The West Coast in Summer

This is our year of short trips, and we just completed another short RV trip through three of our favorite states: California, Oregon, and Washington.

Heading out from Southern California in mid-July is always tricky because no matter what direction you go, it’s bound to be hot! When we left our condo in Marina del Rey, it was a comfortable 69 degrees, while our home campground 40 miles away in Valencia was roasting at 99 degrees. After getting ourselves and the cats settled, we enjoyed our air-conditioning and a refreshing Costco salad, plus ice cream and a Magnum bar (because they are Ann B’s favorite).

Danno hunkers down by the gas pedal.
Leilani prefers the loft above our seats.
First meal in the motorhome on this trip.
And dessert...

Our drive to the San Francisco Bay Area was hot but otherwise uneventful, and our destination was close to the water and therefore much cooler than California’s Central Valley. The Dumbarton Quarry Campground, just a year old, is very close to the southern end of San Francisco Bay, near the Coyote Hills Regional Park. Thank you, Kim and Suzie, for alerting us to this much-needed addition to RV campgrounds in the Bay Area.

Dumbarton Bridge over the southern part of San Francisco Bay
White pelicans in the bay
Stilts and friends

We rode our bikes onto a levee out into a bit of the bay and then through some of the hilly areas near the campground. Just enough activity after a long day of driving in the motorhome.

View of the hills from the levee in the bay

Another long hot day of driving the next day brought us through the Bay Area, the Sonoma County wine country, and several redwood state parks to land back on the coast (yay—cooler temperatures again) in Trinidad, CA.

Crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge into Marin County
So nice to get back to the coast at Trinidad (above Eureka)

We have previously visited Patrick’s Point State Park, and it’s now named Sue-Meg State Park (referring to the spirit of porpoises in the Yurok language). A fairly easy Rim Trail (with some rather steep steps in places) gives hikers access to several overlooks around the point. Gorgeous coastal views, lots of trees and shade, and a variety of birds, made this another terrific activity after a long drive.

A third long day of driving made for a very tired Hank. We started the morning driving through the coastal fog of the northernmost redwood parks in California. Once we crossed into Oregon, the redwoods were gone, but the fog stayed with us for quite awhile. We love driving the Oregon coast because of all the stunning coastal views. When the fog is present, you have to hunt a little harder for those amazing views, but it’s still a very pretty drive—haystacks, sand dunes, lush forests, and cute bridges in every coastal town, because of numerous rivers emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Sand dunes
Cool bridge
Cute coastal town of Florence

The destination for Day 3: Newport, Oregon, which is pretty much in the middle of the Oregon coast. We’ve camped here twice before, and it’s one of the few Oregon state park campgrounds that usually has sites available in the summer (South Beach State Park). Some very nice paved biking trails and easy walking paths to the beach provide plenty of outdoor access.

In addition, we love Newport because of its picturesque harbor and a great seafood restaurant, Local Ocean Seafoods. The halibut and salmon we had were some of the best ever! The waitress said the halibut was fresh off the boat, and it tasted like it.

The harbor in Newport, OR
Can you see the bridge through the fog?
Yummy choices at Local Ocean Seafoods

We had an extra day in Newport to recover from three long days of driving. The cats enjoyed the break, and decided to give this campground a two-paws-up rating because of the foliage in back of our campsite that they could explore at their leisure.

We completed our drive up the Oregon Coast, crossing the Columbia River at Astoria, and spent our last coastal night at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington. Last year we visited this park for the first time, learning that the cape was named in 1788 by a British ship captain when he mistakenly believed that the mouth of the Columbia River was only a bay (more details in previous blog post-Washington Wanderings). It was also a camping spot for the Lewis & Clark expedition before they settled on the Oregon side of the Columbia River for the winter and then headed back to St. Louis.

The iconic bridge over the Columbia River at Astoria, OR
Nothing disappointing about Cape Disappointment

With our one evening to explore, we hiked up a coastal trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, off limits last year behind Coast Guard fencing. Beautiful views of the river, ocean, bays, and forests greeted us.

View of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach
Deadman's Cove on the way to the lighthouse
Gorgeous fir and cedar trees were enormous!
The Cape Disappointment LIghthouse
Beautiful view from the lighthouse
...and fauna of Cape Disappointment

The next day we headed to Puget Sound and Harstine Island to spend several days at my brother Ron’s “cabin” across from McMicken Island State Park, which was my family’s frequent summer vacation spot when we were children (and as adults). We had another great reunion with family members, including all of Ron and Merrie’s family, plus an aunt and several cousins. Great meals every night, and a couple of campfires with songs and s’mores, made it even better.

Celebrating Samantha's birthday
Canyonwood Beach--Merrie, James, Kathleen, Daniel, Hank, and Jack
Nephew Dave and his son Ryan
Nephew Andy with Daniel and James; Emma on paddleboard
Observers included nephew Rob and nieces-in-law Ashley, Marie, and Jill
Emma and Daniel tackle kayaking.
Ron and Merrie take out the new speed boat!
Cousin Betsy and her granddaughter Alice, camping on McMicken
Betsy's husband Andy and my Aunt Gayle

Day trips in this part of Puget Sound included kayaking to McMicken Island State Park, hiking up and down from the cabin to the beach, crossing the sandbar to McMicken Island at low tide, walking the forest trail on McMicken, and watching our nieces and nephews try tubing and water skiing in Ron and Merrie’s new speedboat.

A view of McMicken from Harstine Island (at high tide)
Crossing the sandbar to McMicken at low tide
The kids explored Penelope's Pebble, which is completely covered with water at high tide.
Ron and Danielle dig for butter clams on the beach at McMicken.
Mt. Rainier is a wonderful sight as you travel around Puget Sound.
Hiking through the woods on McMicken

Wildlife sightings included Western fence lizards, sea anemones, sand dollars, and two bald eagles (plus deer, bunnies and squirrels, but no photos of those).

Bald eagles on McMicken
Aggregating anemones cover Penelope's Pebble, but only open up when covered with water.
Jack caught a lizard in Ron's garage.
A live sand dollar...
And a dead sand dollar

We drove into the Seattle area for a visit with my mom, and we enjoyed lunch in Allyn at Big Bubba’s Burgers (the blackberry shakes are awesome!). On our last day, Ron and Merrie took us around the southern tip of Harstine Island in their new boat. We had heard that orcas had been sighted in the area. Though we didn’t see any orcas, we did spot a porpoise, and of course we enjoyed the views of both Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Range.

Olympic Mountain Range
Harbor seals watch us go by.

Our goal on the way home to Southern California was to endure the heat wave (and avoid wildfires), and we managed pretty well. We didn’t do much sightseeing near our camping spots along Interstate 5, but we enjoyed a good dinner at the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon, and made plans for future camping in three of our favorite states.

Mt. Shasta (in the background), an iconic Northern California site
And Lake Shasta with low water levels

As usual, Hank’s photos were mostly focused on macro shots of little critters. Here are a few.

Western tiger swallowtail butterfly on Harstine Island
Isabella tiger moth
Margined white butterfly
Chocolate arion red slugs are common on the islands of Puget Sound.
Echo azure butterfly

Until our next trip, long or short, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments about your own travels on the West Coast!

4 thoughts on “The West Coast in Summer”

  1. Cindy and Hank….what a wonderful trip and the pictures and narrative provided us with such fascinating details of many places we have never visited…..thanks so much !

    Marleen and Jim

  2. Fabulous trip. Great photos. You both know how to see the west coast. Even the cats seem to enjoy the expansive scenery.


    • It’s like cat TV! We pull up to a new campground and the cats come out from hiding while we drive to find out which channel they are watching now! Thanks for reading, Diane.


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