Living at a distance from our family, it’s tremendously convenient to have Lori’s parents and my parents in the same town (and same neighborhood) when visit. There are a couple downsides to the convenience, though — the main being that we often don’t get a lot of time with just one set of parents or the other when we’re visiting in Oregon, and knew that this would be even more important with Noe around.
This year, we decided to try something different. We basically told each pair of grand/parents that we’d like 4-5 days with just them outside of town. So, we ended up in Tahoe with my parents and the Oregon Coast with Lori’s. While these two trips constituted a large chunk of our Annual Leave time, we’re glad we did it, and will try and do something similar in future visits.
We rolled into Florence on a gorgeous mid-August day. A bit breezy in the shade, but absolutely perfect in the sunshine — and unlike the tropics, the warmth of the midday sun on the Oregon Coast feels absolutely fantastic. Florence can be hit or miss any time of year, and summer is no exception. We felt quite fortunate to hit it on such a nice stretch.
Our first stop in town? Mo’s, of course! Lori and I split the seafood plate (which comes with a cup of Mo’s legendary clam chowder) — highly recommended!
Old Town has really changed since I remember coming here as a kid in the 1980s and 90s. Florence generally couldn’t hold a candle to Old Town Newport, but things have changed.
Old shops have been restored, the riverfront has been tastefully developed with a couple of eco-sensitive pocket parks, a handful of independent brew pubs and coffee shops have moved in (but not at the expense of the long-established cafes and eateries), and the economy feels healthier than it has in years.
When we first got to Florence, we noticed a couple of vintage Bronco dune buggies — not surprising in these parts. And then, we saw two more, and five more, and by the weekend the entire main drag was lined with them. Suddenly, the Camry was feeling a bit inadequate. Did we miss the memo?
Just a normal weekend in Florence? Maybe not. We soon learned that there was — surprise — a vintage Bronco rally this weekend. Some of these vehicles are just so over-the-top it’s not even funny. They’d probably even be overkill plowing through the jungles and bushland of Southeast Asia (where the nubby tires and ground clearance would make sense) as most folks in Laos do just fine with a stock 4×4 pickup, even in monsoon season. But the Oregon Dunes are another story, apparently. I do have to admit, they are fun to look at. Noe thought so too.
After strolling around town for a while, we finally found Grampy…taking a catnap, right where we left him.
We checked into our VRBO (vacation rental by owner) and home for the next few days. By this time, it was late afternoon, but the sun beckoned. So, we took a walk down to the Siuslaw slough along North Jetty Road and found a pair of inviting and protected half-moon beaches.
A few degrees warmer or a little earlier in the day and this would be an awesome swim spot. For now, we settled on a leisurely stroll.
There’s an excellent dive entry point here between the two beaches that I accessed a number of years ago — one of the better dives on this part of the Oregon coast, particularly at slack tide.
The next morning, we made our way with Grammy up to Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the most photographed and most unique lighthouses in the U.S. I’ve been wanting to stop here for years, but never got the chance.
Free tours are offered every 10 minutes or so in summer. It’s still a fully-functioning light, so you can’t go up to the lens on the regular tour. But you do get a bit of background and a tour of the first level. Heceta has been lovingly restored in recent years and it shows. It’s easily the nicest and best maintained lighthouse I’ve seen.
The lighthouse is enough to warrant the half mile trek from the parking lot up the hill. For a different perspective, you can head up the steps to the right, where surprisingly few visitors seem to venture.
The trail continues for another 1.5 miles, up and over the headland, topping out at around 500 feet (with awesome views of the beach below), before re-joining Highway 101 at Hobbit Trailhead.
Probably the best hike I’ve done on the Oregon Coast! Good amount of effort involved, gorgeous scenery, and perfect hiking weather.
Our aim for the afternoon: Hobbit Beach, a mere 500 feet below.
Hobbit Trail to the beach adds another 0.5 miles, which brings the grand total from the Heceta Head parking lot to Hobbit Beach to a moderate 2.5 mile hike. Grammy and Lori were less than thrilled about the hike back (with Noe and his backpack), so I volunteered to hike/jog back to the car, and meeting them at Hobbit Trailhead, rounding out 5 miles. I’d been wanting to get in a solo hike at some point, so everyone was happy.
Hobbit Beach is one of the more picturesque in the area, protected from the wind to an extent by the sharply climbing headland, and from large crowds by the 0.5 mile access trail.
We really enjoyed our stay at our little coastal getaway and were pleased with the VRBO. It was well-appointed and surrounded by pines and dense greenery. I had some of the best sleep I’ve had in the U.S so far right here, and incidentally, so did Noe. Which is a good thing, given that his packable crib was just a few feet from our bed inset into the closet. And yes, we did bring his very own bed with him from Laos.
We’ve been very happy with our compact Guava Family Lotus Travel crib and bring it everywhere with us — literally. It’s been on every one of the 18 flights we’ve taken with Noe to date (packable cribs and strollers travel at no additional charge on most airlines), it’s been on buses and boats, taxis and tuk tuks, and is the only bed Noe’s spent his nights in since he was three weeks old. Noe’s life is full of more inconsistency than most kids his age, so we try to give him consistency where we can. No matter where in the world the day takes him, he can rest assured that his head will always land on the same sheets…at least for now.
Friday morning, we headed down to Heceta Beach (near the venerable Driftwood Shores Resort) and got a more traditional Oregon Coast experience.
Dense fog, buffeting winds, cold and wet. I think Noe was pretty confused.
“Why is it so COLD at the BEACH, daddy? I don’t understand!!!”
Obviously, I explained to my son that because he’s an Oregonian by birth, he must suffer as we have suffered. Somehow, I think he got the message.
Noe showed much strength for his age in the face of such adversity. I, on the other hand, whimpered like a tiny baby. And just as I was preparing to don my fuzzy mittens and seek cover behind a driftwood log to stave off hypothermia, the fog magically cleared, the wind died down, and the sun came out. Now, where were we?
Afterwards, we made a stop at Darlingtonia State Natural Site, just up the street. Darlingtonia is a bog of rare carnivorous pitcher plants native to the area. A bit like venus fly traps, they actually catch insects in their “mouths” and devoured! Lured by the promise of sweet nectar, the insect flies up into the tube, becomes disoriented and ultimately trapped, where it is digested.
On our final evening, we drove South Jetty beach and, in a momentary loss of any and all common sense, threw a kite up into 25 mph winds. Fun at first, as more and more string disappears in the distance, along with the kite…but absolute agony trying to reel the thing back in.
There were several times I wanted nothing more than to grab the keys out of my pocket and cut her loose. But I didn’t. I persevered. And had the blisters and the aching forearms the next day to show for it.