Thursday, July 14, 2011


Our drive up to Astoria was another beautiful one, as Highway 101 continued to be in mostly excellent repair, and reward us with beautiful views of the Oregon coast:

We drove through Tillamook and stopped to check out the cheese factory. So, apparently, did hundreds of others. It was unacceptably crowded, so we elbowed our way to the factory viewing windows, skipped the stoopid long lines for ice cream, snagged a bag of curds and block of cheddar for the road, and got the havarti out of there...

...arriving at Fort Stevens state park, a massive campground of nearly 500 sites. Somehow, though, most of the sites, including ours, were private and quiet, just the way we like it.

It was just a short drive over to Astoria, the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Rockies, situated on the south shore at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The sand bar at the mouth of the river, combined with the wind-driven swells of the Pacific meeting the ceaseless flow of the river has been the ruin of thousands of ships, and is thus dubbed Graveyard of the Pacific. Ships navigating this bar, even in this day of GPS & Radar, must have a Pilot aboard while crossing the bar. These pilots climb aboard from specially made pilot boats, boats that can blast through the chop and surf of the bar to pull alongside moving freight ships. Here is one of the smaller, river pilot boats at dock in Astoria harbor:

It's a beautiful town with a real main street and downtown that caters to residents, not having given in to tourist gift shops and name brand boutiques. Up on the hillside gorgeous Victorian homes look out over the river:

A great view of the town, harbor, river and surrounding landscape can be had by ascending the Astoria Column:

Nancy didn't like the look of the metal spiral staircase in the column:

A really great Maritime Museum provided several hours of educational entertainment, and right across the street from there sat the Bowpicker, a takout fish and chips place that is awesome! They only use fresh albacore tuna, and fry it to order in a thin crispy batter. Served with steak fries and the best tartar sauce I've had, it's fish and chips at its very best!

Fishing boats are built tough here:

Back at Fort Stevens, we enjoyed their miles of paved bike trails...

...riding down to the beach where the wreck of the Peter Iredale protrudes from the sand:

Light reflects off of the flat wet sand:

Happy Toby:

The south jetty at the river mouth separates the angry Pacific from the river channel:

Foxgloves are a common sight along the Oregon coast:

So, it was a really nice stay in the Astoria area. This is one of several places that we'd like to return to get to know better, perhaps even live there for a while (if we can stand the copious rainfall). Our next stop will be very different - we'll be at a private park in a suburb of Portland, checking out that city and the Columbia River Gorge. Hopefully some good mountain biking too.

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