At the Siuslaw Jetty

Elmer the husky and I were on a early morning adventure together. The plan was to explore the beach at the South Jetty of the Siuslaw River near Florence.

For me, it was going to be a particularly special experience. This site was the only coastal jetty I had yet to visit. From the Columbia to the Chetco Rivers, I had seen them all except the Siulsaw.

I wonder how many Oregonians have seen all the coastal jetties? Some of my most remarkable beach stories have occurred there and there is a reason for that—these places attract atypical beachcombers and in many cases you can park a vehicle near the jetties (even atop one at the Rogue River!) and watch waves, seals (sometimes surfers), ospreys and fishermen bobbing in their boats or actually fishing off the rocks. It’s like a drive-in nature movies at these spots.

We made the turn off Highway 101 and entered a federal recreation area. From this point, it was a 20-mile drive through the dunes to the jetty. We saw deer and birds, shore pines and scotch broom. The weather was sunny and mild. I had my new great maniacal dog with me and felt happy and energized. I was thinking a lot about the Steve Prefontaine book I was writing.

At various places, the road paralleled the ocean and I saw many parking lots with beach access. This being a federal area, access costs a fee and I will never pay a fee to use Oregon’s socialist ocean beaches. It says it right there in the landmark 1967 Beach Bill, “…The free and uninterrupted use thereof..” Case closed forever.

We reached the Siuslaw River and I saw the South Jetty. Across the river in the hills were million dollar mansions with multi-million dollar views of the Pacific.

I turned left and saw a sign that I was entering a state park…so no fee to park!.

The road led west and turned to gravel. I slowed down to ten miles around.

Then I saw one, no two, then three battered vehicles parked off the road and near the jetty. They were clearly mobile domiciles and you don’t need to ask my how I knew. I just did.

I have seen these mobile domiciles all over Oregon but their appearance at the South Jetty surprised me. It was a long way to Florence for gas and supplies.

But that million dollar view. That living at the ocean’s edge. I understand that for sure.

Someone living out of their vehicles needed this view.

None of the rigs had garbage around them. They all looked tight and ready to roll out at any minute. I saw one man inside smoking. I saw a little dog in one passenger seat.

I parked the car, leashed up Elmer and we headed to the beach at the jetty. It was a quarter mile walk through the dunes to reach the beach.

There, I let Elmer run free and he went berserk. Nobody else was around. We played ball and I took some photographs. I sat down on a log, Elmer came over, and we ate our breakfast of hard boiled eggs, apple and cheese.

We took a different trail back to the parking lot. It directed me through a field of driftwood. At one point, I looked down to my left and saw a van from the 90s parked at such an angle that it afforded a perfect view of the entrance to the jetty. How the van found its way there seemed impossible to imagine.

We passed it from 20 yards away and I saw a little propane stove and binoculars on a makeshift table. I smelled bacon. So did Elmer.