Wednesday the 3rd of August found me teaching a group of youth about long-since gone pioneers who braved the Oregon and Mormon Trails upon which we stood. Our “lesson” ended with our hiking a portion of that trail. The location was Mormon Flats just east of Big Mountain, Utah (a landmark spot for pioneers headed west; it was a climb that marked the final approach into the Great Salt Lake Valley and a jumping off point en route to Oregon.)
Photo of Great Salt Lake Valley as Pioneers would have first seen it. (photo by Darrell J. Robinson)
Thursday August 4th, less than 24 hours later, my wife and I had hopped a Delta flight to Portland, and with a small northwesterly drive, we walked the final steps of that Oregon Trail (indeed 600 yards further) to spend two days and nights at the Columbia River gem that is the Cannery Pier Hotel in the town where that Oregon Trail ended: the coastal treasure that is Astoria, Oregon. http://www.oldoregon.com/The Cannery Pier Hotel http://www.cannerypierhotel.com/
With its hook of being located “600 yards into the Columbia” should be enough to lure the would-be traveler. Others might need the promise of a vintage Cadillac tour of town or a self-guided bicycle tour after mounting one of the beachcomber bikes awaiting them on the pier outside.
For me, all wonderful amenities, yet the people of the Cannery Pier Hotel will be my memory of choice. The epitome of this home away from home was to be found in Mavis (the unofficial spokesperson – aka. Housekeeper of the CPH.) As my wife and I prepared to leave our room some two days later, Mavis was busy at work in the next room. I approached her with a question, not expecting the life changing answer she would give. In asking if we might see some of the other suites the CPH had to offer, Mavis was more than accommodating. As we spoke in her native Spanish, I asked what had brought her here to Astoria.
Her reply was that of a simple yet certainly romantic story: her love, a sailor by trade, had come to her native Cartagena, Colombia, and had brought back the most important cargo of his career . . . her. I asked if she was content here, and her reply put me into a tailspin. She said, “Yes, I love the people of Astoria and especially my employers who are so good to me, but the life here is so different than my life in Cartagena. There, everyone gathers regularly with nothing in mind but to be together and to enjoy the good things of life. Here, everyone is so busy, so focused on things instead of people. I miss my people. I miss my country and that way of life!” What a fitting capstone to our time on the Oregon Coast. Sure, Google the reviews on the CPH if you need proof positive that you would be crazy to stay elsewhere in Astoria; for Brandi and me, Mavis is our proof and our draw as we plot a speedy return.
While there, no day in Astoria is complete without a trip to the Maritime Museum (http://www.crmm.org/) located in the center of town. And, the early scheduling of that visit will mean the perfect enhancement of the remainder of your stops in town. The museum centers around the details of the mighty Columbia meeting the unyielding Pacific Ocean and maritime mayhem that has ensued since Oregon became a port. While in Astoria, after the museum, one would greatly enjoy a trip to the oldest standing home in the town (the home of Astoria’s famous “bar pilot” turned banker) James Flavel. The Flavel House (http://cumtux.org/) stands as evidence of pioneers not only having lived in Astoria, but having truly “arrived” as well.
While perhaps less vintage, fast becoming Astoria staples are stops like the Bowpicker for Ahi tuna fish and chips (http://www.bowpicker.com/) or Josephson’s (http://www.josephsons.com/) for anything sea prominent having been smoked to bliss. No trip to Astoria is complete without a view at the top of the Astoria Column (http://www.astoriacolumn.org/). Brandi and I were like kids again as we watched a family prepare their balsa glider for take off and then launch it into a minute long plummet into the evergreens below. Our trip out of town found us at the eclectic bakery in town (www.bluescorcher.com) where we treated ourselves to Kalamata and Asiago Sourdough and a homemade, customer-concocted hot chocolate/steamer (Astoria can chill off in the late afternoon).
Certainly charming and nostalgic, Astoria was only one of several finds along the Oregon Coast. Within a day trip of our base camp of the CPH we ventured south as far as the Three Capes Scenic Route. Near the south end of this breathtaking loop, the personal highlight of this amateur psammologist (sand collector) had to be “Dune Lake” (sand dunes and pines as far as the eye can see).
Working our way back north, on a tip from our new found friends at the only late night gift shop in Cannon Beach (Hangin’ At The Beach), we treated ourselves to Fultano’s Pizza (http://www.cbfultanos.com/) and a few photo ops of a sunset Oregon style.
The suggested itinerary of day two, much like day one, along the Oregon Coast, came to us courtesy of the Warrenton/Astoria Visitors Bureau (http://www.oldoregon.com). One could spend a month enjoying the suggestions from Stacey Malstrom of MaxwellPR (http://www.maxwellpr.com/) (Astoria and Warrenton’s PR team). For us, day two “down south” meant passing some amazing ocean vistas.
We were drawn to pay homage at the Tillamook Cheese Factory (http://www.tillamook.com/cheesefactory/index.html) and another, less commercial factory in Tillamook with a quaint ambiance to match its unique name (http://www.blueheronoregon.com). After an enjoyable, instructive peek at John Cook’s glass blowing studio (http://www.johncookstudios.com/) in Gearhart, we jumped at Stacey’s suggestion of a kayak trip through the Lewis and Clark National Forest. It was without comparison. Two competent, affable, seasonal forest rangers led our expedition of 9 eager passengers (in two canoes and two kayaks) to various spots of interest and with enjoyable historical Lewis-Clark based narrations along the way.
Hardly possible to float this western-most stretch of Pacific Ocean fed river without feeling like a member of the expedition that first permanently charted this river (Were we Lewis and Brandi Clark or was it reversed?). This might have been the most memorable of all our adventures along the coast; it’s one we are sure to bring the kids back to on our already-in-the-works return. In fact, our afternoon on the river could have only been topped by an evening spent by the fire, overlooking the mighty Columbia as seen from our Riverfront/Oceanside room at the CPH. All told, certainly less than 48 hours on the Oregon Coast has never been spent so well!