From the Blog

Weekend Away: Oregon Coast

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We looked ahead on our calendar to this weekend, anticipating no obligations, so we planned a quick trip to Astoria. I call it “the coast,” but really, it’s eight miles inland. But it’s on the Columbia River, which is big, and has a lot of water, and it’s close to the ocean, so it’s basically the same thing. Big water = coast.

We made these plans, of course, before we knew a giant earthquake was going to shake the other side of the world. It was hard for me to tear myself away from the news Thursday night and the unbelievable images coming from Japan. We were heading to the coast at the same time a tsunami was speeding across the Pacific. Thankfully, there was no noticeable swell where we went. Other towns in California and Oregon were not so lucky.

Before we left, I called and confirmed with the hotel that they were not under water. Schools and some businesses were closed as a precaution. We hit the road and headed west, noting all the traffic alerts telling us the coast was under a tsunami warning. Traffic was totally normal. We arrived in Astoria and it was just another day, though all the newspaper headlines shrieked of tsunami news and devastation across the Pacific. Conversations in cafes and pubs were of swaying office towers and nuclear meltdowns.

Over the weekend, we made our usual circuit of favorite places, Commodore Hotel, Fort George Brewery, Blue Scorcher Bakery, but we always try to go see something we haven’t seen yet. This time, we wanted to go see Cape Disappointment and the Columbia Bar, where the Columbia River dumps into the Pacific Ocean.

Evidently, this is where you go to get lost and or killed in a boat. That is why it’s not called Cape Delightful. Indeed, we have driven out this way in the past, looking for Cape Disappointment, and we got lost. We didn’t get “lost,” we just ended up at a different lighthouse. That happens all the time, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure what we were looking at here. The ocean, I suspect.

I think this was Beards Hollow, from looking at a map at the Washington State Park website. As you can imagine, it was wildly windy at the end of the continent. We happened to jump out during a break in the rain.

This made us happy.

We visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which we enjoyed and recommend. I’m a total dork for state and national park interpretive centers. I really am. I want to get a commemorative magnet from every one of them. But our fridge isn’t big enough.

I haven’t read the journals of Lewis and Clark, but now I totally want to. I already know I will be annoyed with the spelling errors. But those dudes are lucky they still had fingers by the end of their trip.

I’m not sure if taking a photo of this map is considered theft. I hope not. We did pay to get in. This is how the river meets the ocean.

Below is Dead Man’s Cove, which seems a fun place to bring your kids.

Pretty. I am sure it got its name somehow.

We hiked up to the actual Cape Disappointment lighthouse. I want to say this is looking south. But judging from the map above, I believe we are looking east, back at Washington.

This is about as close to the Columbia bar as we could hope to get without a more serious hike and probably floaties. Again, we got a break in the rain and actually got some rays of sun.

This is looking west, back at the Lewis and Clark interpretive center, the North Jetty and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

All of Cape Disappointment was picturesque and green, even at the end of winter, without any leaves. We had sun for the rest of the day. We headed back to Astoria for a much needed beer.

Just outside the pub, the tide was coming in. There were about half a dozen giant boats parked in the river. It irritates me that I don’t know why they would just sit there. Are they just hanging out? Did the crew grab a taxi and come to town for a beer? Are they coming or going?

This image below is super giant. You can click on it.

Click for HUUUGE!

It’s hard to fathom how huge these ships are, and the vast distances between them. The river is four miles wide at this point. From our vantage on the shore, they appeared to be scattered together in a friendly, conversational way, as though they might know each other.

These boats come from all over the world. Perhaps they are just resting. I don’t blame them. It’s not a bad place to hang out.

Other trips to Astoria:
An Afternoon, A Full Tank of Gas, Chapter II March 2008. This was the first trip Dave and I took together.
Tank Full Of Gas, Chapter Ten: Astoria, Oregon November 2008
Tank Full Of Gas, Chapter 16: Astoria Midsummer Scandinavian Fest June, 2009
Chapter 16: Astoria Midsummer Scandinavian Fest, Part Two June 2009
Astoria: The Most Wicked Place On Earth February 2010
I Like This Place May 2010
Astoria Midsummer Scandinavian Fest 2010 June 2010
“I Do.” August 2010

All road trips here.



  1. I believe the boats are in a queue waiting for their turn to come up the channel. It is only so wide and maybe ships were coming out towards the Pacific. The mini tsunami’s these ships create is very impressive. A good place to see them up close is at Kelly Point Park in N. Portland. That is also an interesting park to check out.

  2. FlamingAtheist says

    Yep, as Fisher mentioned they are waiting for either a pilot to take them upriver or bar pilot to head out, or just waiting for berth space at their destination. I was stationed on the Resolute/Alert and some would sit for days then just go up or down river, no rhyme or reason to the waits it seems.

    The lighthouses are confusing as you have north head and south head. The south jetty at Fort Stevens gives you an OK view of the bar but the Cape D view lets you see more.

  3. Thank you, knowledgeable people!

    @fisher, I have been planning to go to Kelly Point for a while now. Will go sooner.

    @FlamingAtheist When the weather is better, I do want to hike down and get as close as possible. Though, that place seems to create its own weather, so I don’t imagine it’s “nice” very often.

  4. Thank you for coming to see us again- it is always such a treat to see you both.

    FYI- Sometimes the ships are also waiting to clear customs…

    Already looking forward to next time…

  5. I love the coast. Thanks for my Oregon hit for the day :)

  6. Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

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