Tag Archive | Astoria

Astoria Weekend: A Fort and a Column

Day 3, Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday morning of our Astoria trip, we found a little breakfast place called Arnie’s Cafe, just south of Astoria (in Warrenton) and stopped for a bite. The food was delicious, and there was no wait! We must have gotten there at just the right time though because it got busy after we were seated!

After breakfast we headed to Fort Stevens State Park to explore. I have blogged about Fort Stevens before, home of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and a historic battery dating from before World War I. We checked out the beach first, and of course explored the shipwreck! The kids had fun writing their names in the sand and looking for shells and interesting rocks. Unfortunately, this stretch of the beach, on the open ocean, isn’t known for having many intact shells.

The kids took off their shoes and waded in the water, despite the fact that it was a pretty cool day! That’s par for the course in the Pacific Northwest I suppose, having your hood up and tightly cinched around your head, while wading barefoot in the ocean. It was windy!

After we had our fill of the beach, and needed to warm up, we headed over to the battery. The Fort Stevens battery was built between 1863 and 1864, an earthwork battery meant to stand as a sentry to the threat of invasion by sea, and to stand guard over the mouth of the Columbia River.  They were more concerned about invasion by the British though, as there were long standing territorial disputes in the region. The fort was expanded and the current concrete batteries were constructed in 1897.

Thankfully, invasions never came, but the battery was shelled by a Japanese submarine on June 21, 1942.  The shells fell harmlessly away from the fort, and no damage was done; the Fort Commander did not allow his men to even return fire.  The battery was decommissioned after World War II and the guns were removed by 1947; it became part of Fort Stevens State Park. It is open to the public, and young and the young at heart can climb up on its walls and explore its rooms and stairways.

And if you are like me, you can step off a step, suddenly discover you stepped wrong, twist your ankle, fall down, and skin your knee. Yep. Not often, but sometimes, I’m a real klutz. Oops. It really hurt! Of course, it also hurt my pride as the flash of pain left me unable to get up for a few minutes, and the nice man down below watched me hit the concrete and called up to ask if I was ok? Yeah… I will need to sit here on my butt in the middle of the path for a minute though! I was undeterred in my adventure seeking, and not willing to give up on our day, so I soon powered through the pain and walked it off. OUCH!

Our next stop for the day was the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 as a way to showcase the history of the area and its discovery in 1811, the column is 125 feet tall and has an internal staircase rising 164 steps to the top. You can buy balsa wood airplanes for $1 at the Visitor’s Center; the kids enjoyed climbing to the top of the tower to launch them off the top. What fun and the views are spectacular!

That evening, we endured a long wait at Buoy Beer Company, but the kids were entertained by the plexiglass in the floor that allowed them to watch a huge male sea lion lounging on the dock below. The adults were entertained by the ability to enjoy a beer anywhere in the brewery, so we could relax with a cold one while we waited for a table. The food was amazing – I loved my fish and chips! The Champagne IPA was delicious!

Our last adventure of the day was to catch the sun lowering in the sky, and to drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington. The bridge was opened in 1966 and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America at 4.067 miles long. The sunset was beautiful, and a nice end to a great long weekend, as the next morning it was time to head home and back to real life.  What a wonderful getaway!

Astoria Weekend: Lewis and Clark!

Day 2, Saturday, May 25, 2019

Astoria, Oregon

After visiting Seaside, we decided to head over to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.  I have visited before, but Jeff and the kids had never been there.

Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery spent the winter 1805-1806 here in this approximate location; they named their camp Fort Clatsop.  When the expedition left the West Coast in the spring of 1806, they gave Fort Clatsop’s structures to the local Native Americans and the fort was eventually reclaimed by nature. A replica was built when the site was designated as a National Historical Park in 1958, but sadly it burned in 2006; a replacement was built in 2007. The replica is thought to be historically accurate, having been built from sketches and descriptions that Lewis drew in his journals.

We checked out the museum in the Visitor’s Center, with its artifacts.  Beaver hats and pelts, a Coastal tribe canoe, grasses and foods that the Native Americans in the area used, as well as historic muskets and examples of clothing that the expedition members would have worn.  It is always interesting to revisit a place.  We also checked out Fort Clatsop, and the kids enjoyed exploring it.  There wasn’t much space for 30 people to spend a cold, rainy winter!  Jeff and I enjoyed wandering and following after the kids, relaxing and reading the signs.

The kids did the Junior Ranger program and got their badges; just in the nick of time too, because it started raining pretty hard!  I didn’t really take many photos since I had visited there before, and apparently I was more into taking selfies!  For more about the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, see my previous post.

That afternoon we went to the Fort George Brewery for pizza and some beer; while we were waiting for a table we checked out some of the nearby shops in downtown Astoria.  The pizza was delicious, and everybody was happy!  Jeff and I tried a couple different beers, it was nice to do some sampling and see what we liked.

Nearby to Fort George Brewery is the Reveille Ciderworks; one day I’ll visit there and try their ciders!  It just wasn’t in the cards that day because the kids were more interested in pizza than some of the “weird food” they have at food trucks.  Traveling with kids is a change of scenery for me!  That said, I was still able to get a couple of oyster shooters at Fort George – nobody else wanted any – it was so strange because they are so delicious!

 

 

Astoria Weekend: Carousels and Fishes

Day 1 & 2, Friday & Saturday, May 24 & 25, 2019

For Memorial Day weekend, Jeff and I had an opportunity to meet in Astoria for the long weekend. It was so much fun!

I left work a little early and drove down to Oregon in heavy, agonizing traffic. Blech. I was expecting it, since it was Memorial Day Weekend, but that part was not fun…  I got there about 7:30 and Jeff and the kids were already there, even though they had to drive more miles. There’s a benefit to not having to drive through Seattle! I was excited to see them, so I quickly forgot about the long drive. That evening was pretty quiet; we drove around Astoria a little bit to get our bearings before dark.  I have been there before, but Jeff never had.  After dark, we got some snacks and had a relaxing evening in the hotel room, catching up.

On Saturday morning we decided to start our day in Seaside, a touristy little beach town on the Oregon Coast about 20 miles south of Astoria. With kids in tow, we made our way to Pig N’ Pancake – a kind of themey IHOP type place that kids love, because of course, they have lots of kid friendly meals. They also have adult friendly meals, including a Kielbasa skillet and a Taco omelette, in addition all sorts of pancakes, crepes and blintzes! Something for everyone and our server was friendly and attentive.

Me and Jeff with Lewis and Clark

We wandered through downtown Seaside, and saw the historic carousel parked within an odd mall type structure, packed to the gills with touristy shops. We did find t-shirts and sweatshirts for reasonable prices to remember our visit. We saw a man making giant bubbles outside so that kids could play in them, and so parents could buy the kids their own giant bubble wand and bubble recipe. The kids ran through the bubbles for a while, but we didn’t buy the wand.

Right on the beach is the Seaside Aquarium, a small aquarium with over 100 species of fish and marine animals.  Interestingly, this little place is one of the oldest aquariums on the West Coast, in operation since 1937.  The building that houses the aquarium was originally built as a natatorium (that’s a fancy word for a building that houses a swimming pool), and piped water in from the ocean just steps away and then heated it.  The pool went belly up during the Great Depression and the aquarium took over the building.

The Seaside Aquarium is small and no frills.  You won’t find fancy staff demonstrations or huge, involved habitats, and large pavilions.  You will see small tanks, a touch tank and basic laminated cards with information about the animals who live there.  And you will find the seals.  The aquarium has eleven harbor seals who live there.  They have a tank right up front and visitors can feed the seals fish purchased there, but be careful!  These seals have learned that the best way to get some treats is to get your attention, and they will stop at nothing.  Each seal has its own schtick, including water slaps, belly slaps, twirls, jumps, squeals and even splashing the visitors!  Each seal has their own method, and apparently they are all self-taught and have not been formally trained.

The aquarium has bred these seals in captivity and was the first to successfully breed harbor seals; some of them are fifth or sixth generation!  The Seaside Aquarium also hold the record for the oldest harbor seal in the world; Clara died in 1979 at the age of 35.

The aquarium also has a tsunami fish; the last surviving specimen of five striped beakfish that lived for more than two years in the partially submerged hull of the Japanese boat Sai-shou-maru , after the boat went adrift during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.  The boat washed onshore at Long Beach, Washington on March 22, 2013, after traveling more than two years and 4,000 miles from Japan. They could not release the beakfish in northwest waters, due to the threat of it becoming invasive so far from it’s native habitat; it is now on display here.

It was an interesting visit and didn’t take long.  We checked out the tanks, fed the seals and managed to not get too wet!

 

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!