Cape Lookout Trail (FD) - Cloverdale, OR 6.26.18
As we planned our next camping trip the requirements were simple; close to Portland and on the beach. Alexis had previously been to a campground where you would walk from your campsite over some dunes and be at the beach. After some researching we thought we had found the right place and made a reservation for Monday night. Alexis would be coming off a 24-hour shift on Sunday morning, so we originally planned to leave the next day. The thought of camping near the beach was too much for me as I pulled all our gear together. After a quick call I had convinced her to leave on Sunday for an extra night. As we were pulling away from the house, I called the campground to see if we could stay that night as well, but they informed me they were full. However, they recommended two other places and we selected Kelly’s Marina. When we called Kelly’s Marina they told us to just grab a site when we got there and come pay in the morning since our arrival would be after 9pm.
We plugged the new address into our GPS and set out on our adventure. The sun started to set as we wound down highway 101 passing by the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Soon we spotted Kelly’s Marina on the left and slowed into the campground. We realized that there were very few people here and we had a plethora of options for sites. As we drove around trying to pick the perfect one it became comical because I would pull in and out several times thinking I had found the right one, only to eventually land on the first one we passed. It was now dusk, Alexis was studying under the light in the car and I set up our tent. Around 10pm we snuggled into the tent as the rain started to fall softly lulling us to sleep.
The water was lapping on the shoreline and the birds were chirping. It was a new morning and we were excited about the adventure ahead. As we stepped out of the tent we could see the traffic on the road nearby. While this had no bearing on me, Alexis said that she heard it at times throughout the night. The one downfall to this cool place. I started up the fire for breakfast while Alexis hit the books again. Lately we ensure that our adventures allow her to study since she has two boards coming up this fall. Anyone that knows me, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I rarely miss having eggs in the morning. It was no different at the campsite. I fired up the new cast iron pan with bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes to top our eggs. I really love cooking over an open fire and breakfast was delicious.
After breakfast we slowly packed up the car and headed to check out the marina. It was a small camping scene with about 20 sites and only 5 in use. Kelly’s Marina was all about their crabbing. As we walked over to the shop we passed a few RVs lining the front part of the entrance. We were greeted by a colorful decoration of crabbing buoys hanging from the rafters right outside the shop. I gazed up at them and wondered what story they would tell us. Instead they hang there happy in retirement enjoying the view of the inlet. Off to the right I could see smoke billowing up from a massive steel fire pit with the most ginormous wooden seats. The circle looked like it was built for Vikings cloaked in great big furs with large vessels of beer that would slosh and spill as they jubilantly discussed their journeys. I ponder the thought for a little while before turning and heading into the shop. In the shop we get the brilliant idea to create a six pack of different beers. Recently, I decided it was time I find some craft beers I like because after all I am in Portland now and that is the thing to do. While meandering the shop we began to really see the heart of the shop; crabs. There were two families signing up and learning the ropes of crabbing. At Kelly’s visitors can rent a boat for a couple hours or head down to the dock and drop a line. It only took one quick look for both of us to understand that we knew we wanted to bring the boys back. With our six pack in hand we passed the tanks full of crabs trying to edge their way back to freedom and found our way back to the car.
We pulled out of the marina happy about our random night and headed north for our hour drive to the next site. Time was on our side as we pulled into the small town of Nehalem and stopped at the Nehalem Food Mart. I wandered down the aisle trying to figure out a sauce to put with the turkey we brought for dinner when I stumbled upon Chili seasoning. It was like I had found the holy grail. I was so excited at the prospects this small packet held. With childlike enthusiasm I started grabbing various accoutrements like beans, corn, sour cream and the best part, Fritos. With my arms full I made my way to the cashier where I found Alexis waiting for me, gnawing on a massive piece of beef jerky. There was no question at that point that chili would be fine with her for dinner.
All stocked up we hopped back in the car and made our way to Nehalem State Park in hopes of an early check in. Slowing our car just outside of the small park office we asked the young gentleman behind the glass window if we could check in early. Looking at his computer he said they hadn’t checked out yet, but we were welcome to go see if they had left. We eased through the campgrounds and our hearts began to sink as we passed RV concrete pad after RV concrete pad. Eventually we found our site that had no privacy, a small area to pitch a tent and a huge concrete pad. This campground was meant for RVs more than tent camping. At this point Alexis felt horrible. This wasn’t the campsite she remembered, so we headed back to the park office. Trying to be optimistic we asked the gentleman if there were any other sites that we could look at. He gave us one more and off we went. It was not any better, so we started looking at our phones trying to figure out what the other one might be and headed once again back to the office. Standing between the car and the office we were still trying to figure out what to do when the gentleman in the office said we were probably looking for Cape Lookout State Park. He kindly gave us a refund and we were on our way. I quickly called the campground to see if there were any sites left and they told us there was one left for walk up. Suddenly time was not on our side because the drive was an hour away. We pulled out to the main road and got stuck behind a car with a sticker that said, “Exploring Oregon”. Our bodies started to tense, and nerves kicked in as we realized they truly were exploring Oregon at an idle speed. The road was winding, and we were struggling to find a time to pass them. An opening finally broke, I grabbed the handle above the window, put my foot on the dash board and with laughter I yelled “Gooooo”. As we pulled away I snickered that we weren’t the only ones trying pass as the minivan behind us tried to make a break for it and got stuck.
Soon we were pulling up to the State Park office to find out our fate. Tentatively, I walked up to the window, worried that they would be sold out; however, we received the best news. Not only did they have a campsite available for us, it was right by the beach and $40 cheaper than the other campground. Jackpot! With a renewed sense of excitement, we headed to our campsite. It didn’t have the best privacy, but the location to the beach and the bathrooms made it worth it. Quickly we threw the tent up, laid our damp sleeping bags out over the picnic table and changed into our bathing suits. The sun was sparkling on the water as we came over the dune. The beach was scattered with families, but quiet on a whole. We settled into our chairs, Alexis with her study material and me with a book and new beer. It was the most peaceful afternoon. My soul is always soothed when I am by the ocean.
We decided to head back and eat dinner before the sun set so we could watch that from the beach. Back at the campsite Alexis put our bed together as I started with the fire. In our cast iron skillet, I cooked up the turkey then added the tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers and spice. We chilled by the fire with our freshly cooked chili and Moscow mules.
Families were making their way back to the beach as the sun began to set. We cleaned up dinner and made our way too. We headed down the beach holding hands and chatting away. Before we knew it, we had made it about a mile down. It was so relaxing we probably could have kept walking, but the setting sun encouraged us to head back. When we got closer to the beach entrance we sat down and watched as the sun disappeared under the water and lit the sky up.
Back at the campground we lit another fire, grabbed one more drink and played cards for a little while. Night time in Oregon is cold and the brisk breeze was catching any of part my bare skin showing, and it was biting. It was time to make our way to bed as we were both ready anyways. As we snuggled into our tent for the night we lay listening to the peaceful night as we drifted off.
The sun was up and that meant a new day for exploring. We made a quick breakfast, grabbed our gear and set out for an easy hike. We left the campground and headed south along the coast on a windy road. We pulled into the trail head and the parking lot only had a few parked cars. Setting out on Cape Trail we were cruising at a good pace and feeling great. A few hikers would hear us coming and moved over to let us pass. To us we were walking a normal pace, but we got looks and comments that were mostly positive. Several openings popped up to the north and south providing amazing views. At one point I proclaimed, “I love the West Coast”. The sky was a brilliant blue as the waves crashed below on the beach with the mountains looming in the background. We forged on until we came to the point with a small flat area with a view that spanned out into the great Pacific Ocean. These are the moments that I pause, take a breath and realize that life’s problems are small. There is so much world out there and things are happening all the time. We can be better, and we can do better.
The walk out had been at a good pace, so we assumed we could continue that pace back since we had to get back to Portland by a certain time. The smile on my face quickly weakened as I realize the walk out was a slight downhill, but just enough to make the walk back hard and the pace wouldn’t be the same. However, we are feisty and pushed ahead, and made it back in decent time. As we trekked back more and more people started to pass us on the trail. Once back at the parking lot cars were jamming into spots as people were trying to get out on the trail. We smiled as we made it back to our car knowing that once again getting up early was so worth the peace on the trail. This hike will be on our list for next April when the whales migrate through.
We headed back to the campsite, packed up our car and headed home. This was another adventure for the books.
Difficulty - Easy
Distance - 4.7 miles
Route Type - Out and Back
Elevation Gain - 810 feet
Best Time - Early Morning - Anytime during the year, but whales migrate Dec-June