Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

California Dreamin’

Farewell Tour

This blog post is long overdue and I can’t promise there will be another one anytime soon. These days it’s pretty challenging to drum up the enthusiasm to write a post with no specific adventure goal in mind. Nevertheless, we are certainly enjoying ourselves here at home with plenty of time for art, music, quilting, knitting, crafting, and various projects.

Last spring, as we were making our “COVID-safe” travel plans to visit various parts of our state, I asked Norman if there was any place else he’d like to go. Since we moved to Oregon five years ago, we have only made a couple of very brief trips back to California. So he suggested planning an extended road trip during which we could could visit all of our favorite California places and hopefully, some family and friends as well. I was very excited about our itinerary — especially the opportunity to indulge in some of the diversity of cuisine and culture that are rather lacking in Oregon. As launch day approached, I began referring to our impending adventure as the “Oregon Appreciation Vacation” and more often, “The Farewell Tour”.

During our two and a half week trip, we succeeded in visiting many of the places and a few of the people we had in mind.

Santa Cruz/Capitola – always an easy and welcome escape from the Silicon Valley during the 12 years we lived in San Jose

The Shadowbrook Inn – the best and most unique restaurant we’ve ever experienced where we celebrated many anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions including my retirement

There’s No Place Like Shadowbrook

Gayle’s Bakery – another unbeatable culinary spot with the most delicious pastries anywhere including France!

The Crow’s Nest – a happy hour favorite with incredible views of the Santa Cruz Harbor

Capitola Wharf – so quaint with its colorful array of quirky beach bungalows

Santa Cruz Lighthouse – a great place to watch those iconic surfers even in December!

The Coachella Valley – where I lived for 20 years, raised my children, and spent the better part of my teaching career with Norman joining me for the second 10 — this was our first time back since 2005

The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens — to delight in the flora and fauna of the desert which are undeniably awe-inspiring (even though we never, ever want to live there again!)

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – affording spectacular views of the ever-growing valley and on this occasion, snow!

Yosemite National Park – the grand dame of national parks as far as we’re concerned. The ultimate photo op for avid photographers like us — we made multiple trips during our San Jose years and captured its glory in every season. We were treated to snow here too and, after a wet, icy hike around the valley, enjoyed a wonderful Christmas Eve simply hanging out at the historical Ahwahnee Hotel.

Finally, it was time to return home and we were definitely ready. With snow falling at our AirBnB location in Midpines just outside Yosemite, we barely escaped road closures as we left to make our way north.

After spending a night in Redding, the halfway point on our route, we got back on the highway determined to tackle to Siskiyous which had been heavily blanketed by the most recent storm.

It was a bit of a white knuckle affair, but in the end Norman delivered us safely to Eugene where we arrived to find our house ensconced in SNOW! Not a very common occurrence in this area. How ironic that we missed a white Christmas right here at home.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity, Jig!

Epilogue: Once upon a time, we had planned to celebrate our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary with a romantic fall spent in France. However, current world affairs have made that an impractical option. We will endeavor to remain hopeful that things in every arena will improve and sometime in the future we can make one more French dream come true. Meanwhile, we plan to stick with our online French lessons and enjoy as much good French cuisine as possible prepared by Norman here at home. Though we are both Californians by birth, we quite appreciate our choice to become Oregonians. Happiness is where you make it or, as my mom always said, “Home is where you hang your hat.”

Note: This post marks the 10th anniversary of our blog which I began prior to our first adventure in France in 2012. It has been quite a journey and we have the blog posts to prove it even if they are mostly for ourselves. Thanks to the small cadre of followers who joined us along the way, commented on our adventures, and helped us reach over 10,000 hits — though many of them are probably our own. 😉

Farewell… for now!

In Pursuit of Color

If you have been following our blog, you will quickly figure out that we have a favorite leaf peeping spot in Oregon — Silver Falls State Park. You can read all about it in previous posts — Waterfall Wonderland and Fall at the Falls. On our way south from the Columbia Gorge, we had to make Silver Falls our next stop. This time we stayed in the quaint little town of Silverton about 25 minutes from the falls. On our first day out, we were rewarded with a cool, cloudy, but mostly dry day to explore the myriad of photographic possibilities. Fortunately, upon arriving at the falls, we were greeted with plenty of fall color and lots of options.

There are 10 falls along a 7-mile loop in this area most of which can only be seen by hiking the aptly-named Trail of Ten Falls. However, South Falls is just a short walk from the parking area. It is the tallest of all the falls at 177 feet. While certainly beautiful in this fall setting, you can see there’s not a lot of water flowing this time of year. So, for the purposes of photography, our best bet was to enjoy the immediate area rather than attempting the hike this time around. The opportunities had to be more compelling to attempt negotiating this rather steep, wet terrain with all our equipment in tow.

Once we finished shooting, it was time to warm up in the South Falls Lodge. The lodge was built in 1940 using local raw materials of hand cut-stone, cedar and peeled fir logs. All of the furniture inside the lodge — originally 25 tables, 82 chairs, 11 benches, and a dining room hutch — was constructed out of two huge myrtlewood logs 40 feet long and 5 feet in diameter. These logs had to be dried and cured before use to prevent warping. Oregon State University constructed an experimental kiln to do the job. The logs weighed 18,000 pounds going in and 10,000 pounds coming out. Obviously, it worked as none of the furniture has ever warped. Here’s the lodge surrounded by fall color…

Norman ordered two of the most delicious hot chocolates we’ve ever had and we settled down in front of the huge stone fireplace. It was so cozy and relaxing that I just wanted to stay there all day.

There are a variety of informative displays in the lodge and several volunteers who hail from all parts of the country to answer all your questions. Matt, a young, very creative and enthusiastic park ranger took the initiative to create this display of fall leaves he had collected from trees in the park. Of course, I was immediately attracted to it and thrilled to get the opportunity to discuss it with him. He was more than happy to share and kind enough to print out a photo for me.

This canyon surrounds Silver Creek as it heads out from South Falls and winds through the hills. We certainly found some fall color in this gorgeous place, but we will continue looking for more.

While these photos may satisfy the eye to a certain degree, they really don’t begin to do justice to the reality of the experience. As we drove the winding roads through central Oregon, we were continually awestruck by autumn’s natural and ever-changing beauty which is quite difficult to actually capture through the lens. But we’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, we have some great memories.

It’s Fall Adventure Week!

Fall in all its splendor is absolutely one of my favorite things which is why we chose to get married during this season 24 years ago. Ironically, our wedding took place in Palm Springs, California where there’s virtually never any sign of fall. However, with a few choice decorations, we made it happen anyway. Now that we have retired to the Pacific Northwest, we have no trouble experiencing the “real deal” when we celebrate our anniversary. Beginning in October, there are options galore. I always get excited with the anticipation of the season long before it arrives. So, last spring I planned a Fall Adventure Week that would take us to all our favorite places in Oregon. First on the list was the Columbia River Gorge.

We started off by returning to our favorite cabin in the woods which is actually on the north side of the river in Stevenson, Washington. Each morning we woke up to this view of the river just beyond, fixed breakfast, and set out to enjoy the best sights along the Historic Columbia River Highway which was completely open for the first time since we moved here. This area suffered the ravages of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire that burned 50,000 acres and multiple landslides last winter forcing the closure of many trails and roads. It is still a long way from recovering but was finally quite accessible. This afforded us the opportunity to check out even more waterfalls than before. The vertical basalt walls along the Columbia River Gorge are graced with the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America, particularly on the Oregon side.

Of course, we began with the iconic Multnomah Falls. Fortunately, we had visited during a quiet period in the spring when we captured this photo of this single drop “plunge” waterfall rising 620 feet. Since it is the most popular, most publicized, and so easily accessible, it draws an overwhelming number of tourists making it virtually impossible to enjoy most of the time. It was pretty busy during our visit. We had taken many great photos of the falls on our previous trip, so we decided to ignore the crazy crowds and focus our photography on the small things that are often missed or ignored. I think we were pretty successful.

Horsetail Falls is also a single drop waterfall 176 feet high. Like many falls along this highway, you can drive right up to it. It plunges over the cliffs with impressive force — a beautiful sight set amongst the emerging colors of fall.

A pleasant stop between falls is Oneonta Gorge with its namesake creek meandering between the massive moss and lichen-covered basalt walls that form a slot canyon. There are actually four major waterfalls along the creek, but they are quite inaccessible except for one hike extending from another upper level trail. The stone railing and stairs from the roadside down to the creek have been blocked off with a very ugly black chainlink fence due to the fact that the area is extremely slippery, unstable, and downright dangerous. However, with a very tall tripod and some ingenuity, you can still capture some of its beauty.

Wahkeena Falls was a new and surprising experience for us. Reputedly, its name is a transliteration of a Native American phrase meaning “most beautiful”. Regardless of how accurate this information is, we couldn’t agree more with this description as we quickly discovered that it was really our favorite above all others — even the mighty Multnomah. Wahkeena is a 242-foot “tier” waterfall with, as you might surmise, separate falls that cascade down the face of the cliff one after the other but can be viewed all at once. It is also located right off the highway with a variety of attractive views.

For added adventure, we made the short hike to a bridge with a viewpoint between the tiers of the falls.

And, once again we kept an eye out for the little things.

Then there was this guy. Hope he made it across the trail. Lots of his cousins did not. 😦

This (not really a) path was a lot steeper than it looks and it led nowhere except the abyss. :-0

Nevertheless, Norman decided to make the precarious descent for just one more shot over the edge!

Culminating our exploration was a brief stop at Vista House which sits atop Crown Point 733 feet above the Columbia River. This eye-catching Art Nouveau building houses a small museum with a very interesting collection of comparative photographs and other artifacts and serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers. It has also been derisively referred to as a rather expensive “comfort station” for travelers on the Columbia River Highway.

From here you get a spectacular view of the Gorge.

And, if you’re lucky, you get your handsome husband to pose for you in front of its gorgeous fall backdrop reminding you of all the many reasons you married him 24 years ago.

Happy Anniversary!

Olympic ~ Ruby Beach & Beyond

It was finally time to complete our journey through Olympic National Park and head home. We set our sights on Ruby Beach situated along the park’s 73 miles of rugged coastline. Like most of our Oregon beaches, it is replete with rocky shores, tide pools, driftwood, and those ever-present sea stacks but no less photogenic. This is the view from the parking lot with easy access to the beach below.

A short hike down to the beach at low tide allows you to get up close and personal with these sometimes eerie-looking sea stacks.

Waiting for the tide to rise again, these mussels cling tenaciously to the back side of the stacks.

It was a gorgeous morning for an exploratory walk on the beach. There were certainly plenty of rocks here and I couldn’t resist collecting a few small ones that caught my eye.

Eventually, it was time to bid farewell to the coast.

We had one last stop to make before leaving the park where I encountered Sasquatch (aka Big Foot) yet again. He certainly gets around the Pacific Northwest. This guy was considerably more friendly than the last one I met.

This is the beautiful Lake Quinault with another historic lodge similar to the one at Lake Crescent but slightly more regal and sophisticated.

In the fall of 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Lake Quinault Lodge during a fact-finding trip and enjoyed lunch in the later-named Roosevelt Dining Room. Nine months later, Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park. We had our own lunch here 84 years later taking in what was likely a very similar panoramic view. So thankful FDR made that decision!

When you have traveled for even just a few days throughout Olympic National Park, the inspiration for its creation is obvious. We are fortunate it has been preserved giving everyone the opportunity to step back in time and appreciate the peace and tranquility of nature which is more powerful and lasting than anything else. Our experience gave us just a small taste. We will definitely be back for more!

Olympic ~ Hoh Rainforest

Twilight Territory

Our next destination was Forks — these days perhaps more famous for being the location of the Twilight saga novels than home to the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. While we didn’t run into Bella or Edward or encounter any vampires or werewolves (thank goodness!), we did fall in love with some giants.

There are several trails leading out from the Hoh Visitor Center including the Hoh River Trail where you can hike for 18 miles to Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus that we first viewed at Hurricane Ridge. However, we chose something a wee bit shorter quickly immersing ourselves in the Hall of Mosses after crossing this lovely pond.

This leaning tree show a great example of epiphytes, plants growing on other plants, which are abundant throughout the area. They are not parasitic but derive moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water, and debris that accumulates around them. Moss, lichen, algae, ferns, and bromeliads are a few epiphytes you might know.

Here you can see that the forest is literally dripping with epiphytes.

If it weren’t for the paved trails, it would be nearly impossible to walk through this forest dense with giant conifers plus big leaf and vine maples that play host to these epiphytes.

Dead and downed trees like this enormous one still contribute to the rainforest. As they decay, they serve as nurse logs supporting new life.

Grazing Roosevelt Elk are responsible for keeping the understory open. Of Olympic Park’s 3-4,000 elk, 400-500 live in the Hoh Valley. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of one but we were not that lucky. President Theodore Roosevelt, after whom the elk are named, designated the land a national monument in 1909 to protect the elk; it became a national park in 1938. 

In the Twilight saga, Bella worked part-time at “Newton’s Olympic Outfitters”. While completely fictional, it definitely has its counterpart in real life right in the heart of Forks, aptly named “Forks Outfitters”. We discovered a plethora of real (vs. designer) outdoor clothing there and got Norman properly outfitted for some of our next adventures with his favorite style of thick long-sleeved t-shirts and best of all, rain pants. That was truly an Olympic bonus!

Sadly, our Olympic Discovery Tour was almost over, but fortunately, there were still a few key places to check out on the way home. See you at the coast in the next post! 😉

Olympic ~ Lake Crescent

After a day in the mountains, it was time to head to the lake — Lake Crescent that is. Conveniently located about 30 minutes west of our Port Angeles abode in the opposite direction of Hurricane Ridge, lies this gorgeous “Tahoe-esque” lake. While it possesses nowhere near the depth and size of the famous Cal-Nev icon, Lake Crescent presents a similar aura with its clear, deep blue waters backed by a stunning set of glacially-formed peaks. At its deepest, it measures 624 feet (as opposed to Lake Tahoe’s 1645 in case you’re curious) and is officially the second deepest lake in Washington (after Lake Chelan). It contains very little nitrogen, thereby limiting the growth of small plants like algae that typically grow in lake waters which contributes to its clarity.

Upon our arrival at Lake Crescent Lodge, we were immediately drawn to the small pier extending out into the lake. While the Storm King Ranger Station is located nearby, it’s a basic affair and the lodge facilities provide a much more inviting atmosphere for exploration of this section of the ONP which is comprised largely of old growth forests. As you can see, we practically had the place all to ourselves.

As waterfalls are one of our favorite photographic subjects, we are always attracted to any hikes that will lead us to one. While we have seen some of the tallest and most spectacular falls, we still won’t pass up an opportunity to add another to our list of conquests. Just a short walk from the lodge we joined the Marymere Falls Trail meandering through a dense forest where you can easily imagine dinosaurs might have once lived. Everything is really old and BIG! It makes you realize what a small part of Earth’s historic record we are.

Barnes Creek runs parallel to the trail. Crossing a bridge or two and leaving the creek behind, we began a slight uphill climb toward the falls.

After working our way around a loop and climbing a few stairs, we arrived at a very convenient platform with a view of the lovely 90-foot Marymere Falls. This is considered an easy trail, but it takes a bit of effort with all our equipment. Norman always manages to put a smile on it!

It may look like I’m just checking my messages, but I’m actually controlling the camera with my phone. Attached to the top of the camera is a device called a CamRanger. When in use, it creates a wifi connection between the phone and the camera (referred to as wireless tethering) allowing you to access all the camera’s settings and frame your shot much more easily than if you were simply looking through the viewfinder. This is especially helpful when your eyesight is not what it used to be and you wear progressive lenses like I do. It also interacts with my iPad which makes an even better monitor for shooting.

And here are the results…

Upon our return, we were able to sneak in a very nice lunch at the lodge. Operating at only 25% seating capacity due to the pandemic, we were fortunate to get a table. We even bought souvenirs at the gift shop — something we rarely do… a true old-fashioned vacation experience at a very quaint lodge from another era.

We enjoyed this location so much that we felt it merited a second visit. The following day was a transition to our next stop with some time to kill before we could check it. So I suggested heading back to Lake Crescent Lodge which just happened to be on the way. Norman decided he wanted to hike out and shoot again for awhile. I found a comfy corner with a gorgeous view of the lake where I spread out my things and spent some time reading and knitting while enjoying a local beer. One couldn’t ask for more!

And, if you haven’t seen enough of the falls… we never do — here’s a parting video for you. Enjoy!

Olympic ~ Hurricane Ridge

From the Mountains to the Sea

Olympic National Park spreads across almost 1 million acres at the westernmost edge of the state of Washington, an area referred to as the Olympic Peninsula. It is unique in that it encompasses a vast range of ecosystems from glacier-capped mountains and old growth rainforests to 70 miles of coastline. Traveling north from Astoria, it felt as if we were going back in time and entering a completely separate region not at all connected to the Washington where we had once lived. There were tiny towns dotted all along the winding route — most providing just the basic services. It made us wonder how the residents manage to get all the things they need. Do they have to make long excursions for supplies? Or have they just figured out how to live without so much stuff?? I’m sure they grow and raise much of what they eat, but it seems even that would be limited in this area that receives much rain — an average of 56″ per year. We chose the right month to avoid those frequent downpours and were really able to appreciate nature’s beauty and diversity.

We began our visit to the ONP in Port Angeles where the main Olympic Park headquarters are located. We took advantage of a full array of resources there — maps, souvenirs, and information from the various park rangers who were very helpful and certainly enthusiastic about their park. There were also interesting exhibits regarding the park’s natural and cultural history. I had done much online research, but it was nice to actually inform ourselves in-person in real time. Due to the pandemic, many facilities throughout the park are either closed or minimally staffed and accessible so it’s important to get the latest information.

We settled in to a small house for our three-day stay in Port Angeles. We love to travel this way because we can make ourselves at home, truly relax, and prepare our own meals. Like many other small towns and out-of-the-way places, the pandemic has taken its toll on services and supplies in Port Angeles as well as other Olympic communities resulting in suspended ferries to Victoria, restaurants closed or forced to close early for lack of food and/or staff, and grocery shelves sparsely stocked. However, this was no problem for us with our self-catering accommodations and our provisions from home.

We launched our exploration into the park at Hurricane Ridge about 30 minutes outside of Port Angeles. Arriving around 7 AM, we avoided the crowds providing a serene and peaceful experience. Stepping out of the car, we were immediately hit with a frigid blast of wind causing us to wonder if we had dressed in enough layers. At an elevation of 5,246 feet, the ridge gets its name from the frequent hurricane-like winds that can blow up to 75 miles per hour. As much as 35 feet of snow falls here each year remnants of which can be seen even in the summer. Directly off the parking lot just beyond the visitor center, you can already take in beautiful views like the one below. These are the Olympic Mountains including the tallest, Mt. Olympus, rising to 7,980 feet. Also visible is Blue Glacier which, like so many others, is rapidly retreating with the effects of climate change.

We hiked a short distance to the Overlook instantly rewarded with views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Port Angeles. That’s Canada on the other side. Moving on, we followed the Cirque Rim Trail where once a glacier receded creating a circular edge into the valley.

Next we connected to the High Ridge Trail and climbed to some spectacular views. Though there were few other hikers, we were not alone. On the way, up we heard a strange sound that we learned was the call of an Olympic Marmot. We were able to spot him perched on a rock down the slope in the distance. The most common marmot noise is a chirp, which is a brief blast of piercing sound similar to a bird chirping. Frightened marmots increase the speed of these chirps into a series called a trill. When extremely scared, a marmot call can even sound like a human scream. The closer the danger, the shorter the call. Presumably, this is because the animal has less time to make noise and wants to beat a hasty retreat. There’s even a marmot sound called a chuck, which has led to yet another nickname for the animals, “rockchuck”. There were also plenty of chipmunks scampering around and a plethora of birds.

Intersecting with High Ridge is a dead end spur trail that leads to Sunrise Point where we could see far and wide in every direction. Here we encountered a family of grouse.

Completing the High Ridge loop takes you back to the visitor center which you can see here in the distance along with those majestic Olympic mountains.

As you can see, we had a great time out on the trail…

One thing to remember when you are hiking is to notice the small things. They can be just as impressive as the magnificent vistas.

Next up in our discovery of the ONP — Lake Crescent. Stay tuned!

Astoria Revisited Pt. 2

Maritime and Memories

The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria tells the dramatic and inspiring stories of a mighty river, a vast ocean, and the generations of people who have made their living plying the waters of the region. The Museum is home to the largest collection of maritime artifacts in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the most significant and dangerous aspects of navigation along the Columbia River involves the Columbia River Bar. This is where the enormous, swift-moving river collides with the immense power of the Pacific Ocean creating the worst wave conditions on the planet. The potential for disaster is ever-present. Some of the best Maritime professionals in the world are responsible for making the passage of the bar safe. Nevertheless, since 1972 approximately 2,000 vessels have sunk at the Columbia River Bar earning this area the title of “Graveyard of the Pacific”. With this is mind, it is awe-inspiring to learn about the variety of ships that have successfully navigated this part of the Columbia as demonstrated through the various displays in this museum.

The Lightship Columbia once guided ships to safety at the mouth of the Columbia River. Docked in the harbor just outside the museum, it offers an opportunity to hop aboard and see for yourself where the sailors would cook, eat, sleep, and work. It functioned as a floating lighthouse to mark the mouth of the Columbia River from 1951-1979.  Since the lightship was essentially a small town anchored 5 miles out to sea, all of the supplies for the crew had to be on board.  The lightship had a crew of 17 men who worked 2-4 week rotations, with 10 men on duty at a time.  Life on board consisted of long periods of monotony punctuated by fierce storms, particularly in the winter.

Once we completed out tour of the Maritime Museum, we had one more important stop to make. Probably the most recognized attraction in Astoria is the Astoria Column. Standing atop the 600-foot Coxcomb Hill at a height of 125 feet, it’s impossible to miss. The murals on the intricately decorated column depict significant events in regional and state history.

Inside the column you can climb the 164-step spiral staircase to an observation deck at the top. However, even on ground level, you get a pretty spectacular view of the Astoria Bridge as it passes over the Columbia into the state of Washington.

The reason this was such an important stop for us is because it was one of the places we visited on that 2001 road trip. That day we had quite an elaborate picnic on Coxcomb Hill.

As you can see, things in Astoria look pretty much the same, but we have changed a bit in the past 20 years.

Still smiling… and yes, it’s August and we are wearing wool scarves!

Now we are ready to cross the Astoria Bridge and make our way to Olympic National Park where we will spend the rest of the week. We’ll be taking lots of photos and I’ll be making notes along the way so I can share this adventure with you after we return home.

Astoria Revisited Pt. 1

Coffee and a Cannery

Following the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the early 1800’s, John Jacob Astor dispatched both land and sea parties to establish a fur trading post in this northwestern territory. The post, named Fort Astoria, was built in 1811, making it the earliest American settlement on the West Coast.

During the War of 1812, the British war-sloop HMS Racoon came to take the fort, proclaiming it Fort George in honor of King George III… hence, the name of the aforementioned brewery. As we know, that didn’t turn out so well for them and by the mid-1840’s, with pioneers from the Oregon Trail filtering in, the town was renamed Astoria.

We always like to start the day out at a local bakery. Our Astoria friends recommended a couple of places and Coffee Girl turned out to be just the right choice — charming & historical plus location, location, location. In order to get there, you have to drive out on an old, narrow wooden bridge where you arrive at the West’s oldest cannery building located on Pier 39 adjacent to the Columbia River.

The cannery was home to none other than Bumble Bee Seafoods of tuna fame for almost 50 years beginning in the 1930’s. The original “Coffee Girls” served coffee to the cannery workers.

These days there are a number of different businesses housed in this building including the Coffee Girl cafe. While enjoying our coffee/chai and bagels, we had a marvelous view of the Columbia as various fishing vessels set out on the river for their daily catch. 

After breakfast, we took in the small museum there dedicated to the history of the cannery containing an interesting collection of items large and small.

Old gillnet fishing boat

With most of the day still at our disposal, we decided take in some more Astoria history by visiting the Columbia River Maritime Museum. See you in the next post for that experience.

En Route to ONP

While Norman and I have visited many national parks, we have never managed to make it to Olympic National Park in Washington even though we have been within easy driving distance on many occasions during our lives. After college in the late 70’s, I lived in Seattle for eight years and Norman, coincidentally and unbeknownst to me, lived in Pullman for the same period of time. In 2001, we made a six-week 6,000-mile western parks driving tour and still didn’t get there. We’ve now been living in Oregon for four years — less than six hours away from the ONP, and we thought it was about time we included this park in our travel itinerary.

These days we don’t have the stamina nor the inclination to make 6, 8, or 10-hour daily drives in order to reach our destination. So for this trip, I planned a week-long adventure. I generally look for opportunities to visit other places along the way. At the northernmost edge of the Oregon border, Astoria is a reasonable 3 1/2 hour drive from Eugene and seemed like the logical first stop. The last time we visited Astoria was during our 2001 western tour and we had always wanted to return to learn more about it. In addition, we have friends in Astoria that we have been hoping to visit for awhile. 

First, however, just south ofAstoria we made a quick side trip to Seaside, another iconic Oregon beach town. Much like Santa Cruz in California, the main downtown area is filled with kitschy shops and various entertainment arcades including a carousel. Santa Cruz has its Boardwalk whereas Seaside has its Promenade, better known as “The Prom” which is currently celebrating its Centennial. Midway along the Promenade is the Turnaround where you will see a statue of Lewis and Clark labeled “End of the Trail”. The monument commemorates their 18 month, 4,000-mile journey from Saint Louis to the Oregon Coast.

As you can see, it was a typical Oregon summer day at the beach — cool and cloudy preceded by a little bit of rain. 

You can’t make a trip to the coast without thinking about getting some seafood. We stopped in at a Seaside classic, Bell Buoy, with its vintage neon sign. They offer some prime canned fish that is difficult to find elsewhere. We figured this would be a good addition to our traveling pantry so we picked up a selection.

Finally, it was time to become reacquainted with Astoria and find out how it has changed in the past 20 years. Among other attractions, Astoria has a couple of very well-known breweries. One of these is Fort George located in a building erected in 1924 which started out as an auto service station. It stands on roughly the same site as the original Fort Astoria. We enjoyed a couple of delicious pints sitting out on the upstairs deck with a great view of the mighty Columbia River. Then it was time to settle in to our AirBnB, relax, and prepare for a full day of exploration in Astoria. 

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