It took Lewis & Clark with the Corps of discovery, 2 years, 4 months and 10 days to reach the Pacific Ocean.
It took us about 5 hours and I thought WE made a lot of stops.
Astoria is really famous because of Lewis and Clark, and the Corps of Discovery. They arrived in November 1805, after spending six nights on the Washington side of the Columbia River in a place Capt. William Clark named, “that dismal nitch.”
The average rainfall in Astoria in November is over 11 inches, and the record November rainfall is almost 3 feet; it rains a lot. The average annual rainfall in Astoria is 67 inches, but in one record year 51 inches fell just in the month of December.
I tell you that not to discourage you from visiting Astoria, for we find it to be a beautiful place, but choosing your travel times wisely will make a difference. We made this trip in early August and had beautiful weather every day. More about the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park later……..
Astoria began as Fort Astoria when John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Trading company established the first permanent settlement on the West coast in 1811. Astoria grew on the fur trade, shipping and fishing, before transitioning into a tourism based economy. Astoria reborn as a tourist destination has risen so well it even ranks as a port of call for cruise ships.
The most noticeable landmark is the famed Astoria Column, one of the must see spots in town. It is 125 feet tall, but sitting on the hill it is 600 feet above sea level and offers outstanding views of the city.
We plugged it into the gps and off we went, right into a road closed barricade, which I of course went around……until we reached the point at which the road was really closed. OK, they win, it was impassable blocked by excavators that had dug the road completely out.
Reroute to the other side of the hill and another road closed sign…..WTH it’s looking like you can get within a few blocks but no more. We stopped and called the visitors center only to find it’s closed for renovation until September.
Another popular stop you do not want to miss is the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Trip Advisor.com lists this as the Number 1 attraction in Astoria, so I mean you would make this a priority……right? Oh yeah, we missed that one too…….you see there really are so many things to do you can get busy and forget how late it is……Warning: The museum closes at 5 O’Clock. Like everywhere; we overbook our expectations and then go like Hell to do as much as possible, but then there’s always some left for the next trip.
So what did we do?????
The Holiday Inn Express had a rack of loaner bikes, crusiers. And then there was this, “bicycle built for two” and Karla said, “That looks like fun.” I don’t think they counted on one of the people being 6’3″ and with the seat raised as high as it would go, it was still a bit comical, as my knees bounced off my chin.
Astoria has this fun path they called the “Riverwalk” complete with a 1913 trolley that I think cost like a dollar or two to ride. Now the Riverwalk is flat, paved and has no confusing intersections.
I understand it to be 5 miles one way, and in today’s version of, “Don gets us lost” we went 7 miles and crossed some bridges I think that weren’t included in the regular route.
We started off in search of the East mooring basin, where we thought the largest gathering of sea lions might be found. I’m still not sure we found the right place but we certainly did not find any sea lions on this particular day. But we did find the home of the original headquarters of Bumblebee Tuna, or salmon as was the case.
We found a few good places to eat, nothing specifically vegan, but most were accommodating. The Fort George brewery was good for a veggie burger and…..yes beer!
Looked like a local as well as tourist favorite.
Oh yeah, I’ll have one of those.
Nobody was going to walk off with one of these stools, heavy !! I could barely move it.
On another night………after a nice Mexican meal at El Tapatio, it is appropriate to select a proper dessert.
Just to be clear, we were walking. Drinking and riding is not part of our travels…..but I’ll walk a good piece for some Tequila.
Buoy Beer has a window in the floor so you can see the Sea Lions lounging on the docks below…..unique.
The other fort, Fort Stevens came after Lewis & Clark but in time to protect the Columbia during the Civil War and remained in use through World War II. It was part of a three fort system, with the other two on the Washington side.
The mouth of the mighty Columbia River attained a world-wide reputation among sailors as, “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” Many ships have met their end here and it remains too dangerous to cross without a pilot from the Columbia River Pilots organization. The big ships headed in or out must schedule a pilot who will arrive by boat or helicopter to take control and bring her across the bar. It’s been working this way since 1846.
The wreck of the Peter Iredale, the only visible remains of the many ships that went aground or sank at the mouth of the Columbia………. “I told him to call for a pilot….he never listens to me”……I think that was Peter’s wife just as he was saying…..”Uh Oh, this isn’t looking good.”
Fort Clatsop, the replica of Lewis & Clark’s home for the winter of 1805-06. These were men and women ( Sacagawea ) who must have been as tough as steel. In never ending, blowing, torrential rains, they; hunted and killed their food, they built a fort, they boiled sea water 24 hours a day to make salt………they dug canoes out of whole trees……OK, one they stole from the Clatsop tribe who they found to be a little sticky fingered themselves…….
This is actually the second replica of the original fort that lasted 50 or so years in the, “weather.” The Corps of Discovery only stayed here that one winter and then they headed back to Washington DC.
The first replica was constructed in 1955 and it lasted until 2005 when park volunteers did not completely extinguish a fire they built in their daily demonstrations of that, “rubbing two sticks together.”
And then the 911 dispatcher argued that it was probably just fog rolling in……..Ooops my bad……..But on the bright side, better documentation had been located in the mean time, so the latest is really the most accurate. Now let’s be careful with fire you guys…..
Words of someone much tougher than I……..
The visitor center at Ft. Clatsop.
A Lewis & Clark story should not be told without giving respect due to the importance of 1) a woman and 2) a Black man. Most people know of Sacagawea who acted as both an interpreter and negotiator with other natives. But many may not know of York, the enslaved man, “owned” by Clark. While he may have been treated a little better than other slaves, let’s not forget he had no choice in making this trip, leaving his family behind…….and he was not free! He served many roles on the journey and it is acknowledged that he was of great value to the Corps.
Were Sacagawea and York both the first woman and first Black person to vote in the United States? It appears so, records show when the Corps of Discovery took a vote on important matters, they both voted and every vote was counted with equal weight.
When Lewis & Clark left the following spring, they were the first to have this popular Oregon bumper sticker on their canoes…
Well played Meriwether ….well played.
No story is complete without a dog and this is no different. Captain Clark brought along, “Seaman” the Newfoundland who was, as dogs are, his loyal companion. There are many references in the journals of Seaman protecting the group from, Bears, Bison and other wild animals. Even the dogs were tough !
We also ventured a few miles south along the coast. Later, we did a full Oregon coastal trip and that will be another blog post. Here are a few photos all within about 25 miles of Astoria. Oregon has a beautiful coast and it is all publicly owned, you are free to roam from Washington to California unrestricted.
Before the, “Oregon Territory,” before becoming a state, when Oregon was just some far out place in the Louisiana Purchase, Astoria was born. There is something for everyone, history, landscapes, big river, ocean, food & drink. We think you’ll like Astoria, come visit even in the rain it’s an adventure.
From my favorite philosopher, Jimmy Buffet ” So I can’t look back for too long There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me”
Safe travels, we’ll see you soon.
Don & Karla
And here is your random dog photo from the trip……..