Here we are again, checking in after a two-week stay in our Fifth Wheel at Fort Stevens State Park in Northern Oregon coast. First, here is our video check-in. Then, our post offers many more details of our stay at this lovely RV park!
We have spent two weeks at Fort Stevens and love this huge, spacious, well-run park. The only major drawback is that it has no Wi-Fi or cellular reception. Apparently, this is due to being surrounded by tall trees. To get Internet, we had to drive to the Starbucks in nearby Warrenton. Strangely, we were able to pick up a few channels on cable with our built-in TV antenna. So, we were able to pick up some local news, and we had ABC coverage of the mid-term elections.
Because we are here in November, it was not at all crowded – perhaps 10% occupancy at most. With the exception of the Veteran’s Days weekend, when it was at about 60%. Whether empty or relatively full, it was consistently lovely to be here. All of the campers were friendly, quiet, and polite. Like us, they were here to enjoy nature, do some biking or hiking, and visit the local attractions. No party animals whatsoever.
At night, we enjoyed the sounds of complete silence, as well as pitch darkness (except when the stars came out). In the daytime, most of the noise was provided by nature, such as chattering squirrels and the serenade of tiny tree toads. In the mornings, very calm and unafraid deer wandered through the park. We saw Roosevelt Elk several times, usually at dusk, which is apparently when they mysteriously become visible. No one knows why!
We met a friendly couple, Tom and Jen, who gave us lots of information about what to expect as we continue down the coast. And Tom confirmed that we made the right decision when we decided on a Ford F350 as our tow vehicle, not a Ford Eco boost F150. He has one of those, and he said that it battles on the uphills, and his trailer is 2,000 pounds lighter than ours. Dodged a bullet there, despite what the salesmen told us, and all the rave reviews online.
If you are ever buying a rig, don’t ever listen to what sales people tell you about the kind of tow vehicle you will need. Instead, do lots of research, and buy something that can tow an RV that is at least 25% heavier than what yours is, fully loaded. I will be writing a post about our process in the future.
Local Attractions Near Fort Stevens State Park
The major attractions here are fabulous beaches, wonderful biking/hiking trails, and historical artifacts! Within Fort Stevens State Park itself, nine miles of multi-use trails connect you to major attractions:
Fort Stevens Historical Site
at the confluence of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. There you can see a fort and armaments that date back to the Civil War, plus visit the small but interesting museum, and do an historical walk. Fort Stevens was commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to guard the entrance to the Columbia River – thereby ensuring that nobody could try to take control of the relatively unguarded western coast.
The fort was also staffed by soldiers during World Wars I and II to guard the river entrance. It came under heavy fire from a Japanese submarine in WWII, but was unscathed. See more in the video above.
Peter Iredale Beach
Here you can see what little is left of the wreck of the merchant sailing ship, the Peter Iredale, dating from the early 1900s. It’s also a beautiful beach to hike on.
Of course, way too cold to swim this time of year! We did see an intrepid fisherman up to his thighs in hip waders.
At any time of the year, this is a great beach for a hike.
We used our bikes to get to this beach, which is just about 3 miles from the Fort Stevens RV Park.
This lake was about 500 feet from our site. It would be great in summer, as it is a perfect spot for kayaking. However, as it was too cold, we elected to do the hike around the lake. It is signposted as 2 miles, but was more like 3 miles. It is a great hike, because it is challenging without being too much. Like many hikes that go around lakes, it sometimes goes quite high up, so you are doing a lot of ups and downs, and getting lots of interesting views.
Cycling and Hiking Trails
A major feature of the park are the many trails, nine miles in all. They are completely off road, and take you to all the major attractions inside this huge state park. They are multi-use, so they are good for hiking too.
On Veterans Day weekend many families showed up to camp. Some of them bought multiple bikes, which they left outside all night, not even locked up!
Even when the park was full, it was peaceful and quiet. People were polite and friendly. When it was almost empty, it was pitch dark and absolutely silent at night. Lovely!
Other Attractions Near Fort Stevens State Park
These include the historical town of Astoria, which dates back to 1811. It’s a very unusual town, with almost no chain stores. Instead, almost every store looks like it ought to go bankrupt in about three days – utterly unusual and eclectic, selling collectibles only. It is also the home of a thriving coastguard, with a maritime museum, and many interesting sea craft. There are also many historical artifacts scattered around the town.
There is one excellent restaurant that we found, the Bridgewater Bistro, right under the Astoria-Megler Bridge. It offers a wide range of gluten-free options, and live piano music. There are also many simpler restaurants, including an iconic Mo’s, which features strange decor and cheap sea food.
We also hiked on the stunningly beautiful Canon Beach, just about 23 miles from Fort Stevens State Park. This beach is dominated by the iconic Haystack Rock.
If you have never been to the Oregon Coast – come on down! This is our first visit and we’re sorry that we waited so long.
Lewis and Clark National Park
We also visited the nearby Lewis and Clark National Park (just 8 miles away), which houses an impressive Information Center. There, we saw a fascinating video about Merriweather Lewis and William Clark. We realized for the first time what an arduous, amazing, and simply awe-inspiring trip they made across the continent back in 1805.
We also learned of the key role played by First Nations groups in aiding the expedition. It could simply not have happened without the help of friendly First Nations people. Their help included giving sanctuary during the first winter, provisioning them with horses when the river ran out, and providing a guide, and teaching them how to make dug-out canoes for the final leg of their journey. Also, Sacagawea, a Shoshone Aboriginal woman married to their French interpreter, was absolutely vital in providing interpretation and an introduction to a First Nations group that would prove key in helping them complete their journey. When they encountered that potentially hostile group, by an incredible coincidence, the chief turned out to be her long-lost brother!
At Fort Clatsop Visitors Center we visited a replica of Fort Clatsop, where there were friendly and helpful interpretive guides to explain the way the expedition of 33 men, one woman, and one small child endured a rainy winter. From the fort you can do the Fort to Sea hike (6 miles one way – a bit ambitious for our dogs). This would take you all the way to Sunset Beach. We did enough of it to see what a beautiful trail it is.
Of course, our life on the road is not all fun and games! Not even close, as we work most days, and of course, living in an RV comes with a whole set of different and interesting chores. Sometimes more challenging than interesting, to be honest!
Following our recent embarrassing experiences, we decided to spend one day at Fort Stevens State Park practicing our reverse parking. So, last Wednesday we got up and packed up the entire trailer as if for a travel day. Once everything was firmly locked away and battened down, we hooked up the trailer and drove it to the parking lot to practice reversing.
There, we discovered that what we had learned on the Internet was completely wrong. Contrary to what we had read, you need to steer in the OPPOSITE direction to where you want to go.
As we repeatedly backed our 52 feet rig all the way across the gigantic car park, I became aware of people watching us in frank astonishment. I had a chat with them, and once they realized we were not insane, but were simply learning how to back up our rig, they quickly became friendly and encouraging.
Once we had got the hang of backing up in a straight line, we headed for one of the emptier park loops to practice backing into real parking spots. That initially went very badly, as the RV at some point simply stopped listening to us. That prompted a friendly woman to come up and offer us (incorrect) advice. I recognized the warning signs that Maggie was about to have a melt-down, and we moved on to a different spot!
Finally, we started to more-or-less get the hang of it. We realized that once you back in a ways, the truck and Fifth Wheel start to go in opposite directions, causing progressive jack-knifing. At this point, you need to gently pull the truck forward and get the two vehicles more-or-less lined up, before starting to back up again.
Eventually, we both succeeded in parking the Fifth Wheel. Here is Maggie’s happy smile after her successful back-in parking!
After that, exhausted, we packed it in. We hope we are ready for our back-in parking at our next destination. We’ll see how that goes. At least, we now have a clue!
Weather at Fort Stevens State Park in November
The weather has been great for the time of year. We enjoyed the sight of sunny wilderness from our windows.
There was a little rain, but it considerately fell mostly at night, so we had mainly sunny days. However, overnight temperatures have been close to freezing at times. So now, we want to go south to get warmer.
We enjoyed a few roaring fires, which are more fun when it is cold!
We leave tomorrow, and we have reservations at Beverly Beach for one week (120 miles further down the coast), and then another week at Humbug Mountain State Park (another 160 miles further down). That will get us almost to the border of Oregon and California. It will also become slightly warner with each move.
Next, we were planning to head to the Mystic River RV Park in the towering redwood forests of Klamath in Northern California. However, a runaway wildfire called Camp Fire is currently raging in North California. We will monitor the situation, because there is no way we are driving into a fire! That said, if we had not been delayed for a month in Vancouver, we could have been right in the range of the fire when it broke out. We feel grateful and blessed that this was not the case.
Depending on the progress of the brave firefighters who are fighting this truly extraordinary and terrifying fire (and another huge one in Southern California), we will plot our next moves accordingly. We may be forced to extend our stay in far Northern California, or we may head inland to Nevada or Utah. We will keep you posted!
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