Let’s face it, all yurts are not created equal. These round canvas structures with wooden floors are popping up at state parks and campgrounds across America; and let’s just say that there’s a marked difference between a basic yurt and a deluxe yurt, as far as creature comforts are concerned. The former usually has no electricity or water, and the bathroom and shower facilities are generally a short stroll away — if they’re available at all. On the other hand, a deluxe yurt has all of the aforementioned features, and sometimes even more. And although deluxe yurts are few and far between, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park (oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=83) boasts a nicely accessible model, with all the comforts of home, on the scenic Oregon coast.
Sleeping in Style
Accessible parking is located in a small parking lot near the yurt village in this Reedsport state park. From there it’s a short level roll to accessible yurt 16, which is surrounded by vegetation for maximum privacy. There’s level access to the covered front porch, and excellent wheelchair-access to the oversized yurt through the wide front door.
There’s plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair around the great room, which is furnished with two 18-inch high futons and a 21-inch high bunk bed, with a double on the bottom and a single on the top. There’s also a DVD player and a TV in the unit, and although there’s no TV reception, it’s a good entertainment option if you bring along your own DVDs.
The adjacent kitchen is equipped with full size refrigerator, a microwave, and a sink. There’s also a table with four chairs next to the kitchen. It’s a simple set-up, but quite functional, although you do need to pack along dishes, cookware and utensils.
The bathroom has a wide sliding door, and it features a full five-foot turning radius. It’s equipped with a roll-in shower with grab bars, a hand-held showerhead and a fold-down shower bench. Other access features include toilet grab bars on the back and right walls (as seated), and a roll-under sink.
And if you’d like to grill your dinner, there’s also a propane BBQ near the front porch. Top it off with an accessible picnic table and a fire ring, and you have all the ingredients for a very accessible outdoor getaway.
The yurt can sleep up to 7 people, but at just $92 per night, it’s also an affordable option for a couple. You do have to supply your own towels and linens, but as an added bonus the yurt also comes equipped with lights, electric outlets and even a heater. Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance at www.reserveamerica.com, but plan ahead as this popular yurt sells out quickly.
Whale Watching and More
While you’re in the area, be sure to take a short drive over to the Umpqua River Lighthouse. Built in 1857, this 65-foot tall tower sits at the entrance to Winchester Bay. There’s accessible parking near the lighthouse, with level access over to the adjacent museum. Even though the museum is accessible, admission is only offered as part of the lighthouse tour, which is not accessible. Still it’s worth a stop just to get a look at the outside of this historic building. And if you have a picnic lunch, there’s also a few accessible picnic tables in front of the museum.
Save some time to stroll across the street, where you’ll find an accessible overlook which offers a nice view of the Umpqua River and the Pacific Ocean. And although the scenery by itself is splendid, during the winter months it’s also possible to spot migrating gray whales in the distance. Be on the lookout for these massive giants from late November to early January, when the pregnant females head south from Alaska, to give birth in the warm waters off of Baja California. Of course whale watching is a matter of luck and timing, but to increase your odds, visit during the peak migration in early January. And don’t forget to bring along your binoculars.
Dean Creek Detour
For more wildlife viewing, take a short detour to Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area (www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/visitors/dean_creek_wildlife_area.asp). Just follow highway 38 east for about three miles, and keep your eyes peeled for Roosevelt Elk on the right side of the road,
There are several spots along the road that have accessible viewpoints and overlooks, and there’s even a small interpretive display near one popular viewing area. Access is good at all the viewing areas, with accessible parking, level access out to the overlooks, and accessible restrooms. There’s also a pullout on the right side of the road at about the 4.5-mile mark that offers some incredible windshield views.
The good news is that because of mild winter temperatures and abundant food supplies, the elk remain in the area year-round. The not so good news is that, like most wildlife viewing opportunities, spotting these animals depends a lot on luck. That said, you can increase your odds by visiting in the early morning, or just before dusk. On the plus side, the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is close to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, so it’s possible to make several return visits during your stay.