Thursday (June 17):
My visit to this Washington peninsula would offer only two full days to explore the area. I knew the time would go quickly so I wanted to prioritize my choices. In addition to checking out this area, I also wanted to go back to Cannon Beach and spend a couple of hours there.
My visit to Cannon Beach was timed perfectly for the weather. After a rainy morning on Tuesday, the weather cleared by mid-day. Cannon Beach is a popular destination, with a vibrant downtown corridor and adjoining beach. Haystack Rock stands prominently as the centerpiece of the long flat beach. Parking in the area is competitive; I was fortunate to grab a roadside space near an entrance to the beach.
On the way back from Cannon Beach, I turned off to visit Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Many of the river viewpoints were closed due to jetty construction. I was able to check out the shipwreck on the beach.
With the beautiful blue sky, I stopped in Astoria to get some new photos of the Astoria bridge. I returned to the same vantage point I took photos from the previous day. It’s a narrow residential street in the hills above the river with an excellent view of the entire bridge. I had to squeeze my car into a small turnoff space and walk a few blocks back to the best shooting spot. I was careful to not disrupt the homeowners on this street, I’m sure they see plenty of tourists checking out the view. I also drove down to the waterfront and walked along the area on either side of the bridge.
On my last afternoon, I went to the Astoria Brewing Company located on the waterfront overlooking the river. Naturally I ordered fish and chips and a cup of chowder. The chowder was excellent but I’m not considering it as a candidate for my “best chowder” search. They add bacon to their chowder, which tastes great, but I call that cheating. I enjoyed eating the chowder, even though I had disqualified it. The halibut fish and chips were very good and I paired it with a very smooth blonde ale. I left the restaurant very satisfied with my last supper of the area.
Cape Disappointment State Park includes more than the campground. This area reflects the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the expedition reached the Pacific Ocean here at the mouth of the Columbia River. The park includes a Lewis and Clark interpretive center, two lighthouses and several historical remnants from the Pacific coast defense during World War II.
One of the lighthouses overlooks the beach next to my campsite; it is called the North Head Lighthouse. The park offers easy access to this lighthouse; a good sized parking lot and paved trail makes for an easy visit. This spot also has a trail to another viewpoint (called Bells Lookout) which gives hikers a chance to visit an old WWII bunker.
The other lighthouse is called Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and can be viewed from the Lewis and Clark interpretive center. This interpretive center is also home to the rugged structures of Fort Canby. While at the center I noticed a jetty that looked like it would have a great view of the lighthouse at water level. I consulted a map to see if I might be able to reach this spot and learned it is located in my campground. Very convenient and an excellent viewpoint of the lighthouse!
On the second evening of taking sunset photos of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, it drizzled for a few minutes. About 15 minutes later, a beautiful rainbow arced across the sky, directly over the lighthouse point. I was gifted with about 10 minutes of viewing (and photographing) this spontaneous gift.
Before settling down for the last night, I visited the campground beach for one last walk. The wind was blowing fiercely but the walk in the water’s edge was pleasant and bittersweet.
My time spent on the beaches over the last three weeks has been very rewarding. I’ve felt a special sense of peace while walking in the water, outrunning the seagulls in search of intact sand dollars, inspecting the little shells in the sand and watching the rhythmic rolling of the waves. This experience has been cleansing, calming and rejuvenating. I will miss the beaches I’ve visited.
This is a turning point of my road trip. My next two travel days will take me inland toward Hood River on the Columbia River Gorge. In a way, I’ll have two trips: the coastline tour and the central Oregon route. As I say “Good Bye” to the ocean, I look forward to the new adventures that await me.
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