We’ve had one big love affair with Oregon but time only for a brief kiss, a gentle embrace, if you will, with Washington. We have enjoyed this first encounter so we will be back for more. Our days here are drawing to an end so I thought one last time I would pay tribute to this wild, rugged land, mentioning just a few of the great activities and sights we found along the way.
On the Oregon side:
Located 20 miles east and north of the little coastal town of Seaside, the hike up Saddle Mountain is a mere 2.5 miles (5 miles round), but not quite a ‘walk in the park’. The 1650-foot elevation gain gives you a hint of what’s to come and the last 0.5 miles is fairly steep, with wire fencing stretched and staked over the trail to allow some grip (good shoes required).
But if you persevere, the views at the summit are so worth it! We could spot Mounts Ranier, St. Helens, Hood, and Adams all peeking through the haze.
This lovely coastal town 25 miles south of Astoria carries the longstanding honor of “one of the 100 best art towns in America”. It seems that many get her appeal, with over 750,000 visiting annually. This was one of the most pristine beaches we had set foot on during our time in Oregon, dog and horse-friendly to boot!
Sitting just off-shore is Haystack Rock, a chunk of basalt towering 235 feet, one of the largest and most photographed “sea stacks” on the Pacific Coast of North America.
Spanning 84 years, from the Civil War through World War II, Fort Stevens served as the primary military installation at the mouth of the Columbia River. Today it is one of the largest state parks in the country, a sprawling 4200 acres of history and recreational offerings, including 9 miles of biking and hiking trails. With the booming of cannons, a Civil War re-enactment took place over the Labor Day weekend.
Hop on the bike trail system and head to the beach for a view of the century-old Peter Iredale shipwreck, fog swirling around her skeleton. Ride a few miles further and you arrive at the South Jetty, with a nice viewing platform to watch ships (on clear days) as they enter and leave the Columbia River.
Tour a replica of the 1805-06 winter encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; take a stroll along the Netul River Trail; or drop a kayak into the river here.
With three breweries in Astoria, we decided to check out the one on the riverfront with the funky name of The Wet Dog Café. Both the Poop Deck Porter and Old Red Beard Ale were quite tasty.
Four full blocks lined with booths full of colorful produce, along with some impressive-looking crafts – enough said!
Now for some Washington sightings:
Cape Disappointment was named by English Captain John Meares, who, in search of the Columbia River back in 1788, missed the mouth of the river bar and named the nearby headland for his failure. Four years later American Captain Robert Gray crossed the bar and named the river.
Striking views of the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, not one but two lighthouses (Cape Disappointment and North Head), and The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center await your exploration – lots to see and do here.
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is one of the oldest functioning lighthouses on the West Coast, dating back to 1856, guiding mariners in from the south. The North Head Lighthouse was constructed in 1898 when it was determined that vessels coming from the north were challenged to see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Sadly both are in dire need of restoration.
If you are a history buff, The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is a must-see, in our humble opinion. Perched on a 200-foot cliff looking out over the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean and the North and South Jetties, it tells the story of Lewis and Clark’s daring expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. Dismal Nitch was the name given by their party to the small cove they were trapped in for six days while they waited out a horrendous pounding given them by Mother Nature. Imagine being huddled together in the elements, miserably cold and wet for six days. I’ll take a pass, thank you very much!
We were so thankful that the sun peeked out and we were able to see this amazing volcano and so grateful to the informative Park Ranger who gave us details we had never read. Take the time to stop at the informative Visitor Centers where you can spend hours scouring literature and photos of Mount St. Helens’ tragic eruptions, particularly the historic explosion that occurred on May 18, 1980 that transformed lives and landscapes forever.
The vertical blast of ash and molten rock that occurred on that fateful day rose thousands of feet into the sky but it was the lateral explosion that was of historic proportions, blowing down forests as far away as 150 miles and killing 57 people, some of whom were volcano watchers, giving moment-by-moment descriptions back to a central command post of what was occurring on the mountain. Spirit Lake, nestled on the north side of Mount St. Helens, was obliterated by the debris brought on by this eruption. One of its residents, 83-year old Harry Truman, refused to leave his lodge and home of over 50 years when the evacuation order was given and was buried under the rubble.
For months prior to this momentous day, swarms of earthquakes (several hundred a day) were being recorded and a bulge on the northwest side of the mountain was growing 5-10 feet daily, an ominous message of what was to come. When she blew, she created new lakes and her once stately snow-capped peak towering ~9600 feet was reduced by almost 1300 feet.
We have seen some thrilling sights and learned some amazing stories along this coastline that joins two beautiful states. Here’s to those hearty souls who live on the Oregon and Washington coast, to those who love their weather, the kind that gets into your bones, not just caresses your skin. We have loved it too and we will return. But for now, it’s time to head inland for a bit.
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