Just about one month ago, we crossed the bridge to Astoria, Oregon from the Washington State portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail Highway – and no, it wasn’t in our imagination that the weather became misty, chilly, and very unsummer-like. Just what I’d been hoping to avoid, as one of the “our spot” criteria happens to be a “generally sunny” prospect over the course of a year. Here it was – a test for just how much flexibility I could encourage in CW, for whom “damp & chilly” has never been a welcome combination!
Nevertheless, Astoria proved to be much fun – a local brewery called Fort George (https://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com), a great local bakery and coffee shop (www.bluescorcher.com), art galleries, a fantastic Scandinavian shop (www.finnware.com), and (more than one!) wonderful independent bookstore – Lucy’s, and Godfather’s – (http://www.lucys-books.com and www.yelp.com/biz/godfatherss-books-astoria). With just under 10,000 people, the fact that Astoria supports not just one, but two local bookstores says a lot about the inquisitiveness and interests of the people who make it their home (at least I think so – and hope it’s not just that days tend to be chilly and damp, leading to many hours indoor to fill by reading!)
There’s a curious 125’ tall column high on a hill overlooking Astoria and the mouth of the Columbia River. The amazing spiral frieze covering the outside has a panel celebrating the Lewis & Clark Expedition – I’m sure Captains Lewis & Clark never had such a wonderful view of the landscape, nor did they enjoy their stay in the vicinity as much as we did! An excursion on another drizzly day took us to Fort Clatsop, which the Corps of Discovery built to overwinter in before their long journey home. I really love the times during this trip in which the reading, planning, thinking and talking come together in a culminating moment – as it did at Fort Clatsop, where for just a few minutes while inside the dark, damp log walls, I could picture those intrepid explorers cursing the wet weather (it rained all but 12 days of their 3-months at the fort), the endless meals of elk and deer, and perhaps the stinking smell of their forever damp and vermin-infested fur clothes. Ugh! They left for the long return home on March 23, 1806 – having not just survived but exceeded all expectations for their journey of exploration. It’s been an education following some of their trail, and relearning an important part of America’s history. Sorry if I enthuse – it’s been great!! (And I am oh so glad that our trip has included mostly dry and sunny camping.)
I loved Astoria’s funkiness, including the Fiber Arts “knit-bombing” installation, exploring the old cannery district where there are now restaurants, as well as sustainably-focused shops selling items of recycled sails and other boating-related materials. Could we live in Astoria? Probably not, but it’s definitely a place we’d like to return – hopefully, on a sunny day! “Sun” appears to be a theme for this Oregon-focused blog!
From Astoria we made the 2-hour drive to Portland, following the Columbia River much of the way. The Pacific Northwest is stunningly beautiful – the varied greens (from bright emerald and apple green to dusky peat and mossy green), of the trees, valleys, and farms and the blues, greens, grays and browns of the rivers and lakes, highlighted against the sometimes startlingly blue sky, is breath-taking. It was with much anticipation that we arrived in Portland, a city that I have developed a crush on over the past twenty years or so. In Portland, wonderful friends from expat days in Paris hosted us, sharing superb Oregon wines, and generally acting as perfect “Portland is Your Spot” sales agents. We’ll see…
Oregon was “too good for words!” So, the following photographs illustrate many of the enticing aspects of Oregon – for it’s become a contender in the search for our spot…
The Portland Art Museum has wonderful permanent and visiting collections! (http://www.portlandmuseum.org)
The farm market – located just outside the Art Museum – is super!
The Willamette Valley is well-known for its wines, but we also discovered the wines of the Applegate and Umqua Valleys, and explored Medford, Ashland, and tiny Jacksonville. In Ashland, we were lucky to get tickets to “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” with an all-female cast in a wonderful performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (https://www.osfashland.org/en/productions/2014-plays/the-two-gentlemen-of-verona.aspx)
And then there was the outdoors – mountains, beaches, and dunes to explore. Misty day? Didn’t matter – the hiking was a little cooler, the leaves and berries glistening just a wee bit more with the dew. We’ve been trail-snacking by foraging for berries (blackberries, mostly) – in Canada, Washington, and now Oregon. Here we found yummy, ripe salal berries on a trail to the beach, and remembered reading that the Corps of Discovery had been given “salal berry bread,” by the native tribes – we were, after all, still communing with Lewis & Clark!
There were many moments in Oregon when I felt graced to spend time in nature’s cathedrals. Oregon is beautiful. And, yes, right up there near the top of the list!