A Snapshot: the Northwest Pacific Coast
Although I have been a Luscious Judy follower and peripheral personality as a friend of our founding sister Steph for some time, this is my first contribution as an author- please be gentle! My roots are In Virginia, but for the past year or so I have been a resident of Seattle, Washington. I have made it my modus operandi to explore the Pacific Northwest as much as humanly possible. Are you on a major budget? Me too. It's all still very doable considering the wealth of natural beauty this region has to offer. Recently I took a few days to venture to the coast- specifically features in and around the coastal Washington/Oregon border. I had four days to pack in as much as possible while still maintaining that I was indeed on vacation and some of that time needed to feel relaxed as such. Here goes !
Day 1 Seattle to Long Beach, WA
By car, the trip to Long Beach is about 4 hours heading Southwest. Long Beach is named as such because it is situated on a long, straight peninsula jutting off of the Olympic Peninsula. The beaches are extremely flat and wide, and the area is famous for several things : the world's largest annual kite festival, razor clamming, and having been thoroughly explored and documented by Lewis & Clarke. Driving into town, it is obvious that Long Beach is pretty ghosty in the off-season months. We booked a night at the only place that seemed to have year-round appeal, The Adrift Hotel. Situated on the ocean front, it was like IKEA came to town and dropped off the entire building. I preferred this to the sometimes dank, carpeted 70's-esque beach hotels of every tourist town ever. We caught a gorgeous sunset with a handful of locals all watching from the open trunks of their ORVs (apparently driving on the beach is allowed year-round here) and headed up to the hotel's rooftop restaurant The PIckled Fish for dinner, which did not disappoint. A few glasses of wine, some steamers, and curried crab cakes later, a folk band from Portland was filling the space with their sounds and it was time to turn in for the night- not before borrowing The Goonies from the lobby to add to my excitement for the coming day. Don't judge me.
Day 2 Long Beach to Astoria and Beyond
Somehow I was unable to escape my biorhythm and woke up at 5:30AM. This was beautiful timing because the full moon was out over the ocean, and the lobby had just opened up for coffee service. Once I was able to rouse my vacation companion at the ungodly hour of 6, we grabbed a few of the free-to-borrow beach cruisers from the hotel and headed out for a sunrise ride on the Discovery Trail, an 8.2mi paved path along the coast that twists up and down the dunes towards Cape Dissapointment through beach grass and forest, with peeks of the ocean visible at every dune crest. The air was frigid and frost covered much of the grasses and wild strawberry patches along the ocean. As the sun rose, a thick fog hovered over the entire horizon. This path was created to offer those who traverse it an opportunity to walk or ride in Lewis & Clarke's footsteps. I must say not only was this one of my favorite excursions of the entire trip, it was breathtakingly beautiful.
We definitely worked up an appetite, so we checked out and headed to the tiny "strip" of Long Beach. Luckily the place that a friend had recommended for breakfast treats was open for business- the Cottage Bakery. Doughnut fans of the world be advised- best fresh doughnuts of my life. A tiny little country bakery with plastic tablecloths and a deli counter, the Cottage Bakery's glass cases were brimming with every sugary delicacy one could imagine. A paper bag of goodies and $5 later, I was in sickening bliss, the "Buttermilk Bar" by far my favorite.
A few more stops before hitting the road included Marsh's Free Museum ( a long-lived Long Beach establishment featuring oddities, penny arcade machines, antiques, souvenirs, and taffy) where we saw paranormal tabloid-famous Jake the Alligator Man (just look him up), a kite shop (there are quite a few) and the local Shell station to purchase the necessary supplies to go clamming for razor clams. My boyfriend did his research and found that for a cheap 3-day license, one can dig up to 15 clams a day on the beaches of Washington or Oregon. We were pretty excited considering how pricey these delicacies are at the market.
Onwards South towards the Columbia River, the gushing freshwater that creates the border between Washington & Oregon, we drove through Cape Disappointment State Park- a lush, densely forested area that opens up to several cliffs overlooking the intersection of the mighty Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. This area is well known as a treacherous route for incoming ships and salmon fishing boats alike. The North Point lighthouse in the park is also regarded as an ideal locale for sighting gray whales migrating North towards the San Juan islands to feed each year. Needless to say I was very disappointed at Cape Disappointment to realize that my binoculars didn't make it into my bag. Alas we moved on, crossing the Astoria-Megler truss bridge into Oregon. Finally we were in Astoria- one of the oldest ports in the West, a blue collar town that was built on the success of its fish canneries. Of course, it is also known as the setting for Stephen Spielberg's film The Goonies. We drove by the old County Jail, featured in the film, that now exists as a film museum. My intention was to head straight to the Fort George Brewery, and that we did. I'm not a huge beer drinker, so a shared sampling flight between the two of us was enough to leave me feeling the need to walk along the marina for an hour or so to listen to the barking sea lions and take in the sights before jumping back in the car! I would gladly go back and spend a whole weekend there- colorful, Victorian style houses built into the face of the cliffs, misty sea air, and dive bars galore. You can see cargo ships going East and West on the river from practically anywhere you stand in town.
Another 45 minutes down the road, we found ourselves in Seaside, OR- a crummy but captivating little tourist trap on the Pacific. This town is filled with old frontier style buildings housing all of your typical tourist go-tos- seashell shops, old timey photograph studios, an ancient aquarium the size of a Walgreens and an apparently famous Funland arcade. This seemed like the right place to try our kite out, and get out. It was incredibly windy, sunny, and the beach was absolutely packed with people. Apparently 65 and sunny is the best weather this beach is to expect- it only gets slightly warmer even in the summer! I was in a jacket and beanie and there were people all over donning their bikinis. Go figure. Just South of Seaside by 15 minutes in the car were our final destinations.
Days 3 & 4 Cannon Beach & Arch Cape, OR
Once we arrived to The Arch Cape Inn for a two night stay, the pace of the trip shifted. This part of the Oregon coast is stunning. Each beach is separated into deep coves cut into the basalt rock, all littered with incredible monoliths. Haystack Rock is probably the most recognized, found at Cannon Beach, a little artist community on the coast that has tourism appeal without the kitsch. Some highlights from this region of beaches are Ecola State Park, a steep overlook with the most impressive views of anywhere I've been outside of Big Sur, CA. The vantage point from this park is also one that many recognize from the Goonies. The park itself was gorgeous and filled with seabirds and wild elk who were tame enough to casually hang out by the parking lot. It should be noted that it's also a nesting area for Puffins- though we were about a month too early to see any! Food-wise there were notable moments: Castaway's Restaurant & Tiki Bar, a casual little townie creole restaurant served my favorite meal of the trip, and at Mo's we did our duty as tourists and had clam chowder and fried Halibut & Oregon oysters--all of the service staff wearing tshirts that read "#MosChowder". Yowch. Besides eating and walking along the beaches, we were fortunate to have a hotel room with it's own private sauna and a pathway to the beach. I enjoyed a bonfire under the stars, my THC lozenges (bless Washington state), and relaxing in Finnish style: shower/sauna/shower/sauna. I felt spoiled an unprepared to leave. All in all, a great success, save for one detail- we caught 0 clams. That said, the trunk of my car is now fully stocked with beach-going and clamming supplies, and we are keeping our eyes peeled for the next open clamming season in Washington. Come visit !