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A Charming Maritime Town: Astoria, OR

A Charming Maritime Town: Astoria, OR

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 21 comments

From the first moment we saw Astoria, we were captivated. It’s a picturesque town, with hills of colorful homes overlooking a Victorian era downtown and working waterfront. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to describe the town as a miniature San Francisco.

With beautiful natural surroundings, plenty of outdoor recreation, seafood right off the boats, a wonderful farmers’ market, craft beer, and friendly folks (and only 10,000 of them), I think—“oh yeah, this would be an easy place to live.” And then I remember that Astoria gets an insane amount of rainfall each year.

This is a wild place, at the confluence of the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. The weather was tame and sunny while we were there. But it’s not always that way, as Lewis and Clark would attest. This is the place they ended up in their epic journey down the Columbia River in November of 1805. I’ll bet they would have enjoyed their stay more had they arrived in summer instead of winter.

With the arrival of Lewis and Clark, Astoria became the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Of course, they weren’t the first people here—the first were the Chinook Indians, who had villages up and down both sides of the Columbia. I’ve often thought that if I were to be plunked down somewhere and forced to survive off the land, I’d choose the Pacific Northwest. With an abundance of salmon, shellfish easy for the taking, and bountiful harvests of berries, there would be plenty to eat.

From the Chinook to the Coast Guard

Astoria has a rich maritime history. Here, the convergence of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean creates one of the most treacherous harbor entrances in the world. With 2,000 vessels wrecked along the coast and 700 souls lost, this dangerous stretch of water has long been referred to as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

To enter or leave the Columbia River, any ship over 100 feet must relinquish the helm to a bar pilot. This elite group of ship captains undergoes rigorous testing to qualify for the job—one of their many exams includes drawing a nautical chart of the bar from memory.

The Columbia River Bar Pilots credit a one-eyed Chinook Indian chief named Concomly as the first bar pilot. A skilled navigator and savvy trader, Chief Concomly would paddle a dugout canoe across the bar, providing ships safe passage in exchange for blankets, fishhooks, and tools.

Today, the river bar pilots use speedy pilot boats and sometimes helicopters to board the ships—both involve swaying rope ladders and a risky descent (and ascent). Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is always standing ready to rescue boats of any size that run into trouble on the bar.

For a fascinating immersion in the maritime history of the Columbia, don’t miss the excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum. We spent half a day there and were completely captivated by the history of the river, the salmon fisheries, the bar pilots, and the Coast Guard. Watching the videos of the bar pilots and the Coast Guard in action is hair-raising. My nervous system was not made to handle that kind of stress. Even standing next to the retired 44-foot lifeboat perched precariously on a wave in the museum made me anxious.

More Cool Stuff in Astoria

• The Waterfront: Interesting historic buildings, breweries, cool shops, fisheries, and the maritime museum are all located along the scenic waterfront. We walked five miles of trails along the water, and hopped on the historic red trolley for a ride back just so we could listen to the entertaining conductor regale us with the history of the waterfront.

• Northwest Wild: This was a fabulous find! It’s a little hole-in-the wall seafood market with excellent seafood and a beautiful dock with a view of the Columbia and the Astoria-Megler Bridge. We enjoyed a bowl of steamer clams, and took home smoked tuna, fresh salmon, and fresh Pacific cod.

• Sunday Market: Covering three city blocks in the attractive Victorian downtown area of Astoria, the market offers up local produce, arts and crafts, and music on Sundays from 10 till 3. If you’re there in early June, expect lots and lots of asparagus. I wanted to bring home the miniature goat at the goat soap stand, but Eric said no.

• Fort George Brewery: Astoria boasts half-a-dozen craft breweries; that’s a lot for a small town, but hey, we’re not judging. We chose Fort George out of the bunch, and loved everything about it—the upstairs location with a view of the waterfront; the organic, local food offerings (we enjoyed delicious chop salads with grilled chicken); and the tasty beer. As always, the IPA’s and the stouts end up as our favorites.

• Blue Scorcher Bakery: In the same building as Fort George Brewery, the Blue Scorcher Bakery brews excellent organic coffee and knows how to make perfect almond croissants. We started off our Sunday market tour here, and also treated ourselves the morning of laundry day. It always helps to have a treat on laundry day.

• The Astoria Column: Built in 1926, it’s the tallest point in Astoria at 660 feet above sea level. There’s a steep winding staircase to the top, and it’s claustrophobic and dark and dank inside. The views are great, but honestly, I think you can see just about as much from the viewpoints near the parking lot. It’s worth paying the $5 fee to get into the parking area, but I wouldn’t bother making the trek to the top of the column again.

About the campground: We spent five nights at nearby Ft. Stevens State Park, just across the bridge from Astoria. The campground is gorgeous, with five miles of hiking trails and nine miles of biking trails that lead to the beach, the 100-year old wreck of the Peter Iredale, and to the historic military fort. We loved being able to bike everywhere in the park on dedicated trails.

Fort Stevens guarded the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War through World War II. There’s a small museum, and an interesting short tour of the guardhouse with memorabilia from WW II.

This is an enormous campground, with at least 500 campsites. We loved our site in loop N; we lucked out with a corner site with neighbors only on one side and a big grassy lawn area on the other. There are many sites in the campground that would undoubtedly be more private, but would also be unbearably dark and dreary on a rainy day. In early to mid-June, the mosquitoes are frightening—there are lots of wetlands for them to breed. We weren’t bothered during the day, but come dusk, we were safely inside. All of the sites are paved, with water and electric hookups (some loops have sewer), and Verizon coverage is uniformly terrible.

Ship And Old Cannery On The Waterfront

Picturesque Downtown Astoria

Vintage Trolley On The Waterfront

Waterfront Murals Of Days Gone By

View From The West Mooring Basin

Steamers At Northwest Wild Fish Market

The Megler-Astoria Bridge

View From The Top Of The Astoria Column

Gorgeous Views On A Clear Day

The Columbia River Maritime Museum

Full Size Fishing Vessels In The Museum

A Retired Coast Guard Rescue Boat

The Columbia, A Floating Lighthouse

The Astoria Sunday Market

He's Little, He'll Fit In The Trailer

Roosevelt Elk Along The Roadside

There's A Bakery And Brewery Here

Starting The Day Right At Blue Scorcher Bakery

Beer Tasting At Fort George

Enormous Vintage Hardware Store

Antique Wooden Floats And Other Interesting Stuff

Battery At Fort Stevens

Inside The Guard Station

The Wreck Of The Peter Iredale

Biking The Trails At Fort Stevens

So Many Choices Of Trails

Our Backyard At Fort Stevens Campground

Serenaded By Wilson's Warblers

Ship And Old Cannery On The Waterfront
Picturesque Downtown Astoria
Vintage Trolley On The Waterfront
Waterfront Murals Of Days Gone By
View From The West Mooring Basin
Steamers At Northwest Wild Fish Market
The Megler-Astoria Bridge
View From The Top Of The Astoria Column
Gorgeous Views On A Clear Day
The Columbia River Maritime Museum
Full Size Fishing Vessels In The Museum
A Retired Coast Guard Rescue Boat
The Columbia, A Floating Lighthouse
The Astoria Sunday Market
He's Little, He'll Fit In The Trailer
Roosevelt Elk Along The Roadside
There's A Bakery And Brewery Here
Starting The Day Right At Blue Scorcher Bakery
Beer Tasting At Fort George
Enormous Vintage Hardware Store
Antique Wooden Floats And Other Interesting Stuff
Battery At Fort Stevens
Inside The Guard Station
The Wreck Of The Peter Iredale
Biking The Trails At Fort Stevens
So Many Choices Of Trails
Our Backyard At Fort Stevens Campground
Serenaded By Wilson's Warblers
Ship And Old Cannery On The Waterfront thumbnail
Picturesque Downtown Astoria thumbnail
Vintage Trolley On The Waterfront thumbnail
Waterfront Murals Of Days Gone By thumbnail
View From The West Mooring Basin thumbnail
Steamers At Northwest Wild Fish Market thumbnail
The Megler-Astoria Bridge thumbnail
View From The Top Of The Astoria Column thumbnail
Gorgeous Views On A Clear Day thumbnail
The Columbia River Maritime Museum thumbnail
Full Size Fishing Vessels In The Museum thumbnail
A Retired Coast Guard Rescue Boat thumbnail
The Columbia, A Floating Lighthouse thumbnail
The Astoria Sunday Market thumbnail
He's Little, He'll Fit In The Trailer thumbnail
Roosevelt Elk Along The Roadside thumbnail
There's A Bakery And Brewery Here thumbnail
Starting The Day Right At Blue Scorcher Bakery thumbnail
Beer Tasting At Fort George thumbnail
Enormous Vintage Hardware Store thumbnail
Antique Wooden Floats And Other Interesting Stuff thumbnail
Battery At Fort Stevens thumbnail
Inside The Guard Station thumbnail
The Wreck Of The Peter Iredale thumbnail
Biking The Trails At Fort Stevens thumbnail
So Many Choices Of Trails thumbnail
Our Backyard At Fort Stevens Campground thumbnail
Serenaded By Wilson's Warblers thumbnail

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Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Posted by on Jun 16, 2017 in Birding, Family, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Oregon | 29 comments

Ican’t tell you how many times we’ve been cruising along in our travels and I’ve exclaimed, “Oh! Look at that beautiful view/interesting wayside trail/cool one-street town/yummy café” and we’ve just zoomed on by, because there isn’t a place to pull over with our trailer and we still have a long drive ahead of us. (Left to my own devices, I would pull over at every whim. But I do realize that we would never get anywhere at that rate.)

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the north Oregon Coast, moving short distances and spending four or five days in each place. It’s been great. And there’s been almost enough time to explore all of the places that capture our interest.

Following our stay in Tillamook, we moved 25 miles up the coast to Nehalem Bay State Park, another lovely Oregon State Park. Not only is the natural setting gorgeous, the picturesque little towns of Nehalem, Manzanita, and Cannon Beach are nearby. Being so close to Portland, there’s a hip vibe that’s drifted over to the coast, which means that along with beach strolls and hiking nearby trails, we could get good coffee, browse bookstores and intriguing shops, and enjoy creative offerings from local cafés.

The proximity of Portland also means that we were close enough for Eric’s sister Peggy to drive over for a visit. We spent a couple of days together exploring the adorable town of Manzanita and relaxing and catching up. It’s always fun when we’re together. We also were able to catch up with our friends Rick and Kim, whom we last saw in Taos. They’ve recently bought a sweet home in Seaside, which they’ve beautifully renovated. We spent a delightful afternoon and evening with them, including a long walk along the beach and dinner at a tasty Mediterranean café.

We rose early one morning to head to Cannon Beach, only 25 miles away. Our goal was to see Tufted Puffins at Haystack Rock, an iconic landmark on Cannon Beach and home to a nesting colony of puffins (as well as Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Pelagic Cormorants, Western Gulls, and Black Oystercatchers). We had great views of the birds, but came away with no photos of Tufted Puffins. When they leave their nest burrows in search of fish, the puffins fly speedily and awkwardly overhead, like little bowling pins with wings. They are impossible to photograph in flight—and when they head back to their nests, they disappear immediately into their burrows. The lack of photo opportunities notwithstanding, we had a blast watching them.

Five miles south of Cannon Beach is Hug Point State Recreation Site. We were lured by the promise of unique scenic beauty, where at low tide, a half-mile hike leads to a beach with beautiful sandstone caves, a seasonal waterfall, and tidepools. Little did we know that the history here is as interesting as the landscape.

Before the coastal highway was built, people traveled the coast via the beach. Getting around this particular headland required hugging the point at low tide (hence the name). Stagecoaches plunged into the sea to careen around the point, until someone decided to blast a trail through the rock. Even then, it was a risky ride. At low tide, you can walk along the original stagecoach road, just steps from the pounding surf and tidepools below. At high tide, the old road floods quickly—you had better move fast when the tide starts to roll back in (I speak from experience).

The Hug Point road played an important role in the fight to preserve public access to Oregon beaches. In 1913, Governor Oswald West used the road as an example of why Oregon beaches needed to remain public—he basically saved the beaches by declaring them state highways. In many cases, such as Hug Point, there were no alternative routes. Although the beaches are no longer highways (thank goodness!) all of us Oregonians are really happy that Governor West had the foresight to preserve our beautiful beaches and keep them out of the clutches of private ownership.

At Oswald West State Park (named in honor of Governor West), just 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, we hiked the beautiful Cape Falcon Trail, a five-mile round trip journey that winds through a forest of ferns, cedars, and spruces and ends up in a maze of tall salal and wild beach roses. We bushwhacked our way through to openings that revealed spectacular views of the coastline below. We highly recommend this gorgeous hike.

As far as culinary adventures, we loved Buttercup in Nehalem, a fabulous little take-away eatery that serves up excellent chowders and ice creams. That’s it for the menu. But oh wow, the chef/owner is a genius. She sources everything locally, including fresh seafood, dairy products, organic vegetables, and even local salt from Jacobsen Salt (the little salt producer we visited near Tillamook). The offerings change frequently; we came away with spring clam chowder and Malaysian fish chowder (both excellent) and a basil strawberry sorbet that was ridiculously good.

About the campground:

Nehalem Bay State Park is another beautiful coastal Oregon State Park. The sites are spacious, level, and surrounded by shore pines, each with a grassy sitting area, picnic table, and fire pit. We especially liked the sites in A-loop, and even better, those backing up to the dunes (we were in one of those sites). Electric and water hookups, good Verizon coverage, quiet, and dark night skies—all things that make us happy. Walking trails lead from the campground through the dunes to four miles of beautiful beaches that we always seemed to have to ourselves.

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground

Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is....

Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes

Happy Hour With Peggy

In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita

Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita

Independent Bookstores Are The Best

Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway

The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay

The Pretty Nehalem River

Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem

Don't Miss Buttercup!

Amazing Homemade Chowders

The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem

The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling

A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives

Breezy Day At Hug Point

A Really Little But Cute Waterfall

Heading For The Old Coastal Road

Great Views From The Old Road

Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s

The Old Road As It Looks Now

Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail

A Bit Wet In A Few Places

Lovely Wild Douglas Iris

Views Along Cape Falcon Trail

Serenaded By A Pacific Wren

The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal

Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon

The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside

Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim

Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach

I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here

Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach

Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock

A Picturesque Cormorant Colony

Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery

Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast
Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground
Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is....
Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes
Happy Hour With Peggy
In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita
Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita
Independent Bookstores Are The Best
Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway
The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay
The Pretty Nehalem River
Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem
Don't Miss Buttercup!
Amazing Homemade Chowders
The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem
The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling
A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives
Breezy Day At Hug Point
A Really Little But Cute Waterfall
Heading For The Old Coastal Road
Great Views From The Old Road
Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s
The Old Road As It Looks Now
Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail
A Bit Wet In A Few Places
Lovely Wild Douglas Iris
Views Along Cape Falcon Trail
Serenaded By A Pacific Wren
The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal
Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon
The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside
Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim
Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach
I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here
Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach
Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock
A Picturesque Cormorant Colony
Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery
Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park
Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast thumbnail
Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground thumbnail
Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is.... thumbnail
Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes thumbnail
Happy Hour With Peggy thumbnail
In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita thumbnail
Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita thumbnail
Independent Bookstores Are The Best thumbnail
Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway thumbnail
The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay thumbnail
The Pretty Nehalem River thumbnail
Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem thumbnail
Don't Miss Buttercup! thumbnail
Amazing Homemade Chowders thumbnail
The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem thumbnail
The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling thumbnail
A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives thumbnail
Breezy Day At Hug Point thumbnail
A Really Little But Cute Waterfall thumbnail
Heading For The Old Coastal Road thumbnail
Great Views From The Old Road thumbnail
Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s thumbnail
The Old Road As It Looks Now thumbnail
Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail thumbnail
A Bit Wet In A Few Places thumbnail
Lovely Wild Douglas Iris thumbnail
Views Along Cape Falcon Trail thumbnail
Serenaded By A Pacific Wren thumbnail
The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal thumbnail
Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon thumbnail
The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside thumbnail
Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim thumbnail
Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach thumbnail
I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here thumbnail
Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach thumbnail
Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock thumbnail
A Picturesque Cormorant Colony thumbnail
Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery thumbnail
Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park thumbnail

 

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The Scenic Three Capes: Tillamook, OR

The Scenic Three Capes: Tillamook, OR

Posted by on Jun 10, 2017 in Food, Gallery, Hiking, Oregon | 27 comments

Miles of pristine beaches, an outstanding hike with views over the Pacific that stretch to infinity, quite possibly the cutest little lighthouse on the planet, some of the finest oysters in the world, and a cool brewery just steps from the surf. We found all of this and more on a winding, scenic 38-mile stretch of road between Tillamook and Pacific City.

When we started making plans for our “Ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip,” the Three Capes Scenic Drive was near the top of our list. The three capes refer to Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, all picturesque locales on the north Oregon Coast. It’s not only the spectacular vistas from the capes (assuming that the weather allows for views), but also the unexpected gems along the way that make this an appealing destination.

It’s well worth detouring off of Oregon Coast Highway 101 to explore the Three Capes Scenic Drive. However, it’s best to leave your RV behind, unless you have a really small rig. Many people do the drive in an hour or two. But in our typical meandering fashion, we found it so interesting that even one full day wasn’t enough. We made two trips to explore different sections in-depth, and still didn’t get to quite everything we wanted to do. (Oh good, a reason to return!)

• Cape Meares

Strolling down the heavily forested path toward the tip of Cape Meares, a red and white light beckons. It belongs to a short, stout little lighthouse—the shortest (only 38 feet tall), cutest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. You can view the beautiful original Fresnel lens at eye level, and then walk down the path to enjoy a close encounter with the lighthouse. From the bluff above, the view looking toward Cape Lookout is stunning.

South of Cape Meares, we discovered two delightful local foods purveyors. At Nevør Shellfish Farm we purchased a dozen tiny Netarts Bay oysters (reputed to be among the best of the best) and a dozen enormous oysters from another nearby bay that we put on the grill with a bit of olive oil and garlic. So delicious! Not sure why the tiny oysters cost the same as their much bigger kin ($10 a dozen), except that the huge ones might intimidate people who aren’t used to oysters. (I grew up eating oysters, but there’s no way I’d tackle one of those gigantic ones raw.)

Jacobsen Salt Company, just down the road, makes their salt the old-fashioned way, by boiling seawater. And then they create all kinds of fancy salts and offer tastings in a little shed on the property. We brought home a jar of black garlic salt to add to our herb collection and came close to buying a bag of their yummy salted caramels. But the fear of losing a gold crown to the sticky treats prevailed.

• Cape Lookout

The hike to the tip of Cape Lookout is a gorgeous 5-mile round trip journey through a fern laden, lush coastal forest. If it’s a clear day, the views are outstanding. We started the hike in a thick morning mist, and enjoyed the show as the curtain of fog rolled back, revealing the sparkling azure waters of the Pacific and the curve of Cape Kiwanda in the distance. A word of caution: Don’t hike this trail following heavy rainfall—had we attempted this just a few days earlier, we would have been slogging through ankle deep mud.

• Cape Kiwanda

The big attraction for us here was Pelican Brewery. In fact, we didn’t even make it out onto the beach—which I regret, because the tide pools are reputed to be outstanding. But we arrived late afternoon at high tide, and our mission was to drink beer after our hike at Cape Lookout.

We liked (a lot!) almost every beer we sampled, from the outstanding Beak Breaker and Dirty Bird IPA’s to the rich Tsunami stout. A platter of smoked oyster bruschetta and a bowl of steamer clams rounded out our beer tasting. Those smoked oysters were seriously amazing. I could have eaten the whole plate all by myself, no problem.

• Around Tillamook: Cheese/More Beer/More Hiking

Although Tillamook is perhaps best known for cheese, we didn’t bother with a visit to the namesake cheese factory. The visitor center is closed for renovations until sometime in 2018. We did, however, spend about 15 minutes at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, a touristy venue (in a beautiful 1930’s barn) that lured us in with samples of brie, including an exceptionally delicious smoked version that we couldn’t resist buying.

We also paid a visit to de Garde Brewing, a unique little brew pub that “embraces imperfection.” I’ll say. They have a cool tasting room, where they offer brews that depend on spontaneous fermentation, with no two batches the same. It’s apparently an acquired taste. Beer connoisseurs travel here from all over the world, and they don’t balk at spending big bucks to stock their cellars with de Garde beer. (A beer cellar? Who knew?) All I can say is that it’s the sourest beverage I’ve ever tasted. However, I did really enjoy the “guest stout” they had on tap.

If you’re in Tillamook and looking for a place to hike/walk, the Bayocean Peninsula County Park is a beautiful place to explore. There are several miles of trails along the bay (with good birding) and on the opposite side, an equally long stretch of peaceful beach to walk. We enjoyed it so much that we went twice in our four days in Tillamook.

About the RV Park: In January, when we started making plans for our trip up the Oregon Coast and Olympic Peninsula, I had no problems getting reservations for prime sites in state parks for May and June—with the exception of Memorial Day weekend. There was not one site to be had in any state park on the coast. That’s how we ended up behind the Ashley Inn in Tillamook. (Our original idea was to stay at Cape Lookout State Park.)

The Ashley Inn RV Park is a bargain, offering level concrete sites separated by grassy areas, water and electric hookups, and wifi for $15 a night. The location is convenient, and it’s surprisingly peaceful and quiet. The only downside is that there are surrounding lights at night, but with our blackout shades, we were fine. They don’t take reservations, but even on Memorial Day weekend the park was only half full.

Entrance To Cape Meares

Ready To Explore Cape Meares Trails

The Lighthouse Beckons

It Shone 20 Miles Out To Sea

Cutest Little Lighthouse On The Oregon Coast

The View From Cape Meares

On The Trail To Cape Lookout

It's A Rooty Rocky Trail

Hiking In The Fog And Mud

Spring Fiddleheads On Western Sword Ferns

Much Of The Trail Hugs The Coastline

The Fog Bank Rolls Back Out To Sea

Gorgeous Views Of Cape Kiwanda From Cape Lookout

Pelican Brewery (photo from website)

Beer Tastings And Smoked Oysters Bruschetta

Oysters At Nevør Shellfish Farm

Yay! Oysters For Dinner

Jacobsen Gourmet Salts

Tiny And Delectable Netarts Bay Oysters

Hiking The Trails At Bayocean Spit

Low Tide At Bayocean

The Ocean On The Opposite Side Of The Spit

A Wandering Tattler

Happy Hour At De Garde Brewing

I Think The Beer Is An Acquired Taste

Tillamook Dairy Cows

Picturesque Old Barns On The Tillamook Quilt Trail

Smoked Brie From Blue Heron French Cheese Store

RV Spots Behind The Ashley Inn In Tillamook

Entrance To Cape Meares
Ready To Explore Cape Meares Trails
The Lighthouse Beckons
It Shone 20 Miles Out To Sea
Cutest Little Lighthouse On The Oregon Coast
The View From Cape Meares
On The Trail To Cape Lookout
It's A Rooty Rocky Trail
Hiking In The Fog And Mud
Spring Fiddleheads On Western Sword Ferns
Much Of The Trail Hugs The Coastline
The Fog Bank Rolls Back Out To Sea
Gorgeous Views Of Cape Kiwanda From Cape Lookout
Pelican Brewery (photo from website)
Beer Tastings And Smoked Oysters Bruschetta
Oysters At Nevør Shellfish Farm
Yay! Oysters For Dinner
Jacobsen Gourmet Salts
Tiny And Delectable Netarts Bay Oysters
Hiking The Trails At Bayocean Spit
Low Tide At Bayocean
The Ocean On The Opposite Side Of The Spit
A Wandering Tattler
Happy Hour At De Garde Brewing
I Think The Beer Is An Acquired Taste
Tillamook Dairy Cows
Picturesque Old Barns On The Tillamook Quilt Trail
Smoked Brie From Blue Heron French Cheese Store
RV Spots Behind The Ashley Inn In Tillamook
Entrance To Cape Meares thumbnail
Ready To Explore Cape Meares Trails thumbnail
The Lighthouse Beckons thumbnail
It Shone 20 Miles Out To Sea thumbnail
Cutest Little Lighthouse On The Oregon Coast thumbnail
The View From Cape Meares thumbnail
On The Trail To Cape Lookout thumbnail
It's A Rooty Rocky Trail thumbnail
Hiking In The Fog And Mud thumbnail
Spring Fiddleheads On Western Sword Ferns thumbnail
Much Of The Trail Hugs The Coastline thumbnail
The Fog Bank Rolls Back Out To Sea thumbnail
Gorgeous Views Of Cape Kiwanda From Cape Lookout thumbnail
Pelican Brewery (photo from website) thumbnail
Beer Tastings And Smoked Oysters Bruschetta thumbnail
Oysters At Nevør Shellfish Farm thumbnail
Yay! Oysters For Dinner thumbnail
Jacobsen Gourmet Salts thumbnail
Tiny And Delectable Netarts Bay Oysters thumbnail
Hiking The Trails At Bayocean Spit thumbnail
Low Tide At Bayocean thumbnail
The Ocean On The Opposite Side Of The Spit thumbnail
A Wandering Tattler thumbnail
Happy Hour At De Garde Brewing thumbnail
I Think The Beer Is An Acquired Taste thumbnail
Tillamook Dairy Cows thumbnail
Picturesque Old Barns On The Tillamook Quilt Trail thumbnail
Smoked Brie From Blue Heron French Cheese Store thumbnail
RV Spots Behind The Ashley Inn In Tillamook thumbnail

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Biking, Brews, And Covered Bridges: Eugene, OR

Biking, Brews, And Covered Bridges: Eugene, OR

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 32 comments

At the risk of completely confusing everyone, I’m going to post a couple more “catch up” blogs from last fall, just before our travels and lives were temporarily derailed by Eric’s surgery. Next month, we’ll be back on the road. But for the sake of completion—and so that I have some hope of remembering what we’ve done before we start adding to our stash of travel memories again—let’s return to early October, and our visit to Eugene.

With abundant biking opportunities, cool neighborhood brewpubs, an epic farmers’ market, tasty local foods, and a liberal vibe, Eugene offers up our idea of fun. At only 178 miles from our hometown of Ashland, Eugene is a convenient stop for us as we travel the I-5 corridor. Even though we’ve visited many times, there’s always something new to discover, as well as “favorites” to return to.

This time, we took a little field trip 20 miles outside of town to bike the Row River Trail, which originates in Cottage Grove, the “Covered Bridge Capitol of the West.” On a pretty fall day, we biked 30 miles of the scenic trail that travels along Dorena Lake, through pastoral farmland, and past several of the historic bridges. Oregon possesses one of the largest collections of covered bridges in the country, and the most extensive collection in the West. Did you know the picturesque structures protect the timber trusses from the damp Oregon climate? (One of these days, all of these little tidbits of information are going to come in handy.)

After a long day of biking, we recovered at the award winning, eco-friendly Ninkasi Brewing Company, named for the Sumerian goddess of fermentation. Their Total Domination IPA is one of Eric’s perennial favorites, but all of their beer is tasty. The neighborhood beer garden with live music and food trucks makes for a good time hanging out with the locals. Another evening, we made our way to Sweet Cheeks Winery, about 20 miles west of town on a winding, beautiful country road. Gorgeous views, decent wine, and a beautiful patio with cozy fire pits—and they don’t mind a bit if you bring a picnic.

The Row River Trail is a good ride, but our favorite biking in Eugene remains the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System. We never tire of biking the scenic 14-miles of trails that meander along both sides of the Willamette River, with a variety of interesting diversions along the way, including the lovely University of Oregon campus, the Owens Rose Garden, and wildlife ponds.

A visit to a salad bar might not be high on your list of attractions, but we never miss stopping at Provisions Market Hall in the Fifth Street Marketplace in downtown Eugene. We often make a detour when we’re biking on the Riverbank Trail. The salad bar offerings are creative and delicious (roast chicken, marinated cauliflower, pickled red onions, French potato salad, kale salad), they have yummy homemade soups and wood fired pizza, and you can enjoy a glass of good wine with your meal at their lovely wine bar.

Although biking and eating and sampling beer and wine consumed most of our time in Eugene, we did manage to feed our minds a bit at the small but excellent University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. It’s a gem of a museum, and worth a visit just to admire the beautiful architecture and the wonderful sculptures of salmon, bear, and other Pacific Northwest critters that adorn the building.

Finally, we plan our visits to Eugene so that we can spend time at the lively Saturday Market—as the country’s longest running outdoors market, it’s been a happening event since 1970. We loaded up our shopping bags with an assortment of organic and locally produced foods, browsed the wonderful crafts (I’m always looking for travel sized treasures), listened to local music, and had fun people watching. There’s a reason Eugene was voted the “hippiest city” in the country. If you enjoy a laidback counter culture atmosphere, you’ll like Eugene. We certainly do.

About the RV Park:

We always stay at Armitage County Park, just a few miles outside of town in Coburg. The sites are spacious and green with full hook-ups, good Verizon coverage, and an excellent laundry. There’s a lovely, although rather short, walk along the river. If you plan to visit in the fall, check the University of Oregon football schedule—the campground is booked far in advance for the Duck’s home games.

Next Up: Ashland In The Fall (and then we’ll be caught up!)

Currin Bridge, circa 1925

In Cottage Grove

Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way

On The Row River Trail

Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920

Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market

Pastured Eggs At The Market

The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene

Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery

Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery

Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery

Excellent Beer At Ninkasi

Fifth Street Market In Eugene

Delicious Lunch At Provisions

The Willamette River Bike Trail

Philosophical Truth Along The Trail

Lovely Owens Rose Garden

The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History

That Giant Sloth Was Creepy

Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth

Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture

Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene

Armitage Park In Eugene

Currin Bridge, circa 1925
In Cottage Grove
Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way
On The Row River Trail
Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920
Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market
Pastured Eggs At The Market
The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene
Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery
Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery
Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery
Excellent Beer At Ninkasi
Fifth Street Market In Eugene
Delicious Lunch At Provisions
The Willamette River Bike Trail
Philosophical Truth Along The Trail
Lovely Owens Rose Garden
The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History
That Giant Sloth Was Creepy
Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth
Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture
Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene
Armitage Park In Eugene
Currin Bridge, circa 1925 thumbnail
In Cottage Grove thumbnail
Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way thumbnail
On The Row River Trail thumbnail
Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920 thumbnail
Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market thumbnail
Pastured Eggs At The Market thumbnail
The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene thumbnail
Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery thumbnail
Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery thumbnail
Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery thumbnail
Excellent Beer At Ninkasi thumbnail
Fifth Street Market In Eugene thumbnail
Delicious Lunch At Provisions thumbnail
The Willamette River Bike Trail thumbnail
Philosophical Truth Along The Trail thumbnail
Lovely Owens Rose Garden thumbnail
The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History thumbnail
That Giant Sloth Was Creepy thumbnail
Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth thumbnail
Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture thumbnail
Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene thumbnail
Armitage Park In Eugene thumbnail

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Enjoying Portland, Even In The Rain

Enjoying Portland, Even In The Rain

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Family, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 35 comments

In early October, we spent 10 days in Portland, Oregon. We love visiting Portland in the fall. The leaves are turning, the temperatures are perfect, and the rainy season doesn’t begin until November. Except for this year. In October 2016, Portland set all-time records for rainfall, and the deluge continued throughout the winter.

We didn’t expect day-after-day of gray skies and showers, but we still found plenty to enjoy, even in the rain. It’s a good thing, because 10 days cooped up in our 27’ trailer would have been about 9 ½ days too much.

Fortunately, rain in Portland isn’t like rain in the East or the South. Most of the time, there’s just a constant light drizzle, not enough to warrant unfurling an umbrella. Throw on a fleece, a rain jacket, and waterproof shoes, and you’re good to go.

Our main reason for visiting Portland every year is to spend time with Eric’s sister Peggy. While there, we also carve out time for hiking, cultural, and culinary adventures. There is no lack of interesting things to do in Portland—the biggest challenge for us is narrowing down our choices! 

Some of our favorites from this visit:

Urban Hike: The 2.6-mile Waterfront Loop meanders along the waterfront, including the Eastbank esplanade’s floating walkways, and crosses the Willamette on a couple of Portland’s famous bridges. The views of the downtown skyline are terrific.

The loop passes right by the Saturday Market—an excellent place for a taste of “Keeping Portland Weird.” (Honestly, Portland doesn’t seem weird to us at all—our hometown of Ashland is equally, delightfully weird.)

Neighborhood Wanderings: The Alphabet District/Northwest Portland is one of our favorite neighborhoods to explore on foot. It’s a charming mix of appealing shops, cafes, and beautiful renovated historic homes. On a rainy afternoon, we wandered in and out of interesting shops, lunched at award winning Ken’s Artisan Bakery (the soup and salad specials are excellent), and spent a couple of hours reading and relaxing at the cozy Dragonfly Coffee House.

Nature Fixes: Given that we stay 15 miles outside of Portland (it’s the closest RV park for our visits to Eric’s sister) we’re always in search of nearby places to hike/walk. This time, we discovered Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and Graham Oaks Nature Park, both with several miles of beautiful trails. We also spent an afternoon at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in search of birds—all of which had more sense than we did, and were snuggled up somewhere out of the rain.

The Japanese Garden: Always a delight, the Portland Japanese Garden offers a tranquil respite in the city. We were a week or two early for the full-on display of autumn colors, but appreciated the peaceful beauty of the gardens, as well as a temporary show of fantastic sculptural bamboo pieces scattered throughout. Not only is this place gorgeous, it’s considered to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. If you want insights into the deeper meaning of the natural elements of the garden, take one of the excellent free guided tours.

The Food: The food—oh my, the food! Portland is renowned for creative, local, handcrafted, organic, delicious fare. This visit, the standout for us was Dove Vivi, a friendly little neighborhood bistro in Northeast Portland that “celebrates the loot of their locale” by making everything from scratch. We were smitten by the crispy cornmeal crust pizza baked in an iron skillet, layered with balsamic roasted red onions, fresh corn, and smoked mozzarella, accompanied by a kale salad and local beer. Really, really, tasty.

Another day we enjoyed a late lunch at Pine Street Market, a trendy showcase of nine local restaurants in a very cool renovated 1886 historic livery. Lots of choices here—we opted for the excellent roast chicken and radicchio salad from Pollo Bravo. We happened to arrive mid-afternoon after a long ramble through downtown Portland in search of the famed “Portlandia” statue, and were glad we missed what appears to be a crazed lunch rush. (Bonus: Happy hour is from 3-6, with good deals on food and brews.)

McMenamins Kennedy School: On our dreariest day in Portland we headed to Northeast Portland for a matinee at the Kennedy School, a historic 1915 elementary school recycled into a boutique hotel replete with movie theatre, brewery, multiple small bars, soaking pool, and restaurant. We enjoyed a showing of Star Trek while relaxing on comfy sofas in the former auditorium, followed by a brew in the honors bar. It’s a colorful venue with a quirky Portland ambiance. Loved it.

Famers’ Market: Rain or shine, we never miss a visit to the Portland Farmers’ Market at Portland State University. On a drizzly day we perused the lush offerings and loaded up on organic vegetables, excellent locally crafted chocolate, pastured eggs, local goat cheese, and wild caught salmon. It’s a great place to catch some local music, grab a tasty meal from local purveyors, and soak in more of the vibe that makes Portland so welcoming, even in the rain.

 

About the RV Park:

Pheasant Ridge RV Park is about 15 miles from downtown Portland, and it’s an easy drive into the city on I-5 as long as you avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours. The park is immaculate and tightly run; sites have concrete pads, grassy lawns, and attractive landscaping. Full hookups, nice laundry and bathhouse, good Verizon coverage.

The Portland Japanese Garden

Wonderful Bamboo Art Exhibit In The Garden

Bamboo Arch Overlooking Portland

Bamboo Fountain And Autumn Leaves

Peggy And Eric At Jackson Bottom Preserve

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

On The Trails At Graham Oaks Nature Park

Local Pork Tacos At The Farmers Market

A New Variety Of Radicchio At The Market

Exploring The Northwest District

Colorful Neighborhood Homes

Lunch At Ken's Artisan Bakery

Organic French Inspired Local Bakery

Dragonfly Cafe In NW Portland

Late Afternoon Tea At The Dragonfly

Rainy Day Matinee At The Kennedy School

Boiler Room Turned Bar

Reward In The Honors Bar

Gourmet Pizza At Dove Vivi

Pine Street Market

Delicious Tapas Lunch At Pine Street Market

Walking The Waterfront Loop

Picturesque Morrison Bridge

Too Bad We Forgot Our Red Dresses

Colorful Portland Characters

Downtown Portland

Portlandia

Pheasant Ridge RV Park

The Portland Japanese Garden
Wonderful Bamboo Art Exhibit In The Garden
Bamboo Arch Overlooking Portland
Bamboo Fountain And Autumn Leaves
Peggy And Eric At Jackson Bottom Preserve
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
On The Trails At Graham Oaks Nature Park
Local Pork Tacos At The Farmers Market
A New Variety Of Radicchio At The Market
Exploring The Northwest District
Colorful Neighborhood Homes
Lunch At Ken's Artisan Bakery
Organic French Inspired Local Bakery
Dragonfly Cafe In NW Portland
Late Afternoon Tea At The Dragonfly
Rainy Day Matinee At The Kennedy School
Boiler Room Turned Bar
Reward In The Honors Bar
Gourmet Pizza At Dove Vivi
Pine Street Market
Delicious Tapas Lunch At Pine Street Market
Walking The Waterfront Loop
Picturesque Morrison Bridge
Too Bad We Forgot Our Red Dresses
Colorful Portland Characters
Downtown Portland
Portlandia
Pheasant Ridge RV Park
The Portland Japanese Garden thumbnail
Wonderful Bamboo Art Exhibit In The Garden thumbnail
Bamboo Arch Overlooking Portland thumbnail
Bamboo Fountain And Autumn Leaves thumbnail
Peggy And Eric At Jackson Bottom Preserve thumbnail
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge thumbnail
On The Trails At Graham Oaks Nature Park thumbnail
Local Pork Tacos At The Farmers Market thumbnail
A New Variety Of Radicchio At The Market thumbnail
Exploring The Northwest District thumbnail
Colorful Neighborhood Homes thumbnail
Lunch At Ken's Artisan Bakery thumbnail
Organic French Inspired Local Bakery thumbnail
Dragonfly Cafe In NW Portland thumbnail
Late Afternoon Tea At The Dragonfly thumbnail
Rainy Day Matinee At The Kennedy School thumbnail
Boiler Room Turned Bar thumbnail
Reward In The Honors Bar thumbnail
Gourmet Pizza At Dove Vivi thumbnail
Pine Street Market thumbnail
Delicious Tapas Lunch At Pine Street Market thumbnail
Walking The Waterfront Loop thumbnail
Picturesque Morrison Bridge thumbnail
Too Bad We Forgot Our Red Dresses thumbnail
Colorful Portland Characters thumbnail
Downtown Portland thumbnail
Portlandia thumbnail
Pheasant Ridge RV Park thumbnail

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On The Way To Lopez Island

On The Way To Lopez Island

Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Travel, Washington | 25 comments

On one of our first journeys to the San Juan Islands, we discovered the tiny hamlet of Edison, in the Skagit Valley of western Washington. With a population of only 133, it doesn’t seem like there could be much worth stopping for.

True, Edison is little more than a wide spot in the road. But this particular wide spot has a disproportionate number of seriously fine eating establishments and unique art galleries. Edison embodies the farm-to-table, healthy (with a side of local pastured bacon), environmentally conscious, creatively quirky ambiance that infuses much of the Pacific Northwest.

Leaving Winthrop and our adventures in the North Cascades, the drive along the North Cascades Scenic Byway and through the pastoral farmland of the Skagit Valley was a beautiful one. One hundred and forty miles later, we pulled into our favorite campground in the area—Bay View State Park, overlooking Padilla Bay. At only nine miles from the ferry landing in Anacortes, it puts us on the doorstep of the San Juan Islands—and it’s also perfectly positioned for a visit to Edison.

It’s an easy six-and-a-half mile bike ride along the bay and through acres of blueberry fields from Bay View State Park to Edison. Our destination is always Tweets, a former gas station turned café. (There are more good choices; this just happens to be our favorite.)

The big garage doors roll up Friday through Sunday, revealing a rustic interior with a charmingly eccentric décor of roughhewn wood tables, local artwork, random trinkets, and a twinkling chandelier. The food offerings are equally eclectic, prompted by what’s in season in the neighborhood (including eggs from the proprietors’ chickens and vegetables from their garden). The food is delicious, the atmosphere casual and relaxed, and the coffee excellent.

The two-block town is worth a leisurely exploration, including locally made treasures from reclaimed materials at the Lucky Dumpster; curiosities at Shop Curator that rival a small natural history museum; and lovely cheeses and wines at Slough Food. Even though breakfast is more than satisfying, we can never resist picking up a couple of bite-sized cocoa nib shortbread cookies from Breadfarm. (It’s also worth biking an additional mile to the even tinier hamlet of Bow; we’ve enjoyed both the Rhody Cafe and their sidekick Farm-To-Market Bakery.)

In the never-ending cycle of new adventures that traveling fulltime brings, we’ve found that we appreciate the familiarity of favorite places that we return to time and again. Stopping at Bay View State Park and biking into Edison has become something of a small tradition for us—a couple of days here gives us the opportunity to catch our breath from our long cross country journeys, and eases us into the laid-back island life that awaits.

About the campground:

At only nine miles from the ferry landing in Anacortes, Bay View State Park is perfectly located for a journey to the San Juan Islands. The best sites for RV’s are sites 1-9, which have partial hookups (water and electric) and also happen to be nearest Padilla Bay (the end sites even have views of the bay). There’s a nice biking/walking trail just a mile from the park that wends around the bay. Verizon coverage is good.

Next Up: Summer On Lopez Island 

Farmstand In The North Cascades

Heading West From Winthrop

Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway

Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand

Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison

Tweets Cafe

Inside Tweets Cafe

Slow Food On The Slough

The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures

Baby Barn Swallows

Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery

Breadfarm Bakery In Edison

Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm

Biking To The Rhody Cafe

Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe

Biking Around Padilla Bay

Low Tide At Padilla Bay

RV Site At Bay View State Park

In Line For The Ferry To The Islands

Here Comes The Ferry!

Heading For The Islands

Sailing Past Mt. Baker

Arriving On Lopez Island

Farmstand In The North Cascades
Heading West From Winthrop
Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway
Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand
Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison
Tweets Cafe
Inside Tweets Cafe
Slow Food On The Slough
The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures
Baby Barn Swallows
Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery
Breadfarm Bakery In Edison
Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm
Biking To The Rhody Cafe
Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe
Biking Around Padilla Bay
Low Tide At Padilla Bay
RV Site At Bay View State Park
In Line For The Ferry To The Islands
Here Comes The Ferry!
Heading For The Islands
Sailing Past Mt. Baker
Arriving On Lopez Island
Farmstand In The North Cascades thumbnail
Heading West From Winthrop thumbnail
Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway thumbnail
Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand thumbnail
Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison thumbnail
Tweets Cafe thumbnail
Inside Tweets Cafe thumbnail
Slow Food On The Slough thumbnail
The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures thumbnail
Baby Barn Swallows thumbnail
Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery thumbnail
Breadfarm Bakery In Edison thumbnail
Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm thumbnail
Biking To The Rhody Cafe thumbnail
Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe thumbnail
Biking Around Padilla Bay thumbnail
Low Tide At Padilla Bay thumbnail
RV Site At Bay View State Park thumbnail
In Line For The Ferry To The Islands thumbnail
Here Comes The Ferry! thumbnail
Heading For The Islands thumbnail
Sailing Past Mt. Baker thumbnail
Arriving On Lopez Island thumbnail

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