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  • Writer's pictureMiranda

West Coast to Home

The roar of the Pacific Ocean greeted us on the West Coast. The distinction of the constant roaring waves was a contrast to the Atlantic Ocean where it was a single wave crashing followed by quiet, then another wave. This was true from the first beach we visited in northern California to Ruby Beach in northern Washington as we traveled the coast on Highway 101.

Our west coast adventures began at a Trinidad campground that was a fairyland of sorts with towering trees, moss covered everything, a gazebo, and lights strung throughout. We arrived after a full day of driving from a Rice Farm Harvest Host in Willow, CA. We weren’t very far from the ocean or town so we unstrapped our bikes and took a ride. First stop was College Cove, a beach that we later found out was one of the best places for tide pooling. We just happened to be there at low tide. We climbed on the exposed rocks looking at starfish, anemone, snails, clams, tiny fish, and lots of other creatures we don’t know the names of. We continued biking into the small harbor town of Trinidad stopping at a lookout over a marina and haystack rocks. Our final stop was the local market to get groceries for the week. We were limited to what we could carry in my bike basket and a backpack we had brought. Back at the campground we watched the Timberwolves playoff game with our campground neighbors who were also from MN while prepping dinner: chimichurri, broccoli salad, fried potatoes, and steak.

The next day I had work much of the day and changed out loads of laundry between meetings since the campground only had one washer and dryer. After breakfast and showers Chuck and kids went exploring: Moonstone Beach, Big Lagoon, and the town of Eureka. By mid-afternoon we all headed north to Redwood National Park for Fern Canyon. Getting to the trail head was a 6-mile drive down a narrow, one lane at times, dirt road that wound through a Redwood forest toward the ocean, then turning abruptly to parallel the shore and cross three streams. It was an adventure just getting to the hike. A few hundred feet down the trail we came to a creek with a narrow wood board crossing. After carefully making our way across and surveying the confusing and limited signage we realized from photos we had seen, the Fern Canyon hike actually was the creek bed. So we, gingerly at first, made our way looking for the shallowest route and using natural and man-made bridges. Eventually, we were climbing over entire downed trees and walking through rushing waters ankle deep. Ben fell in the creek slipping off a tree and getting soaked. Once we knew he was fine, we erupted in laughter and gave up on staying dry. We only saw one other person on this exploration through towering fern and moss covered canyon walls. It was the kids’ favorite hike with all the obstacles, water and adventure! Mallory was inspired by the natural beauty and experimented with depth of field photography. It was a short 1.5 mile hike, but oh so much fun!

As we drove back out of the forest we came upon a herd of elk right next to road, so we stopped to observe. Then back at the RV, we dried off, warmed up, ate crock pot pork roast and rice, and made hot cocoas to take back to Moonstone Beach (Chuck and the kids had visited earlier) to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful evening but chilly, however that didn’t keep Ben from skim boarding. Back at the RV Ben headed to the shower to warm up again, the girls worked on school, and Chuck and I tackled the dishes that had been accumulating. Doing dishes in the small RV, with no hot water doesn’t really work. So instead we wait for campgrounds with outdoor dish washing stations or wash them outside our RV with boiled water. Thankfully this campground had a huge, three tub, stainless steel dish sink, but NO hot water. So Chuck hauled 3-gallon buckets of hot water multiple trips, pretty sure it was six times, from a nearby bathroom for washing and rinsing.

It was a rare morning that we all slept in, and then enjoyed a new family favorite breakfast: avocado toast, bacon and eggs. Chuck and kids went exploring again, this time to Luffenholtz Beach where the kids climbed on rocks and floated shoes down a creek that ran into the ocean. They were back to the RV by mid-afternoon and we headed to another section of the Redwood National Park to hike the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, drive the Newton B Drury Scenic Drive, see the “Big Tree”, and walk the Circle Trail. We then drove a little further north to the Coastal Drive Loop; totally worth doing this 9-mile, one-way part of the way, dirt road. It has beautiful views and passes a WWII fake farm radar station. At the final lookout where Klamath River converges with the Pacific Ocean we heard faint barking, as we looked down over the bank we observed sea lions below. Chuck was pretty confident we could get closer. So we hopped back in the Explorer, drove down the road to water level, and walked along the river shore to where it met the ocean. We got to within 15-feet of all the activity and spent an hour watching the sea lions feeding, playing, and swimming up-stream into the river. The rest of the afternoon and evening was a repeat of the day before…elk spotted on the drive back to the RV, dinner, sunset at the beach, ending with time at the RV that night for school and journaling.

The next day, after working in the morning we loaded up the bikes and drove south to Arcata, CA. There was a Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary that we wanted to check out. It ended up only having about three miles of trails, but it was a beautiful sunny day. We stopped in the town square and visited a fun vintage thrift store with many good finds including camo pants like the ones Chuck had in college. We decided to take advantage of the sunny weather and head back to Luffenholtz Beach, a favorite from day before, where Ben and Kate skim boarded down the creek. Mal and I lay on the warm dark sand and soaked up the sun while Chuck climbed on rocks. We grabbed a rare meal out at a local diner with homemade ice cream for dessert. Then returned to the RV to pack-up and have a campfire since we were leaving in the morning and rain was in the forecast overnight.

We woke-up to the sounds of rain hitting the RV roof and by 10am had left California headed north caravan style, due to ongoing elevation changes. This was a trend for the entire Oregon coast. Mallory and Ben traded off riding shotgun with Chuck in the RV, while Kate was my sidekick in the Explorer. We arrived at the much anticipated Oregon Dunes KOA . The campground was filled with side-by-sides/UTVs, country music playing, and had a recreation hall with ping pong tables and other games. We ordered a wheel borrow of wood and Chuck built a fire as we took in all the unique sights and sounds. Just after dark the sounds of revving engines started to grow as the UTVs gathered in the center of the campground with music blasting and LED light bars flashing for a night ride on the nearby sand dunes. It was quite a sight to see about 30 recreational vehicles parade out of the campground. We were one of the few campers at the KOA without a UTV, but we had rentals lined up for the next day…

We attended service at the Skyline Baptist Church in North Bend, a quick bite to eat, and then bike rode to the rental place for an afternoon exploring the dunes. Chuck, Ben and Mallory all got licensed to drive ATV/UTVs in Oregon, passed a driver’s test, and off we went. Chuck was driving a 4-person UTV while Ben and Mal switched off driving a four-wheeler. We had fun exploring large dunes and side trails, ponds and tall grass areas, as well as watching about 50 other wheelers, dirt bikes and trucks doing the same. It was sunny day with no wind so there was very little dust getting kicked up. Us girls didn’t care for the steep drops and banks, so we got out and watched the boys “play” on top of a large dune before the afternoon ended.

Monday was a wash out, raining all day, so we used the time for work and school and got a break from our 26-foot living space by playing ping pong, Jenga and foosball in the rec room. Tuesday brought sun again so we spent the afternoon exploring the area beaches of Coos Bay:

  • At Bastendorff Beach we walked the sand looking for shells and at the south end climbed over a sandstone wall exposed due to low tide to access a hidden beach that had rocks covered with bright green moss and tide pools.

  • Sunset Beach had tide pools and a creek to explore.

  • Cape Arago Lookout provided the opportunity to view seals, sea lions and their babies with binoculars sunning themselves on Shell Island and Simpson Reef.

The next day we leisurely caravanned north to Newport, OR, stopping near Florence to visit Heceta Head Lighthouse and Strawberry Hill (Neptune State Park) with ocean waves crashing on charcoal like rocks. Our destination was our first state park of the adventure, Beverly Beach – one of the many, many state parks along the Oregon coast. I had booked us a back-in site, but upon seeing our rig the Ranger knew it was too small. So he gave us a map and made some recommendations of sites we should check out and then told us to pick the one that would work best. A pull through, that was pretty dry (it has been an especially wet spring in OR) surrounded by trees was our choice. After dinner, we walked out to the beach looking for agates and playing in a creek. Then buttoned up for a wet few days ahead.

We spent the next day exploring nearby towns of Newport, Depo, and Lincoln City since it was raining. There was a brief break in the rain that evening so we walked out to the beach again and the kids played at a park.

Next stop on the coast was Astoria, OR. On the way we visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour, samples and lunch that featured all the dairy favorites: cheese curds, mac-n-cheese and ice cream samplers of nine different flavors – white chocolate raspberry was everyone’s favorite. Our Friday night at the campground included mom doing four loads of laundry (all at one time), kids playing basketball on the indoor court, Chuck setting up camp (as much as you can in the rain), and watching the movie Freaky Friday with a handful of other families in the rec hall. It was after all Mother’s Day weekend, and this Disney classic has a mother and teenage daughter swap places.

Saturday was dedicated to the kids enjoying all the things this family-friendly KOA had to offer in between rain showers:

  • Tye-dyeing t-shirt and pillow case

  • Basketball

  • RC car race track, Ben even made friends who let him drive their cars

  • Train ride around the campground

  • Video games

  • Painting ceramic stepping stones for Grandmas

  • Yards games including sack races, three-legged race, and capture the flag ran by the KOA staff

  • Playground

  • Jumping pillow

  • Volleyball in the swimming pool

  • Family movie night (Incredibles)

As Chuck and I observed all the other local families in the campground we realized that we are not equipped to camp in OR where it has rained most of the days. Kids here are wearing mud boots and rain jackets or ponchos. Campfires and picnic tables have pop-tents and tarps over them so they can still be enjoyed in the rain. Luckily, Kate made friends with our neighbors and got us invited to join them at their campfire under the tarp one night.

Mother’s Day began with attending church in Astoria then walking the downtown farmers market where we got eggs, sweet potatoes and dried mixed berries. This harbor town reminded us of Duluth, although much smaller, since it is built into the side of a hill with homes in the same era overlooking the Columbia River shipping channel. We saw dark storm clouds coming, so we rushed to finish the other outdoor experience on our list for the day…a climb up the Astoria Column. This historic tower sits atop a hill and after climbing 160 steps provides a 360-degree view of the area. We missed the memo to buy a balsam airplane before climbing the tower, but watched other kids and families fly them off the top. Mission accomplished before the rain started falling. Next, a quick stop at the home from the Goonies movie. Chuck jumped out in the rain and took a photo of the private residence. We decided to head north where we could see the clouds breaking up and sun shining. So, we drove over the bridge crossing the Columbia River into Washington. Destination was Long Beach and a late lunch at the Pickled Fish. We walked the boardwalk and beach, called our Moms/Grandmas, and shared wood-fired pizzas and specialty drinks. Back at the RV we made hot cocoas and headed to Sunset Beach, appropriately named, for the sunset and saw elk on the way.

Monday was a long work day but no rain, so Chuck and the kids had fun in the campground after doing some school. It was pretty quiet with most of the locals leaving after the weekend. We got new neighbors, a family from Europe who had rented an RV in California and were touring the western part of the US for six weeks. Then we packed an overnight bag and drove down to Manzanita, OR, to stay with my cousin Jeana, actually 2nd cousin, but as Chuck tells the kids “all my relatives are cousins”. I hadn’t seen her in more than two decades since a family reunion in Red Lodge, MT. We arrived at their ocean-view home just in time for sunset. A short walk to the beach provided the perfect setting for reconnecting while Ben and Kate built a bridge over a creek running into the ocean using driftwood and rocks.

Morning brought sunshine, just as Jeana had predicted when we made plans the previous week to spend the day together. After a delicious breakfast on the deck we headed out to explore her favorite spots. First stop after seeing a few sights was Kelly’s Marina. We are all about experiences and here they provided the opportunity to crab fish from the dock. So Chuck, Ben and Kate got licensed and trained on how to identify male versus female crabs and how to measure them. To keep a crab it needed to be a male with a shell width of at least 5”. We rented two pots, baited with stinky fish, and decided to try our luck. Tide was going out, so we were advised it might not be the best. But, we were hoping to just catch one keeper so we could try fresh crab, part of the fee includes them cooking and cleaning it at their outdoor cook station. We tied off the crab pots, tossed them out about 15 feet and waited 10-15 minutes before pulling them up. Success! The first pot Ben pulled up had a dozen crabs. None of them were keepers but the excitement of the crabs trying to escape as we were identifying males, measuring those that looked big enough, and tossing back the ones not making the cut was entertaining. We’d check both pots and toss them back with enough time to walk up the dock and sit by the outdoor fire pit before it was time to check them again.

After about two hours we had caught and sorted through 100 crabs and had one keeper. So we decided to have them cook it up! We got warm butter and all tried the fresh crab meat. Ben and Chuck loved it. Us girls couldn’t get past seeing the crab itself and cracking the legs to sample the meat. It was now mid-afternoon and low tide so we headed to Hug Point to explore sea caves, a waterfall and collect shells on the beach. Other fun discoveries were made as we walked along the sand and rocks…Kate found jelly fish and Ben caught sand fleas. Our final stop was Arch Cape lookout for a view of places we had been earlier in the day. Back at home we helped Jeana with dinner as Kate and Tim (Jeana’s husband) played giant Jenga on the deck. We walked down to the beach again for sunset but the clouds were rolling in, so we ended the evening with dessert and some final visiting at their home before we headed back to the RV.

Leaving Astoria we traveled west and north to Mount St. Helen’s Visitors Center in Castle Rock, WA. This was a great stop with educational displays, topographical maps and a movie that enhanced Ben’s earlier learning about volcanoes through his online global studies class. Chuck received a large, laminated poster of Washington native birds due to his outdoor apparel including binoculars hanging from his neck. After a quick one mile boardwalk to view Mt St Helen’s, we drove three more miles to our campground for the night. Then, unloaded the Explorer to drive back into Oregon to visit my Great Aunt Rosie and Uncle Ray, my grandma’s brother, in Portland. When we got to their home the aroma of a home cooked meal welcomed us. Rosie made dishes reflective of our German heritage: sweet and sour cabbage (c siskraut), pork chops in bacon gravy and homemade Spatzle noodles. We had a nice visit with them and even saw my cousin Ryan and his kids.

We headed back to the Pacific Coast staying at Ocean Shores, WA. The weather was wet and rainy, this dampens everything including the mood. The clouds broke up later in the day so we drove along the beaches and went to Damen Beach Point for agate hunting and Ben got to drive his new wheels. He enjoyed watching and driving the RC cars so much in Astoria, he needed to get one of his own. He raced and jumped his 4x4 RC truck all over the beach. But it started raining again, so we rushed back to the car and returned to the RV for dinner.

Friday morning started with work and school, then we drove two hours north to Olympic National Park Hoh Rain Forest. The day was dry with the sun peeking through the clouds. We took two hikes through this coastal rain forest: Tunnel of the Mosses and Spruce Nature Trail. We had a picnic lunch at Ruby Beach, which is one of a series of beaches in the National Park, using a driftwood tree as our buffet table and then spent a few hours just hanging out. The kids built two forts (girls and boy) on the beach using driftwood. I walked the shore as the tide went out and Chuck supervised the building process adding a few finishing touches. After touring both forts everyone walked down the beach to see all the sea creatures exposed during low tide. Next stop was Beach 4, also known for tide pools, but first you needed to cross a bridge, climb down a large sandstone with a rope for assistance, and cross a creek. As we started exploring the rain showers came so, we returned to the Explorer taking a slightly longer but scenic route through small coastal towns back to the RV.

Saturday was forecast rain again for most of the day so we slept in, kids worked on school and then in the afternoon ventured out to visit a few of the towns we drove through the day before. Dinner out at an Irish Pub while playing Uno with a mini-deck of cards rounded out our night.

Sunday we drove to the Seattle area staying near Fall City, just 30 miles northeast of the city. Chuck helped our neighbor fix her awning that had broken with the heavy rains. We had a family favorite meal of pork fried rice. I drove to a nearby town to do our last loads of laundry. This was our final multiple day stay before heading east to Minnesota.

Monday was a dry, sunny day for our visit to Seattle. We started at Pikes Market. The girls bought glass straws at the first booth we stopped at and the lady was super friendly providing recommendations of how to explore the Market. Our next stop was the original Starbucks. This small storefront had a line wrapped outside, but it was a quick wait with a staff person talking to the crowd and blowing bubbles. Just a few doors down we got breakfast pastries from a Russia bakery (Piroshki Piroshki). Then we walked all six floors of the Market seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing all that it had to offer: sampling fresh peaches, watching fish being tossed and packaged, gazing at bright bouquets of fresh cut flowers, inspecting handmade leather goods, smelling seafood packed in ice, and so much more. Next we wanted to see the City form the water, so we took a one hour, narrated, harbor cruise. Just one pier down on Pier 54 we took a ride on a Ferris Wheel and ate late lunch at the Sourdough Bakery. Our final stop was a park designed for older kids and teens in the City Center near the base of the Space Needle and Museum of Pop Culture. We were back at the campsite before rush hour enjoying a campfire.

Our final day in Washington we spent at the campground. I worked. Mallory finished school for the semester! She celebrated with a trip to a local coffee shop and bakery. Family pickle ball and basketball was played in the afternoon followed by a steak dinner. Our evening held packing, playing with neighbors, a campfire, and a game of Phase 10.

Our return trip home we had planned to take six days, not knowing road conditions and weather. But, in fact we were very motivated travelers knocking it out in four…

  • Fall City, WA, to Post Falls, ID – Scratch off another state on our map. This RV park had a pool and hot tub so we enjoyed a quick soak and swim before it closed.

  • Post Falls, ID, to Big Timber, MT – We drove caravan style most of this day as we had quite a few mountain peaks on the interstate to go over. The sights were beautiful with a river, rolling hills and snowy mountain peaks a constant part of the view. Mallory was riding shotgun with Chuck in the RV setting the pace. She kept him motivated to keep going as the DJ and researching options for campgrounds further along than we had originally planned, covering 444 miles. When we finally parked the RV at 6:30pm we decided to stretch our legs and walk to the nearby Grey Cliff Prairie Dog State Park.

  • Big Timber, MT, to Medora, ND – We visited one last National Park on our way home: Theodore Roosevelt National Park arriving just before the Visitor Center closed to get our passport stamps and sticker. Then we walked downtown Medora and ate dinner back at the RV before driving the National Park. Timing was perfect as it was just before dusk and we saw an abundance of wildlife: prairie dogs, turkeys, wild horses, bison with calves, mule deer, and a bunny. Kate finished school during our drive on this day too!

  • Medora, ND, to Merrifield, MN – This was our longest driving day of the adventure covering 484 miles, but everyone was excited to get home. We were like horses for the barn. Greeted by family with hugs and smiles it was good to be home.

There’s one more blog post to come, for those that have followed our Adventure since September. We’ll each have a personal reflection, a list of the things we will and will not miss about living on the road in an RV, and our top 10 recommendations of places to visit.


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May 31, 2022

Can't wait to hang out and hear more of the stories! Welcome Home.


Sharon Konen-Bulinski
Sharon Konen-Bulinski
May 28, 2022

Looking forward to your final post but at the same time sad. It was so enjoyable reading and seeing your adventures. Glad you're home safe!!!


May 28, 2022

Welcome back Andersons!! Looking forward to reading your next post.

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