One Rainy Day in Astoria

I wholly recommend going and spending a day in Astoria, Oregon.

This little town on both the Columbia and close to the coast was a place I used to visit pretty often as a little kid, when we lived in Battle Ground. I’ve only been back a couple of times as an adult, however, and both trips have been wonderful little excursions.

My fiancee and I decided to go down in April, which if you know anything about the Pacific Northwest, you’ll know that’s a rainy time of the year for us. My parents had just been down to Astoria a week before, and they had told us about the insane amount of sea lions that were down on the docks. After seeing a video of said phenomenon, we decided to drive down on a Monday, when my fiancee didn’t have work, and see it for ourselves.

Since they were the whole reason we went down there, we went to see the sea lions first thing, and boy did they not disappoint.

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Every year, in April, sea lions gather in Astoria in the hopes of catching big bites of their favorite food: smelt. The locals hate it; the looks we received because we wanted to see the sea lions ranged from amusing to down right terrifying. I thought one woman was going to cuss us out for asking where we could find them. Not that we had much trouble with that. You can hear the sea lions long before you see them, with all the ruckus they make. This photo hardly does them justice, there are just so many. They’re all talking, fighting, shoving at one another, and completely not bothered by the humans watching them.

It had already been drizzling when we arrived in Astoria, surprise surprise, but out of the docks we were attacked with a vicious downpour that stooped as low as hail for a couple of minutes, driving us back to our car sooner than we would have liked. The sea lions didn’t budge an inch, not about to let some hail drive them away from a potential snack.

By the time we reached our car we were soaking wet, and I had proof that my windbreaker, while nice for some things, has a worthless hood, and is absolutely not waterproof. We spent several minutes just drying off in the car with the warm air at full blast, before we decided we were ready to drive up to the column.

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The column is pretty cheap to go up into, and even if you don’t go up, the view you can get from the base of it is also spectacular. We decided to be crazy and go up in the column, up the 300 or so stairs inside. I’m alright going up these sorts of things, and other than my legs protesting, we made it up without much fuss. Only to be met with hurricane force winds up top, and rain so cold and hard it looked like it could have been snow, or quite possibly hail again. We didn’t stay out long, not wanting to have our fingers fall off from the cold. We made our way back down the spiral staircase, and that’s where things become tricky for me. I’m always nervous I’m going to slip down the stairs and keeping tumbling down and down, with no way to stop myself. I’ve often contemplated using the: sit on your butt and slip down each stair, method for these situations.

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Upon reaching the base of the column, we were once again drenched; luckily our next stop, Fort Clatsop, was a twenty minute drive away, which gave us the opportunity to dry more thoroughly. We used to visit Fort Clatsop fairly often when I was little, and I always had good memories of all the reenactments that took place at the Fort. Being an adult, going in April, meant the visit was a little disappointing. I still enjoyed myself, and it’s always quite interesting to read about Lewis and Clark’s journey. If we had to have another holiday celebrating white men, I would rather celebrate these two, than I would Columbus. Sadly though, there were no reenactments or any special event going on, and I missed watching the nice men in beaver hats make a fire.

But we still found the opportunity to act like kids and play dress up.

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We took a stroll around the outside of the fort, and headed off to our final destination, the beach at Fort Stevens. The shipwreck of Peter Iredale has been there since 1906, and personally I’m amazed it’s still standing. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time my nieces or nephews are my age, the iron will have completely disintegrated. A couple of swift blows from strong tools would send it crumbling.

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Our attention wasn’t held by the ship long, as we discovered something which intrigued the little scientist in my fiancee. Scattered all around us near the water where what looked to be thousands of little blue plastic baggies. I could not imagine what they were from, who the heck would just come and throw this many bags on the sand? Upon closer inspection, we concluded that they must be some kind of natural occurence. One handy Google search later, and a few links to make sure they were correct, informed us that these are called Velella. They’re in a genus all their own, and every year, the ocean wind blows millions of them onto the shores of Oregon and Washington. Science!

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All in all it was a lovely, very very wet day, and I was happy I could spend it with someone who I love very much.

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