Into Washington State

29 Apr

Saturday

Leaving the campground we went to visit the Astoria column en route to the Megler Bridge. The column was erected to celebrate the lives of those who have shaped Astoria as a City and depicts various historical events from the city’s past. As it sits high on Coxcomb Hill overlooking Astoria the Columbia River and tributaries it makes a wonderful vantage point to view the surroundings and orientate you with the Megler Bridge and the other bridges necessary to navigate the rivers around the City. Unfortunately the day was not as bright as it could have been so some of the more distant mountains were shrouded in cloud and the tower its self was closed as they are due to put in a new staircase however what we were able to see gave us a wonderful birds eye view of the places we had visited the day before.

I was looking forward to crossing the Megler Bridge; it is high on the Astoria bank to allow for large vessels to pass underneath then drops steeply to almost water level for more than half its 4mile length, a final section delivers you to the opposite bank. Alan and Sue whom we met at Cape had related how when they crossed it was extremely windy and a little worrying driving over so close to the water. I am pleased to say all was calm for our crossing and we were able to take in the vista of ‘The Mighty Columbia River’.

Lewis and Clark had arrived on the north side of the river, camping at a spot they named Dismal Niche because of the dull damp nature of the weather. They took a vote amongst there men as to whether they should cross to the south side where they could see an abundance of wildlife suitable to hunt. It must have been a daunting prospect for them to cross such a vast expanse of water, with fast flowing tides and currents, in just the dug out canoes they used for their journey, I imagine they were very relieved to reach the other side and realise it was all worth while.

We took the road alongside the Columbia East before turning North towards Willapa Bay. Very few habitations exist along this stretch of road and we drove through mile after mile of forestry. The KOA at Bay Centre was our campground for the night and after setting up we took the short trail to the beach, the tide being in there was only a narrow strip of sand to walk upon and the wind was blowing up squally showers every now and again. We did not linger long!

Sunday

A much brighter morning greeted us and we were not late lifting the jacks and getting away. Driving up the 101 to Aberdeen we passed through South Bend and Raymond, both areas suffering from the decline in the timber industry which has been its main source of employment. Aberdeen still has a huge wood processing plant dominating the City, however it was obvious large areas of this were not in use and one wonders how long it too will survive. One of Aberdeens main claims to fame is that it was the home town for the “grunge” group Nirvana and Kurt Cobain grew up there!

We pressed on along Highway 12 towards Olympia, passing through Elma which had been one of our first stops on the way South. I can remember getting out at the campground there and commenting how it felt positively Spring like, little did I know then that in a few short weeks they would be back in the grips of snow and Winter.

By the time we pulled up at our chosen Campground at Potlatch beside the Hood Canal, a 60 mile long glacial valley that is part of Puget Sound, the sun was shining brightly, the tide almost full and we were pleased with our spot overlooking the water. We spent a pleasant evening viewing the scene and watching the birdlife.

Monday

This corner of North West Washington, called the Olympic Peninsula is dominated at its centre by the Olympic Mountains, to the extreme west the Pacific Coast, on the eastern edge of the Peninsula lays the Puget Sound, a water way with many inlets and Islands and as we progressed along the 101 the scenery became more picturesque. We pulled into Dosewallips State Park, a well laid out campground with beautiful mature conifers and park like grassy areas between the individual sites. The sun was very warm and there were not many clouds in the sky, so we were able to sit outside at our picnic table for lunch, before taking a walk to the beach.

From North California where the Abalone season had just started all the way up the coast the beaches are utilised by those who enjoy shellfish. Here it is Oysters and Clams, various limits are put upon the quantity each person can collect dependant on the supply. Clams are collected at low tide, and there was a good crowd of people out at the waters edge, digging away for their bounty. The beach was littered with Oyster shells, some single empty shells, some clusters of varying size. The Oysters have to be shucked on the beach as the smaller ones utilise the older shells to grow on.

Our next door neighbours (in a 19yr old Bounder – they go on for ever ) and their friends had been to the beach collecting and Robert was intrigued by the production line they had going outside, cleaning and washing the clams so went over to chat, quite quickly calling me out to look too. I was amazed how big the Pacific Razor Clams they had brought over from Ocean Shores Beach were, I had expected them to be contained within the shell instead of which they poke out all around and somehow reminded me of a hotdog. Jim and Alice along with Vance and his wife were cleaning and vacuum bagging there haul and offered me a sample to try.

I must admit I was apprehensive but will usually try anything once to see if I like it. I gratefully accepted the opportunity and duly egged, floured and fried my clams. I have to report they were not like calamari as I had been led to believe, but much softer in texture with a delicate shell fish flavour which I quite enjoyed! I wouldn’t go to the extreme of digging them, because as you dig down in the sand, the clams start digging too and as they can dig an inch a second a battle ensues. It is possible for them to be two feet down before they are finally captured, the hunter ending up covered in sandy mud, not my idea of fun! However I would not pass them over if offered.

Tuesday

It was raining first thing and quite dark, not as the forecast had led us to believe, but around eleven we departed and drove alongside the Hood Canal further North. We turned off towards Port Hadlock and Port Ludlow intending to stay over at the Flagler State Park. Just before Port Hadlock a road sign told us this Campground did not open until May 13th! We drove around this part of the peninsula but decided against any of the other Campgrounds and headed for the North Coast and Sequim.

We soon found the Chamber of Commerce Office which as usual was full of tourist information and helpful staff. The lady we spoke to helped us with our pronunciation – its SQUIM not SE QUIM – a silent E…. She was also very helpful with providing maps and information.

We chose Sequim Bay Resort and a site overlooking the most tranquil stretch of water, very quiet with little passing traffic. To the left of the Campground is the John Wayne Marina, named for the late film star as he donated the land over 30yrs ago! We walked over to the marina and out on to the headland where a memorial bench provides a wonderful vista point over the mouth of the inlet, the whole area extremely well kept and manicured was very pleasant.

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