Harvest Hosts: Free Camping at its Finest

 
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After 10 wonderful days in Bend, it was time to pack up and experience costal Oregon life. We enjoy a leisurely schedule, and as such, do not enjoy rushing to get to any of our destinations. Instead of making the 5.5 hour drive from Bend to Seaside all in one day, we decided to break it up. I am so glad that we did, because we got to utilize our membership to Harvest Hosts for the first time! This meant that instead of sleeping at a truck stop or in a parking lot, we got to spend the night in a quiet, beautiful vineyard.

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If you are an RVer and you haven’t heard of Harvest Hosts, you’re in for a great surprise. Created by avid RVers and world travelers, Kim and Don Greene, Harvest Hosts offers what they call a “unique RVing experience,” and we can’t disagree! Here’s how it works:

You log on to Harvest Hosts and purchase a membership (good for 12 months) for a mere $40. This membership gives you access to a network of hundreds of “hosts.” These hosts operate farms, wineries, breweries or other “agri-tourism” sites, and are located all over the United States. The well-maintained online host directory gives you all of the information you need to know: where they are located, what they sell, when overnight stays are allowed, how to contact them and more. All you have to do is connect with the host you are interested in staying with, make sure they are available, and head that way! Keep in mind that Harvest Hosts is only for RVers who own self-contained RVs. To find out if yours qualifies, click here. The idea is that before you depart from your host the following day, you will purchase something that they grow, create, farm, etc. This isn’t necessarily required, but it is Harvest Host etiquette, and a fun way to try new and local items!

Salem, Oregon (just outside of Portland) was a good mid-way point for us, so we contacted Arcane Cellars to see if they were available to host us. Jeff, the owner, happily agreed. When we arrived, he showed us to our “room;” we parked next to the wine processing barn, backed up to rows of vineyards, and right beside a enormous black walnut tree. Needless to say, it was enchanting.  Jeff chatted with us as he gathered a bucket of freshly fallen black walnuts, and explained that he was the first of all of the Harvest Host locations. We were tickled that we had chosen the first ever location for our overnighter. He showed us the best areas to take a long walk, offered for us to use the heated outdoor shower and the outhouse if we needed it, and left the bocce balls out incase we wanted to play. Talk about hospitality!

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The following morning, we had the opportunity to watch the folks at Arcane Cellars process the last batch of Pinot Noir for the season. Being unfamiliar with oenology (winemaking), I had always imagined the process as a more delicate task, and was somewhat surprised to see how intense the work was. There was a organized frenzy of helpers washing and sorting the grapes before they were crushed. We would have loved to have seen more, but we wanted to respect their hard work, so we purchased our bottle of Pinot and headed out towards the coast.

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Have more questions about Harvest Host that I didn’t answer? Head on over to the Harvest Hosts FAQ page. Happy traveling!

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