We wake up to a nice morning, no dodging raindrops on the way to the bathroom. The campground provides plenty of real estate for walking Mabel and we pass open spots, buildings being readied for the end of season, and campers on their first cup of coffee. After a quick visit to the dog park, we pack up camp and pull up stakes heading directly across the street to Fort Stevens State Park.
As we drove through the park and viewed the campsites I thought it would have been nice to spend my time here rather than the KOA. The cost would have been cheaper, and the facilities are comparable but then I remember the indoor pool and hot tub.
The park is home to the remains of the Peter Iredale wreck, a four-masted, steel sailing ship. It ran aground on October 26, 1906 in heavy fog as it was finding its way to the Columbia River. The entire crew were taken ashore via life boat and there were no casualties.
The beach was at the far end of the park and I was happy to find ample parking for the trailer. We joined the crowd of people that were walking the beach and made our way to the ships remains. The steel bow, now a skeleton of rusting metal, rises from the beach and silhouettes against the Pacific Ocean. It is the defining feature of the beach and dominates the view; a focal point of the visit. We stroll along the beach and Mabel enjoyed the visit even if the amount of people necessitated a leash.
We leave the park and make our way to Astoria to cross over the Columbia River and enter Washington. The Astoria-Megler bridge is on the outskirts of town and we passed by it on yesterday’s trip to the city. It is tall and long, over four miles to the other side. A bridge like this, if in New York, would require a toll to cross but there wasn’t one and I am thankful to be in the Northwest. There was construction, where haven’t I seen construction, and we are stopped just short of the crest to let the Washington side pass. It is high, and I keep my eyes facing the front to remain calm. I was doing well until a truck went by and the bridge started to shake, my hands gripped the steering wheel even tighter than before. Soon we were heading downward to the level section of the bridge and I could take in the view.
We came into Washington at 12:15 and the shoreline seemed different with the road very close to the water. The trip would continue North up the coast on HWY 101 with a stop at St Mary ‘s church in McGowan. The church sits where the Chinook people lived for generations and signage tells about Qiqayaqilxam or Middle Village, one of the many settlements along the Pacific Ocean. The church is stark and stands defiantly, but not without injury, against the weather thrown from the Pacific Ocean.
A stop at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment was next and unfortunately it did disappoint, but just a little. Parking near the center was limited, and would have been difficult even without the trailer. The campground at the base of the hill sold day access permits and luckily had RV parking spaces. I got my steps in as the parking lot was over a half mile away from the Center, but the path provided beautiful views from the rocky cliffs. Mabel and I wandered up the very green path and I even walked closer than normal to the cliff’s edge. We met other visitors outside the Center and all were very nice to Mabel while listening to my story. Unfortunately, no dogs were allowed inside the center, and no place to safely tie up Mabel, so we were restricted to the park’s paths. It was beautiful scenery, but I really wanted to learn more about the camp that preceded their winter quarters at Fort Clatsop.
The park is separated into two sections with the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse sitting detached from the Lewis and Clark Center. Mabel and I walked the steep and green trail around Deadman’s Cove to the lighthouse on the bluff. It gave a high view of the ocean and the land break between Washington and Oregon that allows for entry into the Columbia River. The ocean was calm until it’s waves ran into the rocky shore and boats were fishing within the safety of the break walls that stretched at a 90-degree angle from land. I talked a couple that were enjoying the view with wine and cheese. The height of the bluff allowing them some much needed cell phone reception to answer the many calls regarding their vacation rental properties. They manage the relationships while on the road in their RV and seemed happy doing it.
We make our way up the paved road to the lighthouse, no admission was permitted, its entry behind a high chain link fence. The view is enjoyed by a few other tourists, some with their dogs and Mabel seemed uninterested in making friends. She did capture a little mouse and was “playing” with it as I looked unaware at the ocean. Amazing what can happen at the end of a 10-foot leash.
We retraced our steps and came upon large concrete structures that reminded me of what I saw at Normandy Beach. The buildings and circular amphitheater turned out to be the remains of gun emplacements from a coastal defense system employed through the end of WWII. Some of the bunkers were open for touring and provided descriptive displays of the fort and life for those stationed there. Mabel enjoyed looking around and made a friend, one who had jerky in her pockets.
Back in the parking lot and we were soon heading North on HWY 101. The road winded through small towns separated by large amounts of land providing glimpses of the rocky shore until turning inland after Bay Center. Just West of South Bend, I saw a rainbow and for the first time in my life saw the ends touch the ground. In my past rainbow viewing experiences, the middle has been visible, and the ends always hidden behind trees, homes, or other stuff. But in this case, I saw where the ends touched the ground, and I thought immediately of testing the pot of gold theory. Visions of caricature leprechauns guarding their treasure filled my mind and provided a slight distraction from the landscape’s change to lakes and fields.
South Bend is a town on HWY 101 that provided us with a chance for exercise and the opportunity to see a small Washington town. We walked the sidewalks and looked in the store fronts adorned with Fall decorations. The town sits on the Willapa River and I watched as commercial fishermen laid nets close to shore. The town is proud of its heritage and claims to be home to the world’s largest oyster, a fiberglass facsimile proudly displayed in its shoreline park. There is a listing of famous residents and Pat Paulsen catches my eye. He was on the Smothers Brothers show and I remember him from the obscure 1984 movie Night Patrol which costarred Linda Blair. Like I said it was an obscure movie.
We are now too far inland to see the ocean, but the map shows state campgrounds along the coast that are not too far of a drive. I turn West on HWY 109 and eventually end up at the Pacific Beach State Park Campground. It is a large figure eight loop with most spots facing the ocean and I see a few open spaces. I decided to take a spot at first glance and was happy to see it backed up to the ocean beach with only a small rocky dune separating us from the water. The reservation system was the best I have seen with a paper listing of unreserved spots at the unmanned shower house. I verified my spot was not on the list and picked up the chunky yellow telephone receiver where a pleasant voice on the other end took my credit card number.
My neighbors were a young couple named Jake and Claire from near Seattle who had been at the spot for a few days. Tent camping with their dog R2, they warded off the cold with a supplemental blue tarp over their tent. Mabel and R2 became friends but kept a distance, the camper’s opposite side entry and the lead providing socialization barriers. I find out Jake works for Goodwill as a member of their on-line auctions team which I had no idea they even had. He seems to like what he is doing.
The beach is much closer than my site at the Outer Banks, but the people are a lot closer as well. The beach is much deeper and it’s a longer walk to the water but since there are no dunes, the ocean sounds louder. Mabel and I walk down to the beach, the sand is much firmer than I experienced in North Carolina, so I leave my shoes on. Mabel loves the beach and I let her off the leash. The wide-open beach provides plenty of space for her to turn into barrel racing mode. She runs up the beach and performs a quick turn that rodeo stars would be proud of and races back past to me to do it all over again. I try to talk with Sheri, but a bad connection makes it difficult and Mabel is wandering while making friends with other dogs. One is owned by camper from a few spots down and he approaches us while smoking a joint which seems weird, until I remember marijuana is legal in Washington. He is a mobile worker and plans on staying at the beach for at least two more weeks. His internet is good and the view amazing, so there really isn’t a reason to leave. The sunset is one of the most beautiful I have seen since leaving on the trip and we head back for dinner after it is finished.
I couldn’t resist an after-dark walk on the beach and we seem to have it all to ourselves. The stars pop as we head North along the shore and I like the solitude. We head back to the camper and I do some writing before watching Master & Commander and fall asleep rather late.
Thankful tonight to be in Washington and seeing its beauty.