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Finding peace along Oregon's wild coast

Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

The twilight was deepening to periwinkle and a mist thickening off the Pacific as I pulled onto the one-block waterfront in Bandon, Ore. Lonely Planet had recommended a budget guesthouse across the street from the beach in the town.

It was late January, the offseason, and I hadn't bothered to call ahead, sure there would be an available room. But the Sea Star was locked and silent.

My trip up the Oregon coast had been improvised. When a friend in Oakland, Calif., suggested a visit to the redwoods, and a cousin in Portland offered a place to stay, I leapt at the chance for a solo trip up the coast between the two.

I'd spent the day driving the hairpin turns up the California-Oregon coast, hustling through cathedral spires of old-growth redwoods, barely stopping to take in the breaks of brilliant, silvery Pacific surf.

The sun had faded to misty blues north of the Oregon border. Now I was beginning to panic. Bandon, in the fading light, looked almost deserted. A few tourists wandered the one-block boardwalk. Teens huddled at a nearby jetty.

My backup option was a mile away, but Google Maps kept routing me up a cliff-hugging road into the now-thick bank of fog.


Retracing my steps, I was drawn to Tony's Crab Shack, a beacon of neon and Christmas lights with a bustling dinner crowd.

"There's an easier way to get there," the man at the register said. He sketched a map that took me back to the highway and through a dark neighborhood.

Ten minutes later, I pulled up at the giant, brightly lit lobby of the Sunset Oceanfront hotel. The clerk appeared unfazed to see a lone visitor turn up on a Sunday night, and bustled me to my $65 room.

I fell asleep to the rumble of the ocean and briny gusts of saltwater through my transom window. When I woke, dawn was just lifting, the mist receding into a purplish-pink band behind the electric blue of the retreating tide.


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