Thursday February 23rd
Except for the 3 mile move from Fort Stevens to Camp Rilea, I think today may have been one of the shortest drives from one site to another that we have experienced. In just 21.7 very short miles from Warrenton, north on 101, crossing the beautiful green bridge at Astoria, and winding along the north shore of the Columbia River, we entered the little town of Long Beach, Washington. Oh. Sales taxes again! We are so very spoiled in Oregon since there is no sales tax.
Along the way there are several sites that are part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Parks, but we wanted to first find a home and settle in before we took our time exploring the peninsula. The sun was a weak, watery orb as we stopped again at the local Visitor Information Center.
The night before we had looked up all the Passport America and CampClub USA parks in the vicinity, and with more than 70 advertised RV parks in the area, we found just three that were club members. Of course, some parks understand the switch between CampClub and Passport, but others do not. We decided on a park called “Driftwood”, but I followed Laurie’s advice and checked out the reviews first. Hmmmm. Maybe not.
We then decided it would be better to be a little bit north of town rather than in a crowded park filled with old trailers, dogs, and junk. Our choice was perfect. Pacific Holiday Sunrise Resorts was just north of town a couple of miles, but on the ocean side of the highway, very quiet and clean, spacious, and almost empty. We paid the $15. half price fee, the $1.70 state sales tax, and a $3.00 resort fee for full hookups with great cable TV.
After a quick setup and lunch, we decided to drive north on the peninsula to explore what is touted as the World’s Longest Beach. A quick check later on the internet confirmed it is the longest US beach, and the longest drivable beach, but the hundred mile long beach in Bangladesh far outdoes the 28 miles of sand stretching north from Cape Disappointment.
We drove the back road closest to the water, but most of it was blocked from access by beachfront homes and no access signs. Finally we found a small path, and parked the car to brave the winds for some beach walking with Abby. It was really windy, and chilly, but we were determined to enjoy this beach! It was a bit disconcerting to have to move out of the way of the occasional car or truck driving along the frothy surf, but that was nothing compared to the dog scare.
Suddenly from nowhere, over a big sand dune, came two large aggressive dogs, barking and growling, hackles raised, circling Mo and Abby and threatening them. I am terrified of these kinds of dogs when they aren’t under control, but Mo kept her head and kept telling them, “Go Home!!”. They would listen for a minute then come back in and growl at Abby. Mo just kept being aggressive back, her only weapon was the plastic throwing stick for Abby’s ball. Abby seemed to be oblivious, and kept wanting to check them out. My knees were shaking, and I stayed behind Mo the whole time, but neither of us could turn our backs on them because they would come rushing back at us. Eventually they gave up, scared off by Mo’s alpha dog attitude and big green plastic stick. For me, however, the walk was ruined and I was ready to get back in the car for the rest of the explorations.
We continued driving north along the peninsula, where there were many beachfront houses, most of them empty, and the whole place seemed very uninviting. Driving to the bay side, we wandered as far north as the road allowed to Leadbetter State Park and the tiny historic town of Oysterville. A long drive back down the bayside of the peninsula was not particularly interesting and we decided to continue south to Cape Disappointment State Park.
For me, this was the goal of the journey. I wanted to look out over the Pacific the same way those two great explorers did back in 1805. I wanted to see what they saw and read more about their travels at what promised to be a beautiful visitor center high above the ocean with a view of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. At the southern end of the peninsula, the road climbs steeply into the park, and the first side road leads to a view of the North Head lighthouse. Both of these lights are beautiful and historic, with North Head established in 1898 and the Cape Disappointment lighthouse in 1856.
The trail to North Head was just a short one but the view was spectacular. There were some cars out on the entry road and a flurry of activity that had us wondering what was happening. The coast guard was doing some rescue training and we were at the right place at the right time to watch their amazing maneuvers on the cliffs below us. The young man in the photo was a 6 year veteran of the coast guard and was a delight to talk to about his career. Watching him rappel down from the copter was more fun since we had talked to him beforehand. I know there are a couple of my blog readers who are coast guard retirees, so I thought you might like these photos. The winds were blowing hard and I was amazed at how steady the helicopter pilot kept that bird hanging in the air during the rescue practice.
We continued through the park to the beautiful interpretive center where there are beautiful trails leading to viewpoints and to the lovely black and white Cape Disappointment lighthouse overlooking the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. In addition to our $10. state park entry fee (inside a National Park where our Golden Age Pass didn’t work), there is an additional $5. fee to go into the center. Mo chose to look at the views while I went in and learned even more about the expedition. This time, there were even a few stories of the journey home, another two years. Lewis’s first comment on arriving in St. Louis was to ask if his mother was still living. Clark probably said something like “Hi Honey, I’m Home” to his long suffering wife who hadn’t seen him in four years!
New exhibits at the center provide interpretation of the entire route, but focused on the Corp’s of Discovery’s pioneering exploration of the Columbia River in 1805 and 1806. The romance of this wonderful place seeped in deep enough that Mo and I bought a beautiful poster of the park highlights depicted in old fashioned post card style art to frame for our office at home.
We went home to our cozy rig for a bbq salmon supper, with a nice picnic table to hold the bbq and no rain to spoil it. We did, however, eat inside while watching the sunset. We were both pretty worn out from all the moving and traveling and dogs and cold winds so it was with great pleasure we settled in for an early evening of reading and some good television.
Friday morning we planned to travel south, moving quickly to get back to Brookings by Saturday afternoon, ahead of the predicted bad weather to come. But first we wanted to make an attempt to find some of the murals that were touted in a brochure we had received from the visitor center. On our first drive though Ocean Park we didn’t see a thing, but there was time to look again before we headed back south. We drove back and forth through town, to no avail. The places listed in the brochure were nowhere to be found, and stops in a couple of local shops were no help, with folks saying they had never heard of the murals.
I finally found a local guy raking some gravel and he told me that the Ole’s Nook Tavern had been sold several years ago and the mural painted over. The Sentry Market was now Thriftway, and that mural had also been painted over. Looking closer, we discovered the brochure was printed in 1995! We later found this website that would have been more helpful when we were looking, the Walking Tour of Ocean Park. On the way back through Long Beach, Seaside, and Ilwaco, we did find a few of the listed murals, however, some in great shape and some seriously faded. We even found one on the back side of Highway 103 that wasn’t listed in the brochure.
The other cool thing to look for in Ocean Beach are houses made from old shipwrecks washed ashore. Our newly found local friend Bob Bodine, 55 year resident of the area, told us where to go to find them. The craziest was called the “Door House”, and it was exactly that, a house made from doors from an old shipwreck. Bob mourned the loss of many of these historic places, saying that the new folks coming in didn’t care any more about the history of the place and many of these houses were being torn down. I’m glad we got to see them before that happened.
We knew that more than 200 miles were between us and our Eugene destination, but were glad to take the time to ferret out a bit of local history before we left Long Beach and headed south.
NOTE: All my photos are now stored on Google/Picasa, but I think the Picasa link on the left side of this blog page gets you there. If you are a Google Plus user you have probably seen then roll by. Now when I upload photos from Picasa, they go directly to Google Photos and are shared via Google Plus. I still have no idea how to share photos with folks that read the blog but aren’t necessarily on a shared list. I would have to make the album fully public to do that I think, and can only do that from Picasa. Google Plus requires “sharing”. Ack!! The whole thing makes me crazy. I also have photos from the past on SmugMug but because of bandwidth, I don’t upload everything there.
Tomorrow: The mall at Eugene, breakfast with Russ and Donna, and back to Brookings where we finally had our campfire!