Last weekend the husband and I spent a couple of nights in Ocean Park, WA. Ocean Park sits on the northern part of the Long Beach Peninsula. We stayed in a great little beach house owned by friends of ours, and made some new memories and paying homage to some old ones.
As we sat on the beach just below the house on Saturday evening, waiting for the sun to set, we figured out that approximately 3500 days ago the husband proposed to me on that very same beach. We marveled that, in some ways, it feels like we’ve been together forever (in a good way), and in others it feels like it was just yesterday that he was kneeling on one knee asking for my hand in marriage. Good memories. Good times.
We arrived at the beach house on Friday evening. The weather was looking typical for June…possible showers, possible rain, possible sun, possible partially cloudy skies. We didn’t really care. We managed to time our visit the weekend before all of the kids were released from school, ensuring that it would be a relatively quiet one.
Perhaps it’s flashbacks from growing up on the Oregon Coast, but I loathe coastal towns in the summer. Crammed up to their gills with tourists, many of them rude…a good number of them stupid (yes, I did just say that)…it is virtually impossible to find solitude or a moments peace. Go during other times of the year and you may get this:
But, I digress…
We walked down to the beach on Friday evening, but just as we stepped outside it began to rain. Adopters of the “passing shower” philosophy, we pressed on. We returned 20 minutes later after it became apparent that the shower was not passing. That was okay. We opened a bottle of wine and the husband proceeded to kick my butt at two rounds of Yahtzee before we called it a night.
The next morning we awoke to skies that looked like they could do any of the previously mentioned weather patterns. Undeterred, we got ourselves together and headed out to our first destination of the day: the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge covers 11,000 acres and encompasses a dazzling number of ecosystems, including salt marshes, tideflats, old growth forests, coastal dunes and beaches, freshwater marshes and grasslands. It was was established in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect migrating birds and their habitat at a time when many estuaries and shallow water bays were being destroyed in the name of progress.
We entered the refuge through the Tarlatt Unit. The trail indicated that it was only a mile long, but it turns out that the lovely grassy trail that meandered through open salt marshes and grasslands, with captivating views of Tarlatt Slough, continued beyond the signs cautioning visitors that we were leaving the refuge. Of course, we didn’t go beyond those signs because we’re always law-abiding citizens.
The Tarlatt Unit definitely lent herself to some beautiful photos, though I suffered some panic when I first opened up my camera. Turns out the soaking the night before was a serious one, as the LED screen was almost completely fogged on the inside. Gulp. Panic. I optimistically assumed that if there was a crack large enough to allow moisture in that the same crack would be large enough to allow air in so the moisture would dry. Lucky for me, I was right. By the time we returned to the car the screen had cleared.
We wandered into Long Beach, stopping at a local sandwich shop to pick up lunch, then moseyed on down to Cape Disappointment. I love the area surrounding the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. On one side sits Oregon, my homeland. The other, Washington. Both offer gorgeous parks and historical sites and museums. And, there is just an untamed and wild feeling about the area. Which is understandable given the violence with which that river meets the Pacific Ocean.
Did I mention there’s a whole lot of history to this area? This particular Cape was named April 12, 1788 by British fur trader John Meares. He was actually searching for the river, but couldn’t find it and actually concluded it didn’t exist. After a storm, he turned his ship around just north of the Cape, not realizing it marks the northern edge of the river’s mouth. Can you imagine? Talk about disappointment.
It wasn’t until 1792 that Robert Gray became the first explorer to cross the Columbia Bar and enter the river. A fur trader, he was traveling in a private vessel named Columbia Rediviva. He named the river after the ship.
And this is just a piece of the history in the area. You might recognize the names Lewis & Clark? Yeah. Those guys. They explored this area, too. There’s actually a really nice interpretive center at Cape Disappointment named, appropriately enough, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. And, once you’ve covered all the history and fun there is to be had on the Washington side, head to the Oregon side to take in Fort Stevens. This fort was once the primary military defense installation in the three-fort, Harbor Defense System at the mouth of the Columbia River. Whips the history nerd in me into a lather.
We ate lunch just outside the interpretive center, which we’ve visited in the past. After that, we wound our way out to the lighthouse. While we understand that the guys at the Coast Guard station right there are incredibly busy we did agree that a few of them should volunteer to scrape and paint the lighthouse this summer. It’s in a bit of a sorry state.
After leaving the top of the Cape we stopped at the beach down below, taking time to walk out the long jetty and gape at the mass of people fishing (turns out it was free fishing weekend–no license required). We asked what they were fishing for and the list was so long I won’t bother to try to repeat it here. My understanding was that they were fishing for about anything they could sink a hook into.
The weather? Well, you can see in the photos that it was pretty agreeable. We had a few showers, but overall enjoyed a mix of sun and clouds…a photographer’s dream day.
We agreed to skip the North Head Lighthouse as I had did a little preliminary research and determined they’re working on it right now and have it wrapped up in scaffolding and what looks like, from a distance, a very large black tarp. By that time we were a bit thirsty, so we headed back to town and stopped at North Jetty Brewing for a refreshment. It’s a cool, laid back little place with tasty beer, according to the husband. I drank cider.
After a leisurely trip back to Ocean Park and dinner at the house we made our way down to the beach. It was a beautiful evening and the sunset was the perfect way to celebrate our 3500th day.