The Makings for a Romantic Weekend – A Wall Tent, An Old Mare, And Rain

By on April 1, 2013

By Carol Lovegren-Miller –

It has been 18 years since my husband, Kyle, and I have dared to spend our annual March anniversary camping trip at the beach. Our last attempt was at Cape Perpetua where an early spring storm grew so fierce that at two in the morning Kyle had to literally tie our heavy canvas wall tent to our truck to keep it from blowing away. However, time blurs memories, and for the 15 years that we have owned horses we have dreamed about riding them on the beach.


fall scents for your home

Bullards Beach State ParkBullards Beach State Park, just north of Bandon, has a well-kept little horse camp with eight sites so close to the ocean that you can hear the surf pounding. Several nice trails take off right from the campground. There are even showers and flush toilets — 1 1/4 miles back down the road.

We came prepared to camp in our wall tent in any kind of weather; any kind except fog. Douglas County is a wonderful place to live, beautiful and green with mild weather and little wind… so little wind that small valleys like the one Oakland is tucked into, are often choked with fog. So here we were at the coast with pleasant temperatures, little wind… and fog.

Horse in front of Coquille River LighthouseFog or not, we saddled the horses and set out for the picturesque little lighthouse 3 miles to the south. It was a pleasant ride along a sandy path with the fore dunes to the right and the Coquille River on the left. Our horses have spent months idling in their pasture, so they were soon sweating heavily under their winter coats.

We chose to bring our two calmest horses for this trip. My old mare has been there and done everything… I thought. We dismounted so that we could lead our horses over the fore dune and through the tangled driftwood onto the beach.

From a horse’s perspective the beach is a terrifying experience. A peculiar smell accompanies a boisterous and unfamiliar roar along with endless shifting, tossing, glittering movement. The ground sinks beneath their hooves, and large, silver-bleached, weird, wooden shapes are tangled together blocking their escape route over the steep wall of sand. To make it worse, the tide was in, which brought the frightful roaring waves even closer.

Carol Lovegreen-Miller leading horseSooo, our first ride down the beach turned out to be a nice walk down the beach leading our panicked horses. Eventually they calmed down some and we tried riding. Our tracks told the whole story. Kyle’s mare zigzagged the entire way. My frightened mare kept trying to flee into the jumbled driftwood, forcing me to turn her into tight circle after tight circle. Eventually we gave up, and rode off the beach through a notch in the fore dune. Whew. Not exactly the flowing smooth gallop down the beach you see in the movies.

Saturday was rainy. We skipped the romantic horse ride and had an enjoyably uneventful walk on the beach before heading into Old Town Bandon to explore. We decided to saunter around in the drizzle and check out the restaurants first. So many appealing looking places, which one to choose? Then it occurred to me, why choose just one? Let’s have a progressive lunch!

First course was a scrumptious smoked salmon chowder, one of the house specialties at the “Bandon Fish Market,” an amusing little place overlooking the boat basin.

Old Town Bandon at nightBandon Oregon Fish Market







A couple blocks inland we found the“Bandon Baking Company & Deli,” an appealing bakery with a number of out of the ordinary baked goods at reasonable prices. We settled on splitting a delicious artichoke heart and asiogo cheese bagel and a truly delectable almond filled croissant. Temptation then overcame us, resulting in a jumbo loaf of Swabian rye bread tucking itself under my arm as we left.

Since books are food for the soul, and we were not ready to move on to the all-important chocolate phase of our progressive lunch, we moseyed into “Winter River Bookstore” next to the bakery. After quietly browsing through only a fraction of the store, we moved on burdened down with both books and our oversized loaf of bread.

It was time to check out Bandon’s assortment of candy stores. We decided that “Cranberry Sweets and More” was just what we were searching for. For 51 years the business has been plying visitors with a staggering array of candy samples. With difficulty we finally settled on an assortment of decadent truffles.

Back out in the rain, we saw something far more romantic than wrestling horses down the beach. A couple stepped out of a restaurant, glanced up at the solid rain, and without even a pause, the gallant gentleman whipped his baseball cap off of his balding pate and settled it over his wife’s hair.

Sunday dawned icy cold and clear with beautiful blue skies. We came here to ride our horses on the beach so we resolutely saddled up our reluctant mounts and set out. The fore dunes create shallow, brackish lakes on the inland side, so we had to convince our seasoned steeds to wade long stretches through the brown water. After a bit of hesitation, our stolid steeds took it all in stride. That is until we crested the fore dune again.

Despite the tide being further out, the beach still held many terrors for our equine companions. Added to the zigzags and circles was vigorous head shaking. I was puzzled as to why, until I looked down and realized that I was holding the reins in my hands, but the bridle and bit was dragging in the sand. At that point I swallowed my pride and handed my mare’s lead rope to my husband.

It turns out that romance is not galloping smoothly down the beach, but it is a chivalrous husband leading a recalcitrant pack mare loaded with the inept horsewoman he calls his wife.

Carol Lovegren Miller lives in Oakland Oregon, population 950.  Carol and her husband Kyle, of 27 years, travel often with their three children, ages 23, 21, and 18.  Carol is a substitute teacher for middle school and high school students when she is not writing or traveling.   Carol can be reached at [email protected].

About Carol Lovegren-Miller

Carol Lovegren Miller has been married to Kyle for 32 years and has three grown children. She bakes, cans, organizes church events, and substitute teaches in between her adventures and writing." Carol can be reached at [email protected]

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The Makings for a Romantic Weekend – A Wall Tent, An Old Mare, And Rain