Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Break Surfing Trip

My wife and I wanted to do something special with our daughters this year for their spring break, and the school district, where my daughters attend school, had their school spring break very late this year. In the past we might have planned a ski trip, but my daughters had spent the entire winter in ski lessons, and were probably ready for a change in their activities. So we decided to take a gamble and try our luck with the weather in mid-April on the Oregon coast. In the past we had camped in a tent on the Oregon coast, and were made very well aware of how bad weather on the coast can make a wonderful place very unpleasant to stay in, so we chose to hedge our bets and make the trip in our new Wolf Creek camper. We have only had our camper for around 6 months, and almost every trip we have taken in it on has been a ski trip, and never longer than 3 nights. Over the winter there had been a few rough times (especially for my daughters) in learning to adjust to living with a family of four in a very small space that sits in the bed of a pickup truck. This was going to be a much bigger adjustment, since we were planning on spending a full week in the camper.

beach swing at Cape Lookout
To keep things interesting I planned for us to stay at 3 different Oregon State Parks along the coast. I organized things so that other than our first day of travel, we would never have more than a 3 hour drive, and we would get to spend most of our time enjoying the parks. We decided to end the trip with a night at the indoor water-slide resort, Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington (this would hopefully give us a chance to get our girls good and clean before we brought them back home).

Beach at Cape Lookout State Park
On our drive down we made a stop in Seaside Oregon at one of the best surf shops in Washington or Cleanline Surf. They have a huge selection of surf gear for sale or rental. We made sure everyone in our family was set up to be able to play in the waters of the cold Pacific Ocean. After gearing up we headed on to our first campsite, Cape Lookout State Park. The park is west of highway 101, between Tillamook and
Pacific City. It is a fairly large state park on a sand spit between that separates the Pacific Ocean from Netarts Bay. Along the Pacific side of the sand spit there is a long beautiful beach that can be accessed with a short walk of a few hundred feed from the park camp sites. The park has full hookups which made life even easier in the camper. The family had fun playing on the beach, but during our stay here the temperature barely hit 50, we had a mix of sun and light rain, and a stiff wind on the beach kept everyone bundled up. No one was too interested in surfing, but my daughters were completely entertained by exploring the beach and hunting for shells.

Looking back to Cape Lookout
After two nights at Cape Lookout we headed a couple hours south to our next location. The second spot we camped at was a tiny campsite, not even large enough to warrant “State Park” in the name: Beachside State Recreation Site. Beachside is about 30 minutes south of Newport, just south of the tiny town of Waldport. We had visited this park about three years prior and stayed in a tent. That visit had been in early summer during a usually hot period when the temperature throughout Oregon and Washington was getting up into the mid 90s; that is until you went to the Oregon Coast, where a mile east of the coast you entered a huge fog bank and the temperature dropped to the low 50s degrees. That trip was rather disappointing, but I remembered the park and wanted to give it another chance.

The best thing about Beachside State Recreation Site is that you can have your campsite literally right next to the beach. Our camper’s back door opened to an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. With the drive south the weather seemed to improve with mostly sun and
the temperature getting up to the low 60s. After getting settled in at our campsite, we all put on wetsuits, grabbed our boggie boards, and enjoyed hours of playing in the very mild surf. We were the only people venturing into the water, so we must have been quite an interesting site, several other campers at Beachside even took chairs onto the beach to watch our pathetic attempts at surfing.

"RV parking" in Newport
The next day we headed back up to Newport to check out a restaurant that my wife had read about, Local Ocean Seafoods. It’s a fresh fish market and restaurant where you can buy freshly caught fish to take with you and prepare for yourself or have their chefs prepare the days catch for you. We enjoyed and incredible meal sitting outside beside Yaquina Bay in Newport. Then it was back to our campsite at Beachside for some more surfing.

Tillamook Ice Cream!
With our week over halfway though it was time to start heading Tillamook cheese factory and a sampling of their cheese and ice cream. Then about another hour on the road and we were at our final campsite Nehalem Bay State Park. Like Cape Lookout State Park, Nehalem State Park also sits on a narrow sand spit. It was probably the largest of the three campsites, and the quietest with very few visitors. I had a chance to briefly speak with one of the park rangers, who told me that this was breif quiet time before May when things begin to pick up, then from July through September just about everything is booked.

Unlike the other two campsites, the beach was separated from the campsites by a tall sand dune that required a brief hike over to get to the beach. Once on the beach you could walk all the way into the town of Manzanita 2 miles away which is exactly what we did to pick up some supplies and get some dinner.

Our Seaside surf stop
The next morning my wife emailed a friend who is a surfing instructor in Seaside, hoping to get information on
where we should take the family for a day of surfing. She suggested “the cove” in Seaside; basically the far Southern end of the beach at Seaside. It was nice to have the camper to prepare a hot lunch and to have a place to change in and out of our wet suites before surfing. We surfed mild but well-spaced waves until my 6 year old daughter was pretty much warn out. Then packed up everything and headed back to Nehalem Bay State Park for the night.

That night we left our wet suits outside under a canopy, hoping they would dry a bit before we headed back North towards our final stop. Unfortunately that night it rained, and rained hard! The next morning everything was soaked. There was nothing we could do other than lay blankets and towels down all over the camper and load all our wet gear in it.

We drove up North for our final night of the trip, this time in a hotel room at Great Wolf Lodge, where (for me at least) the wave pool seemed rather disappointing after several days of surfing. My daughters both had a lot of fun at the lodge, which seemed to me like a Las Vegas casino for children. After a week in quiet state parks, 1 day was the absolute limit I could handle for Great Wolf lodge, so the next day around noon we headed back home to Seattle.

I look forward to getting to make a similar trip to the Washington coast when the weather gets warmer and perhaps spending a bit more time in just one place.