Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

Archive for the month “August, 2021”

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. 

Northern Oregon Coast

Most of the places on the Oregon Coast that draw tourists and hold a true beach appeal can be found north of Florence, our easy coastal point of contact from Eugene. We have traveled that direction several times since we moved here four years ago visiting Yachats and Depoe Bay where you can find some of Oregon’s 5-star hotels such as the Whale Cove Inn and the Overleaf Lodge. We also enjoyed a stay at the Heceta Lighthouse B & B near the very scenic Cape Perpetua.

This summer, we decided to explore a little farther afield starting with Cannon Beach, the location of one of Oregon’s most familiar landmarks — Haystack Rock, a basalt sea stack that rises 235 feet above the water. The area is also renown as the setting for a number of novels, television programs, and movies such as The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, Point Break, and Twilight. Here you will encounter a real walkable sandy beach no doubt one of the many attractions for filming.

As most of you will know, I am not a camper. I need my creature comforts, but I do like to get a taste of the outdoors. When Norman and I first got together, he was sorting out his things and trying to decide what to bring with him. He told me that he had a lot of camping gear and asked me what he should do with it. I immediately replied, “Don’t bring it here! We won’t be using it.” We’ve had a running joke for all these years that my idea of camping is staying at the Marriott. And so it is!

For this trip, we stayed at a small but well-appointed cabin that felt just a little bit like camping (to me anyway). Located amongst a small group of beach homes just off Highway 101 in Arch Cape, we were only a few minutes from all the places we wanted to visit. Sitting next to this picture window surrounded by huge trees for an afternoon snack was just perfect!

Just outside our doorway was this immense tree trunk that reminded you who or what was in charge every time you left the cabin.

A short walk across the highway took us on a path down to the beach with a dramatic entrance. (That’s Norman walking toward the waves.)

Upon exciting this natural tunnel, we were rewarded with a pristine sunset beach scene where we watched a fleet of pelicans diving for their dinner.

The following day, we set out for Ecola State Park which stretches along nine miles of coastline just outside Cannon Beach. I did my research (or so I thought) and found an intriguing trail I figured we could manage without too much difficulty. We parked at the Indian Beach Trailhead with a beautiful view overlooking the ocean and set off on Clatsop Loop Trail, a 2.5 mile roundtrip. Easy peasy, right? Well, we immediately found ourselves climbing up a steep hill and the incline didn’t let up until we reached the top. Turns out the elevation gain for this trail is 785 ft. Whew! No problem for Norman. I was the one struggling, but I made it! Don’t I look happy here? I had no idea what I was getting into. Ignorance is bliss perhaps?

The incentive for making this climb is to get a view of “Terrible Tilly”, or the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse — the most expensive lighthouse ever constructed on the west coast. However, when we arrived at that viewpoint, this was all we were able to see. They forgot to mention that it’s often socked in with clouds or fog.

On the return, farther down the trail there are some great views of the sea stacks to the south… along the edge of one very steep cliff. You have to be careful not to lean too far to get your shot.

In the end, it was quite a challenging hike for me, but it was satisfying to know that I accomplished it. Not too bad — I’m still smiling.

Just as you realize you have almost arrived back at the parking area experiencing some relief, you come upon a bench where you can sit and take in the splendor of Indian Beach. What a treat! A rest stop with a view. The sea stacks you see in the distance appear much larger and more impressive in reality than what any photograph reveals.

Lastly, we found a shaded picnic bench where we enjoyed a snack we had brought along and then ventured down to the beach to cool our tired feet.

This was definitely a successful Day at the Beach!

Gold Beach and Beyond

After spending some time at Shore Acres State Park, we made our way back to the 101 and continued south to Gold Beach where we stayed with our friends, Adam & Hong, for a couple of days. It was really great to catch up after so many years. One evening, we made a sunset visit to the tiny wharf of this rather tiny (pop. 2300) Oregon coastal town which sits at the confluence of the Rogue River. Despite its size, you have to admit that it’s quite photogenic. Gold Beach derives its name from the fact that hundreds of placer mines extracted gold from a nearby beach in 1853. The town holds the interesting distinction of being one of the last two remaining rural mailboat locations — delivering mail upstream since 1895 to Agness, an extremely remote community.

Sunset on Gold Beach Wharf

Aside from the ever-popular jet boat tours on the Rogue River (which we experienced way back in 2001), there is very little to do in Gold Beach. However, it makes an excellent launching pad for visiting several spectacular scenic locations farther south along the Oregon Coast. The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor offers a multitude of landmarks to explore with craggy bluffs, secluded beaches, and offshore rock formations that can be accessed by a variety of trails. This 12-mile stretch along Highway 101 is replete with breathtaking vistas.

For those (like me) who can’t negotiate more challenging trails, there are many turnouts where you can enjoy some of the area’s beauty from the side of the road or within easy walking distance.

Arch Rock

One of the best viewpoints in the park can be found at Natural Bridges, a series of seven iconic arch rocks and blowholes. A short but very steep trail leads to a narrow bridge you can actually walk over if you are brave enough. Even though Adam has lived in Gold Beach for five spring/summer seasons, he had never had the opportunity to go there and was anxious to experience it with us. We set off on the path together, but I soon realized this was not a safe adventure for me. The trail was uneven, rocky, and potentially dangerous requiring more dexterity than I happen to possess at this point in my life. So I turned back and happily waited on the overlook platform for Adam and Norman to appear atop the bridge and eventually, they did! Norman wasn’t bothered by the height and thought it was really cool. He did have to scramble quite a bit to get there and back though. Better him than me!

Adam & Norman Conquering Natural Bridge

Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor affords striking panoramic views. Driving through a dense forest of Sitka spruce once you turn off the 101, you arrive at one of two expansive parking lots situated over 200 feet above sea level. Looking south, you can see almost 50 miles toward Crescent City, California… on a clear day, of course.

During this brief trip, we learned that the Southern Oregon Coast offers a myriad of opportunities to take in the wild and rugged side of nature. And it’s not far from home! Hopefully, we will return to make some other discoveries.

Next up… time to head north!

Southern Oregon Coast

Recently we discovered that some friends from our years living in the Palm Springs area of southern California had purchased a second home in Gold Beach, Oregon. They have a custom ceramics business and spend much of the year traveling to various art festivals mostly on the west coast selling their wares. To escape the heat, they decided to spend half the year in a much cooler locale. It was high time to catch up with them and take the opportunity to discover the southern Oregon Coast along the way.

We live in a rather central location in Oregon conveniently located just off the I-5 corridor. From Eugene we can easily head to the mountains, the desert, or the ocean which is just one hour and 15 minutes directly west to the city of Florence. We have ventured that direction many times. It may sound enticing, but reality is — when you get there, it’s very difficult to find the beach. You will find rocky shores or sand dunes with some effort, but no place you can really park your beach chair and soak up the sun for the day. If you have any prior beach experience i.e. California-style… you will declare, “This is NOT the beach!” You have to head north or south and even then it’s a challenge.

I was determined to find an inviting place for this southerly adventure where we could enjoy the scenery and views for a bit en route to our friends. After some research, I chose Shore Acres State Park near Coos Bay and though it was a bit off the beaten path, we were not disappointed. This property was once the estate of timber baron, Louis J. Simpson and extended to Cape Arago and Sunset Beach. The latter is now the home of Sunset Bay State Park which which we passed by on our Highway 101 “detour” to Shore Acres. We were thrilled to see that it hosts a “real” sandy beach surrounded by grassy lawns, picnic tables, and many camping opportunities… if only there were a Marriott. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a future adventure destination for us.

Sunset Bay

Shore Acres is a combination of mansion and formal gardens with rugged cliffs overlooking an ever-churning ocean. The mansion is now an observation building for those cold, blustery days (of which there are many!) when you couldn’t possibly stand outside to enjoy the view. Fortunately, we were afforded a gorgeous day. There are hiking trails in both directions along the coast offering some spectacular vistas. The unique formation of the huge rocks jutting out from beneath the waves is really intriguing.

In the formal garden area, you can enjoy a very well-maintained Japanese-style garden with a lily pond…

Such variety in plantings produces an abundance of blooms all year round. We encountered a team of gardeners who told us it’s a non-stop job taking care of this place. I can just imagine!

We loved this giant, craggy tree root that has been left along one of the trails. It immediately became a jungle gym for a group of children who arrived shortly after we did. It was delightful to see them use their imaginations to turn it into a magical playground.

The rugged geography of this location reminds me very much of Point Lobos in Monterey, California… minus those iconic Monterey Cypress of course. However, there’s plenty of other local Oregon vegetation to set off the beauty and offer a myriad of photo ops.

That’s a Beach!!

While we didn’t make it down there to that beach, it was such a pleasure exploring this area and experiencing the draw of the ocean. Peace and tranquility at its best!

Bend – Oregon’s Playground

This spring and summer we have been on a quest to become more intimately familiar with our new home state of Oregon — something we intended to do after we returned from our last trip to Europe in 2019. However, that plan was unfortunately interrupted and we had to put travel on hold for awhile. It was finally time to explore (albeit cautiously) once again and in June, we chose to travel to Bend. After Portland, Salem (the capital), and Eugene (where we live), Bend ranks 6th in population. It has experienced quite a boom in the last 20 years growing from 50,000 to over 100,000 inhabitants during this period. It may be the most popular and well-known city in Oregon due to the fact that it has developed into a veritable outdoor playground. Where people used to only frequent the area to ski in the winter, now all seasons of the year attract tourists for a variety of adventures.

Bridge over the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District.

In Bend, you can play at almost anything you can imagine and often the adventures are right downtown. It was unusually warm during our visit and many people were already taking advantage of the beautiful Deschutes River that runs through the center of the city. There were kayaks, floats, and all manner of water locomotion out and about enjoying a fairly lazy afternoon on the river. We also have a famous river running through our city, but it’s not accessible like this. We really loved the inviting atmosphere the Deschutes creates in Bend.

One unique feature created right downtown is the River Wave. So, if you’re a surfer you can get a quick fix. Apparently, this is nothing like ocean surfing and is even quite challenging for the pros. Nevertheless, they certainly make it look easy and fun!

Bend is one of only four cities in the U.S. featuring an extinct volcano within its city limits. It’s a popular hike but rather steep so we chose to drive to the top of Pilot Butte which rises to almost 500 feet. From there you get a 360-degree view of Bend and the surrounding mountains which is truly spectacular and much better in person that any photograph conveys.

In fact, there are so many huge mountains that can be seen from this point in Oregon, it’s very difficult to keep track of which one you are looking at. You are literally surrounded by dormant (you hope!) volcanoes. Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, the Three Sisters — they’re all here and with the help if this compass located in the center of the viewing platform, you can pick them out. Without it, however, I just happy to see so many gorgeous snowcapped mountains.

Of course, you can’t visit Bend without taking a drive through the Deschutes National Forest to the famous Mt. Bachelor. At 9,068 feet, it is the only major volcano in the Cascades with a chairlift to the summit — open for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.

And this stellar summit is Broken Top… I think.

Last but not least, you are guaranteed to run into Sasquatch many places in Oregon and Bend is no exception. However, he can be a little intimidating!

After three days, it was time to say “Farewell Bend” (as originally named by the pioneers). On our way to Bend, we took the more northerly route passing through some of the worst devastated areas from the fires of 2019. They are still actively clearing lumber and debris as well as landslides along this highway greatly disrupting the traffic flow. Even now, it was a sad sight to see. There is still so much work to be done.

For our return trip, we decided to take the southerly route and ended up discovering a real treasure. For sometime, I had heard about the incredible beauty of Salt Creek Falls and all of a sudden we realized we were going to pass right by the entrance. We couldn’t resist the possibility of seeing one more spectacular Oregon waterfall so we made a quick detour. Was it ever worth it! We will definitely be back for a longer visit to this one with all our camera gear in tow and perhaps a fancy picnic lunch.

And… I’m sure we will visit Bend again. In fact, we already have plans for a trip to some of our favorite Oregon locales in October to enjoy the fall color and try to capture it through the lens of our DSLR. We are not exactly an outdoorsy couple (especially me), but the beauty and tranquility will bring back.

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