Harris Beach State Park – Oregon

November 21 – December 5, 2014

Although we stayed here for two full weeks, we didn’t do as much sightseeing as usual.

We may travel around the country, going where we want, staying where we want for as long as we want, but that doesn’t mean bad can’t find us. It found us at Harris Beach and stuck.

While life on the road has many benefits and advantages, there are some disadvantages, especially when people and pets get sick and stuff breaks. Our local doctors, dentists, vets, and mechanics aren’t local anymore. When stuff happens, we have to try and find someone to help without knowing if they’re good, reliable and honest. Sometimes we’re in a remote location where help of any kind isn’t available.

I had had some chest congestion for about 6 weeks – coughing and hacking for an hour or so in the morning and off and on all day. It didn’t really stop us from enjoying ourselves, but it did affect how long we could be out and about before I wore out. We were traveling through some pretty remote places so I just dealt with it.

A few days after we got to Harris Beach, I went to the urgent care clinic, Curry Medical, in Brookings, OR. They checked me out and prescribed some medication. It took a while but it seems to have worked. I’m not hacking like a 2-pack a day Camel cigarette smoker anymore… but now Holly is coughing and wears out easily. At least we take turns.

We made Thanksgiving dinner in the rig – turkey breast, sweet potatoes, packaged stuffing, cranberry relish, frozen veggies, Grands biscuits, and mini-pies. Not exactly gourmet but still good. Instead of eating with our plates on our laps like we usually do, we put up the table. No fine china, silverware or crystal but a very nice dinner.

It would have been a better Thanksgiving if Snickers hadn’t gotten sick. She started vomiting Thursday afternoon. She stopped eating and drinking. She stopped talking to us. In short, she stopped being Snickers.

She didn’t improve on Friday or Saturday and when we stopped being able to get enough water into her, we took her to the Town and Country Animal Clinic in Brookings on Sunday morning.

We thought this was probably another case of acute pancreatitis, which she’d had twice before, the last time in July. This time the treatment was essentially the same – subcutaneous fluids, an injection of pain meds, and an anti-nausea med. They added another medicine to stimulate her appetite. When they brought her out to us, she was extremely violent. When Holly went to try and calm her down, Snickers bit her hard enough to draw blood. This was not the Snickers we knew. Every other time we had taken her to a vet, when they were done with her and she was back with us and in her cat carrier, she was – if not calm – at least quiet. The vet said the appetite stimulant might make her a little anxious. A little?

We took her home, expecting her to slowly return to her old self, but she didn’t. She remained a devil cat for the next 8 or 10 hours. We called the vet after a few hours to ask if this was a problem. She said it wasn’t unexpected so we isolated Snickers on her bed. Holly hung a blanket as a curtain so Snickers wouldn’t be able to see us. She growled and hissed whenever we disturbed her.

Around 10pm she had exhausted herself and let us get close. She was alert but her breathing was rapid and shallow. We tried to get her to drink some water but she refused. Every few minutes she’d cry as though she were scared, asking us to fix whatever was wrong. But we couldn’t. She let me skritch her and she seemed to calm down. But when I stopped, she’d cry again. So I skritched her until I thought she was asleep. I eventually made it to bed. I slept on the couch so I didn’t disturb her.

About 5:30am, Holly woke me and said she thought Snickers was dying. We put a towel on Holly’s lap and laid Snickers on it. We both stroked and nuzzled her. Snickers’ breathing was again rapid and shallow, with a deep breath every minute or so. She was unconscious, maybe in a coma. I got a flashlight and checked her pupils. One appeared to be “blown” and I suspected she may have had a stroke, although I wasn’t sure when.

We continued stroking her until, about 6:30am, she took her last breath and died.

We took her remains back to the vet and talked to her about the treatment. We found out the medicine that would make her anxious was oral and would not have kicked in for hours. Yet she was going nuts right after they treated her in the back room. They had led us to believe it was the drug but it couldn’t have been. Holly and I both know something went terribly wrong at the vet but don’t know what. It haunts us, especially Holly, that Snickers should still be alive.

But we were blessed with her for almost 20 years. She was a wonderful, colorful, talkative, and slightly ditzy cat. We loved her and miss her. I keep some of her stuffed animals at the foot of my bed to remind me of her. Just call me a sentimental, crazy old coot.

Unfortunately, the bite Snickers inflicted on Holly got infected and her whole finger swelled up. (We were told that the probability of a cat bite getting infected was 100% and that there was a high risk of the infection spreading through her body.) So we went back to the urgent care clinic where Holly was prescribed an antibiotic. We didn’t want to leave the area until we were sure the bite was healing and the infection on its way to being gone so we stayed until our two week limit was up and we had to leave. It’s good we stayed. Holly had to return to have the wound cut and drained. Soon after that the swelling went down and the wound began to heal. She was still coughing though. That would stay for awhile.

Before Snickers’ got really bad, we took a drive up the coast and checked out several beautiful parks along the way. We went all the way to Gold Beach and stopped at a really good visitor center there. The lady working there was awesome and when she found out we were considering moving to Oregon, she started telling us all the great things in the area which include a lot of organic farms. When she heard we had a Subaru, she suggested we swing up the road along the Rogue River and hike in an old growth forest there. What she didn’t tell us is that it is a windy, narrow, bumpy Forest Service road up the side of the mountain to reach the trail – but what looks like a one lane road is two-way. We only met two vehicles on the road and managed to pass both without issues, mostly because we were driving really slowly. It is a nice trail with a brochure in a box at the trailhead. The trees, live and dead are draped in moss and ferns. We found it interesting that here, miles off the main road and another half mile into the forest, they have placed a picnic table. It is just tucked away along a babbling stream under the big trees. It’s a beautiful spot but that’s a long way to go for a picnic.

After our little round about tour, and as we headed back to camp, we noticed an odd noise from one of the rear tires. We had known for a while that there was something wrong with our toad (tow vehicle), the Subaru Forester. The back tires were wearing very unevenly. The Subaru dealer that did our oil change in Utah thought we were good until at least the next scheduled service. He was wrong. We pulled over to the side of the road and checked the tire making noise. One spot had worn through to the steel belt. So between our clinic visits, we took the car to Les Schwab, a local tire chain, again in Brookings. Being an all-wheel drive vehicle, they wouldn’t replace just the rear tires with a different brand. The manager said he could order identical tires to those on the front and have them delivered the next day. Good deal, I thought. Then he disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later. He said he had a pair of used tires identical to those on the front and with about the same amount of tread left on them. Sold!

So instead of spending $800 plus for four new tires or $400 plus for two new tires, I got away with $200 for two used tires. I may be cynical, but I keep thinking about how much more this would have cost me back in the DC area.

So our two weeks at Harris Beach were not the best we’ve had so far. Like any “lifestyle choice”, there are positives and negatives. Even with this rash of bad stuff, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

And, despite all the bad news and problems we had while we were there, we loved the park and the campground.

We snagged an ocean-view campsite with water, electric and cable (but no sewer) for $25 a night. Surprisingly the primo sites are all walk ins. If you reserved a site online and a walk in site is available when you arrive, you can switch sites. You just have to notate the reservation envelope and adjust the money when you pay. This is what we did.

We took lots of walks on the bluffs above the beach, scrambled on the rocks down to the beach, and strolled along the sandy beach as well. There are a few little streams that flow out along this beach. We loved watching them carve canyons and arches in the sand at low tide. One tended to split and wind like the Mississippi River. Just one hard chunk of sand or rock could divert the stream and send it on a different course. It was the erosion and sculpting of the earth on fast forward and in miniature.

Ocean view

Ocean view

I loved perching on a rock overlooking the ocean and watching the surf crash into the jagged rocks poking out of the water or surging through a rock arch. We found a few tide pools and spotted sea anemones and hermit crabs. We found lots of long thick rubbery filaments of kelp washed up onto the shore, their bulbous “heads” topped with kelp leaves. We’ve spent a lot of time gazing out to sea but still haven’t spotted whales. We saw a few seals and dolphins cruising along in the surf and lots of sea birds.

While hiking in the trees we came across this Texas-sized slug.



Not as big as we’ve seen but big enough. I can put the “it’s cloudy and rainy for six months along the Northwest coast” refrain to rest. While we were here, we had a jaw-dropping, absolutely gorgeous sunset one evening.

Harris Beach sunset

Harris Beach sunset

Even when the sun disappeared below the horizon, it painted the clouds in gold.

Harris Beach sunset

Harris Beach sunset

So bad things do happen, but all in all, life is good.


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