24 Jul 2016

Road-trip in Oregon - Astoria, Fort Stevens & Cannon Beach

We didn't have far to go on day 2 of our road-trip - just down the road to Cannon Beach, where we were booked to stay in a room overlooking Haystack Rock at the Hallmark resort. We had a healthy breakfast of fruit and granola at Street 14 Coffee attached to the hotel, with a decent latte, before visiting the incredible Columbia River Maritime Museum.

We ended up spending two and half hours at the museum - there was so much to see! It is a fascinating place, chronicling the area's history. I learned all about the Columbia River Bar - the dangerous area where the river meets the Pacific Ocean where hundreds of ships have been lost over the years. There were great displays about the roles of the lifeboats and pilots that navigate through the Bar and up the river, and the gruelling training involved (not to mention weather conditions they have to go out in). I read about how the salmon cannery business had flourished until the last one closed in 1980, leaving just the remaining posts from the piers that once held the factories.

The most fascinating display was about the Obon Society - a society that returns Japanese flags taken as mementos during WWII. The Japanese soldiers had been given them before they set off for war and were signed with words of encouragement and love by their family and friends, but they were taken by the US soldiers from their bodies when they were killed. The Obon Society started to research the origins of the flags to return them to the remaining relatives of their original owners. There are a number of the flags displayed in the museum which are still being traced back and will be returned once they have been. There was a video showing a frail old man receiving the flag which had belonged to his father, who he'd only met as a baby. It was incredibly moving and possibly one of the highlights of my trip to Oregon.

We then toured the Columbia Lightship that sits along the dock, that used to be stationed out in the Columbia River Bar - a manned lighthouse floating around in the rough seas at Cape Disappointment. It was decommissioned in 1979 and replaced with a large buoy.

We wandered along the tram trails for a short way to the Wet Dog Café for a light lunch and another beer tasting before heading back to the car and setting off towards the coast. We drove up through Astoria, a very hilly town that reminded me fondly of Punta Arenas in southern Chile! At the top of the hill is the Astoria Column, a beautifully painted column that you can climb up and throw lightweight balsa wood planes into the forests below. The skies were full of wispy cirrus clouds and there was a pretty halo around the sun.

We climbed up and the view was great over the town, the Astoria-Megler bridge in one direction and the hills along the coast to the south. The dress of one of the other visitors up there also caught our eyes. The sky was becoming more hazy and clouds were building up to the west.

At the bottom we chatted to some people who'd just moved to the area before we set off towards Fort Stevens State Park, a short distance west.

We drove to the end of the Fort Stevens spit and parked the car, and walked along the beach for a while. There were a few other visitors - some families playing, a couple of people walking their dogs, and a couple of guys fishing. There were some weird clouds growing overhead which I was rather fascinated by, as well as some tiny round jellyfish along the shoreline. There was lots of cool driftwood, but often next to irritating truck tracks, spoiling the ripples of the sand. After half an hour we turned round and walked back to the car, a little worried that those black clouds growing might come over us and drench us. A bald eagle flew above our heads.

We drove on to the South Jetty, where you can see the river bar, but not very clearly. The clouds around us were still quite interesting, but the river and sea relatively calm - it would be nice to return on a stormy day.

Next stop was the Peter Iredale wreck that I'd seen pictures of when planning the trip. A few kids played around, but otherwise it was fairly empty. The clouds were changing all the time, so I played around with various views and filters and shutter speeds while hubby sat on a rock reading, including my red Tiffen Apex 10-stop. I loved it there, although as the tide was in I couldn't get close to the wreck.

Eventually we left as I was keen to get to Cannon Beach in time for the golden hour; it was already 5.30pm.

We arrived at the resort, finding it easily having looked at Google Streetview! We checked in and found our room - exactly as I'd hoped, with a large balcony overlooking the Haystack Rock that I'd seen pictures of for many years and hoped to visit one day! And here I was, with it right outside, that I didn't even need to go down on to the beach!

I set up my tripod and took plenty of different shots of the place in the early evening sun. There was still a fair amount of cloud around, and sea-fog began to come in towards the north. Couples and families and dog walkers strolled along the beach. It was busy, but still peaceful, watching the world go by washed down with some local beer.

As it got later a few people gathered at the top of the beach and sat round small fires - in fact the hotel sold packages including bundles of wood, firelighters, and smores ingredients (marshmallow and Graham crackers) - we had planned to buy one, but the timing didn't quite work. June is not the best time to visit this coast, we discovered. The sunset is around 9pm, but most restaurants close then too, and we like to eat late, so we had a constant struggle to find somewhere to eat that was open late enough so I could catch sunset too! It was okay here, as there was a new brewery & restaurant that had opened just across the road (the Pelican Brewery) which was open until ten, so I was able to take my photos past sunset and still have time for us to get something to eat and sample the local brewery's beer. The sunset wasn't spectacular, but the clouds thinned out and were fast-moving so I was able to capture some nice long exposures with the clouds streaked across the sky. About ten minutes after the sun had gone a patch of sky turned pink for just a minute, and then we headed out.

The Pelican Brewery had some interesting beers, which hubby noted in his little beer book. We tried a flight, as usual, and ate tasty salmon and salad.

After supper we headed back to the hotel and I tried a couple of night shots - didn't quite work with the ambient light from the hotel casting strange shadows onto the beach. The moon had risen, but the clouds obscured most of the stars and moonlight. I soon gave up - the beer always making me sleepy, and I planned on being up for sunrise which meant a 5am alarm and therefore an early night!

Driving map of the day's trip
Click here for my blog from Mount St. Helens & Astoria
Click here for my blog from Cannon Beach to Yachats

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