The saddest part of making a living on the tourist-populated Oregon Coast is the inability of residents to enjoy the beautiful landscapes that surround us every day. Many of us are stuck behind counters eight to ten hours a day dishing out ice cream, t-shirts and a mind-boggling array of coffee drinks to people from all points of the compass. We become numb to our surroundings and lackadaisical in our pursuit of Oregon coastal beauty. Too often we seek only to crawl home from our job (or second job) or find shelter in some local watering hole. This must change, Oregon Coast residents! As full-time citizens of one of the most beautiful places on earth, we owe it to ourselves to stick our feet in the sand of our beaches, walk in its mossy green forests and smell the salt in the air. We must get outside, and what better way to do that than a camping trip?

My wife and I were guiltier than most of this sin of apathy. We had lived here for ten years before we realized not only that we could, but we should make camping the Oregon Coast a priority. We would be pioneers, like Lewis & Clark, or Captain Robert Gray, lighting the way for our peers to follow. We were on a mission.

After poring over maps and guidebooks, be realized this was not a time for half-measures. We wanted to see it all, everything from Astoria (our home town) to Brookings. This was a trip of discovery and we would not cheat ourselves. We loaded my grey 1996 Toyota Tacoma with everything we thought we might need; by old dome tent that had survived years of Boy Scout activities; various cookware cobbled together from camping kits and garage sales; our trusty (and extremely heavy) cast-iron Dutch oven; and our faithful adopted Newfoundland, Kirby. Certainly not as big as Lewis & Clark’s dog, Seaman, but just as adventurous.

We began our journey on a warm August morning two weeks before Labor Day. There would still be crowds and most of the coastal campgrounds we planned to visit, but we would have access to the Oregon Coast’s best weather and hopefully avoid the torrential rainfall that seems to arrive just as kids are returning to school. We were kings of the highway, masters of our destiny, blasting Pearl Jams’ “Given to Fly” on the truck’s stereo and giddy with freedom. The tourists would have to survive without us for two weeks; we were joining their ranks!

Our first stop wasn’t far, a mere five miles up the road from our Warrenton home. It was an essential segment of our discovery of Oregon’s best camping. Ft. Stevens State Park is the mother of all of Oregon’s campgrounds. It is a vast, sprawling area with tent sites, RV hook-ups, and yurts. It also has miles of beautifully smooth bike paths. It is the most visited campground in Oregon and August was its most visited month. The sites can book up a year ahead of time and beyond. But as native coastal Oregonians, we knew the importance of advance reservations. We found our tent site nestled lovingly between two generator-churning recreational vehicles the size of the U.S.S Nimitz. Certainly not the serene camping experience I remembered from my childhood or envisioned for my adulthood, but we would not be discouraged.

Dan Haag, Executive Director, Garibaldi Maritime Museum

Born and raised in the great white north of Minnesota, Dan Haag felt the pull of the Pacific Northwest in the early 90’s. Finding he liked wearing sandals and shorts year-round, he stayed. He married an Oregon girl and settled on the North Oregon Coast where he slowly mastered the art of year-round residency. Dan has waited tables, cleaned rooms, run a youth center, given kayak tours, washed dishes, spent time as a Sous Chef, and more – often times simultaneously. He finished his history degree through Linfield College and landed a job at the Garibaldi Maritime Museum, developing educational outreach programs for area schools. Today, Dan is the museum’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Dan shares his love of Oregon coast history with thousands of visitors each year. In his free time, Dan enjoys writing, exploring Oregon’s trails and beaches, doing his part to support the Oregon wine and beer industry, perusing the coast’s many bookstores, and working on his little beach house.

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