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Astoria 2016 – The Last Days

I still had a day and a half left to explore Astoria, and I was determined to make the most of it!   I had already had a great time during my first day and a half – but I had a lot more to do!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday morning I went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  What a fantastic place!  The museum covers all aspects of the Columbia River, from the Native American history in the area, to the winter that Lewis and Clark were here, to the various ships that explored off the coast.  The museum also explores the fishing and cannery industry that existed from the late 1800s until recent times.  In 1945, there were 30 canneries operating in Astoria; the last one closed in 1980.  The museum has a wall full of cannery labels; they have a beauty similar to the apple box labels from the same era.  The graphic design on some of the labels is amazing!

Salmon Can labels

 

A historic diving suit at the Maritime Museum

 

A boat at the Maritime Museum

 

The museum also has a lot of information on the Columbia River Bar Pilots and the process of guiding these ships successfully into the waters of the Columbia River.  The volume of the Columbia River and the way that the North Pacific storms come in make this stretch of water one of the most dangerous in the world.  The waves here can exceed 40 feet in height during winter storms, and can easily crash the largest of ships on the sandbars at the mouth of the river.  Ships entering these waters have to be boarded and piloted by a Bar Pilot who is licensed by the State of Oregon.  These pilots complete a dangerous transfer to the ship they are boarding, done either with a pilot boat or a helicopter.  They pilot over 3,600 ships each year into the waters of the river and back out again.  And surprisingly, the Columbia River Bar Pilots have been doing this since 1846.  It was a fascinating exhibit.

 

The Peacock, a retired Pilot Boat

Interestingly, the museum also has a collection of yosegaki hinomaru (the museum used this word order, but there are also references with the name hinomaru yosegaki), which are the good luck flags which were given to Japanese soldiers by friends and family covered in messages and well wishes.  They have a longer tradition, but were most notably given during World War II.  Many American service members took these flags from fallen Japanese soldiers as mementos and over time, they have ended up in museums such as the Maritime Museum.  Here, however, they have been working on a project to find the families of the men these flags were taken from, and send them home to Japan.

 

Yosegaki Hinomaru waiting to be reunited with their families

I ended my visit with a tour of the Lightship Columbia, which is anchored at the dock outside of the museum.  The Columbia served as a floating lighthouse, serving as a beacon to ships between 1951 and its decommissioning in 1979.  It is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.  The work of the lightship was then done by a more modern navigational beacon, which is also now retired.  It is a self guided tour, but there is a docent who can answer questions on the ship.  Exhibits explained that the crew of the ship served between two and four weeks at a time, and had to have everything needed to live for several weeks on board the ship, because winter storms often prevented the delivery of supplies.  10 crew members were aboard the ship at all times, with a total crew of 18.

The museum was certainly worth a visit, and worth the price of the $14 admission (which includes the tour of the lightship).  You can add a 3D film for another $5; the movies change.

After the museum, I had a late lunch at Clementes, along the riverwalk near the museum.  I loved my Salmon Fish and Chips, paired with a Strawberry Blonde from the Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery.  It was a great spot to just relax for a little while before continuing to enjoy the afternoon.

Late that afternoon I drove up to the Astoria Column.  I had been there once before, on a previous tour through Astoria, but it was worth a return visit.  The tower was completed in 1926, and is 125 feet tall.  It has a hand-painted spiral frieze winding up the column; it would stretch more than 500 feet if it could be unwound.  The frieze depicts three historic events: the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray; the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; and the arrival of the ship Tonquin.  The artwork is done in Sgraffito (skra-fe-to) style, which consists of a dark basecoat of plaster with white plaster laid over it, into which the figures are scratched or etched.  It really is very detailed.

Climbing to the top of the tower is a huge treat.  There are 164 steps on the spiral staircase, and then you can go outside at the top to see a 360 view of Astoria and the ocean and the river.  Just be aware it can be breezy up there – it is 600 feet above sea level.  It’s amazing!  You can buy balsa wood gliders at the gift shop on the ground for kids to launch from the top of the tower.  I saw several doing this, and it looked like fun!  I stayed for a beautiful orange sunset.  The kind that makes you appreciate life and the blessings you have.

Sunset from the Astoria Column

I finished off my evening with a trip to Buoy Beer Company, a brewery located right on the water in a 90 year old cannery building.  They focus on European style beer, and great food.  I went with the tempura/beer battered cheese curds – wow, delicious and sinful.  And no visit is complete without checking out the window in the floor, where you can see the sea lions who hang out underneath the building!  I loved it!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday I had to make the long drive home, but I was proud of myself that I made the most of my solo trip.  The weather was clear on my last morning, so I went for a long walk down the riverwalk once more, and got to see the trolley that delivers tourists to several stops along its route.  Apparently I enjoyed watching the trolley so much I forgot to take a photo…  It is such a cute feature of this small town!  I walked a couple miles down to a viewing platform, and then headed back to the hotel.  It was a beautiful morning for November, and it made me happy.

The rain held off until I got back to the hotel and my car.  Although there had been rain a few times during the long weekend, it never rained much while I was outside wandering!  Success!

What a great weekend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Astoria 2016 – The First Days…

I needed a trip to get back on the solo travel horse.  It had been while since I had traveled by myself, but my new reality is that I won’t always have someone to travel with, and if I want to keep traveling, I knew I had better get used to doing it by myself again.

I booked a long weekend trip to Astoria, Oregon in November, 2016.  Close enough to drive to, in case I decided I really wanted to come home early.  Far enough away that it wouldn’t be too easy to come home early…

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I headed out mid-morning on Thursday, for the long drive.  Traffic wasn’t too bad and I made it to Astoria about 3 pm, enough time to do just a little touristing before the light faded for the day.  I headed out to Fort Stevens State Park, to walk on the beach and see the Peter Iredale.  I have blogged about the Peter Iredale before, but this trip I had more time to walk along the beach and enjoy the ocean.  The tension of the long car ride melted away as I walked along the beach.  It was too cloudy to catch a beautiful sunset, but it wasn’t raining, and it was warm!  Certainly more than one can typically hope for on a November Northwest day.

I checked into my hotel and discovered it was just a short walk away from the pier where the sea lions like to hang out!  It was dark when I got there that first evening, but I could definitely hear them!  I know some people think they are loud and a nuisance, but I was excited about the idea of waking up to their barks in the morning!

Dinner was at the Rogue Brewery in Astoria.  I walked there from the hotel and parked myself at the bar.  I had the Sriracha Tacos and the Fruit Salad Cider, which is made with Rogue Farms Cherries, Rogue Farms Plums, Apples, Pears, Marionberries, Peaches & Apricots; Pacman Yeast – they pack a lot in there!  I also had a schooner sized Chocolate Stout.  I chatted with some Canadians who were making their way back up north, and got hit on by a drunken guy almost 20 years my junior.  Thankfully, the bartender seemed ready to intervene on that one if needed…

A good night all in all, capped off by hearing the sea lions barking some more on my way back to the hotel.  I left the window open so I could hear them as I drifted off to sleep…

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday I slept in; it was a holiday after all!  After a leisurely morning, I headed out into a beautiful late fall day.  Of course, I made a beeline for the sea lions, to check them out in the daylight!  There were so many of them – I spent awhile watching them and taking pictures.

Then I headed downtown, and poked around in the shops and antique stores.  I had no agenda and nowhere to be and it was glorious!

My late lunch was at T Paul’s Urban Cafe.  I had the Hood River salad – grilled chicken breast served over spring greens w/ fresh Anjou pear, fuji apples, candied walnuts, tomato, bleu cheese crumbles & bleu cheese dressing.  Yum!  I had a beer too – just because!  Why not when you are on vacation!

After lunch, I did some more wandering and ended up finding a little thrift shop that had 2 Howard Pierce geese for my collection for $15.  Score!

I wrapped up my afternoon wandering at the Fort George Brewery.  I have been there once before and the beer is awesome!  I ended up having the Seafood Chowder and 2 Willapa Bay oyster shooters, along with an IPA and a Pekko Pale Ale.  Everything I had was delicious!

The rows of windows at the Fort George Brewery!

 

I also checked out the Albatross & Co., a cocktail bar around the corner.  The drinks were fabulous, and the atmosphere was very eclectic and cool.  I sat on a couch near an electric fireplace – you know the kind with those fake flames.  A great place to end the evening, before heading back to the hotel.

It was a great two days, and I still had two left!

 

West 2016: Grand Teton Tidbits

The Chapel of the Sacred Heart is located within the boundaries of the park at the south end of Jackson Lake.  It was originally built in 1937 outside of the park, but Grand Teton’s boundaries changed after that and now include the beautiful log chapel. 
 
It seats about 115 people and is open 24 hours a day from May to September, with a Sunday mass.  The chapel is closed in the winter.  It was worth a stop to see the interior with its stained glass windows and icon of Mary with Jesus. 
 
Signal Mountain is a mountain within the park that has a total elevation of 7,720 feet; it rises 890 feet from the valley floor.  There is a 5 mile drive up the mountain and two different viewpoints at the top; from there you have a great view of the valley below, as well as Jackson Lake.  You can also hike up Signal Mountain via a 6.8 mile hiking trail.
 
 
And who could resist a photo of the signage we saw all over Yellowstone and Grand Tetons on the pit toilets!  Well, perhaps you could resist, but I couldn’t…  Even though it is not historic, it is definitely going into my toilet archive!  Sit don’t squat!  I am a firm believer that signs exist because somebody doing it wrong created a need to clarify…  I don’t even want to imagine what happened when that went awry… 

Oh the ways to do it wrong!

 
And with that folks, my West adventure was nearly concluded.  All that remained was to make the long drive back to Billings, MT and stay there one last night before our flight home.  We turned in the rental car without further incident, and were relieved when no one noticed anything from the run-in with the curb and wall at Wind Cave, or the collision with Jelly 
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, and was glad for the opportunity to spend this time with my mom.  Until next time! 

Me with the mountains

 

Me with the moose at the Visitor’s Center

West 2016: Grand Teton Wildlife

Day 10, 11 & 12, Sunday – Tuesday, August 14, 15 & 16, 2016

Grand Teton is most known for its views of the mountains, and its back-country hiking.  Wildlife spotting seems to be secondary, and we certainly found that to be true.  While we did find some wildlife, we had way more luck in Yellowstone.  That said, here is what we found!

While I believe these were farmed bison, they were bison nonetheless:

Bison at Grand Teton

These pronghorn were hanging out with the bison.  My sister-in-law believed they were imaginary, but here they are!

 

Pronghorn at Grand Teton

 

Least Chipmunks – we saw lots of these at the lower elevations.

Least Chipmunk at Jenny Lake

 

Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels.  Although they look like chipmunks, you can tell they aren’t because of the lack of stripes on their heads.

A Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel at Inspiration Point

Pika!  I saw two when I hiked Inspiration Point.

Pika!

Pika!

Birds.  We saw several birds – mostly little-brown-jobs, but ducks too. Some of them I couldn’t identify.

Dark Eyed Junco

 

Raven on Signal Mountain

 

Ducks in Jenny Lake

 

A female Mallard on Signal Mountain

 

A juvenile mountain bluebird at the Cunningham cabin

Fish!

Fish in Jenny Lake

Mule deer.  I saw this lady on the hill heading up to the summit of Signal Mountain. Beautiful!

Mule Deer on Signal Mountain

 

I am a wildlife lover, and although not the primary focus at Grand Teton, I was happy to see what we did!  I was disappointed to not see a moose though!  Maybe another time…

 

 

West 2016: Menor’s Ferry

Day 11, Monday, August 15, 2016

The Snake River is generally a wide multi-channeled river as it flows through Grand Teton National Park.  There are only a few places within the park boundary where the river narrows to a single channel.  It is at one of these spots where Bill Menor settled in 1892, and established a ferry to cross the river, as well a General Store.  His brother Holiday settled on the other side of the river and operated a limekiln.  Bill Menor used this lime to whitewash his General Store.

The ferry was a reaction ferry, which used the current of the river to propel the ferry.  In the winter, when the river was low, he used a cable car to transport passengers.  Menor operated the ferry until 1918, when he sold the store and the ferry to Maud Noble, a Philadelphia women who came to Jackson Hole looking for adventure.  She operated the ferry until 1927, when the state of Wyoming built a bridge nearby.

Maud Noble was significant for another reason too.  She was instrumental in the movement to create Grand Teton National Park.  She hosted Horace Albright, then the Superintendent of the National Park Service, along with several local ranchers and farmers, at a historic meeting in her cabin to talk about the creation of the park.

The Menor’s Ferry history area contains the Menor General Store, a replica reaction ferry, the original well, a replica barn and Maud Noble’s cabin, which was moved to the site when she purchased the store and ferry in 1918.

 

 

 

Nearby is also the Chapel of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal Church that was built in 1925 on land donated by Maud Noble.  Services are held weekly between May and September, and the chapel can be booked for weddings with the stunning backdrop of the Tetons through the window.

 

 

 

Be sure to visit the area when you are in Grand Teton National Park – it is worth a look around!

West 2016: Jenny Lake

Day 11, Monday, August 15, 2016

One of the activities that I most wanted to do at Grand Teton was to take the boat across Jenny Lake, and hike up to Inspiration Point.  I knew that there was going to be a lot of congestion in the area, because they are renovating the parking lot and services there, so we got up early to make sure we could get a parking spot and a spot on the boat.

The river near Jenny Lake

 

Jenny Lake

The boat ride was nice – a relaxing, short trip on a gorgeous lake.  The mountains in the background are stunning.  Once you get off the boat, you can choose how far you want to go.  The entire hike up to Inspiration Point, with a stop at Hidden Falls is about .9 miles each way.  However, the trail to Hidden Falls was closed for repairs when we were there, so I didn’t get to see it!  My mom didn’t want to hike all the way to Inspiration Point, so I pulled away from her with the agreement that I would meet her wherever she happened to end up.  That works fine with an out and back trail.

 

The trail is a gentle uphill at the beginning, but the last bit of it is steeper switchbacks along the side of a mountain.  You will need to be patient about passing, as not all spots are quite wide enough for two.  Once you are at the top, at an elevation of 7,200 feet, the view is amazing!  You look out over the lake and see the boats coming and going from the dock down below.  It is well worth the exertion! I found a family to take my photo and spent a bit of time enjoying the view. A little Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel was excited to see me; he wanted me to feed him…

Switchbacks up to Inspiration Point

 

Me at Inspiration Point

 

On the way down I saw two different pika and spent some time getting photos of them.  It was fairly quiet since it was still relatively early, so I got some good photos before another group of people came along to scare them away.  I loved seeing those little guys!

 

Pika!

 

Pika!

On the way back I ran into my mom at another viewpoint and was impressed with how far she had made it.  She got her own view to enjoy while waiting for me to come back down.

 

Mom and me – Inspiration Point Trail

Mom and I took the boat both ways, but you can hike all the way around the lake for an additional 3 miles.  Next time I visit I want to do that!  Plus, I still need to see the falls.

Jenny Lake and Inspiration Point were certainly worth the visit!

Costs and Fees: $15 per person round-trip for Jenny Lake boat shuttle.

 

West 2016: Cunningham Cabin

Day 10, Sunday, August 14, 2016

In Grand Teton National Park, I visited the Cunningham Cabin, which is a homesteader’s cabin that was built sometime between 1888 and 1890.  J. Pierce Cunningham arrived in Jackson Hole from New York in 1885, and spent his first years in the valley trapping.  He got married and then decided to try his hand at homesteading, staking a claim for 160 acres.  The cabin was constructed in the dogtrot style, with two small cabins joined with an open breezeway – it was a style common in the eastern states.

The Cunningham cabin with the mountain view

Unfortunately, ranching was difficult on 160 acres in the West, due to the fact that ranchers had to supplement feed for their cattle in the winter.  They needed enough land to grow enough hay to last the winter, which could be up to 6 months long.  Cunningham purchased an additional 140 acres in 1897 at $1.25 per acre.  In 1918 he increased the size of his ranch again by purchasing 240 acres from a neighbor’s property to the north.  Cunningham had to produce and store 200 tons of hay each winter.

The cabin has a dark side too…  In fall of 1892, two wranglers showed up at the cabin to buy hay for their horses.  Cunningham struck up a deal for them to stay over at the ranch for the winter.  However, rumors began spreading that the men were horse thieves.  A man who claimed to be a U.S. Marshal arrived in April 1893 with three deputies from Idaho, and convinced several local men to join their posse.  The cabin was surrounded and the men were gunned down when they left the cabin.  Although Cunningham wasn’t directly involved, he admitted that he felt that the brands on the men’s horses had been altered.  Interestingly, neither the allegations against the men nor the identify of the supposed U.S. Marshall was ever proven…

The view of the mountains from the cabin window

After World War I, beef prices dropped a lot, and many ranchers were no longer able to make a living. Cunningham and his neighbors proposed a petition for the federal government to purchase the valley’s ranches for inclusion with the new Grand Teton National Park.  He wasn’t successful.  Luckily John D. Rockefeller had fallen in love with the area, and he created the Snake River Land Company to purchase private land and donate it to the park.  Rockefeller ultimately purchased and donated 32,000 acres in the Jackson Hole valley, including Cunningham’s ranch.

To get a close up view of the ranch, you just have to walk a short, flat trail.  The entire loop is 0.3 mile, if you want to explore all the areas where there were once outbuildings, but the remaining cabin is the only structure that remains.  The day that I visited there was a herd of horses on the other side of the fence, so I went to say hello to them too.  They looked so beautiful with their stunning mountain backdrop!

This view! Horses and Mountains!

 

Horses near the Cunningham cabin

 

A juvenile mountain bluebird at the Cunningham cabin

 

This cabin is well worth a quick visit!

That evening in Jackson, Wyoming, we had dinner at King Sushi.  The food was fantastic!  The kids at the next table whose parents were paying no attention to the fact that they were kicking me – not so fantastic!  We also wandered around downtown Jackson for a bit, getting photos at the famous elk antler arch on the main square (each corner of the square has an arch).  We also poked around in some shops, and found lots and lots of taxidermy animals.  The dressed up critters!

 

 

Just. So. Much. Wow

 

Costs and Fees: $30 per vehicle at Grand Teton National Park (free with a National Parks Pass).  Many areas of Grand Teton do not require you to pay the fee.

Distance for the Day: Cody, WY – Jackson, WY (3 hrs, 58 min, 177 miles)

Hotel for the night: Motel 6 – Jackson, WY