Saturday evening we returned from a week-long vacation in Coos Bay, Oregon. My Dad co-owns a rental property that is less than half a mile from the popular Sunset Bay State Park in Charleston. The house is great – literally on the coast and high on a cliff. It has its own set of stairs that lead down to a beach that is so secluded, it might as well be considered private (although technically, all beaches in Oregon are publicly owned).
It was special bringing the family to this location for our vacation – not only because the accommodations are so great, but also because of the many memories the area holds for me.
I was about the same age as the twins when my family first vacationed at Sunset Bay State Park. One of my dad’s co-workers read about the park in a magazine and thought that it sounded like a great place for a family vacation. The article boasted of the many recreational opportunities available – from fishing to crabbing to hiking and camping. He convinced my dad to bring our family with his and we all camped in the state park. I don’t remember the first trip very well because I was so young – but I know that my parents were hooked on the area and experience and it soon became our annual vacation spot.
As I grew up, Coos Bay very much became part of my childhood (and then teen) experience. Nearly every year we would spend between 1-2 weeks in the area – first camping with a giant tent and then upgrading to a tent trailer and eventually to our own trailer. And each year we would travel with other families – whether it was Dad’s co-worker (who even after being transferred to Chicago still brought his family out to Sunset Bay a few times), neighbors or eventually friends from my parents square dance club (yes, they were in a square dance club!) there was always a big group in the campground. This meant lots of kids too – and lots of fun for all of us kids.
We spent countless hours on the beach of Sunset Bay – both during the day when we would feebly try to work on our tans and in the evenings, when we would (illegally) build huge bonfires. But some of my best memories come from the docks in Charleston when we would haul crab pots down there and try our luck at catching crabs. I’m not sure how old I was when I first went but I know I was pretty young. I remember learning from an early age how to properly pick up crabs to avoid being pinched – one of the great “jobs” to give young kids was to have them toss the crabs that were too small back into the water. It was a great way to learn quickly how to pick up and hold crabs. We usually did well down there as we collectively figured out how to read the tide tables and time our visits at the right time. We caught a lot of crabs – at times it seemed that picking and cleaning them was a non-stop activity in the campsites.
Fishing was also a popular activity – especially salmon fishing. I never went out deep sea fishing though because I had a terrible history of motion sickness as a child and I was afraid that I would get sick on the boat (even with dramamine). But I eventually did make it out to do some rock fishing and caught my share of flounder and cod.
In addition to the various families who came to Coos Bay, my parents often also let us bring friends along. This allowed us to share the experience with some of our best friends – many of whom still recall many fond memories of their own (and lots of stories I can’t repeat here).
And so it feels it has come full circle as Renee and I now bring Stone and Ty to Coos Bay for our own family vacation. They have both fallen in love with the area as well and it’s been really great seeing them enjoy the experience so much. We’re pretty sure next year is the year we’ll start with our own crabbing and fishing adventures with them and I can’t wait for that experience.
After I graduated from college and began working on my own, I gained a keen sense of appreciation for vacation time and the value it brings when you can relax and unwind. But then I thought about the chaos and craziness my parents endured packing 4 kids into a car and driving 12 hours to this camping spot in Oregon (and the ongoing chaos that ensued). It seemed to me that this couldn’t have been a real vacation for my Dad – where was the relaxation? So I asked him about it when I was in my 20s and he told me that someday I’d understand how much fun it is to be able to take your kids somewhere they love and to watch them experience things for the first time. That, he said, beat sitting in an office any day.
And now I do understand.