The northwest coast of continental U. S. can be wet and rainy in March, and it’s not hot like Mexico. But it’s green and the daffodils are blooming.
We traveled the Oregon coast for nine days in March 2008, and it was a real treat to see daytime highs well above zero when the conditions we left behind in Saskatchewan were frigid. Daffodils were so thick in places that people mowed them down when they cut the grass. And yes, the grass was growing enough that it had to be cut.
This trip all started with my wife’s interest in lighthouses. The Oregon coast has nine of them, and if you take the Lighthouse Route — which we did — you can look at all of them. How close you get to some of them is based on your budget or the zoom on your camera lens.
We started out by flying to Vancouver and renting a car. That used up lots of Air Miles but it kept the cost down a bit. The car rental was still pricey because we wanted to take the car to the U. S. We ended up with a 2008 Chrysler Avenger with only 6,000 km. That’s the closest I’ve been to a new car for many years.
Our first stop was the border crossing. Beware! Bring a book and some coffee. And make a pit stop before you go. The U. S. border crossings were slow both going down and coming back — at least 90 minutes each time. We crossed at 4 p. m. on the way down and at 8 p. m. on the way back. It was Easter weekend on the way down, so that might have been some of the problem.
We drove through Washington State the first night and stayed a couple of nights in Astoria, a lovely city of 9,800 on the coast. We were on the budget plan so the accommodations weren’t five star, but then I’m not a five-star person, either. We stayed in Astoria’s Red Lion Inn and had a second floor balcony overlooking the marina. Breakfast was included at US$80 a night.
I loved sitting on the balcony with my morning coffee and looking out over the marina where I could watch the water traffic up and down the Columbia River. Look down from the balcony and there was water. I even saw a seal swimming below the window. Lots of big container ships go up and down the river daily.
For another US$60 or more a night, you can stay in the Cannery Hotel, which is right on the river and has a better view.
If you visit Astoria, I highly recommend the Columbia River Maritimes Museum and the Astor Column.
A SIMPLE PLAN
As we headed south, our goals were to walk on at least one beach every day and have a room with an ocean view every night. We planned for some inside tours on the rainy days and tried to be outside on the sunny days. This worked well most of the time.
We toured the spectacular Oregon Coast Aquarium at Newport. It had all kinds of sea life and a shark tank with had a glass tunnel. You walked through the tunnel, with glass on all sides — including the floor, to get a great view of strange-looking sea creatures. That is as close to a shark as I want to be.
Next we went to the Yachina Head Lighthouse at Newport where they had a great museum with lots of info on the area and the lighthouses. We also took a tour up the lighthouse. This is the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon coast. It was built in 1873 and is still in use. The original lens, which was made in France and shipped around Cape Horn, is still in use.
Newport also has the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which is not in use but is restored to original condition and is open for tours. In this lighthouse, the light is on top of the lighthouse keeper’s house.
We went on a whale-watching trip, but we just watched “for” them — we didn’t actually see any. But it was a very good trip and there were lots of other interesting things to see besides the whales.
Finding a beach every day is not hard. There are lots of them, and that time of year we had most of them to ourselves. We climbed over all kinds of huge driftwood logs for the first few days, but then we saw the warning signs. They told us not to climb on the logs because they do at times shift and squash people. OK, so we didn’t do that anymore.
We toured some old military sites by Astoria, and took the covered bridge route and learned more about these heavy-duty wooden bridges than I’ve ever known. We got so close to California that we decided we just had to visit. We stayed one night and had toured the beautiful redwood forests and took lovely walks through the trees.
Some areas on the coast were quite busy and touristy. Again it was Easter holidays and that had some effect on the crowd, but aside from a few really busy spots, it was quite relaxing.
We ended up back in Astoria for one more day. We found a favourite restaurant called “Baked Alaska.” Located right on docks, the place has excellent clam chowder (another daily treat) and first class desserts. It was right beside the river pilot’s dock and you could watch the pilot boats go out and put the pilots on the container ships for the trip up river to Portland and beyond.
Alas, we had to return to the land of ice and snow. We arrived back in Vancouver at 10 p. m. March 28 and flew out the next day.
Yes we did see all nine Oregon lighthouses, plus two in Washington and one in California to make an even dozen.
IF YOU GO
For more information, check out Trip Advisor on the Internet. You can also find a site where you can watch the highways from the highway department’s video cameras. I can’t remember what it is, but it was neat because you could see the green grass, see if the sun was shining and check out the temperature. Have a nice trip if you can sneak off the farm.
Ron Settler farms and runs a salvage and used parts yard at Lucky Lake, Sask.