We never really plan to go to a particular campground, or reserve a site; we just go where there are several campgrounds in an area and find a good one. The last two or three years that we've been camping we have had spectacular luck.
Friday morning I set out from my dad's house where I'd spent the night, and got Nicoal and we grabbed some groceries and got going by around 10. The plan was to take 99W to McMinnville and then west to the Nestucca River Recreation Area, where there were five campgrounds in a row way out in the middle of nowhere. Nicoal doesn't have a car and I haven't been on 99W in a long time, so even though we both thought the scenery looked different than we expected, we didn't think about it - and therefore didn't realize we were actually on 99E until well south of McMinnville. In fact, we were about five miles north of Keizer when we figured it out.
So we cut through Salem and got on 22 going west, and then 99W going north to McMinnville. We passed the turnoff to the Nestucca River Road but turned ourselves around in just a couple of blocks.
Awhile later, we found ourselves in the Nestucca River Rec Area. We passed a car going the other way here and there, and generally had good feelings about not having hardly any neighbors for our camping trip. We got to Dovre, the first site, which was right next to the road and full of tents. So we passed it. We got to Fan Creek, the second site, which was right next to the road and full of tents. So we passed it.
We got to Elk Bend, the third site, which was heralded as the best one by some camping guidebook we found on Google, and we only saw three cars parked on the side of the road so we got out of the car with Linus to see if there were any spaces. Not only were there no spaces, but suddenly a giant bulldog came running towards us as fast as he could. I didn't even notice that he was tethered until he suddenly did a 180 from running so fast and coming to the end of his rope. Poor Linus got very concerned about the angry dog barking at him, and one of the ladies sitting in her lawn chair said "he's not used to other dogs!" and left it at that. We used the vault toilet and got out of there pretty quickly.
The last two sites were about the same as the first three. We drove through one and were stared at by big-bellied men in tank tops and shorts standing around with beers.
So we pressed on westward after a stop for lunch (since it was 2 by then) and another stop at a map on the west edge of the Nestucca Rec Area. (Remind me to get a map. iPhone map apps are kind of useless when you're not in cell range.) In Beaver I called Cory quickly to let him know Nestucca was a bust and we were going to try Cape Lookout up by Tillamook - they had 130 sites; one of them must have our name on it. We weren't thrilled by the thought of having to share a campground with that many people but we looked on the bright side of life and hyped ourselves up. And then the sign pointing the way to the campground said "FULL."
Northward again, and then eastward from Tillamook on highway 6 we went, very discouraged. With the few moments of cell service we had, Nicoal saw that there were a few places on the way back to Portland, so we crossed our fingers again and drove. And then 20 miles or so east of Tillamook, I passed a sign for Keenig Creek Campground. There was no warning that it was coming up, just an indication of the turnoff, but since we were there I turned around and we investigated.
There were a couple of loops, all walk-in camping, and down a (kind of steep) path was the Wilson River. We explored and found a few empty sites, so we settled there. It was about 3:30 - boy, was I tired of driving!
We spent an hour or so down at the river before we came up to make dinner and build the evening fire. Linus had fun splashing around in the water and getting soggy. Dinner was Nicoal's invention: pizza dough with veggies mixed in, baked in foil in the fire and dipped in pizza sauce. It was yum, though it took so long to cook that we were already thoroughly buzzed from the wine we'd brought and started drinking on empty stomachs. We went to bed relatively early, partly because of the long drive and partly because of the wine.
Saturday was a leisurely day exploring and playing by the river. After a breakfast of home fries, we went down to the water until lunch, and then went back down after eating until it was dinnertime. Now that Linus finally knows how to swim (he learned how the previous weekend!), I threw sticks into the current for him all day long. In the morning, I'd throw it and he'd run into the water; by the evening he'd walk into the water. Yay for tired dogs.
Dinner on Saturday was rice and veggies, and more wine, but this time we were more careful with our timing so we weren't fuzzy-headed all evening. We also stayed up late enough to roast vegan coconut marshmallows - mmm, burnt sugar.
This morning I was the first person awake and up in the whole world, which was fun. I wandered around with Linus off-leash for a little bit until the rest of the campground started waking up, and then we went back to camp for a leisurely breakfast of dutch oven coffee cake. And then we packed up and drove back to Nicoal's - which took about an hour.
And that was our camping trip. It wasn't long enough, but it was tons of fun and I can't wait for next time!
Lots more photos on my Flickr page as well as Nicoal's!