Washington, Oregon Coast Motorhome Camping part 3
Early in line at gate of Cape Disappointment State Park on the North shore of the Columbia River I paid for three nights, with one mandatory site move after first night. This is one of the finest state parks in the USA, and with it's extremely high, ocean side popularity, will soon require all reservations.
With the always changing Ocean and it's fascinating weather patterns, only a couple of minutes walk away, I hiked past the buried remains of a whale, to the massive lava rock wall at the north end of the beach. North Head Lighthouse is just at the top of that wall. The direct and dangerous climb to it entails a lot of skill. The much safer official hiking trail (2 miles 3.2km) is on the main entrance road by the Lewis and Clark marker. Battery 247, mentioned below is also nearby.
Evening sunset was a group affair on the beach.
Many camping visitors set up chairs as the sun started to go down onto a peaceful Pacific Ocean.
The beach hike to the North Jetty along the Benson beach is always rewarding. The Jetties were built using a uniquely engineered rail and barge system, over a 30 year period starting in the late 1800's. They reduced the mouth of the Columbia River, from five miles to two miles. This effectively helped to flush out the channel for deep water, international shipping entry.
The access railway trestles are still visible leading to the South Jetty with it's hundreds of yards of violent winter storm damage easily visible in the mouth of the river. Efforts are always made to rebuild the jetty system, most recent being in 2006, using a Manitowoc crane to lift the 10 to 20 ton broken stone pieces, barged south from Washington. This is a very important shipping channel, and needs to be maintained no matter what the economic condition of the nation.
The tidal and wave currents flushing in and out of the Columbia river, create a highly dangerous 'Bar' with winter storm waves easily in the 20 to 30 feet magnitude regularity. This area is referred to as in the Graveyard of the Pacific Coast Guards from around the world come here to train in the winter storms, Survive and you get a passing grade. 50 foot rogue waves were often reported in the winter storms of past years.
Highly qualified, experienced River Bar Pilots have been lost during the dangerous transfers from ship to Pilot Boat.
The thousands of acres of sand accumulated North of the North jetty, have built a forested eco-system of it's own, Pelicans love it. The big yellow fiberglass Asian lifeboat I have noticed over past years, has again moved during a winter storm. It is now near the entrance to the first campsite beach access path. One more violent winter storm and it could well be in the heavily forested cove among the massive logs below North Head Lighthouse (open to tour)
Also Oregon Lighthouses are another main reason for our choices in campgrounds. I enjoy hiking to them and seeing the view out to sea they have enjoyed for over a hundred years.
Hiking the area and climbing to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse past the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Dead Man's Cove. This climbing hike past the world recognised U.S. Coast Guard Station in Baker Bay used up some more shoe tread and added leg muscle. The Jeep trip to Oysterville North end of the Long Beach Peninsula, got us a dozen large oysters for $6 dollars. Layed them carefully on the grill with their 'lids' up. High flame until steam and opening appears. Yum with fresh salad. Too big and too many, ate only half and saved the rest for another meal. They were huge.
Stopped in at always fascinating, Jack's Country Store They have the most unique items from long ago. Did not even know such things were still manufactured. Be sure to stop in at the little villages and Long Beach access points along the route back. The beaches often have Sea Lions and Seals resting. Whales dead and many other interesting arrivals overnight. This Sea lion looked pretty dead to us. We pulled one car from it's sandy bed using our Jeep. The other car was way too deep and the tide was coming in fast, so the local 'Beach Patrol' yanked them out.
Busy little Dunes Cafe across the street from Jack's, had great fish and chips. Cranberries are also grown and harvested nearby. Check the harvest dates, interesting to watch the bog flooding for harvest. Campground Racoons are an everynight visitor that open coolers with ease, removing only what they enjoy. Nightly walks around the camp sites, will be accompanied by Racoons.
Another great hike climb to Battery 247, with it's concrete gun mounts and underground bunker still intact, used up a few more flashlight minutes and miles. Historic Fort Canby is nearby and many large gun batteries are still easily accessed and toured.
Breaking camp early the next morning, 09-22 Tuesday, we began our Oregon tour along Scenic Highway 101 Our Oregon Coastal highway, brought us to cross the Columbia River, on the beautiful Astoria-Meglar Bridge 4.2 miles including high span (for tall ships) The Oregon Port of Astoria is below the bridge, to the East. Astoria is the oldest City west of the Mississippi. Fuel topping at Costco and Fred Meyers Stores are just across the hwy 101 smaller river bridge with it's 'lift' span.
Fort Stevens State Park with it's big trees, is our 2 night area stay. Hiking the park and it's many sections of campsites and Yurts, revealed the most extensive re-cycling facility at any park we have stayed. An auto-compactor and every type of waste container are within a parking area close by. Again Racoons accompanied me on my nightly hikes.
I drove back to Astoria and visited The excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum library and gift shop. This is the most interesting Nationally accredited Museum of Coast Guard history and shipping, I have ever visited. The 'Bow Picker' across the street has fish and chips. Sit outside below the trailered boat for a quick lunch.
Driving the beach south of the South Jetty is an interesting pastime. The entrance is at the Fort Stevens RV Camping Park. The famous shipwreck, Peter Iredale is still slightly visible. Most was salvaged after it's demise, leaving the prow sticking out of the sand to rust into obscurity. The beach sand has been unstable this trip. We pulled out one car with our Jeep on Long Beach, so did not venture onto the looser, unstable sand of the Peter Ireland wreck.
Fort Stevens truck tour, and it's underground tour of Battery Mishler easily used up the rest of my afternoon (co-pilot is not interested in military or naval history). The underground tour guide is an historian. It's massive Guns never fired during conflict, the story told is of Abraham Lincoln originally commissioning the building of this intricate concrete bunkered fort during the Civil War. Interesting enough it is near re-constructed Fort Clatsop built by Lewis and Clark (another interesting tour).
Ft Stevens had state of the art firing co-ordinating communications Tele-autograph Unique360 degree 10 inch (tested once, officially killing one, reportedly killed 6 men from the muzzle blast) along with 6 inch, rifled swivel cannons with a 30 second reload, DC powered electrical conveyers and lifts, and concentrated firepower unequaled until the 2nd World War, during and after which it was up-dated and used as a major bunkered Pacific Headquarters deep underground.
The Fort Stevens tour is an experience not easily forgotten. The original reason for this formidable defense system, was to protect the Columbia River Port of Astoria from...The British (check out 'The Pig War'). They depended on the South for their cotton and were very upset with the Union North about interrupting their cotton industry. Years later Ft Stevens was used for WWII Coastal defense. It was fired upon 17 times by one surfaced Japanese Submarine but never returned fire.
Locked up with all furnishings intact, it was eventually left as a deep underground, preserved time capsule into the past. Eventually the area's Pot smoking Hippies moved in and burned it out, destroying it's fascinating history. That same group is now filling our legislatures and every level of U.S. government with it's mentality of destruction. As history changes the world, soon they will be all gone and replaced with the far different mentality of our young returning troops. Our nation and the world, will welcome the refreshing change in intelligence.
The next move for the coach and it's tow, is along Oregon Coastal highway 101 South toward the little crabbing ambiance of Brighton Harbor, one of our next base of operations during our beautiful scenic Oregon Coastal tour.