We live in one of the most gorgeous counties in the state. The numerous lakes, the rivers that change with glacial runoff, our mountains – all of the natural beauty gives us not only excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation, but these scenic backdrops make for great family photographs as well. [more…]
Deep in the tall forests of eastern Lewis County, there is a camp where boys and girls of all ages reconnect with nature. They run, they play, they build trails, they touch the moss, they disconnect from electronics. For many of these kids, this can be their first trip ever outside of a city. And it can be life-changing for almost any child – or even adult – who attends. [more…]
Standing on the beach one summer day in 2015, just staring out at the ocean and enjoying the rare sunny day on the Oregon coast, suddenly we hear a horn. “Odd,” we think. “There’s no fog, it can’t be a fog horn.” Then we see a small boat speed around the giant rock sitting out in the middle of the ocean. We watch in a bit of shock as it races towards us on the shore. “Uhmmm, is that thing going to crash?! It’s heading right for the beach!”
We stand there just staring as it keeps racing in. There’s nothing we can do. It zooms right up onto the beach and – just stops. No crash, no yelling, no damage. What the heck? We ask someone standing near us, “What is that?” They smile and tell us, “That’s a Dory fishing boat. That’s how they land. They don’t dock. They also just launch from the beach.”
We are thrilled and fascinated. Standing there at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon, we found out more about this unusual type of basically flat-bottomed fishing boat. While there are different types of dory boats, the beach dory is only used in a few spots around the country where the fishermen launch and land from the beach. According to the Pacific City Dorymen,“There is no other harbor, port, or fishing fleet anywhere in the world exactly like this. It is truly unique how we evolved.”
Pacific City celebrates this traditional way of fishing by holding “Dory Days” in July. We decided we need to check that out. Fast forward to July 2016. We pulled into Pacific City on a slightly overcast day, which quickly changed to downright warm. We managed to find a parking place pretty easily, and walked back over the little bridge over the canal to the “four-way stop” as everyone seems to refer to it. There we saw several tents with vendors selling their enticing wares. After checking them out, we went back to the bridge and found ourselves a nice little perch where we could sit and watch the parade. We were worried that since we had forgot to bring chairs that we would be standing the whole time but no worries with the bridge to sit on.
Who doesn’t love a small town parade? Everyone hollering out to the people they know on the floats, lots of candy being thrown. Since it’s the coast, David was thrilled to find they were throwing salt water taffy, one of his favorites. He ignored all the other candy but swooped in on the taffy like a seagull.
Some of the usual features, like a few politicians, were in attendance. But what was most unique in this parade was the Dory boats. Some were fairly plain, but many were decorated very creatively and were quite entertaining. For such a small town, it was a nice parade lasting about 45 minutes.
As soon as the parade was over we made a beeline for the car. We knew we wanted to hurry down to Cape Kiwanda before the rest of the crowd got there. Again, we quickly found a parking spot right by Pelican Pub and Brewery, a place we have been wanting to try. Luckily we got there when we did because we got in right away and later saw quite the crowd waiting.
After our very tasty meal, we went on out to the beach to watch the Dory boats coming in. We didn’t have to wait long before one came ripping in. I was a little nervous we were in its path, not sure how far they come up on the beach.
The customers who were on the boat and had been fishing looked happy and excited. Exactly what you want to see. We think we need to come back again and fish next time!
There were a few other activities that were offered as part of Dory Days, such as the Fish Fry and the Oregon Heritage Traditional Dedication Ceremony. Dory Days was a very fun, small town event that we highly recommend attending. And you have to watch the boats landing!
Did you love trains as a child? Maybe still do? Do you know how you can ride the rails in your own vehicle? Check out NORCOA, North American Railcar Operators Association. Driving through Centralia on a recent I saw splashes of color out of the corner of my eye. As I passed over the railroad tracks on Main Street, I saw a row of colorful little “cars” stopped on the tracks. I quickly pulled over to find out what they heck they were.
Everyone was very friendly, willing to give information and let me look over their cars. NORCOA is a non-profit group of people who just love the old “railroad motorcars” (also known as “speeders”) that were used at one time to inspect railroad tracks for areas that needed repaired. Each car is privately owned. NORCOA arranges excursions around the country, renting lines from the owners. The trips can be as short as 10 miles or as long as several thousand miles, and run throughout both the U.S. as well as Canada.
NORCOA has about 1,700 members around the world. There is a cost to participate, from $10 up to nearly $2,000 for the very long excursions. Any member/owner can go on any excursion that they want, however, they do have to pass a certification test.
Owners trailer their cars to the beginning destination of the excursion. Each person is then responsible for their food and accommodations. Some stay in hotels, some go on excursions that take them near family or friends that they can stay with. Jerry and Karen Wagner of Eagle, Idaho, took this particular trip because they were both originally from Centralia and still have family in the area. They are very proud of the lovely hand-painted eagle on their car, created by local family member, Dale Harris.
Excursions are slow, leisurely events, stopping for sightseeing and food/restroom breaks. While the cars could go about 35 miles an hour, they typically only go 15-25 miles an hour. If you like traveling on Amtrak, this is an even better way to see different views of the countryside in an up-close and personal way.
So if you ever see these little cars out and about, be sure to stop and talk to the owners. They are more than happy to share their story. And if you do decide to check out the NORCOA website, be careful when you start poking around on it – there are motorcars for sale! Before you know it, you may have a new hobby!
Is it a river boat? A paddlewheel boat? A paddle steamer? A sternwheeler? A boat operated by paddle wheels appears to be known by all of these names. But on the Columbia River, it’s referred to as a sternwheeler. I’ve always wanted to take a ride on one and finally we had a chance on the Columbia Gorge, based in Cascade Locks, Oregon. My mother-in-law’s birthday had been earlier in the month and since we prefer to give experiences rather than “stuff,” we wanted to take her on this cruise.
As we drove into town, traffic was bumper to bumper. Then we notice the sign on the side of the road – “Sternwheeler Days.” “Oh, no, I hope we’re not caught up in a parade!” I quickly pulled out my iPhone and looked up the celebration. Whew! The parade must have just ended. We crawled along for just a few blocks until we spied the well-marked sign to the turn-in for the boat, at the Cascade Locks Marine Park. We easily found a parking spot, and headed into a small building, the Visitor Center and Locks Cafe. Inside was the ticketing desk off to the left, a small food area to the right, and behind that was a gift shop.
The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.
We already had our tickets but stopped at the ticket desk to ask if we were OK wearing sandals (we were) and if it was OK to take the camera on the boat (yes we were, as a matter of fact it was highly encouraged!) Then we stepped outside on the deck to enjoy the view until the boat came back from its trip upriver. It runs about ½ hour downstream, turns around, comes back to the dock and lets some passenger off and others on, then goes upstream about ½ hour and again returns to the dock. So there are different lengths of cruises you can take, as well as dinner cruises. We were taking the two-hour cruise.
When the boat came back to the dock, it was moving pretty rapidly. David and Josh were debating between themselves if it was truly operated by the paddle wheels or if it had supplemental power. Later we would find out, yes, it was truly operated by the paddle wheels! And its name was – Columbia Gorge!
Before getting on the ship, there was a sign that said for safety reasons everyone had to have their picture taken. We wondered if this was because we would be going close to the dam. Group pictures were allowed so we had ours all taken together. I did have to wonder later if it really was for safety reasons, because later, staff took all the pictures around to the guests and people could choose to buy one if they wanted. We had already planned and pre-paid for two pictures anyway, so we got ours.
Inside the vessel was gorgeous, a combination of antique looking decor with modern amenities such as a restroom and snack bar. There was a lower dining area for the lunch dinner cruises, and seating upstairs where the snack bar was located.
As we pulled away from the dock, looking north we were awestruck to see the scar on the land where a massive landslide happened hundreds of years ago. The captain, Michael Cain, explained how this landslide had completely blocked the river, backing it clear up to Idaho. Eventually the river broke through underneath, creating a natural land bridge, named, “The Bridge of the Gods” by local Native Americans. Crossing under the new steel Bridge of the Gods built to replace the natural bridge that eventually collapsed, we were taken back in time as we thought about how we were re-enacting a trip Native Americans might have taken under the natural bridge.
One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!
Strong winds blasting up the Columbia River were a welcome relief from the heat of the day, even though the sky was overcast. On both sides of the river were odd-looking docks. The captain explained that Native Americans used to fish the falls in the area before the dam, and now use these docks to fish.
We continued on up near the dam, passing a rock that the captain told us was named, “Hermiston Rock.” Apparently rocks are named after the boats that crash on them! Yikes, let’s not have one named “Columbia Gorge Rock” OK?
We went as far as we could then turned around and headed back upriver. I overheard someone say, “Anyone can go in the wheelhouse” so of course, we headed in. Inside was the captain and two young men, crew members. The captain was more than happy to answer all of our questions, and then the dream of a lifetime – let Josh steer the boat! He was thrilled! He did it for quite a ways, until we got back closer to the bridge, then the captain took over. We finally left the wheelhouse but Josh just stayed in there, visiting and asking questions until we docked again.
We waited while the other passengers boarded, then headed upriver. By now the sun was coming out, the clouds were disappearing, and it wasn’t near as windy going east. The views along this route were more rural with lots of beautiful hills and trees. By the time we turned around and headed back, I think we were all relaxed as Jell-O. I didn’t want to get off the boat, I felt like all stress had drained away into the river, and all that was left was thoughts of the here-and-now.
We highly recommend this little cruise. The price is extremely reasonable, with different rates for different lengths of trips. For prices, check out their website at http://portlandspirit.com/sternwheeler.php.
It’s 125 feet tall. And you can climb up the inside of it on a metal spiral staircase. Your legs will burn, you will be very glad for each landing where you can stop and take a breather and rest your legs. But once at the top – you will have one of the best views on the Oregon coast. “It” is the Astoria Column, built in 1926 as a monument to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Typically, Astoria is usually a bit cloudy if not down-right rainy, so the view is hit-and-miss. This abnormally beautiful April day, the skies were completely clear, like nothing I have ever seen. We could even see Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge as we headed from the Washington side of the Columbia River to Astoria.
It’s fairly easy to find the column. You can easily see it and just head towards it and eventually you will see a white column icon on the roads that lead to the column. It’s a short winding drive up the hill, then there is plenty of parking, restrooms, and a small gift shop where you pay your $2.00 fee.
Even without going in the column the view is beautiful. To the south you can see Saddle Mountain and it’s obvious why it was named that. You can look down and see the area where the replica of Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s home for a short time, is set. You can’t help but look at that beautiful river and want to take a kayak on a long, slow cruise.
Before you go into the column, notice the writings and the drawings depicting the expedition, on the outside, going all the way up. Then you enter the column through a door at the bottom and start your climb up. It’s a long climb, but there are landings every so many steps where you can step out of the way of others and rest your legs and catch your breath for a minute. Once you come out on top there is a 360 degree walkaround to take in every bit of the view.
Off to the north is the mighty Columbia River. Maybe you’ll catch sight of a container ship, so large it dwarfs the houses down below.
To the northwest is the Astoria-Megler Bridge looking so long you think, “I came across that huge thing?!”
To the northwest and west, looking endless, is the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Looking south again is the even better view of Saddle Mountain.
The eastern view will reveal the dense northwest forests that the area is known for.
The Astoria Column puts the beauty of the northwest Oregon coast on display for all who choose to visit. It really is a fitting tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Getting there (from http://astoriacolumn.org/visit/hours-fees-and-directions/): The Astoria Column is located at 1 Coxcomb Drive. Directional signs can be found on 14th and 16th Streets.
My first thought was that smelt dipping is just another way of saying using chewing tobacco. My second thought was it had something to do with extracting minerals from ore (like copper, silver, etc.) because this is also known as smelting. Turns out I was way off on both thoughts.
The first time I heard of dipping smelt was about 28 years ago. I worked for two bosses who decided I needed to find out what this was all about. They said, “The smelt are running on the Cowlitz!” What? OK, smelt are a small fish, the Cowlitz is a river in Southwest Washington running through Kelso. You don’t catch these fish with a fishing pole, but scoop them up in a net. That’s why it’s known as “dipping.” So we jumped in their car and ran down there. We took a net and went to the river and – nothing. Gee, that was fun. David had tried it many years ago too, without success.
I never thought much more about it, although I heard a lot of people talking about it over the years. They would say how the smelt run used to be so thick you could just go down and dip net after net of the little fishes. But over the years the run got smaller and smaller until it finally became a protected species and smelt-dipping was no longer allowed – until recently. This is the second year that limited time has been opened to allow smelt-dipping.
This past Saturday was one of those dates. We already had plans to go to Portland for the day when we heard about it, but as we drove down I-5 we could see the Cowlitz and a lot of people were out on it. David couldn’t stand it, he had to check it out so we got off the freeway and headed down to the river. It was packed with people, but many were leaving. Not only is the date set, but so is the time – you can only fish from 6am to noon and it was just before noon when we got there.
I saw a couple who looked friendly and asked if I could talk to them. Pat and Dick Lindeman are their names and they were very friendly and helpful. They even offered to let us use their equipment next weekend since there is another catch date set for February 14. They showed us their catch, which was the limit, and said they got it in only 2 scoops! Now that’s starting to sound like the stories I have heard!
If you’re wondering what to do with smelt, Dick said that he will freeze some to use for bait, smoke some, and fry some.
Another nice part about smelt-dipping is that no license is needed, just a net, a bucket, and some good shoes to slog through the mud on the side of the river. Be sure to follow the rules, take only your limit – we want to make sure we do our part to help bring this fish back to its natural run, and we can do that by fishing responsibly. And even though you don’t need a license, if you are fishing past noon you can get a ticket for that, as well as if you go over your limit.
So where will we be on Valentine’s Day? You got it – smelt-dipping!
As you probably know by now, Josh is our photographer and takes most of the pictures we use on this blog. Recently he had the chance to go to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma (http://www.pdza.org/) with his high school photography class. While most of the kids were more interested in goofing off during their day off from class, Josh was thrilled to have the chance to take pictures of his favorite subject – animals. Here he would like to share his best of the day with you:
Yes, the whole place was impressive and full of opportunities for a budding photographer! Do you have ideas for captions for these pictures? Let us know, we’d love to hear your creative ideas!
Christmas is coming. Do you have that person in your family that is hard to buy for? They either have everything, or buy what they want when they want it, or they’re very particular? Well, here’s an idea that I did a few years ago and it was a big hit.
David is that person in our family. So trying to shop for him is a chore. But he kept saying that some day he would like to take an airplane flight over our house and see it from above and see how it fit in with the rest of the terrain. So it hit me as a great idea, and I called the Olympia airport asking for scenic flights. I was worried that it would be very expensive but it wasn’t at all. So I ordered a gift certificate and presented it to him on Christmas morning. Success! He was very surprised and very happy!
We decided to wait to use it until better weather so finally one day in June we just showed up at the airport and were able to schedule a ride (that doesn’t always happen, it’s recommended to check ahead.) The pilot, Joel, was extremely nice. I had booked the flight for all three of us, even though it was David’s present, because I knew he wouldn’t want to go alone. However, I’m terrified of flying. So Joel wanted me to sit in front, he thought it might help me. Josh was not thrilled about this, he wanted to be in front. (I think Joel was more worried I’d get sick in his pretty plane than anything else…)
It was a beautiful sunny day, clear skies forever. Joel explained everything as he was doing it, to help ease my stress. What I did discover about myself though, is that flying in a little plane, being able to see the ground the whole time, was not nearly as terrifying for me as flying in a jumbo jet.
First we flew north to check things out, then back south to look over our property. It was amazing! We could see that to the east of us was nothing but forest for miles and miles! We certainly wouldn’t want to get lost there!
Then we flew down over Mt. St. Helens looking into the crater. We couldn’t get as close as Joel would have liked because she had let out a few puffs of smoke.
Then we flew over Mt. Rainier – that was a nice unexpected surprise and another fabulous view. We ended up extending our flight and paying for an extra half hour and it was SO worth it! David finally got to see our home and all around it from the air, plus more, and he was thrilled.
So if you want to give that hard-to-shop-for someone in your life, call your local airport and find out about scenic rides. You’ll be giving them a special gift, not “stuff” that would eventually break or wear out, but a gift of adventure and memories that will last a lifetime.
Hundreds of years ago, before horses, Native Americans did something quite ingenious in order to feed their families. They would find a herd of buffalo and the fastest runner would start chasing them. Now, you might wonder, what on earth did they think they would do with a buffalo if they caught it? But they had no intention of catching it – their intention was to make the buffalo commit unintentional suicide. That’s right, they expected the buffalo to kill themselves. Again, you may wonder, what on earth would make a buffalo kill themselves, and how could a buffalo possibly kill themselves?
The answer is, by running over the edge of a cliff. Oddly enough, the herd would simply run and follow the leader and when the first one accidentally ran over and off the edge of a cliff, many more bison would simply follow. It was a long fall to the bottom of the cliff and the fall would kill the buffalo. That did the majority of the hard work for the Native Americans and all they then had to do was go to the bottom of the cliff and prepare the dead animals for their families to eat.
There are several of these places in the American west and Midwest and they are now known as “Buffalo Jumps”. Several years ago we visited a site that David had been too many years previously. This particular one is at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, south of Three Forks, Montana. It’s awe-inspiring to see, this high steep cliff, and imagine buffalo basically falling off of the cliff. You can easily see how it would have killed them.
This site has an interpretive display with information telling all about the site. Before we checked it out, we decided that we wanted to hike out to the cliff. So off we went. Luckily we brought water because while it seemed like a simple, quick hike, it was further than it looked, and it was an extremely hot day. We needed every drop of water.
We hiked the trail that got steeper and steeper, until it was almost straight up. I can’t do straight up. However, David, whom I call my old mountain goat, saw the cliff as a simple challenge. So Josh and I waited while David climbed up to the very top. He said the view from up there was unbelievable.
Heading back down was a little treacherous. The trail was dry and it was easy to slip and lose grip on the ground. But we made it safely back down and took refuge in the shadow of the interpretive center so we could cool down.
While it was fine to see the site from a distance, to really get a taste of the steepness of the cliff and understand how it could kill the buffalo, you really need to hike out the trail to the cliff. From there you will feel sad for the buffalo falling to their deaths but you will also appreciate the ingenuity that the Native Americans had to use the natural landscape and physics to make their lives easier and allow them to feed their families.