One way to decide where to go for a weekend camping getaway in the Pacific Northwest in March is basically just to see where it isn’t raining. On this particular weekend, a look at the radar and some weather research led us to the Oregon Coast (of all places), and specifically to Siuslaw National forest, just east of Lincoln City. We didn’t realize until a little later that the forest is actually split up into two to three different sections up and down the coastline, starting around Lincoln City, spanning as far south latitudinally as Eugene and Newport. We started our adventure this weekend on a rainy, dark Friday; what ended up a failed attempt to explore (for the first time) camping spots on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. Lesson learned: perhaps initial exploration into a totally foreign area should occur during daytime and not on a Friday night after a long day at work.
After our failure the night before, we set out on Saturday morning to the Oregon coast, passing through rain, sun, and clouds all at the same time. As I’ve heard time and time again since moving here, if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes! We finally hit a large swath of green on the GPS a little past Salem and Independence, and we did just like we normally do: we go off road on the first passable dirt path we could find. The old logging roads in this area of the forest are pretty great, and the less traveled ones often lead to little pockets of camping spots and moss covered trunks, ferns, and little birch clearings. The only downside to finding these cozy little spots was simply the garbage. It was a little maddening, sad, and frustrating to find a cute little clearing only to see it littered with old plastic bottles, plastic bags, and at worst: old burnt couches, car parts, and even an old fire scarred dirtbike tossed thoughtlessly in an otherwise pristine, clear-water creek.
After bumbling through the brush, speeding through mud puddles so as not to get our Honda HRV with street tires stuck, and having to stop to move fallen trunks, we finally found a very overgrown, very old logging road. It was so old, you could barely tell it used to be a road at all. It was beautiful and pristine, covered in untouched moss, full of overgrown ferns, and the best part: not a sign of recent human presence! We parked the car at the start of the barely-there trail and hiked in until we found a little flat clearing surrounded by tall, leafless birch trees. Then we set up camp in the sunny afternoon. This is possibly a first for us as we’re often setting up camp by headlamp, in the dark, in the rain. It was a nice change of pace.
After setting up camp, we explored our surroundings a bit more. We found that we were on the very edge of the forest, bordering private logging lands. We also found out that our two boxer dogs, Jupiter and Juno, are actually quite good at pathfinding, and even leading us back to base camp. At one point, to get over a little ridge, Micheal and I tried to carve out our own stupidly difficult path as the girls galloped ahead. On our way back, we followed the girls and discovered that they had found a neat little path to get over the ridge that was totally passable, even by clumsy bipeds.
One of the things I actually love about camping this time of year is not feeling guilty about going to bed at 8 o’clock and sleeping as long the sun is down. A nightcap out of a mini box of wine does not feel out of place here, and waking up in a tent is probably one of the few times where I actually appreciate the morning hours. There is never any hurry, no clock, and always delicious camp coffee. Waking up to the soft mossy forest undergrowth right on the other side of the tent is also a pretty good perk. When you finally get drag yourself out of your cozy sleeping bag, open up the vestibule, step outside, and look back at the tent, you can’t help but to think: “oh, well…hello, tent!”