Oregon Coast – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 13 – Lincoln City to Astoria

Our 13th day of this road trip would take us as far as Astoria, Oregon, but before we left Lincoln City we made a brief stop to see the Easter Island totem poles along Highway 101 in front of the Palace Inn Motel in Lincoln City, Oregon. The four totem poles were wide, about twelve feet high and brightly painted that stood in front of the motel. This roadside attraction was definitely unique.

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As I did my research on things to see and do on our trip I found a site that listed waterfalls of Oregon. This website listed, among others, Munson Creek Falls State Natural Site just south of Tillamook, and it was a short distance off of U.S. 101, right on our way. So early this misty morning we turned off onto a small 2 lane paved road that after 3 miles became a lane and a half paved road before turning into a dirt road before ending at a forest with a small parking area.

From here we took off on the trail further up the hill until we saw it directly in front of us, a 319 foot waterfall which is the tallest waterfall on the Oregon coast range. The waterfall dropped straight down and forcefully. The park was lush with moss-covered trees and very green. The waterfall was quite spectacular hidden in the box canyon for us alone, especially amazing given how few waterfalls in America are taller.

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As we made our way into Tillamook, we found our second attraction of the day for us at the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum. The museum property was once an air station for the U.S. Navy. The museum is located within a wooden hanger at the air station. “Hangar B” is one of two wooden hangars; the other was destroyed by fire in the 1970’s.

The hangar is 1,072 feet long and 296 feet wide covering seven acres of area which is the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world. It is also 192 feet tall and now houses several kinds of military planes. The doors located at the ends are framed in cement, while the bracing and the structure is made of wood.

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Originally the hangar was built to store blimps for anti-submarine surveillance during WWII. Standing in front of one of the 120 foot tall doors weighing 30 tons a person appears so small it was hard to find them in a photo. We spent a couple of hours wandering the impressive structure and checking out the planes contained in the museum.

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As we continued north of Tillamook we came to Hug Point State Recreation Site, a state park on the northern Oregon Coast where we stopped to stretch our legs. The cape is named for the reason that in the late 19th century stagecoaches that used the beach as a highway had to ‘hug’ this particular point even at low tide to get around it, hence the name Hug Point.

 Cannon Beach, so called in 1846 when a cannon washed onto the beach, is a seaside town with artsy restaurants, shops and hotels. It is also the place where Haystack Rock stands. It stands 235 feet above the sea and is accessible at low tide. Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is accompanied by several smaller rocks known as The Needles.

There are at least six other geographic features in Oregon named Haystack Rock, including two others along the Oregon Coast — and others throughout the U.S. It was a windy day when we were there and birds flocked to the top of the rock. I was amazed at how massive the rock was and the named seemed so appropriate being that it was in the shape of a haystack. It is also well noted that the first recorded journey by an American to what is now Cannon Beach was made by William Clark, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in early 1805.

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We drove through the town of Seaside, a beach community cruising by the promenade to the end of the Lewis and Clark trail. The Turnaround at Seaside, Oregon, is designed as the official end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. In 1990, a bronze statue of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark was installed facing the ocean at the west end of Broadway at the Turnaround. The monument commemorates the 18 month journey from Saint Louis to the Oregon Coast 1805-1806. To me the sketchiness of the town reminded me of small New Jersey beachfront towns.

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We went to the mouth of the Columbia River at the south jetty. The mouth of the Columbia River’s jetty system was built from 1885 – 1939. The system consists of three rubble-mound jetties with a total length of 9.7 miles, constructed on massive tidal shoals. The structures are routinely exposed to ocean waves ranging from 10 to 20 feet high. The increased storm activity and the loss of sand shoal material upon which they are built have taken a toll on the jetties where many areas are severely damaged due to the extreme waves.

The south jetty is 6.6 miles long and curves out into the ocean to control the ocean current so designed to provide safe transit between the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. We climbed to the wooden raised deck to get a good look of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River at the time a barge moved up the river toward the ocean.

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Nearby is the 100 year old shipwreck of the Peter Iredale on the beach, where it remains to this day for exploration, which we did.

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Long Beach, Washington has a kite museum that sounded interesting so we crossed the 5 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge to drive into the state of Washington to see it. The museum had a variety of kites. A video played about Japanese kite flying using large kites pulled by a line of people to control its maneuverability.

Some kites were more than 50 feet long. Interestingly, Japanese kites are made of washi, a mulberry bush pulp paper, and bamboo for the frame. There was a WWII section of the museum explaining how kites were used to carry messages and supplies and also check weather conditions for planes.

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The museum had two floors of colorful kites of dragons, animals, sea creatures, spinning discs and many more shapes. In addition to kites, artistic posters regarding their annual kite festival hung on the walls from years previously.

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Back in Oregon, we visited the Astoria Column which is a 125 foot high commemorative landmark noting 14 historical achievements of early Oregon. The column has a 164-step spiral staircase ascending to an observation deck at the top and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1974.

The column stands atop 600-foot Coxcomb Hill. Modeled after the Trajan Column in Rome, the Astoria Column features a hand-painted spiral frieze that would stretch more than 500 feet if unwound. The spiral sgraffito frieze on the exterior of the structure is almost seven feet wide. Sgraffito is an Italian technique of etching concrete to expose different layers of color.

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We had a great view from the observation deck atop the column and the murals were beautifully refinished last year.

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The Column’s history began at the foot of the column with a mural of the Native Americans, then Captain Robert Gray who discovered the Columbia River and named the river after the name of his ship in 1792. Another mural was about the British Captain, George Vancouver, who sent a reconnaissance ship to the river and sighted a mountain naming it Mt. Hood in honor of Samuel Hood, a rear admiral in the British navy during the American Revolutionary War.

There are murals of Lewis and Clark meeting the Clatsop and Chinook tribes and also boiling sea water for its salt as a preservative for their animal kills. Another mural etched the construction of Fort Clatsop. History ascends up the column to reach the final mural of the arrival of the railroad. Near the Astoria Column is a Memorial to Chief Comcomly, leader of the native Chinook people. The memorial is a concrete structure of a burial canoe.

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We checked into our hotel called the Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa which stands on a pier under the Astoria-Megler Bridge. When we arrived at the hotel, complimentary wine, cheese and smoked salmon were being served. We snatched a quick drink and bite and walked down to the bistro at the end of the pier.

The Bridgewater Bistro had a live jazz band playing while we ate dinner, which started with an appetizer of Mediterranean lamb pops that were a tad spicy. Our entrees were shrimp pasta and salmon and white fish cassoulet. The food was good and the atmosphere of the pier was pleasant. The hotel looked new and trendy on the old pier and gave us an excellent view of the Astoria-Megler Bridge that looked even better illuminated at night.

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A tug boat chugged hauling a barge full of wood pulp down the Columbia River past our hotel room. It seems so comical for a small tug to pull such a large heavy barge with only a few chains. It was an interesting evening watching the cruise ships that also sailed by our hotel as they moved under the lit bridge. That night the shadowy atmosphere formed an eeriness as if it were part of a movie scene.

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