Wet, wild and windy winter camping on the Oregon Coast

The weather forecast said it all; highs in the low 50’s, 100 % chance of rain, and 60mph wind. What better weekend for camping at the coast? Some may say we were crazy but I was itching for a weekend in Tequila. It had been nearly two months since we’d cuddled into our cozy cocoon and enjoyed nature and I was more than ready, the weather forecast be damned.

Jim and Porter picked me up promptly at 4pm on Friday afternoon and we headed west, following the sunset into the increasingly powerful wind and rain. I was undeterred, singing along to the Zac Brown band and Jimmy Buffet while Porter napped, no doubt dreaming of the beach. Jim didn’t share my enthusiasm and more than once mentioned turning around and heading home but I’d hear none of it. The weather was just fine, I grew up in Minnesota, Jim worked in Alaska…seriously, we had this!

As we came into Tillamook we were frequently hydro-planing and Jim was a bit more determined that if it was too bad we were just driving home. Now, this was the moment that we should have turned right and headed to Nehalem Bay campground. It’s one of our favorite getaways but, having been there several times this year, we really wanted to hang out somewhere else and so, fate had us turning left to Pacific City. We had the intention of camping at Webb County campground, basically a parking lot w/ a few hookups and a bathroom block but directly across the street from not only the beach but also Pelican Pub & Brewery!

Sounds like an excellent idea until you take the 75mph wind gusts and driving rain into account. As we sat in the campground next to a potential site, I said “this doesn’t seem so bad”…. and, admittedly, if we’d had a hard sided camper we would have been just fine. In a pop-top like Tequila…hmmm, maybe not. Just to prove his point Jim opened the door to get out show me how windy it was and the door was nearly ripped off it’s hinges by a gust right before he was almost knocked to the ground. Okay, plan B. One thing I knew was it was 7pm and we were hungry and tired and I was not driving home that night so I headed into the office of the Cape Kiwanda Rv park next door to inquire about a camping cabin. There are no pics of our, not so luxurious digs, because…it was just raining too hard!

For the price of two nights camping, I secured us a one room cabin with a bed, electricity, and heat. Was it ideal? Nope. With no linens included we still needed to get into the back of Tequila and get out bedding and pillows and Porters food and hell, we certainly needed some wine and bourbon whiskey to get through this storm! After briefly getting set up we decided we may as well walk to the pizza place next door to pick up a pie for dinner and get a pee walk for Porter in the meantime.

What we didn’t count on was the bunnies. Now, Porter loves nothing more than absolutely destroying and ripping to shreds a soft squeaky toy and he can accomplish this in a matter of minutes. Suddenly, he was surrounded by dozens of living squeak toys in his mind. For the most part he is a fantastic, well behaved boy, but it was just too much for his little dog brain to comprehend heeling and walking politely while all of these bunnies TAUNTED him with their presence!


What can I say, it was just one of those nights where things don’t exactly go as scheduled. Instead of a delightful evening spent in Tequila, we were in a camping cabin and I was now struggling to remain patient with Porter who was going absolutely batshit crazy over the bunnies, while getting absolutely drenched in the downpour that was continuing on our way to Doryland pizza.

Having retrieved our dinner and been literally blown back to our cabin, we stripped off our soaking wet clothes, had a shot of bourbon, and just had to laugh at ourselves….wet, tired and more than fed up with doggie behavior, our evening wasn’t at all what we’d planned for and yet, that was the beauty of it. True adventure is a bit harder to come by here at home. On the road we rarely knew where we would be sleeping in the next town but the sad facts of it are that if we want to camp from May- October in the Pacific NW we usually have to make reservations. But not tonight- stomachs full,  wine consumed and a movie on the laptop, we cuddled on our uncomfortable mattress and listened to the storm howling outside, taking comfort in the knowledge that what travel has taught us is to cope well with, and even embrace, the times when things don’t go the way you thought they would.

And, as always, the sun will come up tomorrow! After a not so great nights sleep, Saturday dawned clear, at least, even if the wind continued. Walking on the beach, one of our favorite activities in the world, merely proved an exercise in frustration. Wind whipped the sand everywhere, causing teary eyes and sandpapered faces. Porter had his ears flat against his head while the his tail took up permanent residence between his hind legs. It was time to move on! Jim gave me that ” I told you we should have gone home last night” look and yet, I was not deterred! I was here to camp!

After a quick coffee I suggested we head north to Nehalem Bay. Because of the setting behind sand dunes and thick trees, we both knew the odds were good we would have been fine even the night before and today, with partially clear skies and wind of only 40-50mph, we were golden.

Hwy 101, which runs most of the West Coast of the United States, is a gem. One long windy road, surrounded by forest, and with glimpses of the mighty Pacific is a true joy to drive. We passed through tiny town after tiny town, some straight out hillbilly and others upscale, and yet all a fascinating glimpse into local culture. Nehalem Bay proved itself to be exactly what we needed, an absolutely empty campground with enough dune and tree breaks to make popping up Tequilas top doable.


By 11am happiness had taken over. Tequila was set up and ready, the rains had held off and we were strolling the campground, astonished that we were the ONLY campers there, other than a few families renting yurts. Solitude was ours.

There is currently a commercial playing on TV here in Oregon for Pemco Insurance. The commercial features a couple “enjoying” the beach in winter and says something along the lines of “the sun could be breaking out of the clouds…or it could be frostbite”  and we thought we’d walked onto their set when we headed to the beach. The mist was circling, storm clouds threatened on the horizon, the sea was very, very angry, producing huge piles of fluffy foam, and yet all of the yurt families were down on the beach playing. Dogs raced up and down the waterline and kids attempted to make a driftwood castle that was continually knocked over by the wind.

Playing gin, drinking hot apple pies with extra whipped cream and all hanging out on Porters bed watching a movie…what could be better? Saturday night proved to be a test for Tequila as another storm raged in, keeping us awake for a couple of hours while the wind and torrential downpour pounded on our roof. Tequila proved worthy with nary a leak.

Someone is ready for bed

Granted, it wasn’t a perfect weekend and yet, in a way it was. A bit of adventure, a bit of nature, some great company, food, and adult beverages consumed. Life is good!


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