Kiss of Two States ~ Oregon and Washington Coasts

Power of the Pacific

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:

Saddle Mountain Summit

Saddle Mountain State Natural Area

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).

Me on summit of Saddle Mountain

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.

Cannon Beach

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!

Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in background

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.

Fort Stevens State Park

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.

Peter Iredale Wreckage

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.

Terry, looking out over the South Jetty

Fort Clatsop National Memorial

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.

Astoria Brewery Company

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.

Astoria Sunday Market

Four full blocks lined with booths full of colorful produce, along with some impressive-looking crafts – enough said!

Now for some Washington sightings:

Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center overlooking the River Bar

Cape Disappointment State Park

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

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!

Mount St. Helens on a breezy, ash-filled day

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

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.

Mount St Helens, compliments of Wikipedia

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.

Autumn’s calling card on the bank of the Netul River

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Where the Columbia River Meets the Pacific Ocean ~ Astoria, OR

Vessel awaiting entry

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.

rv travels
Terry, wandering the streets of Astoria

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.

Astoria-Megler Bridge, compliments of Wikipedia

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!

Astoria Column in all her glory!

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 Courageby 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.

Bowpicker ~ a local delight

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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