Monday, November 3, 2008

Washington: Part I

26 OCT - As we began our journey this morning and turned right out of the driveway, our descent was met with a glowing alignment of color. My husband said, reminds me of New England. . . well, maybe Michigan. He always makes me chuckle.

Within minutes we were confronted with fog that had settled in the valley, and as we approached I-5, the visibility had been reduced to less than a quarter mile, a reminder of the norm this time of year. Thankfully, within several miles the sun began to permeate the veiled barrier and highlight a blazing tapestry woven in shades of yellow, orange, red and umber. As we headed further north the sun and fog played a game of cat and mouse, the fog lingering mystically in the background, until finally we were shown clear sailing ahead.

Our first stop was to have lunch with several of our children and two grandchildren. Following the meal and conversation, our 9-year old granddaughter, who had a soccer game on the mind, asked what are we doing here? A signal that it must be time. A gorgeous 72 degrees, and we headed to Astoria for a relaxing evening.

A cocktail overlooking the harbor and the bridge we would conquer in the morning and a seafood dinner at a local restaurant, was the remaining activity chosen for this first day.

Day 2: Stunning morning! A clear blue sky and a crisp 57 degrees ushered us onto the Astoria bridge and toward Washington via route 101. Off to the east and along the Oregon coastline, five large cargo vessels were anchored, either awaiting instruction or a pilot that would guide them to the Columbia River. We crossed the Washington border, turned left and snaked along the coastline through several small fishing villages and to Ilwaco. The Hwy Loop 100 marked what would be our rapid ascent to North Head Lighthouse (built in 1898).

High above the water's edge, a gentle sloping trail (1/4 mile) led us past the original light keeper's home. . .and to the periphery for this century-old structure which has helped guide ships in this "graveyard of the Pacific". One of the most treacherous bars in the world has been created here from the force of the Columbia River flowing into and meeting the Pacific Ocean. Panoramic views and a sight to behold.

From the front side of North Head Lighthouse, the deceiving waters appear calm beneath the sharp decline of the hillside.

We decided to locate a lunch spot in Long Beach, our destination for the evening, and then return to do our hike to Cape Disappointment and the lighthouse (built in 1856), now a part of Fort Canby State Park. A seafood restaurant was recommended, and as we sometimes say, we were there twice, our first and last. Expensive, not very good, and exactly the reason we prefer cooking our own. However following that, a beautiful 64 degrees had us eagerly heading back.

Although these two lighthouses were built two miles apart in order to guard the ships coming from the north and south, over the years 2000 ships and 700 lives have been lost in this confluence. The waters are so treacherous that the U.S. Coast Guard uses this as training ground.

By the way, the name is appropriate from our standpoint as it did disappoint: the area was closed for the U.S. Coast Guard firing practice, so our hike was canceled. We did however enjoy it from the distance, including this great expanse to our right.

We checked into our night's lodging at Long Beach, then decided to drive north toward Ocean Park to see the rest of this 28-mile peninsula, many miles of which were driven on the wide sandy beach, considered a Washington State highway. The afternoon fog rolled in and guided our return to an evening of relaxation, a glass of wine, and our own prepared dinner. But first this half-mile boardwalk required our attention.

Day 3: The morning found us arising early as usual, morning coffee in hand and a walk out onto the deck to watch the sun awaken this pristine beach of sand and dune grasses.

Sandwiches were made for the cooler - tuna on wheat - and by 9 a.m. we were traveling south but only to the point of picking up route 101 again.

(The second part of our journey will follow.)