An Oregonian Impression (Part 1)

It was just a regular check-in with my parents, but I remember the phone conversation distinctly.

My mom asked what I was going to do.

To paraphrase, I responded, “I don’t know. I’m worried about money. I may have an opportunity for work in Portland. Do I try to improve my financial situation here in Oregon, or do I return to Pennsylvania? Without my credit card, I don’t have enough money to make it home. I just don’t know where this road goes from here, and I feel like it’s reached a tipping point.”

She replied, “I’m proud of you. You’ve come so far. I know it’s hard, but try not to worry. Everything will work out.”

It was the assurance that I needed to take each day as it comes, and focus solely on putting one foot in front of the other.

However, for the time being, I had to put my worries aside. There was a young man - my fourteen year old son, Cole - to whom I promised an adventure.

 

A Warm Reception

It had been five months since I had last seen Cole. That was the longest time we’ve spent apart in his entire life. I sat in the airport terminal at Portland International for hours in eager anticipation of his arrival.

Nothing can prepare you for the emotions you feel when you’re reunited with your child after being apart for so long. I thought that I’d be cool and that I’d manage to keep it together, but when he emerged at the gate, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I wrapped him in my arms and burst into tears of joy, almost certainly embarrassing him in front of countless other travelers.

Following a quick shuttle ride back to the Jeep, we set off to explore together. It was my wish for him to experience life on the road just as I have for the past several months, so I made no plans and set no itinerary for the week.

Together, we would go where the wind blows.

 

Into the Forest

We pushed westward into Tillamook State Forest. I was aware of a trail network for off-highway vehicles which I thought would be fun to explore.

State forests are challenging because how each one is regulated varies from state-to-state. For instance, is free, dispersed camping allowed? What about fire restrictions? Would we need permits for vehicular travel in certain areas?

In this case, the OHV routes did require a travel permit that we would have to buy at a ranger station. This was a tad frustrating, because I wasn’t sure if my Jeep was considered an OHV or not, and I wasn’t clear on how to determine which roads required a permit, and which ones didn’t.

We ended up at the Tillamook State Forest Visitor’s Center, which was a really charming facility with a large showroom full of interesting displays pertaining to the area. The rangers stationed there were very helpful and I opted to forego getting an OHV pass in favor of exploring general forest roads.

From there we wandered in the Jeep in search of our first proper campsite of the week.

 

Winding Roads

Tillamook State Forest, equidistant between Portland and the coast, contains a vast network of winding forest roads. This part of the state is mountainous, but not jagged. The forest is lush with trees, ferns, moss, and flora, and the roads would wind around ridges and down into valleys, parallel to gurgling mountain streams.

We traveled for several miles until found a small clearing next to a stream underneath some old Sycamore trees. There was a fire ring here, and it was the perfect place to call home for the rest of the day.

After deploying the camper and setting up the awning, old paternal habits kicked in. I made sure Cole was comfortable, made him food, and together we enjoyed this remote wilderness setting which we had all to ourselves.

 

A Picture-Perfect Setting

The next morning, Cole and I resumed pushing toward the coast. Our forest road followed the Kilchis River, and after a few miles of driving, we happened upon a setting so beautiful and so perfect...

Through the trees, a rusty, moss-covered bridge, surrounded by conifers and ferns, spanned a shallow gorge contain a pool of crystal-clear emerald water. It was absolutely worth stopping for a closer look.

I parked the Jeep at the side of the road and Cole and I climbed down the bank to admire the pool. While it was part of the river, the water was very still here, and we could see all the way to the bottom - roughly twelve feet at its deepest.

We were both in awe, as the scene could’ve been on a postcard.

Toes in the Sand

A short time later, we emerged from Tillamook State Forest near Bay City, Oregon, on the northern coast. While I had been on the Pacific Coast before, down in San Diego several weeks back, it was my first time on the shores of the Pacific Northwest.

We found a place to put our toes in the sand at Barview-Jetty [link_06], a public park and campground with a sandy beach and a rocky jetty extending into the Pacific Ocean.

Upon arriving on the coast, the sun gave way to clouds and mist. We exited the Jeep and were immediately shocked by the cold air. It was in the 40s! The temperature was double that only a short distance inland!

The experience left a lasting imprint, as we walked along the Pacific beach together as father and son, far and away from our Pennsylvania origins.