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Saturday June 25- Day trip to Washington: Ilwaco, Long Beach, Chinook, North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

At 8:30 we went over to the Family Center for breakfast. For a total of $6.50, I had 3 eggs, scrambled, with hash browns and Bob had a short stack which was 2 pancakes and hash browns. They served Bob’s on a platter. These meals were huge and we each took half home! Breakfast here was much better than at Whalers Rest last Saturday. Christopher is the cook and he has 17 years experience as a short order cook. It really showed in how good the food was!

We drove north on Hwy. 101 through Warrenton and Astoria, crossing the Astoria-Megler bridge into Washington state. This is just a day trip to see the area. Our destination was Long Beach. Originally, we had planned on staying at the Long Beach Thousand Trails, but changed plans when we moved our 4th of July to visit the Columbia River Gorge. We still wanted to see Long Beach, so off we went… Our first stop was just across the bridge in the little town of Chinook, at the Chinook Town Park. We are definitely in Lewis and Clark territory, as there was a historical marker about William Clark taking 11 men on an excursion to Cape Disappointment and the Pacific Ocean on November 18, 1805. They walked along the river, right through this area. The town had not kept the park up very well, but the view of the Columbia River was terrific.

We stopped in the town of Ilwaco at their Saturday market. The market was right on the bay, on their boardwalk.

We visited all of the vendors, but only stopped to buy some fresh asparagus, plum tomatoes, and cherries.

Our next stop was at the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau to pick up Washington State brochures. We were able to pick up a Washington State map, which is one of the last ones printed. The state is trying to save money by not printing state maps. They were also out of the Light House maps, so we are going to have to use the state map to find the lighthouses. We drove up the peninsula as far as Ocean Park, where the road turned in towards the bay. We turned around and headed back south, stopping at the Ocean Park beach access to check out the beach. It was very pretty, and there were hardly any people there!

The lady at the visitors’ bureau had recommended the Cottage Bakery and Deli for lunch in Long Beach.

This was a find! Our deli sandwiches were great and the price was reasonable, here is a picture of Bob’s sandwich!

The bakery was awesome! We picked up some fresh sour dough pumpernickel bread, plus we each bought a “chocolate crunch” cookie. One of the best chocolate cookies that I have ever had!

We continued to the Cape Disappointment State Park. Our first stop was an overlook at Beard’s Hollow Outlook where we looked at the ocean from high above the waves.

We continued on to the North Head Lighthouse. We parked and walked just about ¼ mile to the lighthouse. This was the view on our walk.

The lighthouse was closed, due the poor condition of the stairs.

We took a different trail to the gift shop, this was the view. 

After the Cape Disappointment lighthouse was established in 1857 to mark the entrance to the Columbia River, mariners approaching the river from the north complained that they were unable to see the light until they reached the river. There were quite a number of shipwrecks to support their claim. The entrance to the Columbia River is one of the most treacherous in the world. The north and south jetties were put into place to stabilize the sand bar, which would move frequently, resulting in so many shipwrecks. Notice in the picture above, the change in the color of the water, about midway through the picture. That is part of the sandbar!

The lighthouse construction began in 1896.  The tower of the lighthouse is brick masonry with a cement plaster overlay, built on a sandstone foundation. The tower is 65 feet from the ground and 194 feet from the ocean. The Fresnel lens was a first order lens, lit for the first time on May 16, 1898. Because the lighthouse is only 2 miles north of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse, to differentiate the two lights, this light shone a fixed white light.  This spot is one of the windiest on the US. Winds were clocked at 126 mph, before the instrument was blown away! In 1932 a duck was blown into the lens. The lens was replaced by a 4th order Fresnel lens. The light was automated in 1961.

While I was getting our Light House Passport stamped, I asked the lady in the gift shop about how Cape Disappointment got it’s name. Capt. Meares  (the last light house we visited was named after Capt. Meares), came to the mouth of the Columbia River, in the winter, looking for the inland passageway. He saw the mouth of the river, but did not realize that the river went inland so far. So he named the headland Camp Disappointment, since he was disappointed he had not found the inland passage. He returned to England. Much to his chagrin, Capt. Robert Gray, no relation that we know of, came a short time later, in the summer, found and followed the river in land.

We continued through the park, 2 miles south, to the Cape Disappointment Light House. We made a strategic error! We hiked about 0.2 of a mile uphill. At the top of this hill, the trail branched off to go to the Interpretative Center. We knew there was a charge for the Interpretative Center and had decided to skip it. So we took the fork to the lighthouse. The trail, total was 1 mile, and later, I noted on the sign that the hike was labeled ‘difficult”. Yeah, it was. We knew we had a problem when we were going downhill so much! Then we had to go uphill for the second half of the trail. At least this part of the trail was paved, as it was the road from the Coast Guard station to the lighthouse. It was quite a hike, to see not much of anything! The lighthouse was closed ( no reason given). On Sept. 18, 1853 the bark Oriole was bringing the building supplies for the construction of the lighthouse and wrecked on the rocks below the cape. The crew survived but the building materials were lost. Two years later, construction finally got underway. Once the building started, they had to stop as they discovered that the upper diameter of the lighthouse was too small to accommodate the lantern room for the four-ton, first order Fresnel Lens. The entire tower had to be dismantled, brick by brick and rebuilt. The lighthouse ended up being first lit on October 15, 1856. It stands 53 ft tall with a focal plane of 220 feet above sea level. The black horizontal stripe was added later to distinguish it from the North Head Lighthouse. The first order Fresnel lens was moved to the North Head Lighthouse in 1898 and replaced with a fourth order lens. 

One of the light keepers, Capt. Joel Munson, was upset when a ship crashed on the rocks near the cape in 1865. Of the 24 people aboard, only 7 survived. He felt that people could have been saved if a lifesaving craft had been available. He found a battered lifeboat from the wreck on the beach and decided to rebuild it for use as a lifesaving boat. Since he was an accomplished fiddler, he held dances, charging people $2.50 per night, to raise money for the project. In 1866, another ship was driven into the sandbar. Capt. Munson with four other men, launched the lifesaving boat and was able to rescue the entire crew. As a result, the Coast Guard life saving station( the one we passed on our hike) was established at Cape Disappointment in 1871.

We had to hike back to the Interpretative Center to get our passport stamped. While at the lighthouse, we could see the Interpretative Center. Had we known, we would have just hiked to the Interpretative Center and taken the picture from there!

We were pretty tired after this strenuous  up and downhill hike! At least we are both in good enough condition to do the hike!

From there, we continued on Robert Gray Drive (we could not find a street sign, but it was labeled on the map), back to Ilwaco. We turned onto Hwy. 101, and went south to Chinook.

We stopped at the Oldest Salmon Hatchery in Washington State,

only to find it closed and deserted at 2:30 in the afternoon. Oh well! We crossed back over the Astoria-Megler bridge. As you can see, this is a very steep bridge. 

We continued back into Oregon, and stopped at Fred Meyer for gas, then returned to the motor home.

We were tired and dinner in the motor home did not appeal, so we headed out to dinner at Norma’s Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant was suggested to us by the Alfa lady at Whalers Rest. It was nice and we were glad that we went early, as there was a crowd when we left. Bob had the razor back clams and I had the sauté scallops. They offered a “lite plate” which for $3 less was smaller portions. It was the perfect size, with a slightly smaller salad, little smaller baked potato and I guess, less scallops, although I had plenty. The food was excellent and the price was reasonable.

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