Four days away to the Oregon Coast, plugged only into the great outdoors, does a world of good.
My family packed up the truck with a tent, sleeping bags, a little charcoal grill, lots of hot dogs and hamburgers and marshmallows and chocolate, and seven of us. We hauled a trailer, too, with two ATVs. This trip happened because the State of Oregon, as of January 1, 2012, requires both on-line safety training and hands-on rider training for all youth age 15 and under who want to ride a quad or motorcycle or other ATV on public lands. During the time frame we had available, the only hands-on training class was located in North Bend at the Oregon Coast. So, off we went and made a fun vacation of it!
We camped at Riley Ranch where the class was being held. With direct access to the Oregon Dunes, this was the perfect place! Very nice bathroom/shower facilities, new and clean. Butterfield Lake was just yards away from our campsite, and I spent a lot of time there with the kids, fishing, hiking around the lake, and rafting. Funny enough, though the kids spent a lot of time riding on the dunes with their dad and uncle and cousins, I got no pictures of that!
I will insert this little bit about the downside of this camping adventure, just to remember in years to come and for my readers to know that in fact, this was not a perfect trip. I said there were seven of us because I brought my 83-year-old mom, who has lived with us for 12 years and has dementia/alzheimer’s. She can’t be left alone, and rather than have someone look after her at home without us, I thought it best to bring her. Never again. Ever. I ended up having to sleep next to her, barely catching a wink because she kept waking up, not knowing where she was, needing to use the bathroom, me having to walk her there in the dark, both of us very grumpy. And since the campsite we were at was way too close to the neighbors, we disturbed them as well.
Back to the fun stuff. One of the kids’ cousins lives at the coast, only about 10 or 15 minutes from where we camped, so that was a highlight for them to get to visit and play! Plus their other grandma came for the first part of our trip, and their uncle and two other cousins who live in Eugene. Family fun!
Big trees, water, logs, lily pads, salamander, sticks, and mud and sand — really not much more is needed to occupy a child (or adult). We so enjoyed this little lake. A trail through the woods took us halfway around the lake to a railroad track, which was an irresistible draw for the kids.
I mentioned how close our campsite was to the neighbors, but luckily, they were terrific people! One of the men went out deep-sea fishing during our stay and returned with all kinds of good stuff. They shared their haul, and for our final meal we enjoyed a giant crab, fresh out of the Pacific Ocean. Amazing.
We have a son who’s a bit like a Mark Twain character—he loves to climb trees. The boy spent a number of hours exploring the woods behind our campsite, mostly up in the canopy. He also crafted this highly functional bow and arrow out of sticks and string he found lying about, and who knows the fantastical adventures he imagined in those woods.
In those same trees live these gorgeous—and loud—bluejays. I was annoyed to be woken by them so early every morning, but after watching them for a while I forgot my annoyance.
Our last evening in camp, we broke away to visit the majestic Pacific! None of our kids can stand to be this close and not play in the sand and waves. I don’t have any pictures of this part of our trip, but it was one of the most memorable moments. My husband I, leaning hard into each other, breathing deep the salty pacific air, watching four children scatter in the wind, some collecting shells, some building in the sand—it was a scene I wish I could store in a bottle to open and smell and see anytime I want.
And then back home again! Unpacking, emptying pockets of sand and shells, reorganizing camp equipment, days of laundry—all very much worth it. Happy summer to you!