Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Coastal Washington, a Different Experience

July 19-26, 2019
Long Beach - Grays Harbor, Washington

"US-101 technically has two southern ends. There's one in California in downtown LA at the East LA Interchange and one in Olympia, Washington. The highway loops around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, reaching its northernmost point at Port Angeles."

In our past routes, the motor home has been on all of Hwy 101 from Ventura, California, to Olympia, Washington, except for the section from the Columbia River to Forks, Washington. On Friday we begin to fill in the missing piece as we cross into Washington and continue north on Hwy 101 to Long Beach.

The first time I saw the dingy, unappealing International Terminal at San Francisco Airport I thought it was sad that this was the first many travelers saw of America. It's how I feel about the Washington Coast. After the neat, clean and lively little beach towns of the Oregon Coast, Long Beach doesn't make the best first impression for our most northwestern state. Sand Castle RV Park is a good example.

After our beautiful river front site, our new place is challenged in the "view" department.
Our tight spot is on level gravel with FHUs between Hwy 103 and a small city street. It's our first 30 amp park this year, and typical of the dozen other parks here.

Long Beach is called the longest beach in the world, but Google says it's the second after Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Probably the longest one we'll ever see :-) The little town is packed with tourists - Saturday and Sunday the sidewalks are overflowing rivers of people.

In a previous visit to Astoria, Oregon, we made the drive to Oysterville Sea Farms at the recommendation of good friends Eric and Laurel (Raven and Chickadee) It's a delightful little spot on Willapa Bay, offering excellent fresh and smoked seafood, and stunning views across the marshes.

We return on a sunny afternoon to pick up salmon and oysters and enjoy the unique vistas.


Clammers on Willapa Bay

Classes were held at the site from 1860 to 1957, this Oysterville Schoolhouse was built in 1907.

Not long into the wildlife refuge trail I can feel the bugs biting me - of course they completely ignore Bill.
The beaches of Washington are not only "long", but also very wide. At low tide you can walk 100 yards "out to sea". Vehicles are allowed, and you can drive for miles. And of course, there's even more room for beach zoomies!

So much beach!



Her first time getting in the water - not a fan.

Beware the stare!

The fog moves in and out.

Here I come!
Fluffy reflections.
Low, low, low tide.

We venture into the little town a couple times for eats and brews, and a 30 minute wait in line for very good (not Buttercup-good, but good) ice cream. It's much busier than we like, but it is summer on the coast, and like us, people want to be where the weather is perfect.

As yummy as it is pretty - seared ahi at Lost Roo.

The largest frying pan in America - because.

A couple places have sand castle art out front.

The boatmen look a bit like coconut monkeys, but it's still pretty cool - and amazing how it stays together for days.
During our stay I learn that a good friend passed away from a massive stroke. We had just been making plans to see each other at the end of the year. She was more than ten years younger than me, finally happily married. It's devastating news, and reminds me how important it is to live our best lives everyday. And how blessed we are to have the opportunities we do.

RIP Beth
There are many Lewis and Clark landmarks in the area, and the Interpretive Center is very well done. We make a return visit, and I'm once again amazed at the number of people they had on their expedition, and all they accomplished. The center is built on the cliffs of Cape Disappointment, on the site of Fort Canby.

On our way we stop to explore Cape Disappointment. A wild and beautiful area, the state park is popular with beach-going families. I couldn't get a reservation for this visit, but I'd love to stay here in the future.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach

The kayaker paddled into the large cavern - how cool!

Fort Canby bunker - the center is built on top, just to the right.

The interior feels haunted - and very chilly.

A friendly woman points out this hungry eagle enjoying lunch on a distant limb. Gotta love a zoom lens!

Magnificent animals.

Where the Columbia River reaches the Pacific Ocean. The goal of Lewis and Clark's historic expedition.
In addition to several documents and drawings, the chronological story of the expedition includes art pieces based on the experiences recorded in Lewis and Clark's journals.
Prairie Meadows Burning, by George Catlin

Lewis and Clark Foggy Morning on the Missouri River, 1804 by Gary Lucy

Captain Clark, Buffalo Gangue by John Clymer

Bear at Three Forks, Montana by Robert Reynolds (the information plaque notes that everyone thought the animal looks more like a dog, and nothing like the massive bear that treed a member of the party).

Lewis and Clark in the Bitteroots by John Clymer  Their winter travels through these mountains were noted as the most perilous of the journey.

They collected plant specimens in pressed plate boxes like these, including 174 new to science at the time. It's amazing what they carried with them over land and water.

All of their journals were published, and have been read by millions. Our daughter-in-law's father said that reading them was "the closest thing to time travel". I really need to read them.
After our time with Meriwether and William, we drive over the bridge to Astoria for lunch along the river. Baked Alaska is a favorite, and although they don't have the pear pizza I love, I think the smoked salmon is a close second. Looking at the huge ships that pass reminds me of the barges and ships on the Mississippi, the St Lawrence and the St Mary's rivers - what amazing places we've seen during our few years of traveling. 

Excellent from the crust to the goat cheese!

My ship finder app isn't working, but both of these ships are from China.
A quick stop at Fort Columbia for a final look across the Columbia.
Although I remember from a drive we took from the Hood Canal during our first year that the Hoaquim/Aberdeen area is struggling, it's still a good location for a short stop over on our way north.

From Long Beach we continue our "new to the motorhome" section of Hwy 101, including a beautiful drive around the east side of Willapa Bay.

The Hoaquim River RV Park is a nice surprise, much nicer than where we're coming from. Clean, level, FHU sites with very friendly staff. Still, the area wears a heavy cloak of "down on your luck".

When we take a day trip to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway I'm hoping for another magical place like the Lost Coast in California. Sadly, "hidden" just means you can't see it. With the exception of a couple beach access points, tall and thick trees line the road with a rare glimpse of the water. Can't accuse them of false advertising!

We do enjoy another drive on the beach, and time on the very quiet shoreline. With the water so "far away" and the low waves, it doesn't sound like a beach.

Above the layers we see (and hear) an approaching flyer.

Great way to see what is otherwise hidden.

A very different shoreline.

North of Moclips is Quinault Tribal Land, with no public access.  We take a quick peek -  it's a beautiful area.
We turn around where the road ends in Taholah. Sadly, another reservation town filled with trash, yards covered with broken down vehicles, no sign of pride. To live in this natural beauty, and surround yourself with a mess, seems completely incongruent with all I've learned of native peoples. Yet, it is the norm rather than the exception for all reservation towns we've visited.

Our next stop takes us back to the Olympic Peninsula, and to what for us is the most beautiful part of Washington.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Coming Home On the Road

July 12-18, 2019
Tillamook, Oregon

You know those landmarks that tell you you're almost home? Might be a corner store, or an old tree. It's a sight that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about where you're going. 

One of the reasons I like Tombstone, Arizona, so much is that I get that feeling when we see the familiar mountain ranges, when we make that turn into town. There's another place that affects me the same way - Tillamook, Oregon.

Our first stay four years ago was only for one night, then we spent three weeks here two years ago. Returning this summer, I'm so excited when we cross the Netarts River, when we pass the sign for Munson Falls, when we see the road construction in town is finally complete. Not likely we will ever live here permanently, but it sure feels like coming home.

A week is not enough, and before leaving this time I make a two-week reservation for next August. We'll be coming from the north so we'll see if that feeling is the same :-)

This visit we're staying at the Misty River RV Park and our site is right on the Wilson River. We can't get completely level and satellite doesn't connect at the bottom of two forest-covered mountains, but it's a beautiful spot. We have lots of green space and the only access point for the river is next to us - perfect!

River in our backyard (and poop bags too)!
We celebrate our return at Las Margaritas. First impression isn't great with sticky floors and sad chips and salsa. But we're not quitters and the margaritas and entrees are delicious :-) 

Las Margaritas - cute and hard to miss!
We enjoy perfect weather, including one post-car wash rainstorm, during our stay. With a heat wave covering most of the country we appreciate how blessed we are to have the option to spend summer in the Pacific Northwest. For us, there just isn't a better place to be this time of year.

Our first morning Bill calls me outside to see our neighbor.

It's wonderful that we see more of them now - so majestic.
Can't be in the area without breakfast at Parkside Cafe in Garibaldi. Our favorite waitress greets us (Tessa gets a roasted turkey treat), and again - feels like home :-) They have the very best coffee! 

We continue north, enjoying the amazing coastal views, and turn around in Nehalem after enjoying a couple scoops from Buttercup (thanks again Eric and Laurel). The lemon lavender sorbet is still the favorite.

I love this view of Tillamook Bay from Garibaldi Harbor. 
A stop at pretty Rockaway Beach

A giant serpent rises above the water...
One of the best things about Tillamook is all the water - ocean, bay, creeks, sloughs and lots of rivers. We didn't see Nehalem Falls last time so we spend an afternoon along the river and under the trees. Several primitive campsites, but mostly very steep water access. 

A pretty combination of short falls and smooth pools.

One of the prettiest drives on the Oregon Coast is the Three Capes Scenic Drive. It includes Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda. Although there's a section permanently destroyed by mudslides that means it's no longer a real loop, it's worth making the drive to Cape Meares and turning around to pick up the rest of the drive. 

We chose a rainy day to make the trip this time. Still, the parking lot at Cape Meares lighthouse is full. The trail to Octopus Tree is muddy so we don't wait around for a spot.

Wind across the surf.

Seals on a sand bar in Netarts Bay

I swear they're looking at me!

Cape Lookout

Sweeping shore views.

Tall dunes.

Cape Kiwanda
Good friends Jim and Diana (ExploRVistas) worked with a special park ranger during their time in Prineville, and learned she had moved to Nehalem Bay State Park. On our last day we made the drive to see if we could find Ranger Mariah. Sadly we miss her :-(, but we check out the very large campground. Definitely popular with families, this is a crowded park with very tight spaces - in a really beautiful place.

Nehalem Bay State Park
Bummed we missed Mariah, but to help us feel better we make another stop at Buttercup :-))

After two months in Oregon, next we move north to Washington to see the only section of Hwy 101 we've yet to travel.

Back in SoCal......

Oh Ezra, you crack me up!