The journey down the Oregon coast became our first attempt at some serious boondocking exploration. Boondocking, or the fancy French way of saying “I don’t want to pay for a campsite so I’m going to pull over here on the side of the road”, is similar to tent camping in that you don’t have a water, sewage or electricity hookup and must rely on your stores in your RV. This type of camping, however, is illegal on private land, city parks or any public area that says “No Overnight Parking”. The big chains of Walmart and Cracker Barrel do allow overnight parking, however, and we have used them liberally when we’re just trying to get from point A to B.
As a state rule, Oregon allows for day and overnight parking in its state parks as long as you do not park at any one spot longer than 12 consecutive hours. We set out down Route 101 from Seattle with plans to spend our daylight hours in one area and then park in another free spot for the night, understanding that we’d leave again in the morning. This may seem tiring, but we’re young, dumb and ambitious so the constant movement only served to fuel our wanderlust. Our RV is smaller, but has adequate clean, gray and black water storage to last us for quite a few days (not showering, but, eh, we love each other anyway) without needing to resupply. This was how we explored the beautiful Oregon secret of the People’s Coast, a section of the Oregon coastline that follows Route 101 along the Pacific Ocean and is home of the infamous 804 hiking trail.
Route 101 wove serenely along the coastline, leading up and around bluffs that leaned away from the ocean as if trying to pull away from the rhythmic, pounding waves. We watched as the thin trees gave way to rocky walls sheltering sandy beaches clearly strewn with large boulders and rock formations. By the time we parked in a small picnic overlook, we felt the pulse of the Pacific below us in the driftwood railing that lead down to the beach. Even later, as we stopped at one of the many coffee huts for an espresso while we waited for our laundry to finish at a coin laundry shop, we heard the drumming of the heart of Oregon, the pull of the Pacific, in the people of the small town Yachats and Waldport. While of the residents we met had the slower pace of retirement in their step, even the young families and adolescents we spoke with met us with acceptance and had the attitude of live and let live. Possibly even rarer than the beauty of the Oregon coast itself was the contentment we saw in the residents of the coastline towns, a contentment that is hard pressed to be found in much of the western culture.
Where to Boondock along the
People’s Coast of Oregon
In between Waldport and further south to Yachats, there is the Governor Patterson Memorial State Reservoir, Beachside State Park, Smelt Sands Park Recreation Site, the residential area of Wakonda Beach and San Marine, and then the Yachats Ocean Road State Natural Site just south of Yachats. These areas are wonderful day use parks and beaches, with picnic tables, bathrooms (or outhouses), and shade. Along Route 101, or the Oregon Coast Highway, there are overlooks with parking lots and beach access for day use as well. All of these areas are clearly marked that overnight camping is not allowed and we only parked here for the 12 hour daylight hour times.
For overnight parking, however, we made our way to Cook’s Chasm south of Yachats where the rock formations Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn are located. This smaller parking area is one of the few that are not marked for “Day Use” only and does allow overnight parking. We’d arrive here around 9 or 10pm each night and there were parking spots still available.
Laundry and gas, two necessities of the boondocking adventure, were taken care of in Waldport. There is gas available in Yachats as well, but the only open laundry facility we found was in Waldport. There is also a Post Office available in Waldport.
For groceries, we kept to the single, but thankfully open late, market in Yachats.
There is free water and RV dumping at Carl G. Washburn Memorial State Park located just south of Yachats on Route 101. This is also has great beach access for day use.
An Accessibility Footnote
Sadly, none of the Oregon coast was particularly accessible. The beaches did not have boardwalks, for most of the shoreline protected by sand bluffs and boulders. To access each beach we found, there was a flight of stairs and then usually several rocky areas to cover. Dusty simply carried me down to the water and once I plopped down to the sand, he went back for my wheelchair. The only “accessible” path along the shore was the 804 Trail found at Smelt Sands State Park Recreation Site. This trail is a dirt path, not particularly level, and can be steep in some sections but it does follow along above the water and is home to some spectacular views. With the help of my mobility service dog, Little Miss Ethel, I was able to ride the trail without Dusty but I would not recommend this trail for a power wheelchair.