Free Camping

As a free camper with my dog in Oregon, some interesting events transpired. First, at South Jetty, I wanted to know the story regarding free camping so I called the forest service office to find out if it was alright.

I tell them I know camping is taking place out there and merely need to inquire about all free camping in the Florence area. The nice lady we spoke to made it very clear that there was,

Free camping works!

“No camping at all allowed on South Jetty” so I guess that’s that isn’t it? Or is it?

Oddly, arriving at South Jetty heading north, there is a signpost near the end of the paved access road that says and I quote,

“No Camping Beyond this Point” which leads us to believe that there is indeed camping before it or south of that point.

For me, it all started back in the summer of 2015. I happened to be day use out there and a strange event took place. Just after lunch on a Tuesday, I was sitting at my table working when through my screen door I noticed an ominous-looking black SUV heading our way. The vehicle in question slowly crept towards us over the uneven unimproved ground. He was heading out to the end of the bluff where some people were gathered around a fire. I quickly put on my shoes and went outside.

Sure enough, a couple of the men were gathered around the SUV chatting with the ranger. I slowly padded over toward them and began to listen to their conversation. One of the men was kind of loud and told the forest service individual that he was a veteran and had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. The story he told was one of great difficulties as blanket society had overwhelmed him. How just holding down a job or finding a place to live was immensely challenging to the point that, like many others, he was living in his vehicle. The speech wound up with him lifting his jeans on one side revealing a prosthetic leg. A horrible casualty of one of America’s disgusting and unfounded wars.

Free camping works!

I found it not all that surprising that the SUV was unmarked except for interior mounted emergency lights in the rear. When the veteran had finished his speech, the driver told him,

“You can’t camp on this side. See over there?” he said, pointing to the big park lot before the sign,

“You can camp over there or in the other smaller lots along South Jetty Road after the OHV area. That side is Forest Service. This side is State Park.”

Free camping works!

Ah ha! According to this man, there indeed was free camping in Florence. Back then I just believed that if someone with a gun and a badge told me something then it was the truth.

It was the summer of 2018 and the information I had already been given, contradicted all that. At 11:30 PM a few weeks later, my girlfriend and I were parked on the ocean side of South Jetty Road up against the bushes when my camper was suddenly lit up by the high beams of an affluent looking 4 X 4. I jumped into a pair of shoes and a sweatshirt and went out to greet him. The truck looked like somebody stayed up all night ordering off-roader parts to decorate it with. It had the chrome winch, the giant pusher bar, the extra heavy-duty bumper, and headlight protectors. They certainly spared no expense on this rig! Out of it got a gorilla of a man with the sanctioned gun and badge. I’m six feet tall and he looked down at me as we stood together chatting. He said,

“You’re not…”

“We’re just watching TV!” I interrupted.

“Cause if you… you can’t sleep here!” he blurted almost laughing. To this, I responded cheerfully “We’re just out here picnicking.”

He left and we picked it up and also left South Jetty for less hostile surroundings. You would think they would put up a gate with a sign saying,

Free camping works!

“Day Use Only - Park Hours: 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM - Gate Closes at 9:30 PM” but no sign exists. Add to this the beauty and peacefulness of this beach were so very nice. The healthy sea air and great vibe… of course, we would love to get away from the maddening crowd and spend a night or two out there.

You would think that Oregon would notice that the place is a huge unimproved mess! Out on the bluff, there are rusty nails halfway across the ground. Because of this, I stopped driving out to the end. It would appear as though somebody intentionally tossed an entire keg of nails. Unimproved land means no bathrooms, no trash cans, no lawns or picnic tables… just very rough, unimproved land.

Free camping works!

To drive out to the bluff over the large, embedded rocks, in a truck camper you will need to be going no more than a mile per hour or the rocking motion threatens to topple your domicile to the ground. It’s bad and hardly fit for a family car to negotiate without issues. While out walking my dog, I found used needles near the bushes on the river side of the bluff. Bad elements like privacy.

I have picked up bags of trash left by others as there are no trash cans! Sure, there are trash cans over in the parking lot and at two of the many smaller parking lots along South Jetty Road but you know how picnics are. The ketchup and mustard-covered plates spilled here and there. Who wants to put that mess in their nice car?

The following week I was sitting in my camper working when it happened again. A big shiny new truck, uniform, guns, badges, and all the rest. I got up and put my shoes on and went out to have yet one more chat with Barney Fife who was sitting there casually with one hand draped over the top of his steering wheel.

“You’re not sleeping there tonight are ya’?” he said.

I wondered what these soulless people have against sleeping. Aloud I said,

“No sir, I’m a writer and just out here for a quiet place to work.”

Free camping works!

I walked closer and leaned on the passenger window as we chatted. It wasn’t until later and after some of the things he said that I began to realize that this was the very same fool that had interrupted our Netflix movie the week before. If I thought the outside of his truck was elaborately decked out, it was nothing compared to what I saw inside.

He wore a very large sidearm with a clip and had the usual police scanner on a giant steel mount but it was what I saw behind the seats. There on two vertical gun mounts were a shotgun and an AR Automatic Rifle. Wow, when does the war begin?