“Going on a trip is kinda like eating at a buffet,” said Ben. “Do you get a little of everything or a lot of a few things that you really love?”
Our camping trip was definitely the “a little of everything” variety. We drove up and down the southern Oregon coast, seeing everything there was to see. Ben clutched a well-worn travel book, stopping in the middle of back roads to thumb through and make sure we were going the right way.
“How do you know about all these cool places?” I asked.
“I don’t know. If people mention a cool place I try to remember it. I figure I’m not gonna live in Oregon forever, so I should see these cool places before I go.”
I agreed, wholeheartedly. Honestly I think it was Instagram and the rising popularity of “adventuring” that made me realize how dreadfully I was taking for granted the beauty of my own state. And I don’t plan to live here forever either. Ben’s going on to grad school, but I’m getting my degree, Lord willing, in less than a year, and who knows where I’ll go from there?
One of the first places we stopped, and one of my favorite places of the whole trip, was Cape Arago. I took pictures, but they only give the dimmest view of what the place was like, so I’ll turn to word descriptions instead.
Ben and I slogged down the muddy trails through the trees and brush, then came to an opening where we got a view of the sea. That was my first glimpse of how unreal the geology of the place was. “I don’t understand those rocks!” I said. “Is that the remains of something man-made? If not, why are those lines so parallel?”
I finally concluded that sediment had been laid down in layers, and then the whole ground had tipped about 60 degrees and weathered down flat.
Perhaps it doesn’t sound weird, but as we hiked the trails and looked down the cliffs, it was a sight unlike I’d ever seen before. At the bottom of the cliffs, instead of the frothy ocean, I saw a striped floor about level with the sea. Waves would roll over it, catching in crevices and spilling over ridges in little waterfalls. It was like an optical illusion. I couldn’t tell how deep the water was there. Could a person explore the striped area? Was the water tame and ankle deep, or were some of the crevices deep? Would the water lap at your feet, or push you over?
The trail wound around these bizarre geological formations, as well as little beaches, hidden in the crooks of the cliffs, that were impossible to get to. It ended at Shore Acres State Park, which was once owned by a rich and powerful family. I guess the rich and powerful family’s fancy home must have burned down, but the beautiful gardens remain, as well as the cozy-looking gardener’s cottage.
Beyond the garden there was a path, leading to one of those tiny beaches hidden in the cliffs.
Ben told me that the trick to finding cheap or free campsites was to look in the national forest for places that did not have RV accommodations. Accordingly, we drove up into the mountains that night to find our remote campsite.
“Woah!” said Ben. “Check out that river!”
It was on the driver’s side, so I couldn’t see it. Ben pulled over. The river was phenomenal. The color of gel toothpaste.
Of course on the way back down the next morning I was on the river side and could gaze at it through the canyon, all the way down the mountain. The sun streamed down through the morning sky.
It rained the first night, unsurprisingly, and we rigged a tarp over our tent, cleverly using sticks and clothespins to secure it in place. The pounding rain lulled me right to sleep, but Ben told me the next morning that it had kept him awake. Too loud, he said.
We forgot pillows, of all things. And toilet paper, but I took a wad out of a rest area bathroom and we were fine. We had a long discussion about what was the worst possible thing to forget on a camping trip. Sleeping bags, we decided. Or possibly a tent. But probably sleeping bags, because we could have technically slept in the car, if it came to that.
The second night we were in an entirely different national forest along an entirely different river, but oddly enough it had the same toothpaste color as the first river. Does anyone know what makes rivers that color?
In any case, we camped right down by the river. I had this view when I woke up.
I wandered around with a mug of tea, watching the morning fog shiver through the trees, and I sort of wished we weren’t seeing so many pretty things, because I wanted to stay for a long time.
Instead, we took off again in Ben’s little Honda, and saw all the things. Like the pirate cove in Boardman State Park.
Or the Oregon Redwoods, where I forgot my camera.
I did get a few hours to sit on a beach and read, while Ben went on a hike. I found a pavilion made out of driftwood that sheltered me from the wind, and drank tea, and just absorbed the beauty.
Tomorrow I go back to being a scholar. That’s okay. The adventure-craving part of my soul has been satisfied for a while.