Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Astoria Oregon

My last stop on this sojourn around the Olympic Peninsula is in Astoria Oregon. Astoria sits on the southern shore of the mighty Columbia River, not far from where Lewis and Clark set up their winter camp in 1805. We will explore Lewis and Clark’s camp in a couple of weeks, but today let’s talk about Astoria.

By OSU Special Collections & Archives : Commons [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
By MB298 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Astoria was founded in 1811 and named in honor of John Jacob Astor. It started as a fur trading post, but for most of its history it was a commercial fishing and cannery hub for this part of the country. At its height it was home to over 30 canneries. Most famous was probably the Columbia River Packers Association, founded in 1899. What’s that? You say you have never heard of the CRPA? Well, that it probably because they were bought out by Dole Foods in 1961 and changed their name to Bumble Bee. While Bumble has moved its head-quarters to San Diego, you can visit the Hanthorn Cannery Museum on Pier 39. It is nothing fancy, just a few rooms on the pier with historic videos, photos, documents and equipment. It gives a nice picture into life in the canneries in the 1950’s. When you visit, stop by Coffee Girl Café, which is also on Pier 39. They serve great coffee and pastries for breakfast, and fresh sandwiches for lunch.

In some ways, Astoria’s history is similar to that of Port Townsend WA. The cannery industry died out in the 1970’s and 80’s due in a large part to the development of factory ships. Property values in town fell, and by the turn of the century, Astoria became a haven for artists and others who were looking to escape from Portland to a quieter life. The lack of money meant that there was not a lot of new development in town, and many of the original buildings are still standing. Walking around downtown Astoria is a trip through several eras of the town’s history.

Along the Columbia River are the docks and old canneries. The original industry of Astoria was built on wood piers over the river. This gave easier access to the fishing boats that brought in their catch, and to the freighters that carried the processed fish out to market. In fact, much of the downtown area was built on wooden piers and pilings to keep the houses above the marshy ground. Unfortunately, this left Astoria susceptible to fires. Much of the town burned in a large fire in 1883. It was rebuilt, but the same techniques were used and in 1922 a massive fire struck, destroying 30 square blocks of downtown and leaving 2500 residents homeless. This time the town was built using bricks, stone and cement foundations. Many of those buildings are still standing today.

Walk up the hill from the downtown area and you will find many Victorian houses. Built in the late 1800’s, these were the homes of Astoria’s elite. They have survived to today thanks to the fact that Astoria’s economy fell into trouble in the 1970’s. As in Port Townsend, there was little money for development available, and the homes were bought by people who could not afford to tear them down and build new structures. The owners maintained these stately homes and today they look out over a revitalized Astoria.

  For a breath-taking view of the town of Astoria and the Columbia River Valley, head up to the Astoria Column, on top of 600-foot high Coxcomb Hill. This 125-foot fall structure was built in 1926 by Vincent Astor (grandson of John Jacob Astor). The column is decorated with murals depicting the history of Astoria, from Lewis and Clark through the roaring 20’s. 

Recommendations in Astoria:

Columbian Café – This a breakfast joint. Great coffee, omelets and pancakes. No reservations and no credit cards, but great food.

3 Cups Coffee House – In a slightly industrial area, under the Astoria-Megler Bridge, is this wonderful coffee house. Complete with open space, a library and even a couple of chairs hanging from the ceiling, this is a place that you can come spend a rainy afternoon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Horse Carriages and Cape Disappointment

After spending a few days in Aberdeen, Washington, it is time to head south, towards Astoria Oregon. Following U.S.-101 I take a drive down the coast past some beautiful sights. But before I see the Pacific, I stop in the town of Raymond, Washington, to take a trip back in time.

Willapa Bay

Raymond was originally a lumber mill town. It was built along the banks of the Willapa River. Today, its growth industry seems to be marijuana farming to supply the newly legal sales in the state. What brings me to Raymond is the Northwest Carriage Museum. Opened in 2002, this museum is home to over four dozen horse-drawn vehicles. Its collection includes work wagons, every-day buggies and high-end carriages. The carriages have been restored to mint condition and are displayed in a building that was built to house them, so they are shown to full advantage.

Dress Landau
Walking through the museum the first piece that really catches my eye is the C-spring Dress Landau. This was considered the Cadillac of its time. This beautiful vehicle required a driver and was pulled by a team of two horses. Nearby is a Studebaker Stanhope. This was a buggy for an average family. There are many other lovely pieces to look at, including several that were used in movies before their retirement.

From the movie Stagecoach


They even have a surry with a fringe on the top

Leaving Raymond, I continue south on U.S.-101. The road passes through several inlets and nature reserves along the eastern coast of Willapa Bay. At the southern end of the bay, the road turns to the west, and enters the town of Long Beach. This is a resort community, occupying the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula, between the Willapa Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I stop here for lunch, at the 42nd Street Café and Bistro. They serve an excellent burger and salad.

Heading south I arrive at my main target of the day – Cape Disappointment State Park. Cape Disappointment is the southwest corner of the state of Washington. It was named by British fur trader John Meares. He was sailing south from Nootka Island, near what is today called Vancouver Island, in 1788. His ship ran into a storm, and he turned around just north of the cape, missing the mouth of the Columbia River. Four years later George Vancouver sailed into the Columbia, the first European to do so.

Cape Disappointment State Park sits atop the hills and cliffs that make up the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula. Its almost 1900 acres provide hiking trails, camp-sites, yurts and even some special vacation homes that are truly unique. I drive into the park and make my first stop at Beard’s Hollow View Point. This overlook has great views of the pacific coast along with interpretive maps pointing out key sights and even the locations of off-shore shipwrecks.

The view from Beard's Hollow

From here I continue on to the North Head Lighthouse. It was built in 1898, only two miles north of already established Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. It was needed because the topography made it impossible for ships sailing from the north to see the signal from the Cape Deposit light with enough time to successfully navigate the tricky currents at the mouth of the Columbia River. So in 1898 this second light was erected. The well-shaded parking area leads to a 0.6 mile loop hike out to the lighthouse. The path is wide and well maintained and easily accessible to most people. The views from the path and near the house are wonderful. Nearby are three Keeper’s houses that are available for rent. Each can accommodate up to six people.

Light Keepers House

Deadman's Cove
My final stop is the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Built in 1856, this light sits on a promontory that overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River. Getting to this light is more difficult that to the North Head light. The hike is about a 1.1-mile round trip, and involves a descent of almost 200 feet along a winding trail to Deadman’s Cove, followed by a 230 ft rise up to the lighthouse.

 Since they happen within a half-a-mile the climbs are steep both going and coming.  The light itself has had problems over the years. As noted earlier, it is not visible to ships approaching from the north. Also, its foghorn was not audible to ships at sea, so its use was discontinued.

The beauty of the southwest corner of Washington State is well known to locals, but not well explored by those from other places. It is beautiful, and should be on the bucket list for anyone who loves nature, the ocean and hiking.

Getting There:
The Northwest Carriage Museum – From U.S. 101 in Raymond, turn west onto Heath St. Heath becomes Alder St. The museum will be on the left.

Cape Disappointment State Park – From U.S.-101 in the town of Ilwaco WA, head west on North Head Road to enter the park.