A few years ago, I took my oldest son camping at a state campground on the beach along the Washington coast. We enjoyed our time together. After returning, my older three daughters wanted to know when I was planning to take them for a weekend camping trip. I was a bit surprised they wanted to but I was up for it. Camping is something we have enjoyed as a family over the years and something I hoped and my children would want to do, so I was extremely happy to know my girls wanted to go. For the last year, we have had it on the calendar and planning on this weekend.
Most of the state campgrounds in the PACNW (Pacific Northwest) fill up fast. Early in the year, you have to call and make reservations. You can plan to be on hold anywhere up to an hour to place your reservations. It is a bit on the insane side. Most places are booked by April for the entire summer, so if you want one you better be up and going the day the phone lines open. I chose not to do this but take a risk. I actually took my son in September after school was back in session so it was not a problem. I did call and check to see if I might get lucky but there was not anything available.
I knew my Aunt owns property up near this area and she was fine with letting us use her property. The property is strictly that property, neighbors on either side have developed their property, but her property has a lot that could be done with it still. She told me she would inform her neighbors of our coming. The night before we leave she calls to tell me when speaking with her neighbors they said they’ve seen a male black bear roaming around on her property and reminded me of it having no facilities (bathrooms/showers). She was not sure if I still wanted to go, but I assured her we would be fine. With my West Coast Hipster Dad Ninja Skills and growing up in Montana, I was not afraid of any bears bothering us.
Friday morning we loaded up the van, placed my I pod on shuffle and took off. The drive takes around 2 hours and I had planned to stop along the way and do some site seeing and show my daughters different sites. We stopped and visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which is always a cool place to visit, get some great samples of cheese, and eat some delicious ice cream. Continuing north up the coast, stopping at one of our family favorite places - Mo’s Chowder House in Cannon Beach, the weather was gorgeous and we sat outside right off the beach and ate a delicious lunch. We got to see a guy surf using a very large kite he had attached to himself. After lunch, I drove until we made it to our destination.
We got camp set up, unfortunately, my girls forgot to pack their camping chairs, and there was not anything to use for a fire pit. We drove back into town, purchased a shovel and a few other supplies, went back to our site and I dug a very large pit in the ground. As we explored a bit, we found a couple of larger trees that were down and had been cut, these were used as our chairs, just like I remembered watching Grizzly Adams used. I got the fire going, we had dinner, and the girls went to bed. I began thinking about the black bear and that took me to a scene from the movie “Never Cry Wolf” so I marked our territory and stayed up for awhile with shovel in hand. Having camped out in the forest before I know it is not wise to leave food out as it not only can attract bears but other little friends, so I cleaned up camp, locked everything back up in our van and spend some time just being quiet and talking to God.
The next day I got up, made the girl’s breakfast, we got dressed and headed out for a day of adventure. We explored Oysterville and up walking out on the bogs. I always find it is most beautiful in the early morning to walk around there as the sun comes up on the bay. Walking around we had some great conversations and commented on how it reminded them of Sarah Plain and Tall.
We continued exploring other little towns went on a walk on a trail to the “Metal Tree” which is where Lewis and Clark ended their expedition and marks the spot of that once they had reached the West Coast. The tree is completely metal and stands about 8 feet tall. Next up was Long Beach and exploring the little town, doing some shopping and checking out all the little stores along the main street.
We made our way to the state park where my son and I had stayed. It has two Lighthouses, one on each end of the park that I wanted to show my daughters. We drove up to the first area and as I drove up I began seeing signs that you were now required to purchase a pass to park their. I could see the Park Ranger engaged in a heated discussion with some very frustrated women and I saw other folks walking towards the sign to pay for the parking. As I was walking back to our van a man was standing in a parking space, another man was in his car, and trying to park in the space, only he was not patient enough to wait for the guy to move and bumped into him. They began yelling at each other and the man in the car continued to try to inch his way forward. The man standing in the spot had some friends with him who ran over and started yelling at the guy in the car and some guy leaned inside the window of the car. At this point, the Park Ranger who was near my van talking to one of the upset women, dropped his clipboard, yelled he was a police officer, and ran over to the situation. As he approached, he pulled out his Billy club and began hitting the guy who was leaning into the car in his calf area. He ordered him to lie down on the ground with his hands behind his head, to which the guy complied. The Park Ranger began yelling at everyone to back up and was radioing for backup. It was at this time I decided I was not going to stick around for any more drama, I got in my van and left. As we drove away, back up began arriving.
We ended up going to the main park entrance, purchased a park pass, and then ventured onto the other lighthouse. We got to go on a great hike and explore the area and then hiked down to a small cove. This cove is one of the absolute best areas all along the coast. I could spend hours just sitting there. As we made our way back from the hike and to our van, we decided to head to the main beach area in the campground. We ate lunch, swam and played around for quite a few areas and then made our way back to the lighthouse we had not gotten to see. Thankfully, there was no drama this time and we got to go check it out. We left and headed back to our campsite.
We ate dinner, hung out, had S’mores and the girls went to bed. In the morning, we packed up and headed out. On our way back, we crossed the 4-mile Astoria Bridge, which can be a bit nerve-racking to drive across. My oldest daughter kept her eyes close the entire time. Once in Astoria we went to the Astoria Column, climbed all the way to the top, and looked out over the entire town. Once we made it down, we began looking for the house filmed in the movie Goonies; the address I found and plugged into my GPS did not take us to it, but rather a museum. Although we did not find the house, we continued on our way back home. As we drove home, I asked my daughters what they wanted to do next year and they all agreed they would prefer to go to the beach house. So much for the love of camping being passed on.
Reflecting back over the weekend with my girls reminded me of a couple of things –
1 – I love these girls with all my heart and I would go to any level to protect and take care of them and I always will.
2 Even though I can protect them and as a loving father should, it is limited and I have to trust God on the rest.
3 – Somehow I feel safer in my house protecting them, than out in the woods camping.
4 – Driving along the coast I was reminded of many camping trips we had taken on the coast over the years, but when I asked my oldest if she remembered our trips, she couldn’t recall them.
5 – The coast was one of the main reasons I moved to Oregon, it has always rejuvenated me.
6 – Apparently I have watched a lot of movies and they tie into my being outdoors
7 – There is nothing like getting away from life, disconnecting, and focusing on those things that mean the most to you.