Back from our family trip to Ohio, trying once again to recover from the 3-hour time difference. We are staying at another of the many great parks in Oregon, Fort Stevens State Park, which sits out on a tiny finger of land at the mouth of the Columbia River (more about the fort in an upcoming post). When we arrived at this largest of state campgrounds (over 500 sites) it was crawling with families who were most likely squeezing in one last summer vacation before children head back to school. Today, as I sit here looking out our window, it is deliciously quiet and the fog is lazily swirling around the fir trees – quite cozy.
We are just outside of Astoria, a city founded in 1811, rich in maritime history. Sitting near the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, unique shops and interesting little cafes line her streets, but our focus was on perusing the Columbia River Maritime Museum, a must-do by RV “bloggess extraordinaire” Nina of Wheeling It . :) She has never led us astray with her suggestions and this time was no exception (thank you Nina). If you are in the area, do check this out and take time to watch their 15-minute movie “Crossing the Bar: Perilous Passage”.
The Columbia River Bar, where the river’s currents collide with the swells of the Pacific Ocean, make for one of the most dangerous bar crossings in the world. The underwater ocean currents can build sandbars 5 to 10 feet high and swells in the winter can climb as high as 40 feet. This stretch of water has been labeled the “Graveyard of the Pacific”, having claimed over 2000 vessels and 700 lives. It can appear serenely majestic and in the blink of an eye can move to wild and turbulent. Because of this treacherous passage, the need for an elite force of professional mariners to guide vessels was realized – enter the Columbia Bar Pilot. It is now a requirement to employ a Columbia River Bar Pilot to guide your vessel through this 17-mile danger zone. The most dangerous part of their job, we have learned, is the boarding of and departure from the vessels, often done by helicopter or special pilot boats. You can watch a video of their daily challenges here.
A unique truss bridge spans the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellice near Megler, Washington, aptly named the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Her length of 4.1 miles is mighty impressive and she is built to withstand wind gusts of 150 mph, which should tell you a little about the weather patterns here.
Another lofty landmark that begs to be seen, well, actually, it doesn’t have to as it is the highest point in Astoria, is the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 and sitting 600 feet above sea level on Coxcomb Hill, this 125 foot beacon provides views of the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean, Cascade Range and Saddle Mountain, which we hiked the other day. You can capture all these views just standing at her base but to really soak it up, be brave and get movin’ up that spiral staircase (all 164 steps) to the observation deck – wow!
The interesting detailing on the outside of the column rivals the views from the top, depicting key events that shaped the history of this area; i.e. fur trading, Chinook and Clatsop Indians, Lewis and Clark Expedition, to name a few. The State Seal of Oregon prominently crowns the top. Side note for you history buffs: one of Terry’s must-reads on Lewis and Clark’s expedition is Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose.
We have read there are three brewpubs in town, Rogue Ales Public House, Fort George Brewery and Public House, and The Wet Dog Cafe, which we passed on our walk along the riverfront. Don’t know if we will get to any of these (believe I have just heard a collective gasp from our RV friends John and Janie of Flamingo on a Stick! :)) but these sound very enticing.
Sampling the local fare is a must when you are in a new city, isn’t it, even if it means veering from the healthy food groups once in a while (see how easy it was for me to justify this). The Bowpicker, an old fishing vessel, has been serving up fish and chips, fresh tuna style, for the past 12 years. Some of the locals say this is the best seafood in town. A little sampling didn’t hurt but is not something I would recommend on a regular basis, and yes, it was worth breaking the diet.
Of course, a trip to a new destination for us would not be complete without a visit to a farmers’ market and Sunday is the day. The Astoria Sunday Market looks like a happenin’ place so that’s where you will find us this weekend, in the city where the Columbia River meets the Pacific.
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