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Return To The Edge Of The World: Neah Bay, WA

Return To The Edge Of The World: Neah Bay, WA

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in Gallery, Hiking, National Parks, Washington | 9 comments

At the furthest northwesternmost point of the continental U.S., the wild, stormy coastline meets the deep, mysterious rainforest. This far-flung, untamed place is the land of the Makah, a Northwest Coastal people who have called the remote headland home for thousands of years.

We first visited Neah Bay and the Makah Reservation a couple of years ago, despite the advice we received from someone who told us, “There’s nothing there worth seeing.” Au contraire. This is exactly the kind of place that captures our interest, and we returned in mid-June for an adventure we missed the first time around.

Hiking to Cape Flattery

Just like last time, we hiked the trail to Cape Flattery, which is as far as you can go and still be in the continental U.S. This is sacred tribal land, and the Makah have declared Cape Flattery a nature sanctuary. A three-quarter mile rugged trail winds through the dense rainforest. At the end of the trail, cedar platforms resembling the prow of a canoe jut above the churning ocean, dramatic headlands, and hidden sea caves.

Trail through the rainforest to Cape Flattery

Viewing platforms built like the prow of a canoe

Cape Flattery looking north, with hidden sea caves tucked into the headlands

Hanging over the railing, we scanned the ocean for whales and puffins. No whales or puffins, but a family of sea otters appeared, rolling and playing in the waves, mama holding baby close.

Scanning the horizon at what feels like the edge of the world

A family of sea otters

Standing on the tip of Cape Flattery, we could see tiny Tatoosh Island in the distance. Once a fishing camp for the Makah, a lighthouse here has pointed mariners to the entrance of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca since 1857.

Tatoosh Island from Cape Flattery

Visiting the Museum of the Makah

We also paid a return visit to the Museum of the Makah Indian Nation, one of the most intriguing museums we’ve encountered anywhere in our travels. The artifacts within were discovered in 1970 at Ozette, a Makah village 15 miles south of Neah Bay.

The Makah Cultural Museum and Research Center totem archway

Entrance to the Museum of the Makah Indian Nation

During a storm in 1750, a catastrophic mudslide buried the village in 10 feet of clay, creating an oxygen-free environment that perfectly preserved five longhouses and objects of everyday life. For more than a decade, archaeologists and tribal members worked together to unearth more than 55,000 artifacts. It’s considered to be one of the most significant archaeological finds in North America.

Despite living in a challenging environment, buffeted by wild storms and drenched in 100 inches of rain each year, the Makah shaped a life of rich traditions, comfort, and beauty, creating what they needed from the abundance of the rainforest and ocean surrounding them. The museum is arranged according to the seasonal life of the Makah; thousands of artifacts in pristine condition are engagingly displayed. There’s a replica of a full-size longhouse and four beautiful cedar dugout canoes built by tribal members, and an excellent hour-long film on the Makah and the Ozette site.

Blankets woven of woodpecker feathers, dog hair, and cattail fluff; clothing woven of cedar bark (the inner bark was pounded until soft and pliable); baskets and boxes of red cedar; intricately carved and decorated tools and ceremonial items made of bone, shell, and wood; all survived centuries of burial in mud. It’s a remarkable and beautiful display of a unique culture. I wanted so much to take photos, but the tribe asks that we refrain, and we did.

Fabulous 20-foot tall carved cedar figures outside the Museum of the Makah Indian Nation

Hiking to Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches

“Generations of Makah people have used this area. If you are patient and respectful, its enduring beauty will enrich and teach you too.”

So reads a sign posted at the trail head to Shi Shi Beach (pronounced Shy-Shy). Located 8.5 miles south of Neah Bay, this remote beach bordering the Makah reservation became part of Olympic National Park in 1976. A two-mile hike through the rainforest (the first mile has partial boardwalk, built by the Makah) leads to the beach.

Trailhead for Shi Shi Beach

Cedar boardwalk through the forest; it starts off reasonably well

Beautiful fungi in the rainforest

Bridge on the Shi Shi Trail

We hiked this trail two years ago, but only to Shi Shi Beach. We returned this time to hike all the way to Point of Arches, for a total of 8 miles round-trip.

Never in all of our years of hiking have we encountered so much mud. The last time we hiked the trail to Shi Shi Beach it was muddy, but nothing like this. This was an epic mud bath, ankle deep in many places. We bushwhacked, made little bridges of logs, climbed trees, attempted great leaps. There was no way around the mud and the mud puddles. Why did we continue, you ask? Well, the worst of the mud didn’t start until about a mile in, and we kept thinking, “Surely this will improve!” It didn’t.

A muddy, miserable trail

Soggy, muddy, puddles—it has it all

Finally, after more than an hour of slogging, we reached the bluffs and caught our first glimpse of the beach below. A series of ropes help in navigating the 150-foot drop down to the beach. There, we stepped into the otherworldly landscape of rock spires, sea stacks, caves, and arches that decorate Shi Shi Beach.

Ropes help on the climb down the 150 foot bluff trail

Shi Shi Beach on a misty day

Otherworldly rock formations

We didn’t linger long, because our destination—Point of Arches—was another two miles down the beach. The hike was gorgeous, with exposed rock formations and tide pools all along the way, and views of Point of Arches coming closer as we walked.

Rock formations and tidepools on the hike to Point of Arches

Ochre sea stars and giant green anemones

Point of Arches in the distance

Crossing Petroleum Creek on the way to Point of Arches

A lone surfer on the beach (I can’t believe he hauled his surfboard down that muddy trail)

The ideal time to visit Point of Arches is at low tide, when the numerous tidepools are exposed. It’s a beautiful, peaceful hike, and the reward is a picturesque seascape of dozens of sea stacks, spires, arches, and caves, with tidepools surrounding it all. Ideally, we would have stayed overnight on the beach, which is what most people seem to do after making the effort to get here. The sunsets are reputed to be spectacular.

Point of Arches rock formations

Tidepools at Point of Arches

Seastack and arches at Point of Arches

Oystercatchers on the beach

Halfway back to Shi Shi Beach

Heading back up the bluff trail

(Note that before you hike on this or any trail or beach on the Makah Reservation, you must obtain a $10 annual recreation permit, available in Neah Bay or at Hobuck RV Park.)

About the campground:

Just like last time, we stayed at Hobuck Beach RV Park and Campground. Last time, we stayed in the RV Park, which offers 10 full-hook up RV sites ($40 per night) with a fabulous view of the Pacific and easy access to the beach. This time, we opted for the big open field. It’s a free-for-all. You pay your $20 and stake out your spot anywhere that looks good to you.

We arrived on a Thursday and found a choice location. By Saturday, we were surrounded by tents, VW campers, boats, and surfers. This is apparently a prime fishing and surfing locale. Everyone was well behaved, and we enjoyed our stay. We had speedy Verizon coverage, a place to fill our water tanks, and amazingly, there was a free, almost new shower house with unlimited hot water.

Hobuck Campground and RV Park

Choose your spot and set up camp

Sunset on Hobuck Beach

Next Up: A Delightful Week At Salt Creek 

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Tidepools And Rainforests: Olympic National Park

Tidepools And Rainforests: Olympic National Park

Posted by on Jul 15, 2017 in Gallery, Hiking, National Parks, Washington | 40 comments

We first visited Olympic National Park two years ago in the fall, and immediately promised ourselves that we would return. With tidepools filled with colorful sea creatures, mysterious rainforests, snow-capped mountains, shimmering lakes, beautiful lodges, and a rich history of native culture, this is a diverse and enchanting park.

Although it’s possible to do a driving tour and get a quick peek at some of the splendors, Olympic National Park is not easy to corral into a day trip. No roads go through the park, travel is slow, and many of the treasures lie off the beaten path. We started our explorations this time with four days at the southwestern corner of the park, camped high on a bluff overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean.

At first glance, South Beach Campground doesn’t look all that appealing—it’s a primitive campground within the national park and the sites are staked out in the open. But the expansive views of the Pacific and our sightings of gray whales spouting offshore and sea otters frolicking in the waves far outweighed the lack of water, electricity, or privacy.

South Beach Campground in Olympic National Park

Scanning the horizon for whales and otters

We got excellent tips from Ranger Birdie at Kalaloch Ranger Station

The campground is just 10 miles from Ruby Beach, which we were told has extraordinary tidepools. It lived up to its reputation, with dozens of pools filled to bursting with sea stars and anemones. We were thrilled to see hundreds of orange and purple ochre sea stars—they’re making a healthy comeback after a devastating virus several years ago. There’s something mesmerizing about tidepools, offering a glimpse into the lives of creatures that endure the radical extremes of changing tides twice a day. The anemones look so delicate, but they’re obviously resilient.

A peaceful morning at Ruby Beach

Tidepools exposed at low tide

Ochre sea star and green anemones

A baby ochre sea star in my favorite color

A cluster of delicate-looking green anemones

Purple sea star and green anemones

Sharing the wonders of the tidepools

Sea stacks on Ruby Beach

During our stay at South Beach, we made two trips into the rainforest. Olympic National Park contains four temperate rainforests, defined by moderate temperatures and a staggering amount of rainfall—somewhere around 14 feet per year. The result is a primeval world of ancient giant trees draped with curtains of lichen, and a landscape lushly upholstered with ferns and mosses.

Given that the Hoh Rain Forest is an iconic feature of the park, of course we needed to see it for ourselves. In the heart of Olympic National Park and almost 40 miles from our campground, it was a long and winding drive. Once there, we endured hordes of tourists at the visitor center focused more on snapping selfies than admiring the wonders of the rainforest. But stepping onto the trails, we left the crowds behind. We looped together the Hall of Mosses Trail with the Spruce Trail for three miles of mossy splendor—it felt as though we were hiking in a forest cathedral.

Mushroom exhibit in the Hoh Rain Forest visitor center

On The Hall of Mosses Trail

A moss-covered arch; it’s important to not stand still for too long lest the mosses take over

A cathedral of trees, mosses, and ferns

A raven in the rainforest

On our second foray into the rainforest, we drove 30 miles south to Lake Quinault on a misty day. Built in 1926, Lake Quinault Lodge is the quintessential national park lodge, with a cozy seating area, crackling fireplace, and stuffed elk decor. The grounds are lovely, with gently sloping lawns dotted with Adirondack chairs, a tranquil view of the lake, and a chimney adorned with a totem-pole rain gauge that measures rainfall in feet. We hiked from the lodge to the Gatton Creek Trail, picking up the Quinault Loop Trail for a six-mile hike. We finished out our day with a cup of tea in the lodge, followed by a drive on the 31-mile scenic road that loops around Lake Quinault and along the Quinault River. The scenic drive passes by several beautiful waterfalls, no hiking required.

Beautiful Lake Quinault Lodge; note the totem pole rain gauge on the chimney

It’s cozy inside the lodge

A scene from a gentler time

Geared up for a rainy day hike at Lake Quinault

One of many beautiful waterfalls

The negative ions are good medicine

On the shores of Lake Quinault

About the campground:

We loved our stay at South Beach Campground. The views are unsurpassed, even if you don’t score a front-row seat. We had to juggle sites to find one that we could get level in, but then life was grand (even on the day it rained non-stop for 24 hours). First-come, first-served, no hook-ups, bathroom with flush toilets but no potable water. Fresh water and a dump station are available at Kalaloch Campground, 3 miles up the road. Surprisingly, there was excellent Verizon coverage. $15 night/$7.50 for seniors.

Next Up: Revisiting The Edge Of The World: Neah Bay, WA

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Cape Disappointment And The Long Beach Peninsula

Cape Disappointment And The Long Beach Peninsula

Posted by on Jul 8, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Washington | 34 comments

Leaving Fort Stevens and the delightful town of Astoria, we bid farewell to the Oregon Coast and drove a short 25 miles to Cape Disappointment. Located at the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula in the extreme southwestern corner of Washington, we arrived to gray skies, wind, rain, and a state park with zero internet connection.

But despite our less than enticing welcome, we extended our original two-day stay to five days. What kept us here was our desire to bike the Discovery Trail along the coast (but not in the rain!), our interest in Lewis and Clark National Historic Park (this is where they ended their epic journey), and a craving for oysters in historic Oystertown, at the far northwestern end of the peninsula.

Cape Disappointment really deserves a more appealing name. The gloomy moniker was bestowed in 1788 by British explorer John Meares, who was peeved when he failed to find the mouth of the great river reputed to be just around the cape. “No such river exists,” he declared. Imagine his embarrassment when just a few years later, American merchant sea captain Robert Gray sailed across the bar into the river. Gray claimed the land for the U.S. and named the river Columbia, in honor of his ship.

Cool Stuff on the Long Beach Peninsula:

• Lewis and Clark National Historic Park: Here, on the banks of the Columbia River and on bluffs and beaches overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the story of Lewis and Clark is brought to life. The 33-member Corps of Discovery arrived here in November 1805 after an arduous 4,000-mile journey from St. Louis to the Pacific. Their journey was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, who said: “Find a route to the Pacific. While you’re at it, draw good maps; discover and document plants and animals; establish relationships with the Indian tribes you meet; and get there before anyone else can lay claim to it.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but this was pretty much the essence of their mission.)

We started our explorations with the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, located high on a bluff in Cape Disappointment State Park. It kept us busy for several hours, with absorbing exhibits of their arduous journey, the many discoveries they made, and accounts of their interactions with the native peoples who lived along the Columbia. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy day.

“Your mission…the Pacific Ocean.” Coffee in hand, he’s ready to go.

A replica of the plant presses used by Lewis and Clark in their journey

The enormous replicas of Chinook canoes caught our attention at Middle Village/Station Camp. Just a few miles from Cape Disappointment, this marks the last camp the Corps made in its journey west; it was here that they decided where to spend the winter. Arriving in late fall, the Corps assumed it to be a deserted Native American settlement. But in fact, it was a summer fishing village for the Chinook, who had called this area home for thousands of years. The park at Middle Village/Station Camp focuses on the Chinook Indian Nation history, as well as telling the story of the Corps and the town of McGowan that was later founded here (hence, the church). We found the stories of the Chinook to be especially fascinating.

Middle Village/Station Camp with replicas of Chinook canoes

The river provided a natural water highway for the Chinook—they were far more skillful at navigating the unpredictable waters than the Corps. The abundance of the region, including salmon, shellfish, elk, berries, and tubers, sustained hundreds of villages along both sides of the river. Were it not for the food and other help provided by the Chinook and the Clatsop Indians on the opposite side of the river, the Corps would not have fared nearly as well.

With winter nipping at their heels, the Corps crossed the Columbia to set up camp, where elk were reputed to be plentiful. They built Fort Clatsop, named after the local Clatsop Indians, and spent the winter replenishing food supplies, making buckskin clothing, working on journals and maps, and preparing for the long journey home. When they left in the spring of 1806, they gave Fort Clatsop to Chief Coboway, who had been a helpful friend to the expedition.

A replica of Fort Clatsop, where the Corps spent the winter

Bigger than our trailer, but not as comfortable

• Biking The Discovery Trail: This multi-use trail is about as perfect a bike path as you’ll ever find. The Discovery Trail covers 8.5 miles of gently rolling terrain, from Long Beach to the North Beach Lighthouse in Cape Disappointment State Park—that last mile or so to the lighthouse is an uphill climb, but worth it. We had a blast cruising along the crest of the dunes, enjoying the ocean views and the interesting sculptures along the way commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition. It’s a great 17-mile round-trip ride.

Biking the Discovery Trail; doesn’t get any better than this

A monument to Clark along the trail (with a sturgeon and a random bouquet)

Local school children’s artwork protecting birds along the shore

• Visiting the Lighthouses: Cape Disappointment overlooks the Columbia River Bar, AKA “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” It’s such a treacherous area that it requires two lighthouses, both still in operation, and both within the state park.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, built in 1856, is perched on a cliff, a three-quarter mile uphill hike through layers of lush green forest. It’s a fading beauty in need of restoration and not open for tours, but nonetheless photogenic. And the views from the bluff are wonderful.

North Head Lighthouse, built in 1898 on the northwestern spur of Cape Disappointment, is generally open for tours, but it’s currently closed while the park restores it to its original glory.

On the trail to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach

Cape D Lighthouse with a bit of color provided by a visiting school group

Looking across the bluffs to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Bald eagle enjoying the view

• Exploring the towns: Well, it’s certainly not Astoria, but we found some interesting little towns to explore. Long Beach is the poster child for a touristy beach town, but the long stretch of sandy beach is beautiful and the boardwalk along the dunes is lovely for a stroll. (The boardwalk parallels part of the Discovery Trail, so you can explore many of the cool sculptures from here.) We bypassed the shops along the way but couldn’t resist a quick visit to Marsh’s Free Museum. It’s stuffed full of a bizarre assortment of oddities, from taxidermy to vintage peep shows to antique arcade games.

Lovely boardwalk through the dunes in Long Beach

Downtown Long Beach and Marsh’s Museum of Bizarreness

I admit, we had some good laughs in here

The little fishing village of Ilwaco was much more to our liking. The harbor is picturesque, there’s a nice little farmers’ market on Saturdays, and we continued our seafood binge at Ole Bob’s Seafood Market—we came away with fresh mussels, cod, shrimp, and salmon. So good!

Picturesque Ilwaco Harbor

Ole Bob’s Seafood Market, the place to go for seriously good fresh seafood

Other local meanderings included the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, a very local, old- fashioned museum (free on Thursdays). There’s lots of intriguing stuff here, including a life jacket made of corks from 1904 that is way more interesting than the vest I have for kayaking. I’m going to start saving our wine bottle corks. We also enjoyed happy hour at Salt Pub, overlooking the harbor, where we had a delicious North Head IPA (named after the lighthouse) from North Jetty Brewery. We were wishing we’d stopped by the brewery for a tasting of more of their offerings.

A collection of life vests at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum

The Salt Pub in Ilwaco

Local steamers and local IPA (and cranky because I want to take a photo before he can eat)

Oysterville was the final stop on our wish list, at the northwestern end of the peninsula. Built on the rich harvest of oysters from Willapa Bay (one tiny oyster brought as much as one silver dollar in San Francisco in the mid 1800’s!) the oyster boomtown is now a quiet village of well-preserved homes from the era. The smoked oysters and smoked salmon dip from Oysterville Sea Farms are among the best we’ve had, and their deck overlooking Willapa Bay is lovely.

Oysterville church, circa 1892

Oysterville Sea Farms; great smoked oysters and smoked salmon dip

Feeling pretty relaxed after those oysters (oh yeah, and a beer)

About the campground:

We had only two nights reserved at Cape Disappointment State Park and were unable to extend our reservation. But we found a wonderful spot to hang out for several more days just a few miles down the road at River’s End RV Park. We moved into a spacious site with blazing fast internet, and just across the river, Cape Disappointment lighthouse winked at us. (As an unexpected bonus, it was less expensive than the state park.) It was a great find, but unfortunately, the property has been sold and will no longer be an RV Park.

Cape Disappointment is a fine state park, though. We enjoyed our two nights there, even in the rain. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, lighthouses, and hiking trails are all conveniently within the park. The campsites are arranged in spokes, offering plenty of privacy. We liked our site in Loop A, with the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep at night. Full hookups, paved sites with picnic tables and fire pit, and absolutely no internet or cell connection whatsoever.

Our backyard for a few days at River’s End RV Park

Some of the bounty from the seafood market (Thai curry mussels)

 

 

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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 | 34 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 terrifying.

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 Seafood Market: 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 Sunday Market offers up local produce, arts and crafts, and music 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 were 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, the column is 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 | 30 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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