Astoria loop tour – Day 2

Sunday, August 4th – 48 miles today/96 miles total

Another benefit to the hiker/biker sites at state campgrounds is the opportunity to meet and speak with others traveling in a similar, human powered manner.

Camp at Nehalem Bay SP

Hiker/biker camp at Nehalem Bay SP

The two campers closest to us were a father and daughter team from Vancouver, BC that had been driven from home to Bellingham, WA where they rented a car and drove to Astoria. They had started south along the coast a bit earlier yesterday than we had and would be continuing on south towards Florence, OR before turning east and crossing the Coast Range.

They planned to ride into Eugene, OR, rent another car and drive back home. It sounded like a great adventure for both of them. Of course, the next morning they were on the road before us but, as we passed through Rockaway Beach, we noticed their bikes leaning against the wall of a breakfast place!

Our plan for the day was to ride south through Garibaldi, OR at the head of Tillamook Bay and then turn northeast and ride some of the back roads through the coastal mountains.

We decided to eat a small breakfast, hit the road and search for Sunday brunch somewhere down the coast. From the market in Manzanita, we had some fresh blueberries, cream cheese and bread to eat with double bergamot Earl Grey tea to wash it all down. It was quick, tasty and didn’t require much cleanup…a perfect way to start!

Shortly after leaving camp, we quickly dropped into the sleepy riverside community of Nehalem. Although this is Jays favorite river to kayak fish, he’d never noticed the two or three eateries open on the very short main business stretch of town. Even so, it was too soon to stop and eat yet.

The sky was slightly overcast and the temperature was still cool enough to enjoy the brisk air before the day heated up too much. Continuing south on US 101, we passed through a few communities marked on the map that either had no brunch options or just slept through Sundays. Janet did notice a good number of ripe blackberries within easy reach so we took a short break before leaving the Nehalem River and had a quick snack. Janet had just a few more…

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Janet, after a few had already been eaten!

From previous trips to the coast, we’d tried a number of the eateries in Rockaway Beach and chose to keep going. Then we remembered Parkside Coffee House in Garibaldi that serves excellent food, specializing in fresh, oven roasted turkey sandwiches. Now we had our destination.

As we rode along the upper stretch of Tillamook Bay, we spotted the Pirate’s Cove Restaurant and the parking lot seemed pretty full. We’d noticed this roadside option in the past but had never tried it. It appeared to be more of a dinner type place but they obviously had a good Sunday brunch draw so we gave it a try.  All of the tables look out over the bay, even when the fog is still blocking the view!

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Jay couldn’t even wait to take a picture!

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Janet was very pleased with her brunch choice!

This was a very good choice. We’d ridden a bit over an hour on a small breakfast, tea and a few roadside blackberries. Although the service was a bit slow considering the number of staff present, the food was hot, plentiful and tasty – exactly what hungry touring cyclists want! During our meal, we saw our recent Canadian neighbors ride past by on their way to another Oregon state park beyond Tillamook. I hope they stopped at the creamery for some wonderful ice cream.

Away from the coast we go.

Away from the coast we go. We never did find the karaoke though…

Shortly after passing the old paper mill smokestack, we came to our turn back into the hills. The Miami river is the northern most of the five rivers that end in Tillamook Bay and we’d be following it upstream for a few miles.

Turning north, we rode away from the ocean and into one of those magical settings that must be experienced first hand to truly appreciate. The coastal hills held back the fog and low clouds so much that the sun was brightly shining and warming us within just a few minutes. The river flows towards the bay through a gently sloped valley tucked in between the first layers of hills making up the Coast Range. Picturesque farms, happy Tillamook cows and sparse, courteous traffic were our only company for the next 15 miles or so. There even was a slight tailwind making the riding even easier. As we road, we alternated between silent enjoyment and the deep, meaningful and instantly forgotten conversations common on longer bike rides!

Taking a break above the Nehalem River

Taking a break above the Nehalem River

Eventually the Miami River turned away from the roadway and we continued north to rejoin the Nehalem River on its journey up towards it source. We’d spend the rest of the day, as well as much of the next, crisscrossing the Nehalem for many miles.

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To those that looked at the map, you may have noticed we just completed a 25 mile loop and ended up only two or three miles from our previous campsite. Our original route didn’t include this loop but we wanted to get a few more miles on our trip since we had a solid five days to ride with only a two hour drive to and from Astoria.

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Riding along the Nehalem, we began to gain elevation a bit quicker but the riding was still very relaxing. About seven miles upriver the pavement ended just before reaching our first Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) campground, Nehalem Falls. It looked like a wonderful spot to take a break but we kept going as our intended destination was another fifteen or twenty miles upriver yet.

The road surface varied from small and tightly compact gravel to a mixture of broken pavement and gravel to large, loose gravel chunks. At times the track climbed steeply above the river level only to drop quickly nearly all the way back down. We were very surprised at the number of vehicles, especially low clearance passenger cars, that passed us in both directions on this stretch of less than wonderful roadway.

JP working hard!

JP working hard!

At one point an ODF truck approached and the ranger asked about our destination. We had done some research and knew that there were two ODF campgrounds ahead of us. He let us know our intended stop was fairly busy, if not full, and the smaller campground a few miles before that one had a large kegger party developing. Oops…what to do? He then let us know of another, small, walk-in only campground with six sites (all empty) less than a mile ahead of us. Excellent!!!

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Morrison Eddy is a no-cost, dispersed campground located at a bend in the Nehalem River and requires about a quarter mile walk, or ride, down from the roadway. The campground reopened after the Salmonberry Bridge was repaired and reopened last summer after being washed out in 2007. The six sites are now supported by a single porta-potty and some trash cans.

While we were setting up camp, a young girl and her father walked down to the river to spend some time in the water. They like to do this periodically throughout the summer break. She was mostly interested in the abundant crawfish scurrying about in the shallows while dad worked on his fly casting technique.

Jay and the mermaid

Jay and the mermaid

While Janet worked on her journal onshore, Jay cooled off in the river while casting his tenkara fly rod. The little mermaid latched on to Jay as her new river playmate giving her father an hour or so respite. This ensured Jay wouldn’t be catching any trout, but spending time in the cool water during the hot afternoon was all that was really needed.

A bit of cribbage for the evening

A bit of cribbage for the evening

After treating enough water to fill our bottles, dinner consisted of grilled sausage, onions and green beans with the remaining bread and cream cheese. It tasted as wonderful as only camp cooked food after a long, hot day of exercise can. As a bonus, since we only brought the alcohol stove this trip, mealtimes are blissfully silent, especially since we only had to share the campground with the crickets and frogs!

JP & JS

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