Fort Clatsop and the Astoria Bridge

We departed Cape Lookout with the intention of making it well up into Washington that day. We wanted to drive over the long bridge over the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, and we wanted to stop at Cape Disappointment State Park on the Washington side to see if it would be a fun place for a future vacation.

On our approach to Astoria, we discovered that there was a Lewis & Clark National Park site on our route, so we decided to check it out. Turns out it was the site where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter after arriving at the Pacific, before their journey back to St. Louis in 1806.

Of course, due to the government shutdown, the visitor center wasn’t open.

We found a way around to the trail behind the visitor center, and were able to see a recreation of the original fort.

It looked cold.

Then we made it to the Columbia, and the super scary tall bridge that goes over the mouth of the river.

Then….we made it back to WASHINGTON!

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Cape Lookout and Tillamook

Our final yurt stay was at Cape Lookout State Park, and we decided to stay 2 nights there so that we could explore Tillamook for a day, which was just about 10 miles from there.

Cape Lookout is one of 3 notable capes on a short stretch of the Oregon coastline, and it is a beautiful place to be sure.

We spent some time hunting for agates at the beach, which we’ll post about later.

We were so glad to have a dry evening so that we could have a campfire! Although we were accosted by some VERY bold raccoons. Sadly, none of our photos of said fuzzy raccoons were acceptable.

Our day in Tillamook was rainy and dark so we were happy to have some things to do inside. First, we had breakfast at the famous Tillamook Creamery!

This place is AMAZING! We ate breakfast there, then spent a few hours at the local public library (which was gorgeous, but alas, we took no photos) and we returned to the creamery for lunch and ice cream! We also took the self-guided tour of the cheese factory upstairs in the new swanky visitor center. This place has CHANGED since the last time we were there, about 15 years earlier! It’s expensive, but also fun. And delicious.

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The Yurts of the Oregon Coast

We arrived in Oregon on a rainy, grey, chilly day. It definitely felt like home, and an appropriate welcome back to the Pacific Northwest. We stopped just after the border at a beautiful welcome center at Crissey Field. The ladies volunteering there were gems, and it was a beautiful visitor center, with informative and interactive exhibits about the local marine wildlife. Good job, Oregon.

We drove past a sea stack arch, and had to stop to take a photo, but boy oh boy, the weather was terrible!

We discovered a few days before heading back to Oregon that basically all of the state parks on the coast with campgrounds had yurts to rent. Since the weather had pretty much permanently turned for the worse, this seemed a very inviting option, so we tried one out at Bullards Beach State Park.

This was the perfect solution to our wet camping problem. We could still feel like we were camping, we had all the right equipment, including bedding, we would still be in beautiful places near the coast, and the cost of the yurts was significantly less than hotels would have been. And we would be warm and dry! Hooray! That first night in our yurt, we learned to play cribbage, and created a bit of a monster in Charlie, who took to the game right away…

In the morning, we were surprised during breakfast by a flock of wild turkeys. They wandered into our campsite and hung around for a while, making funny little noises and pecking at the ground.

Before we left, we checked out the historic lighthouse in the park and found a slimy friend.

Our second yurt stay was at William Tugman State Park at Eel Lake, just north of Coos Bay.

Eel lake is a beautiful, peaceful freshwater lake where folks like to fish. They have a steelhead nursery there, and the lake was named because of a preponderance of….eels. On our visit, it was calm, misty, and mysterious. We enjoyed the quiet.

We met a few amphibious friends here.

Our third yurt stay was at South Beach State Park, just South of Newport
While in the area, we visited Depoe Bay, where there is a whale watching station with volunteers to answer questions and man a series of interpretive exhibits. Brad spotted a spout way out and the volunteer said it was the first they’d been able to see in 3 days due to the nasty weather. Hooray!

We also visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center, which was AWESOME! It’s a by-donation place, and they had amazing things for the kids to do and learn. What a great thing to do on a rainy afternoon!

While at our yurt stay at South Beach State Park, we just happened to look up at night to find a clear sky and a lunar eclipse going on! What luck!

We explored the beach at South Beach State Park a bit before heading up to our next yurt stay…it was a beautiful expansive sandy beach!

Yurts are awesome! We all agree. You can stay toasty and warm, and DRY (they have electric heaters!), and they have lights, and mattresses, and covered porches! Oregon, you gotta good thing going here! We might need to spend some future summer going from yurt to yurt (which is what we did for our 5 nights in Oregon).

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Wine Country to Redwoods

Well, we were not given a very nice day to spend in California Wine Country, but we tried to make the most of it. We visited the Alexander Valley Winery first thing in the morning. Kinda weird to be doing a wine tasting at 10am, but hey – if they’re serving…!

This guy was great. He even managed to include the kids on this event, which would seemingly have been very grown-up-only.

Tasting carmel and fudge from a local artisan shop.

We might have purchased a few…ahem…several bottles of wine that day.

Then we rejoined the coast and headed into California Redwood country. We drove the “Avenue of the Giants” scenic roadway on our way to Eureka and stopped at a really awesome visitor center along the way. Hidden gems off the beaten path!

It was really rainy…

The Travel Log

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Monterey to Wine Country

We were glad to spend a rainy day in the aquarium. After leaving Monterey, we drove up to the other end of the bay and stayed at a state park (I think it was “South Beach”, but not sure) and it was one of the worst camping experiences of the trip. Not only was it rainy (which we were prepared for, both practically and spiritually), but our reserved spot was taken when we arrived and we accidentally chose a spot that was right next to a HUGE group of noisy, disrespectful, annoying middle schoolers. Oy. AND, there were devilish raccoons in that campground that snuck up on you and surprised you. NOT GOOD! We high-tailed it out of there the next morning.

We drove past a lot of beautiful scenery on the way to San Francisco, but it was so rainy and foggy and gross, that we didn’t take many photos.

But then we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. That was pretty cool.

We drove through this horrible rain to a wholly unremarkable RV park in Calistoga, in California Wine Country. Hoping to make it to at least one winery the next day for a little taste…

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Monterey Bay Aquarium

Brad and I had been to this aquarium many years ago (maybe 15…?) and we remember loving it then. We were excited to show it to the kiddos. The place is even better than before, and we had a spectacular day. We learned all about sea otters, lysen albatrosses, giant sea bass, sea turtles, abalone, sardines, deep sea exploration, kelp forest ecosystems, and lots of other things. We enjoyed lunch at the new cafe, gazing out into the bay at otters and sea lions. It was a great day.

Before we left, we were treated to a spectacular full-arc rainbow out over the bay.

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A Day in Monterey

Our good weather karma had worn out, and we were looking at the last rain-free day in a while, so we took it as an opportunity to explore Monterey on foot. We got up and marched down the hill from our peaceful campsite toward the San Carlos Cathedral, an historic building, and part of the original Presidio in Monterey.

We didn’t go in, since there was a church service in session when we arrived.

Next, we found the biggest playground we’ve EVER SEEN!

The kids had a fun time playing here, but we had much to see, so after a bit, we continued to the old Fisherman’s Wharf…

We could hear (and see with binoculars) the sea lions hauled out on the pier under the current and working fisherman’s wharf, just across the bay, and we could see and hear them covering the breakwater in the distance as well.

From the end of the pier, we had a great view of several sea otters, foraging and eating, and rollicking about in the calm waters just off the wharf.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch in that spot, under the watchful eye of…

We finished our day with a walk through Cannery Row (more of a touristy candyland than a historic site these days) and visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium office to purchase our tickets for the next day. Then we rode the trolley halfway back to our campsite and hauled our weary selves up the hill. It was a good day.

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