Oregon Memories

Oregon was a beautiful place to visit! It was much cooler than our family thought it would be for August, but we still really enjoyed ourselves. 

We said goodbye to Washington after only two weeks of visiting and headed to another Thousand Trail’s campground. 

South Jetty Thousand Trails was a nice campground in Florence, OR that we spent a week at. We arrived two days before the Solar Eclipse, which allowed us to decompress and see the area. 

The campground had a pool, hot tub, small playground and a Family Lodge. 

South Jetty – Thousand Trails Campground

We were only a 5-minute drive to the Sand Dunes of the Pacific Ocean and a 5-minute drive to Florence, OR. 

Visiting the Sand Dunes of South Jetty was a new experience for us. We drove the 5 minutes to the dunes while passing many ‘Off the Road Vehicles’ to park close to the ocean. After climbing the huge dune in order to get over the edge and see the ocean, the kids began to slide, roll, or tumble down the dunes with giggles and squeals! I enjoyed hearing the ocean waves and smelling the air, even if it was only 60 degrees and breezy. 

Sand Dunes – Florence, OR

We took one afternoon to visit downtown Florence and were excited to find a small produce stand right next to the docks. It was here that we caught our very first glimpse of a harbor seal!! Remember, we are a family originally from what I refer to as “Middle America” and have never seen a seal outside of a zoo before! This was exciting stuff!

Enjoying our findings from the farm stand in downtown Florence, OR

The highlight of our time in Oregon was definitely seeing the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE!

Total Solar Eclipse! 2017

I do not have words to express how amazing the experience was. It took us all by surprise how much we loved seeing it in totality! 

The morning of the Eclipse, we drove north from our campground with the intention of finding a place to park where the fog was clear and you could actually see the sun, as the large hills/mountains were blocking it out in some areas. We drove about an hour until we came upon a parking lot filled with people looking up at the sun with their solar eclipse glasses on. It was about 15 minutes south of Newport, OR on HWY 101.

They even had bathrooms there! Bonus! 

We had about 30 minutes before the Totality, which was perfect for our family’s attention span 😉 The kids played inside and outside the van, trying to stay warm. The temperature continued to drop into the 50’s as the sun was covered more and more by the moon. 

Gwen dropped her glasses down into our bike rack and we could not seem to be able to get them out, all 10 minutes before totality. Grrrr. But she did not seem to mind taking turns with us using our glasses and it all worked out. 

This was super frustrating after all that we went through to obtain a pair of solar eclipse glasses, as they were completely sold out everywhere we went in Washington and they were SUPER expensive online for the ones that were left! Our good friends Sarah and Derek shipped the few extra pairs that they had to us….but it didn’t arrive in time! However, when we checked into our campground…low and behold, there was a pile of solar eclipse glasses free for the taking at the entrance station! Whew!! 

Oh, and since the expedited shipment did not arrive to us in time, we/Sarah was refunded for the expensive shipment! It all worked out!

Okay, back to the actual Eclipse. 

When totality hit, it was absolutely quiet and still. It felt strange and cool yet thrilling. 

It was an AMAZING experience! Again, I’m at a loss for words….you have to experience it to really understand how surreal it really is!

I have already begun looking into when the next total solar eclipse will occur and where it will hit land so that we can try to plan a trip to see it!! Honestly, if you have not had a chance to ever see a TOTAL solar eclipse, you should really try to make it happen. It is a completely different experience than seeing a partial eclipse and it’s mind-blowing!

Our afternoon visit to Newport, OR was also another first for us. We bypassed the Sea Lion Caves, which would have cost our family about $100 to visit, and visited the Newport docks for free to get our first sight of sea lions (not to be confused with harbor seals…they are very different). On the docks of Newport, there were over 50 sea lions making a super loud ruckus! 

Sea Lions on the Newport docks in Oregon

We also watched a family and a few individuals do some ‘crabbing’ off the side of the docks. Again, another first for us! We learned that they attach raw chicken to the inside of the crab cage and throw it, connected by a rope, into the water. They wait about 15 minutes and then pull it up. Often there are 1 or 2 crabs in the cage! You have to have a license like you do a fishing license, and you have to throw back the small ones. 

Witnessing some ‘crabbing’ in Newport, OR

On our way back to camp from Newport, we stopped at Bob’s Creek to let the family play among the rocks and put their feet in the ocean again. It was during this visit to the ocean that I came upon a woman digging in the small rocks. I asked her if she was digging for clams, as again….I know very little about beach and ocean living. 😉 

She explained that she was beachcombing and that this was an amazing beach to find beautiful rocks and stones! So I sat next to the very kind woman and began to learn all about her life as a retired cost guard and what the names are of many of the rocks we were finding such as jasper, sea glass, and agates. 

The kids joined in and eventually Tony did too. We were hooked!

Beachcombing at Bob’s Creek, OR

It was so much fun to find new treasures, and even more enjoyable to meet and get to know a woman willing to teach our family all about what we were finding. Looking back to when we made our list of the 10 Reasons WHY we are Making the Big Change in a previous post, one reason that stands out to me was to meet new people in other areas who live different types of lives altogether. Step outside of our ‘box’ in Minnesota and learn from other cultures and ways of life…such as those who have always lived near or on the sea! 

Well that’s just what we did that evening. 

The following day, after Tony was done working, we decided to have some more ocean time while we were so close. So we drove to Heceta Head Lighthouse, about 20 minutes north of our campground. Our family had never visited a lighthouse before. Talk about marking another ‘first’ off of our list! 

Heceta Lighthouse, Oregon

We took a short hike up the trail to get near the lighthouse and see the Pacific Ocean from the high cliff. It was breathtaking, to say the least! 

View from the trail up to Heceta Light House, OR

On our way back down the trail, we found wild blackberries and picked a few for everyone to share!

Blackberry picking

We planned ahead, as I often do, and packed a picnic dinner. The kids knew that after the hike to the lighthouse and back they could go down and explore the beach. So off we went! 

The water was cold but the kids did not care at all! The sun was out, the birds and surf were making the beautiful ocean sounds and we were all in smiles. Our family really enjoys visiting the ocean. Maybe because it’s so new to us, or maybe because we all find something we really enjoy about it. For instance, Gwen and Riley LOVE to chase each other around and get as wet as they can, no matter how cold it is. While Lilya loves that she is allowed to take her shoes and socks off and run barefoot through the sand. 

Jasmine loves that she’s able to play in the world’s biggest sandbox!

Jasmine playing in the sand

Tony and I love that we can take the kids here and keep our eyes on them while still feeling like we, as the parents, get a break or a chance to catch our breaths. There are no demands placed on us such as ‘tie my shoe’ or ‘can we go the park?’ or ‘is it dinner time yet?’ because the kids are so excited to play in the sand and water that they do not want anything else! 

I have also come to really enjoy the sounds, smells, and feeling of openness and peace while visiting the Ocean. 

Heceta Beach, OR

Our time on the Oregon coast was great, but we were excited to head inland and see Crater Lake. However, the Friday we were going to leave, we learned that the wildfires were getting bad and we had to check with our next few campgrounds to make sure they were actually open. Sure enough, we found out that the campground on the very Southwest corner of Oregon we planned to stay at the following week was closed down as there was a huge forest fire! 

Harris Beach State Park was just north of Brookings, OR. The fire there was HUGE and there was no way we could go any longer. We were bummed because we planned to use that campground as our launchpad to visit the Redwood National Forest, and now all that changed. 

Part of living this lifestyle is being able to adjust and adapt when things come up. This was a true test of our abilities, as we needed to do some online searching for a new campground and check to make sure that we could still visit Crater Lake….and we only had a few hours until we had to leave our current campground in Florence! 

We found out that there were several fires on our way to Crater Lake, but we deiced to try to still make it over there as the campground was still open and the wildfires were reported to be on the smaller side.

Little did we know just how BAD the smoke would be! We had never experienced wildfires or wildfire smoke.

We also were not prepared to drive for 5 hours into the dark of the night to make it 120 miles!! The route took us on some very winding back roads and through the staging area for the firefighters. We even saw two helicopters flying overhead with water buckets hanging from them! 

Smoke-jumpers helicopter with water helping put out the fires in Oregon.

You see, we had ZERO cell service in the mountains/hills that we were driving through. No AT&T and no Verizon!! We also could not pick up ANY radio stations on FM or AM. We were driving into more smoke and saw all these firefighters and helicopters…and it was becoming dark very quickly. We were a bit on edge and wanted to make sure that it was safe to continue onward. So we pulled over into a National Forest parking lot that looked closed and empty, but had a huge paper map outside labeled ‘Fire Map’. 

The map had all the wildfire updates, so we began to read it and learn about where the fires were while the kids took turns using the RV’s bathroom.

That’s when we saw them. 

The 15 truckloads of Smoke Jumpers, aka Wildfire Firefighters, pulling into the same parking lot that we were in. We had witnessed 2 helicopters fly overhead earlier, but it is a completely different experience to see the men and women at the end of their day driving back to camp. They looked dirty, exhausted, and hungry. They gave us a small wave and continued on up the road. I believe our parking lot was their Ronde-Vue point before heading to camp, as it was getting pretty dark at this point.

What a ‘goose-bump’ feeling we had. Those men and women risk their lives every day to fight all these forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and down into California! This wasn’t a movie, this was real-life and we were right there in the middle of it, witnessing it all. 

We finally arrived at Joseph Stewart Recreational Park by 9:00 pm and it was pitch black out! Luckily, our RV is super easy to set up with a button to set up the jacks and a few buttons to open the slides, plug it in and we were all set up for the night. 

The kids really enjoyed the two playgrounds, all the other camping kids, and the paved bike paths that ran right alongside our campsite.

Playground at Joseph Stewart

Biking around Joseph Stewart campground in Oregon

Tony and I did too! But the smoke was so bad that Tony, Riley and I all had headaches, we continued to find ash in our hair, our eyes were stinging, and our throats hurt! As parents, we knew this was not a healthy place for our family to continue to stay. So once again, we had to search for a place to move, and soon. 

Since we made the drive and arrived late Friday night, we decided that after the kids got in a little biking and playground time we’d head to Crater Lake for the day. Then our plan was to leave the following morning, whether we got a refund or not from our current reservations.

Crater Lake was on our bucket list and we REALLY wanted to see it!

It was a 40-minute drive to Crater Lake National Park, but once we arrived we realized that we could BREATH again! Yay! 

Crater Lake

We had a picnic lunch at the visitor center before driving around part of the rim of Crater Lake. While at the visitor center, we learned that there was another wildfire just on the west side of the rim road on the west side of Crater Lake. They had the road still open, but the fire was getting close and the smoke was coming in. So we decided to stay on the east side of the rim.

We drove up the rim and were able to take many beautiful pictures of the deep blue lake with the blue sky in the background. 

Crater Lake

We got the kids out and did a short hike, enjoyed a special treat from Daddy, and found a bathroom (even though Jasmine has learned to pee in the woods pretty easily). 

On our way back to the entrance, we stopped at a large waterfall right off the rim road. It was then that Tony found a piece of ash in my hair….again. We looked up and realized that it was becoming hazy again, you couldn’t see the blue sky, and our eyes were starting to hurt. The smoke was heading our way. 

Fires at Crater Lake, OR

We are so grateful that we had our few hours that morning with clean air to breath and to view the amazing Crater Lake, but it was time for us to head back to camp and get online to search out yet another campground to move to. One further south and hopefully out of the smoke of Oregon. 

After only spending 9 days in Oregon, it was time to head to California. 

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