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Small Towns, Birds, & A Bar With No Beer!

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The Columbia River is one BIG body of water, and that is especially apparent as it approaches the Pacific. The Washington Ocean Beach Highway between Longview and the bridge across the Columbia to Astoria, Oregon is not a terribly old road. It was completed in the 1930's. Segments of it existed before then.

It is a beautiful two lane drive that follows the Columbia River shore for many miles, and often crosses wide valleys and lowlands formed by the streams and rivers that enter the Columbia from the North. The history of the road is of course tied to the history of the river. Dotted along its length are the campsites of Lewis and Clark as they approached, and then struggled to reach, the Pacific Ocean.

Tiny riverside hamlets and small towns appear and almost as suddenly disappear in the rear view mirror, unless of course you take the time to stop. Sheila and I drove the highway last weekend. It has been about 30 years since I last took the road. Not a lot has changed, except the loss of the grand old salmon cannery buildings......which I regret. One remains, but you risk being shot if you try to approach it. The only way to see it today is from the water. This website tells its story:


Another thing that has changed, and it was almost inevitable. Retirees and escapees from urban areas have taken over. It isn't easy on them, because many come from California and are not prepared for months of overcast skies and dreary days in the winter. You can know it will happen, but living it is another thing. Just call it an acquired taste.

The good news is that these transplants may have a greater interest in the history of their communities than the natives. Weather beaten buildings abandoned by locals are seen as opportunities to create museums and community attractions. Little used waterways are great for kayakers, and old hotels become bed and breakfasts, catering to other escapees from the hectic big city life. The general store gets the boutique treatment and the abandoned waterways provide moorage for your pleasure boot.



When we stopped at the village of Skamokawa (point B on Google Map below) I stepped out of the car to take a photo of the general store (above). Before I had the camera focused, Lance greeted me and told me about the store and community. I can't resist the opportunity to visit with a local, especially one who is so enthusiastic, so Sheila and I got educated, and in the process were guided to the local sights. Thanks to Lance.


Here Lance is (below) pointing out a photo in the general store of the old town before there was road.


The old town site on the river in the picture that Lance is pointing to above has changed (of course!). The view below of the site shows what it looks like today. The building that looks like an old hotel is now a nice B&B.


The old Redmen Lodge Hall (below) had the school downstairs and the lodge upstairs in the old days. It perches on the hillside above the old town. It is now a very nice local museum, staffed on the day we visited by a nice and knowledgable....you guessed it....., California transplant.


We drove on to Astoria, and stopped at the Baked Alaska Restaurant for a bite to eat. I know we are a burger and beer gang here, but I have had to revise my diet a bit. I ordered the Shrimp Bisque and Garden Salad, and I can honestly say I didn't miss the burger and beer. And the view matched the meal.



There is much more to share about this little road trip, but it will have to wait until I have more time.


Keep the Show on the Road!

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Wow! Those are some great shots, and the writing's not bad either! I've done the south bank Columbia drive on US30, but not the north side. and I still haven't satisfied my Pig'N'Pancake urge, since they were so darn busy (Mt. Hood to the beach relay race) the last time I was in the Astoria/Seaside area. Have to get back there someday...

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Outstanding pictures and report Dave, as usual. It looks like you got lucky with some blue skies. I've been through that area twice now and both times were overcast.

I get a kick out of some of the names of the area landmarks like "Dismal Nitch" and "Cape Disappointment." They really uplifted your spirits.

Did you get a chance to stop at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria? Well worth spending a couple of hours if you have the time, especially if you are interested in what the Coast Guard does at the mouth of the Columbia.



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You nailed that one! We had a couple of days of blue skies and I urged Sheila to take a quick road trip with me before the clouds returned. They have returned and have deterred me from doing a bit on CCC structures in this area.


To be complimented on my photos by a pro is great, but you have probably spotted the post processing. That is what I do on rainy days to satisfy the travel itch.


When I got home and looked over the shots I wasn't impressed with them. But I recently bought the NIK Collection of Photoshop plugins and tried them out here. Google bought them out and was selling the whole set for $150....barely within a retiree's budget, but better than the $400+ NIK used to want.


I liked what I could do. The results pleased me, and helped present the photos as I saw them (or perhaps as I wish I saw them). The drive was well worth taking, the towns welcoming, the people nice, the sights beautiful and photogenic.....and so it is nice when the images match.


We have in years past visited the Maritime Museum in Astoria and toured a coast guard boat tied up there. It is definitely worth the visit, and so is Astoria. I was much impressed with how the community has become a place to visit. I recall when it was dull and run down, perhaps 20 years ago. Not on my list of places to stop. But it is now vibrant with nice restaurants on the waterfront, shopping, things for the kids, and a general upbeat feeling. And the river activity with the big ships adds interest.


The Lewis and Clark tie is always interesting. And of course, if you are a real history buff, the ties with Astor and the fur trade are equally fascinating. We will plan another visit when the sun shines.


BTW we stopped at Dismal Nitch. It has a nice picnic area and even restrooms. I don't see why the Corps of Discovery gave it such a bad rap!! :lol:


Thanks for the comeback!



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We weren't looking for birds, but in a quiet arm of the river we spotted a couple of bald eagles, at quite a distance. It required a very long telephoto setting, and lots of enlargement to produce these shots from my cheapy camera, so I didn't include these with the original photos. Nonetheless, they are representative of the scenery along the riverside you are likely to encounter on this two lane road.


The immature youngster appeared a bit disheveled, and lacked the grand plumage of its senior, but both were a match for any passing fish. I know they are a lot more common today than they were when I was a young man in the 1960's, but I still like to spot our national emblem in the wild. We have some on the lake where we live, and they are a magnificent bird.




Keep the Show on the Road








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You won't want a drink at the Columbia River Bar, not at the one at the mouth of the Columbia River. At the bar, the mighty Columbia River encounters the even mightier Pacific Ocean, and the two, when aided by wind and prevailing currents, have a serious showdown. The result is the graveyard of many ships, over 2000 according to wikipedia citations.


Of course as a north-westerner I knew of the bar, and I have a friend who described a bad day there in his large pleasure boat, but I had not given it much attention. Then our Denny G. put me on to a video crossing the bar (site below) and I figured I owed myself a visit. Sheila and I were in the area at the end of a great trip along the Washington Ocean Beach Highway to Astoria, Oregon, and the bar is just a few miles west of Astoria.




Quite honestly, I didn't know what to look for. Big waves? Ships in distress? Coast guard standing by to pick up survivors? The video Denny recommended (see it above) showed a fishing boat being tossed about like a rubber ducky as it crossed the bar. But I didn't even know where the bar was, what it looked like, or what to expect if I saw it. I just knew it was at the mouth of the Columbia, so we drove there.


Guess what!? There is an observation platform near the south jetty. While Sheila took a walk on a trail out to the beach, I climbed the platform and there before me was........the ocean. Where was the excitement, the drama, the danger?


The sun shown warmly for an early spring day, and a large ship cruised slowly up river on what seemed a smooth sea. I took a photo or two of the ship, and wondered where I had to go to see the bar. Maybe I needed to go to the north side of the river.


When I got home, I looked at maps of the river entrance. And it became obvious that I had been looking at the bar all along. The ship I had photographed was “crossing the bar,” with Sand Island in the background. So here it is, a big ship gripped in the clutches of the Columbia River Bar. I guess you had to be there to appreciate the drama!


Seriously, the bar is dangerous at times, as on a strong ebb current. The boats in the video were built for the conditions, but boaters too frequently lose their lives there. Not a joke.




Keep the Show on the Road!


PS After posting this I took a look at tomorrow morning's bar report. It shows 13 foot waves with breakers in the main channel at 6AM. That's a whole lot rougher than the conditions in my photo!!!






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Holy cow, Dave ... love the pics and the report. Glad you shared this ... thank you! :)





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