The 411 on the 101

The 411 on the 101

After our explorations of Oregon, it was time to head to the coast. Luke and I were pretty excited for this drive as we had heard a lot about it from people. It was definitely beautiful. I learned that the Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH) is the name of the 1 freeway in California, even though many people will say the PCH drive is from southern California to Washington. The Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) however; does go through all those states and is a very famous thru-hike. If you’ve read, or seen the movie Wild, then you’d know the name. One of our first stops along the coast was Cannon Beach. Pretty popular stop for many people so I of course at least wanted a picture. Shoester had never been to a beach before so I wasn’t really sure what he’d think. I knew Sox wasn’t a huge fan but he tolerates the sand alright. Luke started running down the beach and Shoester followed with great excitement. He loved the compact sand! It was fun watching him sprint back and forth between us with so much joy. We hopped in the car after our walk, we weren’t sure how far we had to go to find a camp spot. That brings me to my next point, if you’re a van camper or a RVer there are a few places you can stop to camp along the way. For us tent campers though, it was harder to come by. There were a ton of places non-beach facing to camp in campgrounds but we really wanted a night by the water.

I started a google search since I was pretty sure I remembered seeing a free campsite on the water. That’s when I learned about the website Campendium. It states that it is more of an RV resource, but they do have a section on free campsites. Someone had posted photos of BLM land at Bastendorff Beach in Coos Bay. Most BLM land is free camp friendly, but have rules on how long you can stay. This beach had a one night limit, but that was fine for us. We drove about four more hours down the coast to reach the spot. We set up our tent right on the beach, high enough up on the shore not to be swimming in the morning. The stars were beautiful. Part of me wanted to get out the camera and experiment with star photos, but I decided to sit back and enjoy the moment. We talked, ate some snacks, looked for shooting stars for a while and then called it a night.

The morning came and we packed up our things. There weren’t many people on the beach so we let the dogs off-leash and took them on a nice long walk down the shore. Luke was walking pretty close to the ocean and Shoester was running next to him. He didn’t understand that the tide wasn’t consistent, so when the water came up to his feet he jumped in the air startled. Luke and I laughed at his reaction. It didn’t seem to phase him too much though because he kept running along the water. After our walk, we decided to head into Coos Bay and grab some food at Stockpot Restaurant. The temperature was in the 60’s so we could keep the dogs in the car while we ate. If you like comfort foods and no-frills restaurants, check it out. It was pretty delicious.

We were trying to decide what to do next. We wanted to potentially camp out again in a different spot on the beach or we could drive more down the coast. Originally we had said the first one because we wanted a break from driving, but after breakfast, we both decided we felt pretty good so we should keep going. We were excited to drive down the coast and make it to the Redwoods where we were planning to camp for the evening. When we got to the Redwoods though, we learned that dogs could only camp in certain places, and you had to book those sites at least 3 days in advance. The Ranger did tell us that sometimes in the afternoon if the site had the room they’d let you pay there, but we weren’t sure we wanted to do that. After a little research, we realized there weren’t many camp options around so we were at a crossroads again. We took a scenic road in the Redwoods and marveled at the giant trees.

We came to a spot where we could get out and stretch our legs and decide what to do next. As we were taking pictures and talking, we saw a small tree rustling not too far away. My first thought was “oh no…bear!”. Luke thought Bigfoot (these perspectives sum up our marriage nicely), and then walked towards it. Luckily the dogs were in the car so we didn’t have to worry them being attacked. I heard that if you do encounter a bear, it’s better to be in a group, so I reluctantly followed Luke to the tree. I breathed a sigh of relief when we saw a mother elk and her baby who stopped and stared at us. We were standing on a giant tree trunk off the ground, so we had a pretty good view. We also froze as to show them we weren’t a threat, and after a minute of being frozen, we heard more rustling behind us. I saw the most beautiful antlers I’d ever seen as the male elk came into view. He was pretty tangled in the branches and I chuckled to myself watching this protective animal struggling to untangle himself. We watched them for a few more minutes and then backed away slowly. Luke and I were pretty pumped up when we got back to the car. After failing to find another place to stay along the highway, we called it a night at a KOA not far away.

After failing to find another place to stay along the highway, we called it a night at a KOA not far away. The receptionist suggested a Chinese place down the road, so I offered to go pick up food while Luke set up the site. Driving through the tiny town at night was slightly scary. People congregated with mangy dogs at the grocery store, the old neon signs flickered and there was not much around. When I got to the Chinese place it was definitely an interesting experience. It seemed family own and the grandmother was watching her one-year-old grandchild while trying to take my order. While I waited I witnessed an awful customer service situation where the hostess actually said “take the food or don’t…I don’t care”. I brought the food back to camp and we ate the mediocre food. Needlesstosay, that night was not our finest but a good cultural experience I guess.

The next day we decided it would be easiest to just bite the bullet and make the long drive to his sisters which was now about eight hours away.

I wanted to drive at least some of the PCH in California, but we didn’t realize all the construction, slow-moving vehicles and bicyclists that would also be on the road. Also, if you are a road bicyclist..DON’T BIKE HERE. It’s a two-lane narrow winding highway and cars are trying to drive at 70 mph… there were a few times it wasn’t safe to pass them and had to slam on breaks and hope the guy behind doesn’t plow into us. Our eight-hour drive became about 12 hours. It was a pretty drive, but we both decided that if you actually have a destination in mind it’s not worth the added time. After a while, all of the scenery looks the same.

We didn’t get to see the Golden Gate Bridge or Monterey Bay on this trip, which are two things I’d love to come back and experience more of, so I guess we have another adventure idea. But, we did get to Victorville, CA late into the evening. We were more than exhausted and passed out.

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