Nov 232012

Entering Ecola State Park in Oregon

This is our version of Black Friday. A misty day with a drive in the forest, that sounds about right. No crowds of hysterical people fighting over discounted stuff for us, nope, just the serenity of the woods. While we had opted not to stay overnight in Ecola State Park, which worked out because it turned out that we couldn’t have, we were still curious what the park looked like. Well this is perfect, we love ferns, and wet plants, and heavy bark, moss, red leaves, and spiders. I am so happy most everyone else would rather be at Best Buy or Walmart today; lucky them.

Moss covered trees in Ecola State Park in Oregon

Before entering the park a sign called our attention to Mo’s Seafood Restaurant in Cannon Beach. Hot chowder sounded good, but they don’t open until 11:00 so we are here in the park instead, eye dessert before soul food never hurt anyway. The rain starts to come down harder and we’re feeling to lazy to don rain gear and so we restrict our tour of the park to the car. No matter because we are distracted by thoughts of steamy hot clams and coffee.

Ferns at Ecola State Park in Oregon

After leaving the park we returned to Mo’s for a big bowl of Slumgullion – clam chowder with bay shrimp. This is the first time we’ve visited this location in Cannon Beach, normally we stop at their original location in Newport overlooking the bay. It’s great here as we are right on the beach and the chowder does just what it’s supposed to do: warming our insides.

Entering Fort Clatsop in northern Oregon

The turn off to Fort Clatsop National Historical Park talks to Caroline and her collection of Junior Ranger badges, “This is the opportunity for another.” Of course we’ll stop in the rain. It doesn’t matter how many other times we’ve been here, I’m certain it’ll be wonderful again. In front of the park ranger my wife turns into an age appropriate kid to ask for a Junior Ranger booklet. Bouncing up and down with her broad smile she nearly pleads with the ranger, “No, really, I’m a 12 year old at heart, let me do it, please, please, please – pretty please!”

On the grounds at Fort Clatsop in Oregon

The ranger hands over the booklet and she’s off like a kid at Christmas about to open a present. With rain jackets and a loaned umbrella we go down the trail into the dripping wet forest where Lewis & Clark wintered over following their historic journey to this point near the end of the Columbia river and what is now called Lewis and Clark River. Along the way Caroline has to identify a bunch of plants, describe them, and draw pictures of their primary characteristics. At the recreation of the fort she sits down out of the rain in one of the rooms to compose a poem as one of the exercises.

Inside the replica of Fort Clatsop in Oregon

The now famous location where my wife composed the poem that earned her a coveted Junior Ranger badge.

A dugout at Fort Clatsop National Historical Park in Oregon

Back into the rain and over to the river we walked for a return visit celebrating one we made however many years ago. The rest of the Junior Ranger test takes place in the museum and that we where we were headed after this visit to the shore and this replica dugout similar to one Lewis and Clark might have used.

Caroline Wise being sworn in as a Junior Ranger at Fort Clatsop National Historical Park in Oregon

I already gave away the surprise that once again and probably for about the 25th time, Caroline is being sworn in as a Junior Ranger. Now officially badged as an officer at Fort Clatsop she will have to meet her obligations and oath to protect yet another park and help educate visitors to be responsible. With badge, patch, and certificate of accomplishment we are off to celebrate with a cup of coffee from Dutch Brothers – yum. We make a note as we pass through Astoria to come back for a visit of the Columbia River Maritime Museum, seems like we can never do it all. It rains all the way back to Portland. After checking in at the Rodeway Inn near the airport we go on the hunt for the Acropolis – a Steak & Tile joint, Caroline’s first. Her impression of having poontang flashed before her was: meh.

Next day we had enough time to visit downtown Portland for a return to Powell’s City of Books and something to eat at Food Truck Square. Snarfed down some grilled cheese sandwiches, a chunky monkey Belgian waffle, an order of poutine, and six and a half hours of scouring shelves at the bookstore. A perfect end to our Thanksgiving trip to Oregon. Oh yeah, after leaving Powell’s we went one more time over to the food trucks for a yummy pork belly sandwich from the same guy who makes poutine, check him out at Sideshow Eatery.

Nov 222012

View from our yurt on the Oregon coast

The luxury of our Jetboil never ceases to amaze us, best camping purchase we’ve made in years. Typically we would break camp and head for a restaurant or have sandwiches or granola bars at the ready. Making oatmeal in the Jetboil is not only fast, but hot food enjoyed in camp where we stayed is perfect. Not only that, we are saving a ton of money from going to town. We also purchased the optional French Press that stows perfectly within the Jetboil so we have coffee too. (Now if only this thing were self-cleaning…) Over breakfast I’m still reading through Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist” and want it to last forever. It is a short book that will too soon be over, I wish I could give it to everyone I know.

Patterns in the sand on an Oregon Beach

The next hours are spent out at the ocean, we are easily lost in the magnificence of the coast and could stare at the patterns in the sand for the day.

On the Pacific Coast in Oregon near Cape Lookout and Cape Meares

The sky will never look much different that this right now, though the sun on rare occasion will punctuate their outlines and lend some minor drama to the show. We’re okay with this, it’s quiet, feeling isolated, and quite alone – we can deal with this.

View of Netarts, Oregon

Netarts Bay and the village of Netarts lay motionless on this autumn day. While it’s already noon the golden light being filtered by the heavy overcast skies betray the reality of what time it really is with the illusion of sunrise just now creeping upon the landscape.

Drift wood on Cape Meares in Oregon

There’s a small community of folks living on Cape Meares, just four or five streets right up against the ocean. On the south side of “town” is the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge and on the north is the Bayocean Peninsula County Park. The beach here is one of the more remote on the coast as we are a good distance from Tillamook and a short drive from the main road that most tourists seem not to consider going down. As such there isn’t much parking here, just enough for about a dozen cars, there are three including us here today. A tip for you, keep your eye peeled for the Bayocean Dike Road on the bay side of Cape Meares, it takes you out to a more accommodating parking area with a trail that crosses from the Tillamook Bay side to ocean side where you can enjoy a few miles of beach nearly all to yourself.

Moss covered fallen tree next to Tillamook Bay near McCoys Cove in Oregon

We’re on our way into Tillamook, though the majority of the place is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Just north of town in Garibaldi are neighbors competing for the appetites of travelers offering bargain prices for their interpretation of the feast. We opt for the more expensive one thinking it must be the homemade version, we weren’t disappointed. Kellie is the owner of Parkside Coffee House and had her family on hand to help serve up dinner, but it was her daughter Olivia who made our meal perfect. What she lacked in skill (she’s likely about 11 years old) she made up for with her cutey-pie attitude and hint of shyness. Mom’s sister was there to look over shoulders just in case and everything was delightful, from the turkey to the marionberry pie.

Walking out to Rockaway Beach in Oregon

Kelli directed us to a nice pullout up the road overlooking Garibaldi Bay; we were certain we’d need a nap after that stuffing, instead the view invigorated us and after a short pause we were again traveling north. Our next stop was here at Rockaway Beach.

Twin Rocks offshore on the Oregon Coast

Time for a long walk, the first long walk on the beach of the trip, and what a beauty it is. We walked south down toward Twin Rocks on this flat wide beach made more so due to it being low tide. The wet sand mirrors the sky above pushing for the horizon to disappear. It’s mid-afternoon and the majority of people must be eating their Thanksgiving feasts about now. I say this because we are mostly alone out here. Soon, maybe within the hour, it will get busy on the beach, as this has been our experience during other Oregon coast holiday trips. After food and football the throngs head to the beach rather than risk coronary attack as the weight of indulgence grips their hearts. Throngs in my view will be 10 people.

Sand dollar on Rockaway Beach in Oregon

There are riches to be found out here, not of monetary value, but of aesthetic value that hold immeasurable wealth. Sand dollars are nature’s way of telling you that you have been following her yellow brick road and that Oz is just around the corner. We keep walking that path.

Patterns in the sand on the Oregon Coast

No, this is not an interpretive piece of art depicting mountains in China or a bunch of hooded monks in procession, these are random patterns in the sand and tomorrow they will be gone forever.

Caroline Wise "playing" kelp on the Oregon coast

Thinking she’d found a soggy didgeridoo Caroline tries getting the thing to play. Sorry wife, kelp is not the indigenous instrument you thought, nor is a flute or even a blade of grass that whistles. What she should have done instead of blowing was suck so she could have enjoyed a nice belt of salt water from her sea straw. We are now at Hug Point State Park where we decide to linger instead of trying to make Ecola State Park for the night. We are close to Nehalem Bay where they have a yurt for us, we took it. By the way, Hug Point is not named for a romantic notion, it took its name from the old stage coach that ran up the coast and was forced to wait for low-tide so it could “hug” the rocks to stay out of the ocean.

Caroline Wise knitting gloves in a yurt at Nehalem Bay State Park in Oregon

Not even 5:30 and it’s dark out, well it’s winter and we certainly knew what we were in for. The heater is on to warm our luxury tent. No TV, no internet, no phone, no texting, no laptop to distract us. Caroline pulls out here knitting, me the writing gear – a Moleskine and a pen. While I write of the day Caroline is turning some bison wool our friends Rob Lazarotto and Jerry Roberts picked up for her as a gift while on vacation in Pennsylvania this summer into gloves. The bottle in front of her is a hard cider from Carlton Cyderworks in McMinnville, Oregon called Carry Nation: used to “Slake Your Thirst!” As for me, I write of vacation costs, dna, and evolution striking back at humanity for neglecting its responsibility, or a bunch of nothing really.

Nov 212012

A short rainbow in the distance at South Beach State Park in Oregon

Shortly after our moonlit walk on the beach last night the weather turned. As the evening went on things became worse, tormenting our plans for sleep. A bright flash of lightning startled both of us awake somewhere in the middle of dreams, followed by a near instantaneous clap of monumental thunder. Then it started to rain as though buckets were being tossed on the exterior of the yurt. With the rain picking up the wind joined in the chorus until buckets were replaced by barrels of water; this was not the serenade that would lull us back to sleep. Eventually nature’s concert exited the stage and before we knew it it was time for us to leave the yurt. A shower is finally on tap. With the hair degreased and the funk defunked we packed the car and followed last night’s footsteps back to the ocean. A hole in the sky had opened, offering a respite and a peek at blue, but it is changing fast. We are in a state of oohs-and-aahs, sea foam is blowing up the shore and a strong constant wind works nature’s art exhibit here on the edge of the Pacific. In the distance the shortest rainbow I’ve ever seen is on the horizon, letting us know the rain is coming our way. It catches us before we reach the car.

The Lookout at Cape Foulweather on the Oregon coast

Breakfast was an event worthy of making note of it here on my blog: we returned to the Newport Cafe! It was a pricey start of the day, but it was indulgent too, if you love seafood. Caroline ordered the “Hang Town Fry” – fresh Yaquina Bay oysters (a whole lot of them) grilled with spinach and onions before being mixed into a heap of scrambled eggs served next to a mountain of red potatoes and toast. Her breakfast is huge and “good and plenty” – especially the baby aliens (oysters). My breakfast was the “Pacific Seafood Scramble” – crab, shrimp, and scallops with fresh veggies and scrambled eggs topped with cheddar. By the time we are finished with our morning feast the sun is lifting a layer of steam off the street with the sky opening fast. This photo was taken north of Newport at The Lookout at Cape Foulweather, a nice little gift shop with one of the best views ever.

Waves crashing ashore on the Oregon coast

The next photos will attest to how beautiful our day would turn out to be, but they do not portray the whole truth. Over our shoulders and off in the not-too-distant horizon big heavy clouds remained a near constant presence. Who needs to look at that stuff and worry about what it may bring when right before us is all the incredible we could possibly need?

Remnants of a storm keeps the surf ferocious on the Oregon coast

The sea remains ferocious from the effects of the storm that has been churning up the coast. We content ourselves sitting at various pullouts along the coast, watching and listening to the waves come crashing in. Each massive explosion of surf produces a little rush of excitement as the chaos unfolds right before us.

Waves explode against the coast as storm ravaged seas churn on the Oregon coast

In the distance the sea looks calm, but by the time those deceptive waters reach the shore, the fury that the storm has produced is unleashed along the Oregon coast. We stand here in awe watching the display that is a far cry from the staid scenery of cactus standing vigil over the desert landscape in which we spend the majority of our time. Let’s celebrate nature’s diversity with fireworks from the ocean!

The molten sea off the coast of Oregon as it shimmers in the sunlight

A change of perspective and the sun rising in the sky is all that is required to throw new light upon what a minute ago seemed to become as familiar as the back of my hand. The ocean turns into molten metal and we melt before its beauty.

A trail leading to the beach over sand dunes and beach grasses on the Oregon coast

There is more to see at the sea than just one stretch of ocean and so we move further up the coast. These grass covered sand dunes are an absolute favorite of mine here in Oregon. They create mystery for what lies on the other side, I never know if I should expect a party or a rogue wave to crest the hilltop as we approach the trail down to the beach. I shot a dozen more such images, but where do I draw the line with sharing too much of a theme?

The mid-afternoon sun pushing storm clouds to the east on the Oregon coast

No killer waves, no party either, just one other person as far as the eye can see. During the fall and winter there are very few people out here. Tomorrow that will be different, it’s Thanksgiving and people for some reason feel that is good reason to venture onto the beach, but on the days around the holiday we are often the only ones out here. Of course we love the solitude, all the same we wonder how the beauty of this place doesn’t draw others by the thousands?

Sand Lake at the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island

Whalen Road crossing Sand Lake at the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island is one of our favorite views along the coast. You have to leave Highway 101 heading towards Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout instead of driving directly to Tillamook for your cheese and ice cream fix, but the detour is well worth the drive. Not only is the Whalen Island area beautiful, the entire Three Capes coastal drive is a stellar attraction here on the Oregon coast. We could easily spend a week just exploring Cape Kiwanda up to Cape Meares, with stops in Tillamook for salmon jerky at Debbie D’s Sausage Factory and smoked brie over at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company.

Netarts Bay in Oregon

A view of Netarts Bay with our ever present shadow of clouds moving right along with us. So what that we can’t strip off a layer of clothes and go swimming and who cares if we won’t be tanning out here under those gray clouds, it’s still a sight to see. Sometimes I can’t help but think that the majority of people on Earth are so well conditioned that they can look at scenery such as this and not see what’s really right before their faces. I’ll bet if a popular TV show were filmed at this location or some movie had a pivotal scene play out here, there would be a whole new interest in coming out here and all of a sudden being one of those who “Have always loved Netarts Bay, my family used to come here every year when I was a kid. Of course I’ve been here before.”

Netarts Bay from above looking southwest on the Oregon coast

That last photo was Netarts Bay from below, this one is from above. The perspective is kind of wonky and I’ve certainly failed the rule of thirds, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued at how the curves of the coast and strange angles of the trees skewed this image. Now imagine you are out on the bay in your small boat, it’s summer and after a day of sailing on the bay you pull up to the shore for a barbecue.

Cape Meares Lighthouse on the coast of Oregon

Road number 131 also known as the Netarts Oceanside Highway becomes the Cape Meares Loop in the town of Oceanside. This is another one of those places that while we are passing through makes us think, “Someday we’ll have to stay here.” Up the road a little more and a turn off leads through the Cape Meares State Park over to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. I don’t know anymore how many times we’ve been out here and we’re still not bored visiting it. Matter of fact I think I have a very similar photo already on my blog. (Sure do, from May 2005, click here to see it)

Out on the Three Capes scenic area near Tillamook, Oregon

There’s not a lot of daylight left out here so we’ll take our time to enjoy it, who cares if we get into Tillamook in the dark when we have views like this. We are on the trail from the lighthouse leading back to the parking lot. For those of you have been out here, you know exactly which one I’m talking about; it goes uphill and doesn’t it always seem to be that it is the last trail of the day when you least want to climb up hills? Oh how I’d like to live right here.

Looking west from Cape Meares State Park at the Pacific ocean in Oregon

Last photo of the day before we head into town to grab some smoked brie, salmon jerky, and a beer for Caroline. We have to backtrack to Cape Lookout where we are staying in another yurt. In all the dampness I still manage to get a fire going and fought hard to keep it alive. We were out here to camp and camping ain’t that without a fire. Tonight we dine like royalty on French bread with brie while listening to the crackle of the fire. What a charming day.

Nov 202012

A yurt at Sunset Bay State Park in Oregon

We are inching ever closer to something akin to hibernation, what else should we call over 10 hours of sleep? I’d like to call it luxury living in yurts! Out of the cocoon we slink off to the toilet hut; a hint of blue sky sits behind the cloud cover. Got breakfast made just in time for a light rain to start falling. Oops, spoke to soon, big drops are starting to hit the yurt and in moments we are being pummeled. Caroline knits while I write. We sip our coffee and stay snug and cozy here at Sunset Bay on the Oregon coast.

hing on the rocks at Shore Acres State Park in Oregon

With a break in the rain we use the opportunity to fill the car with our gear and hit the road. Just when we think we’ve seen the entirety of the coast a turn in the road proves that we in fact have missed something. This time it is Shore Acres; once home to a wealthy industrialist it is now a state park. Great location this man chose for his ocean front home too. Tilted sandstone with fossilized blobs jut out of the ocean below the cliff side. We head for the observation deck that marks the spot where Mr. Louis J. Simpson’s mansion once stood; it burned down twice. Following the Great Depression and Mr. Simpson’s fortune dwindling, he donated the property to the state – lucky us.

Caroline Wise and John Wise at Shore Acres State Park in Oregon

Inside the enclosed observation deck are displays that show what sunny weather visitors might see out on Simpson Reef and the ocean that was once his front yard. Those fossilized blobs are concretions; rock that formed within the sediment that likely had been collecting around organic matter. Seals, sea lions, ospreys, cormorants, pelicans, and black oystercatchers are just a few of the species of wildlife living down on the reef, which is a part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The big visitors are the gray whales that pass by, though they don’t usually arrive until December on their southerly travels and then again between March and April as they head north with calves in tow.

Unger's Bay Fish-N-Chips at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Up the road a bit we round the corner overlooking Cape Arago. We don’t linger very long as the wind is whipping against us hard. Another road leads us to South Jetty and Bastendorf Beach while the next turn takes us to Eel Lake and Tugman State Park; another park with a great selection of yurts. A few more miles and we are in Winchester Bay with a sun that is trying to poke through the gloom. We spot the roof for Unger’s Bay Fish-N-Chips and set our taste buds on drool, wouldn’t you know it that they are closed. I have a vague memory this is a deja-vu from another trip. Remember that Unger’s is closed Monday thru Wednesday. Across the way are a cluster of restaurants, we see a sign for Griff’s. Turns out that this was the original. No longer owned by the same people, their red snapper is undeniably super yum. Caroline toasts her beer made in Deschutes called Mirror Pond Pale Ale to the sun that is making more frequent appearances.

The Oregon coast as the sky clears from a heavy fall storm

Our intention was to drive through Florence, but it is one of those coastal towns big enough to feature a Dutch Brothers, sounds great after a lethargy inducing lunch. Not quite out of Florence we are forced to pull over at another of those “stop sign” shops, a dealer of yarn beckons us. This one is called Happy Kamper Yarn Barn and is on the north side of town. One of the big motivators for stopping at these shops is that the yarns become projects which become souvenirs from the locations they were picked up in. Those objects then take us back on our journeys when at other times (most likely traveling) we reminisce about how this scarf, hat, or pair of gloves came from the yarn we picked up in town so-and-so back when we were in Maine, Oregon, Hawaii, or Florida. This way our souvenirs no longer take up shelf space getting dusty, they are worn as reminders of how lucky we are to be able to visit so many places. With the sun still pouring down on us we ponder visiting Haceta Head Lighthouse, but opt instead for a walk on the beach, our first in the three days we’ve been up here.

The sun getting low in the sky as it competes with the clouds over a beach on the Oregon coast

The sun pushes us to drive on and skip our intended campground at Carl Washburne State Park. We’ll go where the road takes us. Beachside State Park is closed for the season, maybe the next park. First though we’ll have to walk along another beach.

Sunset at South Beach State Park near Newport, Oregon

Just outside of Newport, South Beach State Park has space available, they even have yurts for rent. Lazy here we come, to heck with pitching the tent we’ll take another night of indulgence. The clouds are starting to move in, but not before the sun attempts an encore performance and tries to stay ahead of the clouds that threaten to blot it out. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, and all we had to do to earn it was endure a few days of weather that added its own character to our week long stay on the coast.

The Ultimate Monster Burger from the Newport Cafe in Newport, Oregon

Dinner, if you can call this exorbitance that, is served at the Newport Cafe in Newport, Oregon. Yelp said that lots of people like the place, we’ll go with that. Famous for their large portions, the burgers come highly recommended. No wonder. We compromise and order the Ultimate Monster Burger for only $13.95 as opposed to the heftier 7 pound version called the Super Ultimate Monster Burger for $26.95; ours was only 3 pounds of burger. When the beast arrives our eyes grow as large as what’s on the plate – this is crazy big. The table next to us lets out a gasp, muffling our own. As it hits the table we are all smiles until the thud has us utter an “Oh my god!” This burger is amazing, not just its novelty, it is truly a great burger. This things is piled high with grilled onions, ham, fried eggs, cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, and maybe a few other things. Amazingly we finish it, not that this was anything special, that honor goes to the youngest person to finish their very own; a 12-year old girl who finished one of these by herself! We are told that no one individual has ever finished the 7 pounder, so the challenge is on. This thing was so good we talked about coming back in the morning for another and we would have if we weren’t worried about death making an appearance if we had. One more important note, the Newport Cafe is open 24 hours a day.

Settled into our yurt. Dinner though was playing the fiddle of guilt; time to walk some of this off. With half a moon out and the first stars we’ve seen since leaving Arizona, we walked out into the dark for a stroll on the beach. Through the coastal forest and sand dunes to the beach we lay our eyes upon the ocean glimmering in moonlight. Thin low clouds are darting north occasionally blotting out the moon, but only for moments. I wonder out loud about how early humanity might have seen this world back when few people inhabited these lands and earth was infinite. The pressure put on our species by self-awareness have had impacts that few can comprehend. Maybe the abandonment of our awareness of the infinite is what keeps us from an enlightenment that would be difficult or impossible to attain by the superstitious. At what point in our evolution will the masses be ready to perceive what we know about the complexity of life? Gods are easy, atoms from here to infinity, that self-organize to create matter and intelligence, now that’s hard. Will there be a moment where destiny dictates that we come to terms with that? What if we fail? What other species might arise that would be better suited to pick up the ashes of learning to deal with our place in the infinite?

We then walk back to camp. There is hope that tomorrow brings more clearing skies, but how do we tackle clearing minds of fear and hostility when cadres of people specialize in mongering the halting of our march forward? Where are humanity’s lighthouses on this dark shore as our intelligence extends beyond the night it has lived in for millennium?

Nov 192012

Storm swept seas off the south Oregon coast

The car port survived, though it did wake us from time to time over night as it attempted to escape the clutches of gravity and the measly plastic fasteners that were straining their connections. With the storm still raging we’re in no hurry to get out. After hot showers and another practice session with our Jetboil we are soon enjoying some oatmeal for breakfast, but only half the coffee as it boiled over. By mid-morning we leave the key in the room and set out. (After the trip we learned that the car port and the roof of four rooms including ours, were torn off the building at about 11:00 in the morning, two hours after we checked out!)

Not needing to be anywhere for the hikes we’d had planned, it is now time to play things by ear. Port Orford and the dock sound like a great place to be. At the top of the hill leading down to the dock it is obvious the wind is blowing incredibly hard up here. By the edge the wind must be doing close to 100mph if not over. We see a pelican that didn’t survive the onslaught and must have been hammered back down to earth by the winds. Two others are hunkered down in asphalt cracks, trying to stay out of the wind. We are careful not to disturb them, afraid that once aloft their wings will catch a draft and the same fate will take their lives as it did the dead one nearby.

After watching the show down at the dock for more than an hour we feel satisfied that we can take a break from watching crashing waves. Passing a cafe called Port Starboard a cup of coffee sounds like a great idea. Our server Penny Lane (yes that’s her real name) tempts us with bowl each of locally harvested wild mushroom soup. No arm twisting was required as we settled into cozy comfort food in the warm dry cafe. Turns out Penny wasn’t finished, she then told us how delicious their apple and cherry wood smoked local salmon is. Yep, she was right about that too.

Stormy Oregon seas

These moments are the luxuries that travelers look for. It’s not the resort or shopping amenities that satisfy us, we are not tourists. What makes the difference in our happiness are the intangibles; smells, sounds, feelings, and the fleeting smiles. The cars, motels, restaurants are minor players on our stage. It is the yurts, camp food, locals sharing a bite of something yummy or a great story, or experiencing the weather that keeps others indoors that makes our times memorable. Today we won’t do much more than eat, drink coffee, and watch the ocean from the comfort of our car and so far everything is looking perfect to us.

Talk about things turning out perfect. Just north of Bandon is a small shop, not just any shop, it is the Wool Company. Dragging them in since 1983 this place adds icing to Caroline’s cake as it drags her in too. There are half a dozen women inside knitting up another kind of storm, all of them situated around the old fashioned wood burning stove, though Marilyn the dog has nabbed the coziest of all spots right up near it. After a good long while chatting and shopping, we leave with some blue yarn and eight ounces of burgundy top. Top is combed fiber that is ready to be fed into a spinning wheel and made into yarn. What a great way to spend a rainy Monday, especially if you are Marilyn.

Crashing waves on the Oregon coast

With the wind is still blowing we forsake another night in our tent and see if we can’t get a yurt without a reservation. Sunset Bay State Park is just ahead, no it isn’t. The road is closed due to a downed power line. We turn around and drive back 20 minutes before heading north so we can then drive south and enter the park that way. In Coos Bay the rain is coming down so hard I can barely see 40 feet in front of the car. That though was nothing because just south of Charleston the rain comes down even harder and I am lucky to see the line on the road a few feet ahead. We pull into the state park which has available yurts, we only take one. Loop D, yurt G. Checked into our accommodations we are beaming in smiles that threaten the sky with rainbows from the brightness.

Dinner choices are relatively plentiful but nothing is grabbing us, meaning me, because I’m the hard one to satisfy. Hey a German place, the Blue Heron Restaurant; not to be confused with the Blue Heron Cheese Company in Tilamook. On the contrary, the Blue Heron Cheese Company is nothing less than fantastic; this German place? Well let’s say it’s kind of like a Chinese food in rural Alabama, it doesn’t really work and it’s nothing like authentic, but locals who’ve never had different seem to like it.

Stormy seas on the Oregon coast

Hey, woman across from me, you peer over your glasses compensating for what corrective lenses need not fix to work five little sticks only slightly thicker than pencil lead to make that bison wool dance in patterns that tie it into knots. From your delicate warm fingers you craft a pair of mitts that are intended to keep warm the hands that convey so much love, even when busy making things.

The flash of your silver wedding band is a reminder that you promised yourself to me, this is our shared outward symbol. But it is in your eyes and smile that I feel the inward sense of what we share. To sit here in this forest under the canvas canopy that shields us from the cold and rain, I watch your hands and cherish these times where memories grow larger than the extent of the hours we share on these incredible outings. This is how I love you tonight.