Saturday 11 November 2017 — Category: Outings
In my last article I introduced and summarized a two-day trip along Oregon’s North Coast my wife and I made in January 2017 as part of my McMenamins Passport adventure. But before we got to a McMenamins, our first stop was historic Astoria, located on the south bank of the Columbia River in the very northwest corner of Oregon, within sight of the mouth of the Columbia about 10 miles downstream.
After seeing the title of this article you are probably wondering if Astoria really is astounding, or if I was merely indulging in hyperbole for the sake of alliteration. As I contemplated this title I asked myself the same question. After some consideration, I found that I really did find Astoria pretty astounding. Let me count the ways.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped here during the winter of 1805–06. The first American-owned settlement on the Pacific coast, Fort Astoria, was built here in 1811. Astoria was also home to the first U.S. post office west of the Rocky Mountains. That’s some cool and fairly astounding history.
Since 1792, roughly 2,000 large ships have sunk in and around the Columbia Bar. Because of the danger and the numerous shipwrecks, the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria acquired a reputation worldwide as the Graveyard of the Pacific. Columbia river bar pilots based in Astoria safely guide about 100 ships per day over the bar, 24/7 in any kind of weather. This video about the pilots will make you realize that the work they do is truly astounding.
Now let’s turn our attention to the things I found astounding on the afternoon my wife Catherine and I visited Astoria. The town is situated on a stubby, two and a half mile long peninsula. A 300 foot high ridge runs down the center of the peninsula, with the land sloping down to sea level on all three sides. Astoria is built on this topography. A fair number of waterfront restaurants and hotels satisfy the needs of visitors. When we arrived at the Baked Alaska restaurant on Pier 12 for lunch, I was quite disappointed to find that it was closed for a month for vacation. Bother!
After consulting Google once again, we ended up at T Paul’s Supper Club. Being in a coastal town, we definitely wanted some seafood. Unfortunately, it took a LONG time for our food to arrive, even though the place did not seem overly busy.
Catherine had herb and parmesan encrusted red snapper, while I had blackened flame-broiled wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon. Both came with grilled vegetables and garlic toast, and we both had a glass of white wine to accompany the meal. My fish was great, but Catherine’s was merely OK.
The portions were pretty small, which was fine with me because I for sure can’t eat as much as I used to, and it helps me to have room for something else to eat later in the day. However, the price seemed kind of high considering the small portions. Between that and the very slow service, I would probably look elsewhere if I’m ever back in Astoria. Not so astounding!
Next we drove over the impressive four-mile-long Astoria–Megler Bridge to the other end in the state of Washington. I love bridges! On this Web site I have hundreds of photos taken of many different bridges in the West Coast states. So I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of this astounding Astoria bridge! I took dozens and dozens of photos from both sides of the bridge on each end. Once I had finally gotten my fill, we drove up to our next stop. The historic (built 1926) 125-foot Astoria Column sits on top of a 600-foot hill right where that stubby peninsula connects to the mainland. As you might guess, the tower is the highest point in Astoria.
After parking we climbed the 164-step spiral staircase inside the tower which leads to the observation deck. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that the 360-degree view from up there is truly astounding. You can see just a small portion of that view in the first panoramic photo above. Click on it to see the whole thing in all of its glory.
Unfortunately, while I was in photographer heaven, my wife was in acrophobia hell. Instead of admiring the view she was hugging the tower, examining the golden-yellow paint, and keeping as far away from the railing at the edges as possible! However, she did make a big effort to overcome her fear for a few seconds to pose for a photo, which you can see at the beginning of this article. She doesn’t look that frightened to me — seems like she might even be enjoying herself!
Looking to the northeast and east, I was astounded that I could see the snowy 14,411-foot Mount Rainier about 110 miles away, as well as Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Goat Rocks.
Around mid-afternoon it was time to leave Astoria and start heading south on U.S. Route 101 to our next destination. All of the details about the rest of our adventures on the coast that day and the next will be covered in my next article: From Astoria to Lincoln City.
I took a total of 198 photos during our three-hour visit, and my wife took some as well. The best 52, including two from Catherine, are on display in the Astoria Oregon 2017 album.
Well, there you have it. Astounding Astoria, with its astounding location near an astounding river mouth, its astounding river bar pilots, its astounding history, its astounding bridge, and astounding tower with its astounding view. I hope you can make it there one day and be astounded in person!