August 28-29, 2016
We had been home from our epic road tip about a month and our feet were itching so we thought it would be fun to head out to the coast. Over the past few years we’ve been up and down the Oregon coast so we thought we’d try Long Beach, in Washington.
Spots on the Columbia River have depressing names. On the northern side is Cape Disappointment, named by Captain John Meares in 1788. He thought he had just found a bay rather than the Columbia River. Perhaps he was fooled by the width of the river mouth; regardless, he found it. You’ll also find Dismal Nitch – named by the Captain William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) after being driven to shelter in a rocky cove for over a week by a terrible storm. There clothes were starting to rot off their backs and were anxious to get to the mouth of the Columbia where they could meet a supply ship.
We had a better time of it than Meares and Clark. Although California boasts a “Long Beach”, Washington’s sets the record.
After a quick tour of Cape Disappointment we headed to the north end of the peninsula that separates Willapa Bay from the Pacific Ocean. We went to Leadbetter Point State Park for a bit of a hike. The marsh grass was beautiful when the sun caught it.
There was plenty of drift wood around which folks formed into fun sculptures.
The tide was out so we didn’t extend our hike as we had originally planned. Instead we drove down to the little town of Oysterville. The town is aptyly named; there were mounds of oyster shells at every turn.
We stopped by a church where a women’s group was singing. Beautiful.
This is the Pacific Northwest, lichen grows on anything that stands still.
Although it was late summer and some leaves were starting to turn we found some flowers still in bloom.
We headed back to the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach and had dinner at the hotel restaurant: Pickled Fish. We got a table with a gorgeous view of the ocean – the food was passable but, with the exception of the clam chowder, was not great.
As the sun started to set we took a walk along a wooden bridge over the grass on the sand dunes.
The walkway leads to the other end of town where we stopped for ice cream cones. The ice cream parlor had a collection of old milkshake makers. These weren’t on display, just on a back table.
After finishing our cones we walked over the sand dunes to the beach to watch the sun go down.
We retired to our hotel room for a restful night’s sleep. The next morning thought it was a shame to just turn around and go home so we decided to drive up to Mt St. Helens which famously erupted on May 18, 1980. I remember it vividly; even though the bulk of the ash went north we got plenty in the Portland area. It had been at least 20 years since we drove up to the viewpoints. In the early years after the eruption you couldn’t get real close because the roads were totally destroyed.
We bypassed the midpoint viewing points to get as close as possible at the Johnston Point Observatory. You can see part of the devastation, the little river valley goes through tons of ash disgorged from the mountain top. The mountain used to have a beautiful snow-cone top which was visible from Portland; now that the top is gone you can only see it from the higher vantage points in the city – about a 70 mile drive to the south.
I had to pull some Lightroom trickery in this photo. It was very windy with dust blowing everywhere. It was difficult to see the mountain for all the crud in the air. LR’s dehazing feature saved the day.
I remember flying over the area in 1981 and for dozens of miles thousands of trees were snapped off at the base and pointed north, away from the blast. Eight foot diameter trees were snapped off like so many tooth picks. Life started back soon after.
Now that the area has been replanted, virtually every tree you see is the same height and age.
On the way back home we stopped at the Castle Lake Viewpoint to get another perspective of the mountain.
We looked at the time and realized we had to head home. On the drive home we were treated to the sight of a racing, reckless driver swerving through traffic at close to 90 MPH. He swerved around us and cut off an unmarked Washington State Patrol car just ahead of us. Boom! He hit the lights and pulled the guy over.
You’d think retirement is filled with impromptu travel; we don’t do it enough.