Florida Man on the Run

Adventures on the Oregon Coast Highway

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The final leg of our road trip brought us along the Oregon Coast Highway. Though the Pacific Coast Highway proper had ended many miles before, the Oregon Coast Highway continued on as a spiritual, if not literal, extension. This wonderful stretch of road hugs the Pacific Ocean for much of its distance. The drive itself is quite enjoyable. The surrounding terrain shifts a good deal as you continue north, presenting new sights that we had yet to see. There are also quite a few small towns along the way, giving the drive a more “civilized” feel than some of the long stretches found on the Pacific Coast Highway. The miles at this point had certainly begun to add up, but these were two great days on the coast.

Crossing the Border Into Oregon

The Welcome to Oregon sign as you cross into the state on the Oregon Coast Highway
Thanks for the rainy greeting, Oregon!

California is a lengthy state. The vast majority of this road trip took place in California, but the second phase didn’t truly begin until we crossed the border into Oregon. We had two days on the Oregon Coast Highway (and two more in Portland) when we set out from Crescent City. We encountered the first heavy rains of the trip as we approached the border. I made sure to brave the rain and snatch a photo of the Oregon border sign. We had traveled over 1,056 miles to that point and a little rain wasn’t going to stop my celebration of checking another state off my to-do list.

The rain did keep us mostly in the car for the first part of the day. I braved the wind and rain to snatch a couple coastal photos. I settled on staying dry just north of Pistol River when the wind nearly yanked my car door off. Spending the rest of the drive into Coos Bay in the car, we still had some fantastic views. The rains began to letup right as we came into town. Having continually discovered great vegan places on the trip, we weren’t disappointed by our lunch stop at Tin Thistle Cafe. While they are only open a few hours a day, the food was simply top notch. I highly recommend it. It certainly provided us the fuel needed for the second half of our day.

Along the Dunes on the Oregon Coast

After getting our fill at lunch, we continued our drive north. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area covers miles of the Oregon Coast north of Coos Bay. These magnificent dunes can provide hours of fun with hiking, sandboarding, and riding ATVs. The dunes are such a unique spot and their massive area allows all these activities and more. Unfortunately, we didn’t have hours to spend here. Just shy of an hour north of Coos Bay lies the Oregon Dunes overlook. This overlook provides access to a number of trails, something of which we did take advantage.

The open dunes were a great place to stretch your legs on the Oregon Coast Highway
The wide open dunes where we frolicked

Having been told to stay off the dunes my entire life in Florida, it was simply a blast to run around on the open sand. The trail leads you through a wide open area to explore. Beyond that the trail cuts through the last vestiges of forest before exiting onto the beach dunes. We choose to skip the longer walk all the way to the beach, our energy being still pretty drained from the prior two days. The dune landscape is still breathtaking and I highly recommend stopping to explore it.

The drive from the overlook along the Oregon Coast Highway to Newport continues to hug the ocean. A number of other stops can be found on the way, but you’ll need to make sure to keep a close eye out. We drove past Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn because neither is marked on the road. There are pull-offs, but by the time GPS alerted me that my destination had arrived, it was well past where you need to get out.

Avoiding Disaster in Newport

Anchor Pier Lodge, Newport, OR
The view from our balcony at Anchor Pier Lodge

On any large adventure, there is bound to be a mishap with accommodations. One of the first nights I reserved on this trip had been Newport. Having put it in the back of my mind, I failed to change our reservation when I eliminated one of our days in LA. Mortified by my mistake (and the increasing chance of sleeping in the car), I scrambled to come up with a solution. Luckily, the front desk clerk at our original destination came to the rescue. She not only knew of a wonderful place in town, but called to help arrange for us to stay there. What had begun as a possible tragedy ended up being one of the highlights of the trip.

Stay at Anchor Pier Lodge while on the Oregon Coast Highway and enjoy some time with the sea lions.
One of our sea lion friends

Disaster having been averted, we took a short drive through the quaint harbor district to our new lodging. Immediately upon parking, we could hear the distinctive barking of sea lions. The Anchor Pier Lodge sits directly above a nifty gift and discovery tour shop. The views are amazing and so is the wildlife. I’ll be doing a full review of Anchor Pier Lodge in the future, but if you’re staying in Newport there isn’t a better spot. The sea lions sang us the song of their people until the early hours of the morning, but to be honest it simply added to how wonderful the hotel was.

Tillamook and the North Oregon Coast

We spent some time the following morning with our friends, the sea lions, before heading north. Just a few minutes outside of town is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Nearly 150 years old, the lighthouse is a great spot to see gray whales. The gray whales added to the growing list of wildlife we saw near Newport. You’ll also need to head down to the beach below. The beach is comprised of millions of smoothed rocks. As the waves drag them back to the sea, the rocks create a soothing sound similar to a rain stick. It was such a cool phenomena to encounter and the roiling ocean beyond is beautiful.

We opted to forgo the Three Capes Scenic Route on the way to Tillamook. With the final stretch of road past Cape Mears closed, it required a lengthy backtrack into Tillamook. For the first time on this road trip, I avoided taking the scenic route. The 101 into Tillamook winds its way through large stretches of green farmland. Many of these farms provide dairy to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the next stop on our trip.

Cannon Beach was an enjoyable stop on the Oregon Coast Highway
The iconic Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

The first thing you’ll notice when arriving at the cheese factory is the smell of cow poop. While not overpowering, it is makes its presence known immediately. The smell doesn’t follow you into the visitor center, which allowed me to snack on cheese in peace. The current visitor center is quite nice, offering a wide variety of cheese (as fitting for a cheese factory). The visitor center also has a sizable gift shop offering both Oregon and Tillamook gear for purchase. By summer 2018 they will have a massive brand new visitor center which looks quite fancy. Tillamook was a nice stop on the Oregon Coast Highway but I wouldn’t say its required unless you have a huge love for cheese (which I certainly do).

As we completed the last parts of our drive north, we made one final stop at Haystack Rock. The huge sea stack is easily accessible from the beach at low tide, though we didn’t arrive in time to walk out to it. The large open beach makes the perfect spot to catch the sunset if you’re ready to stop for the night. We had much more to see that day and didn’t spend a ton of time with the rock since we couldn’t get to it.

At the Mouth of the Columbia

As the day wore on, our final coastal destinations called to us. The recreation of Fort Clatsop was next on the itinerary. While the original recreation burned down a few years ago, the new restoration is great. Having arrived late in the afternoon on a Sunday, the park wasn’t very crowded. You can easily tour the fort and visitor center in about an hour. However, they have regular demonstrations during other days of the week which could allow much more time to be spent there. The damp and chill weather helped to form a mental image of what spending a winter there would be like. Lewis and Clark were true pioneers and it made the historical side of me immensely happy to visit this site.

From Fort Clatsop we took a short drive to our final stop on the Oregon coast. Fort Stevens State Park sits at the mouth of the Columbia River. This iconic river, the bane of my childhood video game existence (If dysentery didn’t get you, the Columbia would). We made a quick stop by the wreak of the Peter Iredale. While not as impressive as I’d have hoped, it was a good reminder of just how dangerous the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean can be.

Where the Columbia River meets the Pacific in the distance

The next few miles brought me to the northern extents of this journey. I have never been so far north, or so far away from home. 2,500 miles separated me from the place where I’ve always laid my head. As I stood on the observation platform, staring at the Columbia meeting the Pacific, I yearned for more adventure. With the wind cuting to the bone, cold spray from the ocean on my face, and I couldn’t have been happier. Just another in the long collection of moments confirming that this trip was just a beginning.

Leaving the Oregon Coast Highway

We elected to take the more scenic route as we left the Oregon Coast Highway for Portland. We left Fort Stevens and stayed on US 30 onward to Portland. Though not particularly remarkable, it served as a change from the long miles of coast. Our continual motion north had ended and inland we returned. It signaled the finale of a journey, one in which I discovered more than I had ever imagined. As I neared the final steps of this adventure, there remained one final revelation ahead. Portland loomed in the distance and she was calling me home.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions at all. To catch more of my adventures in real time be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

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