Camping on the coast is a winter tradition for some

Fresh oysters sizzled on the grill as the shells began to open. The appetizers would be ready soon.

Steam from the oysters rose and mixed with the coastal mist hovering over the campsite in the night air. It was rainy and a little chilly, but who cares? We were about to enjoy a seafood feast.

Our next course for our campsite meal at Cape Lookout State Park was fillets of fresh fish we got from the Garibaldi Cannery up the coast. It was great to have locally caught fish from the Pacific Ocean, which was right over the sand dune from our camp.

Camping on the Oregon Coast in March is a good way to break up the winter and enjoy fresh seafood and local craft beer, strolls on the beach and just relaxing with the sounds of crashing breakers nearby.

This year, my wife and I decided to do our annual Oregon Coast vacation a month earlier than usual. We just had to get out of town for a change.

We scheduled the trip for February and made camping reservations months ago. Then came the wondering what the weather would be like, and if we'd be regretting the more than 500-mile drive from Boise. One thing we figured, we'd have the state park, south of Tillamook, all to ourselves.


NOT SO LONELY

Huh? When we got to Cape Lookout, there were plenty of campers in tents, RVs and in the park yurts. It was Presidents Day Weekend, but really? Camping in February?

Well, we found that folks from Oregon and Washington are the masters of foul-weather camping. They have all sorts of configurations for fixing plastic, blue tarps over picnic tables and tents, and having blazing campfires under picnic canopies and awnings.

Raining and blowing? No problem. Oregon and Washington campers live in yellow rain jackets and waterproof boots.

Despite the rain, what we learned was that camping on the coast in February isn't that bad, at least for RV campers.

Temperatures ranged from the 40s at night and the high 40s or low 50s during the day. Of course, we were in a camper with a furnace, and the temperatures didn't matter.

It rained most of the days while we were there, but it didn't hamper our hikes on the beach. We chickened out taking the sea kayak over because we figured the bays would be rough with the predicted winds. Paddling all day in the rain isn't much fun.

On one really rainy day we explored the coast, driving through towns searching for fresh seafood. We found fresh fish, oysters and clams at the Garibaldi Cannery. For lunch we sat out a downpour in the Pirate's Cove restaurant in Garibaldi. The fresh crab and clam chowder were delicious, along with the view of the bay.

Face it, camping on the coast is all about seafood.


CAMPERS IN TENTS

It takes a certain breed of camper to take the Oregon Coast in winter.

Some of the tent campers we saw didn't give a hoot about the rain and just cooked and relaxed under tarps over picnic tables.

If you don't have an RV for comfort and don't want to do rainy-day tent camping, you can still enjoy the coast in the winter. Check out the yurts at Oregon state parks at oregon.gov/oprd/parks. Yurts cost $35 to $41 a night and sleep five.

Next winter, you'll find us on the coast again. It's a good way to enjoy uncrowded beaches and trails, lots of fresh seafood and incredible coastal scenes.


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