Monday, 13 December 2010

Trip to Washington and Oregon, October 2009, Day 3

Day 3: Mount Rainier, WA to Nehalem Bay, OR.
Above: the Northern end of the splendid bridge linking Washington and Oregon, taken from a roadside stop close to the Northern entrance. It took a while before we got there.

We were up and rolling at first light, before 7. From a previous trip we remembered visiting an antique car show on a field near Packwood, with spectacular views of Mount Rainier in the background. This time it was too foggy and/or overgrown to see the mountain, or we didn't look behind us at the right places. We may want to drive that road again some time in the other direction, towards the mountain. But we did see a herd of elk, right in town along the highway! Including a splendid antlered bull. I begged Chris to stop for the sake of pictures. Alas, what with the half-dark, the fog, my imperfect skills and the fact that the subjects wouldn't stand still any photos were a total loss.
The next hour or so was a bit boring. The road went through typical West-of-the-Cascades hills, with bald patches from clear cuts. It used to be worse, same as in B.C. The politics of logging are a different topic. Below, scruffy field with hills in the background. The land felt sad, like it was not living up to its potential.
We had a nice chat with the attendant at the general store in Ethel, just before the junction with I-5, the big highway South from Seattle. He confirmed our impression that the area was depressed. I asked if he had local eggs, perhaps under the counter. Nope, he wasn't allowed to sell either eggs or local produce. Corn and tomatoes were grown just down the road. In theory he could do his neighbors a good turn and make fresh food available for a decent price, but doing so is illegal. Don't get me started on the politics of food and Big Agro........
Just a brief boring stretch of I-5 before we get to Kelso and hit the Columbia...a bit of suburban strip driving....Here it is! Or at least, we assume these guys are fishing in a river. All we could see was FOG.
Route 4 West along the Columbia was a stretch of road we have not seen before and we had been looking forward to it. Alas, it was foggy. We finally found a nice place to access the water at a local park: Skamokawa.
Lewis and Clark camped here, trading with the local people for their excellent rain gear and depending on them for guidance and watercraft.
The plaque mentions that Chief Skamokawa cherished the medallion he got from the explorers till his death more than 50 years later, when he was "one of the last surviving members of his tribe". It does not tell us what happened to the tribe. We can guess at smallpox and the other usual horrors. Guns, germs and steel.
But let's get back to being tourists. This is a splendid park with a fully equipped campground, a playground, and a huge beach. The Columbia is a wide tidal river here, about to broaden even more, full of fascinating wetlands and islands. A perfect place for messing about with boats. When we first got there it was foggy. We had some early lunch, then poked around and walked the beach. The next pictures are all from there. Notice that the sky keeps lifting....
This barge full of sawdust is being pushed upstream. It went surprisingly fast. We lingered on the beach hoping the fog would lift, but it took its time.

Finally by the time we approached THE BRIDGE it was a brilliant day. This bridge crosses the Columbia near its mouth, linking Washington State and Oregon. It is truly one of the miracles of the world. We have driven it several times in both directions and ooh and ah every time. First, a view from the distance. Not the greatest picture, but it shows the full size, and if one zooms in one can see the cormorants sitting on the poles. Taken in passing. Next, one taken from the viewpoint.
The next shots are taken from the bridge.
Above: View from the middle of the bridge, like driving on the ocean! Note the vague white line in the sky further out to sea. We will meet our friend fog again.
Above: Looking inland.
The last section before Astoria is taller so ships can pass underneath.
Below: Looking back from Astoria for a last glance.
But wait, there is more! One more drive across the water to take us to the seashore. All this time I am practically high from the blue light. Nothing loads up my batteries like sunlight sparkling off water.
Hallo Oregon! Not that I have anything against Washington, au contraire.

WA is the most astonishing little state. You can drive across it in each direction in one day. Where else can you find primeval rain forest, beaches both tame and wild, cranberry bogs, oyster farms, huge volcanoes, sunny valleys full of fruit, desert, healing lakes, wheat fields as far as the eye can see, and pleasant hill country with woods and lakes, all in a day's drive?
Alas, the FOG was back, just along the coast. We missed seeing the first splendid capes. Hurray, the high viewpoint on mount Neahkahnie, just before Manzanita, was clear.
The fog looked like a living beast looming against the mountain.
We had just come through a tunnel and the lights had been on. Our other cars are smart enough to turn themselves off, but a 1982 Toyota was not meant to think for itself. When we finally tore ourselves away and were ready to descend into the gloom the truck wouldn't start. A fellow retired RVer came to the rescue and delivered the kiss of life. This took some serious manoeuvering, the guy was towing a big one. We sure appreciate him for spontaneously offering and Chris for being prepared with jumper cables.
Memory served us better than the tourist information on the Rock Works point we had just left. The map showed Nehalem Bay State Park on a bay inland, while 15-year-old memory insisted on a campsite behind the dunes and a huge sandy beach right on the open ocean. Memory was right. We found a site at Nehalem Bay State Park, plugged in and all, and there was the beach, just like we remembered it, albeit in a strange twilight zone-ish light. It was only around 4 PM.
We went for a good long walk, fog and all. Below: What do you call that A fogbow?
And so ends day 3

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