Chasing 70s 2020 Part 4: Astoria, Oregon

The northern Oregon coast was the last section of coastline we had to visit to make it a full coastline tour.  We chose to base out of the Astoria area.  The Oregon National Guard has a small training post just south of Astoria with a wonderful little RV park.  We decided to stay there as our base and branch out south beyond Cannon Beach and north into southwestern Washington. The weather could not have been more perfect.  Highs in the mid 60s and lows in the upper 50s.  Windows open all day and night with fresh ocean air, sunny days, no rain and calm winds.  This area has so much to offer, we simply did what we could and enjoyed what we saw.

Astoria is a small quaint town built on a hillside at the mouth of the Columbia River.  A true fishing community full of Victorian homes, shops and restaurants and lots of history.  You may recognize it as the location for some famous movies like The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop.   We spent an afternoon exploring and looking around.  Atop CoxComb Hill in Astoria is the Astoria Column. It stands 125 feet tall with a 164-step spiral staircase inside to the top. Tradition is to buy a balsa-wood airplane and toss it from the top.  This is also one of their fundraisers, as they collect all the airplanes and are able to re-use them.  Unfortunately, the tower was closed so we could not climb it.  The most amazing thing to us about the column was the spiral mural painted around it.  The mural depicts the history of the settlement of the west.   The views from the hill are spectacular and on the day of our visit you could see all the way to Washington State.

Two of the things any visitor to Astoria must put on their list is a visit to the jailhouse from The Goonies and get a fish and chips from Bowpickers.  We managed to do both.  Bowpickers is like a food truck.  Located down by the harbor, it is a boat on a trailer parked semi-permanently.  They only serve Fish and Chips and the line can get blocks long. We got there right after it opened and only had a couple folks in front of us.  The fish is caught locally. Very good and a fun experience.  We do like the movie The Goonies, so we drove to some of the filming locations.  We had to keep in mind the movie was 35 years ago!  The houses in the movie are private homes and we decided not to bother anyone there, but we did go to the jailhouse.  It is now a museum dedicated to the movie and sits behind the modern courthouse.  Across the street is the museum where Mikey’s dad worked, the Flavel House Museum.

We also managed to get out to Fort Stevens State Park.  An old Civil War era fort which also served costal defense during World War II.  There are big long beaches there and some great views of the Columbia River.  Much of it is under construction right now, so we did not stay long.

As Astoria is on the south side of the Columbia River and so close to Washington, we decided to drive the 8 miles of bridges across the mouth of the Columbia into Washington and visit Cape Disappointment.  The State Park there has some great views and history and two light houses, what more could we ask for?  We drove out to North Lighthouse, a very neat spot.  It is still a working lighthouse with some great views.  But like most places it is closed for now and you cannot go in.   

Cape Disappointment was Lewis and Clarks first view of the Pacific Ocean.  It was not named by them though. It was named by a fur trader, John Meares, who mistook the mouth of the Columbia River to be a bay, which his ship could not enter due to a shallow shoal.  We then drove to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, which was also closed.  In fact, the trail was even closed, so we could only view it from a distance.  While we were on the overlook, about 200 feet above the beach, we spotted a bald eagle sitting in the trees just watching the world. 

We found a great lunch spot in a picnic area along a small beach cove on the North Jetty looking back towards the lighthouse and the cliffs.

As we were so close, we drove to Long Beach, 29 miles of beach, the longest in the world.  Legend has it that Lewis and Clark saw a gray whale skeleton here.  We did see some live whales off in the distance though!  One thing we are learning on our trip to this area, it seems like “Lewis and Clark camped here” is like “George Washington slept here”; everyone has a claim that Lewis and Clark were at their location.

The last bit of Oregon coast for us to complete the full length of coastline was a drive south from Astoria down to Manzanita.  The “big” site is Cannon Beach and Hay Stack Rock.  We got there pretty early in the morning at low tide with very few people, so went out and walked about 2 miles of the beach to Hay Stack Rock.

With the tide low, we finally got to see some tide pools with sea stars, anemones, purple shore crabs, mussels, limpets, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers.

Cannon beach is an artsy quaint vacation beach town.  We drove through but did not really stop anywhere as our mission for the day was to see the coast, not walk around town.   Our trails guide, All Trails, mentioned a short walk through some tall shrubs and berries and out to a rough and wicked cove, Devils Caldron.  It was awesome.  Definitely the kind of coastline we search for and possibly the best we have seen.  A couple hundred feet up on a sheer cliff, down to the rough ,tumbling and crashing waves onto rocky coastline.

As it is August, and we are in Oregon, we are always searching for marionberry pie and pastries.  After picking up a couple, we found a nice spot along Neahkahnie Beach, had a picnic and Craig flew his other kite.  It was definitely windy enough, and the 20-year-old string proved less than a match for the wind as it broke twice.  Still though, got in a couple good flights.

As I mentioned, the Astoria area is Lewis and Clark Country.  It was here in the winter of 1805-06 they made their winter camp before heading back east on the return journey.  They set up camp just outside Warrenton, OR and called it Fort Clatsop.  Here they prepped for the return journey, working all winter on their journals, preparing meat and food and generally repairing or making what they would need for their journey home.

There is a trail that runs from their fort to the sea.  It is called, wait for it, The Fort-to-Sea trail!  This was their path to get to the sea and make salt to preserve the meat for the trip home.  We hiked it to a nice lookout over the forest and out to the sea.

The beach they used is now Sunset Beach State Recreation Site. We walked to the beach later that morning. The beach is wide here and you can drive your car on it.  We are not big fans of that so did not partake in the beach driving or others doing it.

Our RV Parking area on the post was sheltered by a small grassy hill.  One evening we decided to climb it to see what was on the other side.  Imagine our surprise when we saw a herd of about 40 Roosevelt Elk enjoying an evening snack.  Roosevelt elk were named after President Theodore Roosevelt after he set aside large parcels of land to protect them.  They are the largest of the elk.  Turns out, the post has a resident herd and we were lucky to see them at just the right time.

This portion of our trip marked the end of our time in Oregon and the culmination of our full Oregon Coast visits.  This trip added to the portions we visited back in 2018 and we can now say we have run the coastline. It also marked 4 weeks on the road.  Wow, where does the time go? The weather during our time in Oregon was in the mid-to-upper 60s and usually a little sea fog in morning, just what we were looking for.  Next up is a couple weeks in Washington state and Olympic National Park.  Looking forward to our next 4 weeks.

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