Jun 21


This is the last of the mini-vacation posts. We’ve been back from a four-day trip for a week. I’ve managed to coax a week and-a-half of posts, and 41 photos and a dozen videos out of it. And all of it is interesting and of vital importance to the Internet.

So we’ll relax today and unwind with a bit of time at the beach.

This is out on a morning run. I know there are other places like this, but one of my favorite features of the Pacific Northwest is how the hills and mountains just fall right into the ocean.

Where I’m from you’d have to drive more than three hours from the coast to see any hill of note. So looks like that always intrigue me.

Here’s a bit more of that path that runs along the coast. The ocean is just off to the left there, just a few yards away. And yet, there are little hills here, and it’s made of a sand and soil stable enough to put down asphalt.

And while those pines and firs are familiar, this scrubby, tall grass is something of a new treat.

You know, another thing you don’t see anywhere but on a coast is sculpture like this. Two hundred miles inland it’d make no sense to see boat bumpers hanging on a light post. That far away, you’d roll your eyes at industrial fish netting on the wall of anything other than a Long John Silver’s. And this would be right out.

Here we are, down on the beach one day. That’s not me fishing, of course.

And while any of my photography professors would say I blew the rule of thirds in that picture, I nailed the golden ratio. That guy’s face lands in the Fibonacci circle, even though I was far from considering that while I was on the beach. Also, you’ll note his fishing pole is point up at the sun, and his eyes are looking that same way, which directs your eyes up to the sun, which just appears in the corner. Only some of those things were on my mind while trying to keep the sand out of my shoes. It’s a pretty happy series of accidents that came together to create a fairly dynamic and decent composition. And sand got in my shoes anyway, as it should be on the beach.

Here’s a video of that beach, from almost that same spot.

Again, that hill just falls right into the sea. There’s something wonderful about that.

And here’s a bit more, just in case it has been too long since you’ve seen the ocean.

It’s been a week for me, maybe it’s already too long.

Jun 21

The lighthouses

Why, yes, we are on day four of milking our four-day trip that took place a full week ago. You’d rather I try to make office things interesting or something?

We romanticize lighthouses these days. They were critically important tools, and unique features of rugged and beautiful landscapes. Running them was often a solitary and always demanding life. Everything was regimented and the drudgery was vital to the mission. And, when we’re away from them it’s easy to idealize lighthouses.

When you get there, it can be a little different. They’re built where they are needed. That’s often far away from everyone else. And the entire effort toward making them operational was beholden to the keeper’s job and the purpose of the place. The creature comforts are sparse to say the least.

Here’s the North Head Lighthouse, which were were able to get right next to. They do tours in a non-Covid time. It’s a small lighthouse, the tours probably don’t take long.

In May of 1898, the North Head Lighthouse went into service as the primary navigation aid at the mouth of the Columbia River. It remains in operation today, but the system is automated, and augmented by GPS and other modern technologies.

The lighthouse offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach Peninsula, Columbia River Bar, and the northern Oregon Coast.

We could not get that close to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. It went into service in October of 1856, but it didn’t solve the problem. Ships continued to run aground, often with fatal consequence. The “Graveyard of the Pacific” makes for some tricky and violent waters. The largest ocean and the region’s largest river come together, and so here we are, Cape Disappointment.

As the crow flies, they are just two miles apart; apparently the closest two lighthouses on the Pacific coast.

Where we are at in that Cape Disappointment photograph figures into the sum total of American history. The Chinook tribe are the longest standing residents of which we know. They called Cape Disappointment Kah’eese. A few other names came and went, but the Disappointment name comes from a Western explorer, of course. He named it that because he thought there was no river there. Some explorer. Another, more successful, exploration wound up here. Lewis and Clark stood on these very rocks. The Corps of Discovery came right here, to the very edge of the continent.

Here’s a bit of video, just to give you a bit of a mental vacation, if you will. This is a shot of the North Head Lighthouse.

And here’s a quick video of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, and we’ve arranged for a freighter to turn into the Columbia River to add a bit of realism. (We pull out all the stops for you, dear reader.)

Tomorrow: more vacation highlights. We’re going to the beach.

Jun 21

More of the Bell Trail

Can I milk blog content from a casual, long getaway weekend for longer than the weekend lasted? We’ve met, right?

We skipped town on June 18th for the Pacific Northwest. We were experiencing painful heat indices when we left. And we returned on the 23rd, to much more pleasant temperatures. And we left Washington just before their brutal heat wave arrived, as it turned out. The moral to the story, as ever, if you hear we’re traveling somewhere and you are similarly interested in the place, go early or reschedule. Something always pops up in those places while we are there or just after.

The government fell in Italy while we were there once. Sure, you say, that’s because it was Thursday. And you’re right! And, what’s more, no one even noticed. But there were also austerity protests and riots in the streets of Greece while we were there in that same trip. The Yankee was in Thailand during the 2010 uprising — 70 or so killed and hundreds wounded. She also went to South Korea during the last round of saber rattling. We routinely beat big storms out of somewhere we’re visiting. I’m not saying we caused Brexit or wild fires in Alaska, but they are at least coincidences.

These stories, and there are a lot of stories like this, have all been derived by tourist-type trips. I stopped following chaos in-person years ago after I left the news. (I deleted five sentences with one ancient anecdote here that can best be summed up as: I miss it, conditionality.)

So here we are. Taking careful mini-vacations like people do — or used to do, or like vaccinated people do, or whatever. And wherever we go, something like this follows soon after. The Smith effect and recency bias are very real. Witness these oppressive heatwaves in a part of the country that’s probably just not prepared for them.

But when we were there during the first part of last week, it was lovely. The area was uncrowded, the scenery inspiring, the forecast each day was derived straight from the Chamber of Commerce.

And if you just walk that direction, you’ll be on the beach.

The paths and sidewalks and parking lots were all clean. You don’t notice it until you do, and then you can’t not notice it. You might not want to live there, but they make a great effort to make you want to come back and visit. (They are successful at this. Were it not for the layover and a long flight I’d say we should go again tomorrow.) This is the path that we ran on by the Pacific Coast. I ran about eight miles on this thing.

We touched on the Bell Overlook last week. There’s a brief beginner’s trail to it. You’re not there for the trail. You’re there for the interpretation.

Gymnasts. They just can’t help themselves from interpreting things. She’s even got her toes pointed there. I checked.

The trail is paved and short, but it’s always a wonder to walk through the woods in the Pacific Northwest.

The view is what you’re there for, and it does not disappoint. And if you didn’t see this last week on the site what have you been doing with your time on the Internet? You need to catch up on the catching up because it is really important that you are caught up.

There are a few small battery positions on the trail. They command great views of the Pacific.

But the view inside was even better.

Is it still a photobomb if it is deliberate, rehearsed and several versions are taken?

We’ll have to find that out another day, but not tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’re going to check out the lighthouses. (I’ve charted this out, I’m getting at least two more days of blog posts out of this trip. Go to that part of the world if you can get a chance, is what I’m saying. It’s a pleasant experience. But wait for this heat wave to pass.)

Jun 21

Catching up, last Monday

Just like the last few days, I’m writing this in arrears. We ratcheted down our screen time over the weekend and the first part of the week while taking a brief trip. We saw a lot of lovely things and I wanted to share them here. So we’re catching up. So, yes, this is published for Friday, June 25, the day we returned. But this particular post covers Monday, June 21th.

Do you remember where you were on Monday? I do. Here’s (a lot of) visual proof.

This is Bell’s Overlook in Cape Disappointment State Park. Not so much a trail as a short walk that features the flora of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, a bit of local coastal history and these terrific views.

This is in a different part of the same park. We’re near the place where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet. In fact, you can almost just make out the river in the background in the first shot.

The confluence of the river and ocean make the waters here quite dangerous. So, though it looks calm here, no swimming, if you please. (Also, the water is quite cold.)

You’ll also see the North Head Lighthouse, which began operations in May of 1898. There’s another lighthouse nearby, which we couldn’t get to it, unfortunately. They are apparently the closest two light houses on the Pacific Coast, but even still the waters was nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

There was a print in the place where we stayed that marked the high profile shipwrecks. At least it wasn’t cheerful.

The North Head Lighthouse still works as an automated beacon. If you could go in the place — it’s a small, simply place, but closed to tours because of Covid — you could enjoy commanding views of the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach Peninsula, Columbia River Bar, and the northern Oregon Coast.

We went down to the beach.

And then retired to our own beach (doesn’t that sound awesome?) to watch the sunset.

When you watch the sun slip beneath the Pacific Ocean on the day before you have to return to … wherever you came from … you find yourself ready to stay right there, or go somewhere else.

Sadly we didn’t go to another getaway place after this one. We did enjoy another day in Long Beach, Washington, and I can milk a few days worth of posts out of those photographs, I’m sure. So we have that to look forward to next week!

Jun 21

Catching up, last Sunday

Same as yesterday, I’m writing this in arrears. We deliberately ratcheted down our screen time for a few days, but we saw a lot of lovely things and I wanted to share them here. The easiest way to do that, I figured, is in sequence. So, yes, this is published for Thursday, June 24, the day we returned. But this particular post covers Sunday, June 20th.

Do you remember where you were on Sunday? I do. Here’s (a lot of) visual proof.

First things first, it was our anniversary, our 12th, and the general reason for our long weekend trip. Just one of countless lovely adventures.

And it started with a simple two mile run along the Pacific Coast, which is just out of the frame and over that dune and behind the boardwalk on the left:

And here you’ll not see the coast again, just out of the frame and over that dune to the right:

But how? How did you manage to move the Pacific? It’s a giant ocean!

I turned around.

… Yeah … that makes sense I guess. Got me there.

Lunch was takeout lunch from a hopping a local bakery — where I discovered the joy of a locally made bread I’ll never be able to try again, one so full of flavor and appeal that I described it as a sommelier does a wine (with a lot of complimentary adjectives). They describe it as “A multigrain bread we developed for that special beach flavor! Sweetened with honey and molasses and full of whole grain taste.”

They’re underselling the bread.

Anyway, just reading the About page for this post, you don’t get these stories when you walk in the door. At that time of day in a returning tourist season, it felt very much different from this.

On June 10, Bob and Judi Andrew officially turned the keys of the Cottage Bakery over to its new owners, Jeff and Casey Harrell and Mark and Lindy Swain, Casey’s sister and brother-in-law. The sale comes about 46 years after the Andrews bought the bakery in 1974.

The sale had been in the works for more than a month, and came after staff shortages forced the bakery to close for a day on April 21, and then again from April 30 through May 6. The staffing issues, coupled with the challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic, made it the right time for a change to be made.


Jeff Harrell, president of Peninsula Pharmacies, said he and his wife weren’t actively looking to purchase the bakery, but things moved quickly when he struck up a conversation with Judi after the Andrews sent faxes to local business owners inquiring if they’d be interested in taking it over. Harrell thought about how much the bakery — which has been in operation since 1908 — means to the community, and the way the community rallied around his family over the past two years.

“It was a purchase that was done with emotion for the community, and it was done for emotion with my family,” said Jeff Harrell, referring to the passing of his and Casey’s 6-year-old daughter, Dylan, this April.

Dylan passed away after a 20-month battle with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, an incurable cancer that primarily affects young children. She captured the hearts of many on the peninsula, who admired her strength and attitude in her fight against a devastating illness. Dylan loved visiting the bakery, Jeff said, and said they plan on incorporating some special things into the bakery itself to honor her.

This was a summer 2020 story in the local paper. The new owners promised few changes. New POS options, away from cash only? Check. Online ordering? Check.

(But they don’t ship halfway across the country, and I’m going to need some of that Willapa Harvest Bread, Mr. Harrell.)

“Really, it’s iconic. We’re not going to change too much,” Jeff said. That’s how the story closed. And if you read the Chinook Observer, you are familiar with Dylan’s and you sat there with the paper or your phone and thought, Exactly right. It’s one of those things people would point to and say, That’s what’s right about us.

One of the many things.

After lunch we went on a hot picture-taking date. For the uninitiated, it’s where you go do this:

The location was Fort Columbia. It was the home of the Chinook tribe. This guy was running the show when the white men showed up. First, in 1792, there was Robert Gray who “discovered” the Columbia River. It’s the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, he spent nine days on it, trading furs with people who were surely mystified that this thing they’d lived their whole lives on was finally discovered. It is named after his boat, Columbia Rediviva, which just two years prior became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe.

Five decades hence comes James Scarborough and the sign out front assures us he is the first settler north of the river, which probably came as a surprise to his wife, a Chinook he met there, and the many other people already living on it.

Near the end of the 19th century this became an important military feature. The coastal fort was part of an interlocking coastal system that guarded the mouth of the river until the 1940s. (At which time planes and what not rendered this military enterprise obsolete. The federal government transferred this to the state of Washington, and it’s been a park ever since.

Let’s see it!

If you walk up the trails behind the barracks installation you can make your way to the remains of some of the observation and radio structures. They were small and utilitarian and are being overgrown now, but the walk is lovely.

The little splotches of sun and shade in the woods are always such an attractive feature.

This is pretty close to one of the observation points. Soldiers would be on duty up here looking for ships entering the river and trying to attack inland. They could call down to the weapons batteries, below, and order fire missions. You have to imagine, though, that the sight lines were better prepared for that job over the 60 years of this being an active duty station.

You get up high enough and you earn yourself a commanding view. The barracks, which are maintained and used as a visitor center in non-Covid times, are in the low foreground. Just to the center right you can see one of the guns that would have commanded the river, and some of the other structures that supported the job.

Take time to smell the flowers. This flower had no smell.

As we’re walking back down to the fort’s main area.

You could spend days in these woods and only see a fraction of what’s in store for you there.

Also, the signs make a point of illustrating how isolated a duty station this was. It seems difficult to imagine, today. There’s a fair amount of traffic nearby. We’re actually walking over a tunneled section of U.S. Route 101 here.

Another view of the river, below:

Here’s that gun we saw from above. This was to be the model that went in here, but the fort was decommissioned before the third-generation weapons battery arrived. This particular weapon, and it’s sister nearby, arrived from a U.S. Naval installation in Newfoundland, Canada in the 1990s, as museum pieces.

They are apparently two of six surviving versions of this six-inch weapon system. It fired a 105 pound armor-piercing projectile at a range of over 15 miles at a rate of up to five rounds per minute.

This view, below the observation points, is between the barracks and the various gun placements.

If you go all the way down to the water you can see the removes of a little pier. This was how the soldiers stationed here were re-supplied. They didn’t have to lug it far, or high, but it would have still been a chore.

And off to the side of that there’s a little quiet sandy spot. You can climb along some of the rocks and play my new favorite game.

Is it fresh or is it salt?

It is brackish.

Back at our room, we had ideal conditions for a Pacific Ocean sunset.

That, as they say, ain’t bad.

This is somewhere after 9 p.m. We’d picked up a small takeout meal and sat at our little circular table and watched the ocean reach up to meet the sun.

And we completed our hot picture-taking date on the balcony.

For tomorrow, I think I’ll show you a lot of videos. Stuff like this, which we saw at Fort Columbia.

Be sure to come back to check it out.