebooked visit would happen. The rain didn’t bother us as it came and went as we traveled Highway 199 toward Brookings. Like a typical summer rain, the sun would shine through the heavy clouds often enough that I had to keep taking off my sunglasses and putting them back on to see. We are used to the route, and pay little attention to the narrow, curvy sections that can be daunting to drivers not familiar with the highway.
We were somewhat surprised at all the RV traffic heading in both directions, some going to the beach, others returning back inland. Somewhere along the route, I noticed that a large number of vehicles had California plates. Oh wait, we were actually IN California when I saw that. Well, no matter whether you are from California or Oregon, traveling to this section of coast requires traveling in both states.
It felt a bit strange to motor right through Brookings, past Harris Beach State Park which opened just two days prior but had a sign stating “reservations only”. Friend Nickie won’t like that, for sure. We have adjusted to the need for reservations in the last couple of years at many of the locations we like to visit, but others not so much. It is one of the big changes in RVing life that makes spontaneous trips a bit more difficult.
Our destination was another 30 miles north, just south of Gold Beach. Neighbors on our street told us about the RV park that they love, Turtle Rock RV Resort and Spa. The park is located right next to Highway 101, with a short trail to the beach, full hookups, and hot tubs at some sites, and nice looking cabins. Being used to state parks and their more open, spacious, and usually private campsites, we were a bit surprised at how close the sites were spaced at Turtle Rock. When we arrived, the park was very nearly full, and our site facing Hunter Creek was very close to rigs on either side of us, with our included metal fire ring in a strange spot behind the rig, right next to the other camper’s picnic table. Weird. Ah well, we are at the beach and that is what matters.
I notice as I write this blog that I didn’t take any photos of the campground itself. I remember thinking at the time that I should have done so, but just couldn’t bring myself to walk around the crowded area taking pictures of all the big rigs with all the people. Once again, I saw how popular our coast is with people coming from California, with 80 percent of the rigs bearing California plates, along with some from Utah, Montana, Nevada, and even a few from Oregon. Since we usually travel the coast during winter, I forgot what a popular place it can be in the summer. Mo and I laughed, remembering how much Judy (Bird Lady of Blogland) disliked her stay as a volunteer for 3 months at our favorite Harris Beach. She was there in the summer and said it was crowded, noisy, filled with kids and thoughtless campers, and was always foggy.
We didn’t have thoughtless campers, although there was a very large family that gathered just outside our bedroom windows on the first night for their campfire. Thankfully they were quiet by ten, and although we didn’t talk to them beyond the polite “hi’s”, they weren’t a problem. Except for a couple of loners like us, it felt weird to have so many people close enough to see the whites of our eyes when we stepped outside.
After settling in, we leashed Mattie and headed for the beach. The skies had cleared earlier in the day and the beach was beautiful. The small trail is easy enough without the huge sand dunes and longer distances required to get to the beach at some of the bigger state parks, so we appreciated that. The other thing we really liked is that this beach, just a mile and a half south of Gold Beach, is long and open, with some pretty rocks, but no big cliffs that limit how far you can walk along the shore.
Mattie loves the beach, and now it has become one of the words that we have to spell around her so she doesn’t get crazy excited. It isn’t the water that makes her day, it is the soft sand. Sure enough, when we said beach she was ready to go. The minute we turned her loose on the sand she did the crazy running in circles thing that she loves. Nice thing about this beach is that not being a state park, there are no leash laws in effect, and we only had to leash her if someone with a dog was nearby. She did get a bit carried away and her excuse for not listening to us call her was the wind. Mo did have to leash her a bit to get her to calm down, and finally she settled down. It is so much fun to see her running in the sand.
Dinner that first evening was an easy dinner cooked at home, ribs and salad. The night was windy but other than that very quiet, and the park is dark enough without the obtrusive night lights that can be so disconcerting in some RV parks.
The creek did surprise both of us and Mattie when she thought it was just a shallow thing she could jump. Oops. Suddenly we saw an animal swimming fast and hard against the current and it was a few seconds before we realized it was Mattie! She doesn’t like to swim, but if forced to she is a strong swimmer. Thank goodness. We were looking for agates and only looked down for a minute when she thought she could jump across the creek to visit the two women walking on the other side.
After our beach walk, we drove to Gold Beach to check out the town, and possibly find a restaurant with some good fish and chips. We like our fish lightly breaded with a crispy coating rather than the thick beer batter that seems to be so popular. With a bit of asking around, we found an open restaurant, with plenty of social distancing, and some very good fish and chips with the light non greasy coating we like. The Landing North was a good choice for our first indoor visit to a restaurant since the beginning of the COVID lockdowns.
Driving around Gold Beach a bit to explore the town after dinner, we didn't find many places that were open. Unlike Brookings, there isn’t a particularly interesting shopping area. There is a gift shop at the Mail Boat Museum, where I bought a wonderful thick zippered sweatshirt and we enjoyed the museum. There are a few small “antique” stores along Highway 101. Only one small shop was open and the wonderful book store/coffee shop that I have visited in the past was still closed down for the shutdown. Gold Beach seemed very quiet on this Tuesday evening.
Back home at our site, Mo unloaded our firewood and we decided to move the metal fire ring to a more reasonable spot closer to our picnic table and not in a weedy hole where it had been. After supper we had a wonderful fire while watching the sunset. This time I did remember the marshmallows, and enjoyed roasting them to golden brown perfection in the coals. I have discovered that I can buy marshmallows, cook maybe 4 of them, and then stick the bag back in the freezer without losing any quality. Mo doesn’t eat them and I can only manage 4 at the most and until I learned the freezer trick I would have a bag of dried out unused marshmallows after every trip.
We decided that since the weather was so gorgeous, and we were in right there in Gold Beach, it would be a good time to take the famous Mail Boat trip to Agness. I ordered the tickets online, with a code sent to my phone for the first run the next morning.
There are several different trips offered, but we chose the shorter trip that doesn’t include the whitewater portion of the river that is accessible east of Agness. We wanted the shorter trip mostly because we didn’t want to leave Mattie in the rig for more than a few hours, and partly because a shorter trip seemed like a nice way to spend a day without wearing ourselves out completely.
The weather was perfect for our trip, with clear skies and high winds, which don’t affect the jet boat mail boats in the least. We arrived a bit early to walk around the port area, enjoying the signs telling the story of the Rogue River, the historic Mary D Hume, the beautiful coastal bridge, and the famous mail boat run to Agness.
The beautiful Patterson Bridge
It was a beautiful day on the river with plenty of social distancing on the bigger boat that does the 64 mile round trip to Agness. The boats that do the 100 mile trip are a lot smaller and people seemed to be sitting a lot closer together on those boats. Our boat had benches that were around 12 feet wide and the river captain made sure families sat together at opposite ends of the benches, with alternate seating in front and behind us in the middle of the benches. Only one man wore a mask. The wind was so strong that hats weren’t an option and masks would have blown right off our faces. With that wind I am reasonably certain that a droplet of anything filled with a virus wouldn’t have a chance of actually landing on us.
When we arrived at the Cougar Lane Lodge, we walked uphill to a beautifully redone resort for lunch (not included in the cost of the trip). There were big picnic tables set 10 or 12 feet apart and families were distanced much more than is required. We shared a hamburger with some truly tasty fries and a beer and some lemonade. Yummy! We had an hour and a half at the restaurant, then walking around the river a bit before boarding once again for the downriver ride. It was hot and sunny as we boarded the boat, and we both realized that we had neglected to use sunscreen. It is easy to forget when it is chilly and windy and we haven’t been outdoors for a bit. Our faces the next day told the story of that forgotten suncreen!
The ride back downriver was faster then the upriver trip, with less commentary by the boatman. We saw wildlife all along the way on both directions, but with only a phone for photos and a fast moving boat, I was unable to catch any kind of pictures that are worth posting of the harbor seals, sea lions, otters, eagles, ospreys, egrets, killdeer, cormorants, deer, Roosevelt elk, and racoons.
By the time we reached the port back in Gold Beach, we were both ready to be out of the wind and off the boat, thankful that we had opted for the shorter trip. With such a big filling lunch, we didn’t need a big dinner, and simply ate a few leftovers to keep evening hunger at bay. Once again we had a beautiful fire and a subtle sunset before settling in for another windy night. Not once were we able to open our awning due to the winds. I have some really cute lights for that awning, red peppers that I bought back in Florida a dozen years ago, but I never seem to put them up because the few times we have hookups, it is either windy or stormy. Maybe someday we can put out our awning. We replaced the old one last year, but have only put it out once since we got it.
The winds finally died down on Friday morning, as we were heading back south and east toward home. The inland weather was predicted to be hot, in the high 90’s by the time we returned to Grants Pass and this time the traffic was almost exclusively heading toward the beach. We saw so many RV’s on the road, with lots of trailers, big rigs, little rigs, campers and cars with carriers. Even though we thought the beach was crowded during the week, it was just a tiny bit of the deluge of people that were at the Oregon coast on the weekend. We saw news stories about the overload of people crowding the beaches and parks. Everyone is tired of staying home and traveling in an RV and going camping seems to be extremely popular right now. At least you can cook at home in your rig, use your own bathroom and social distance as much as you are willing when traveling in an RV. Our local RV sales outlets are saying that they are selling trailers faster than they can bring them in. I guess this summer the roads will be incredibly busy, especially in places that are accessible like the Oregon coast.
I fell in love with our river all over again, from a completely different perspective. We took the jetboat ride from Grants Pass downriver in 2018, and through the rapids. The forests are different from the coastal side of the river, with huge groves of myrtlewood trees, Douglas-fir, alder, hemlock, and giant chinquapins. It is thick and lush with the moisture from the coastal breezes unlike the drier landscape in the rocky canyons just west of Grants Pass. I am glad we went to the coast when we did, and had a chance to enjoy the beautiful lower section of the Rogue.
Now it is time to think about where we will go next. Maybe the Cascade Lakes? Maybe Medicine Lake? Who knows. But it won’t be Hyatt Lake or Howard Prairie where we camped last year. Reports are now with our drought that all the boat launches are closed and they are begging people to go harvest the fish dying in the low lying ponds that are left of these two reservoirs. Sad stuff. So far it is a cooler spring, but we are still in a long term drought in Oregon. Today as I write we are having an unseasonably cool and cloudy day here in Grants Pass, with a predicted high of only 68F. The coming week will be cool as well, with temperatures only rising to the low 80’s by the 4th. I am not complaining in the least. Home is wonderful, flowers love the cooler weather, and the longer we have unseasonable cool weather, the less likely we are to have summer and fall fires. Let’s hope for the best.
It is good to be home.