The 5th day of our holiday was the first actual day of our road trip with a first trek of about 200 miles / 325 kilometers to Astoria, Oregon.
The first part to Olympia wasn’t very interesting, a multi lane stretch of the I-5, other than the fact that the snow-capped Mount Rainier was looming on the horizon.
However, as soon as we turned onto US-101 and WA-12 (‘The Olympic Highway’) west, nature slowly took over as we drove to the Pacific coast. In Aberdeen – hometown to Nirvana (“Come as you are” is one of the town’s slogans 😉) – we had a quick stop at a Walmart to get come supplies and a cooler for on the road.
We then picked up the US-101 southbound. As this road generally has a speed limit of 55mph / 90km/h and relatively little traffic, I put the cruise control on and enjoyed the landscapes around us change slowly whilst getting closing to the coast.
Near Ilwaco, at the most southwestern point of the Washington state and close to the Columbia river mouth, we stopped at Beard’s Hollow View Point and we just had to visit Cape Disappointment.
This Cape was aptly named in the late 1780s by John Meares, a fur trader from around present day Vancouver BC, who was venturing south in search of trade along this difficult to navigate stretch of coast. After a huge storm he decide to cut his unsuccessful expedition short and turned his ship around just north of the Cape, thus missing out on Columbia River, which was discovering by Captain Gray in 1792.
Cape Disappointment is reportedly one of the foggiest places in the US with over 2.500 hours of fog a year. We were in luck as the skies were clear and the views spectacular; it surely did not disappoint 😇!
After crossing the Columbia River and entering Oregon via the Astoria-Megler Bridge, our room at our marina hotel, The Riverwalk Inn, turned out to have a killer view. For the film buffs, you may recognise this bridge from The Goonies…
We checked out downtown and grabbed a bite at Fort George Brewery and Public House. There was no room downstairs in the Public House, but we could be squeezed in upstairs where pretty much the entire menu gets cooked in a wood-fired stone oven.
There were great beers (3 regulars and 10 seasonal), but the Quick Wit wheat ale was our favourite on that very sunny afternoon. Bottles of their 10th Anniversary Barrel Aged Barleywine and their Shady Grove (a mix of Finnriver sour cider and Fort George sour saison, both aged in wine barrels) did make it back home as souvenirs.
- BARBACOA Smoked Oregon Painted Hills beef, red onions, fresh cilantro, lime, queso fresco, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, red sauce
- BACON ONION MAC Applewood bacon, red onion
- CAPRESE SALAD Oregon grown beefsteak tomatoes, fresh Belgioioso mozzarella, balsamic reduction, Corto extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, fresh organic basil on a small bed of local Kingfisher Farms organic greens (with an added Albacore tuna steak)
The food at Fort George was great too. The kids loved their Applewood bacon and red onion mac ‘n’ cheese and the delightful smoky barbecued beef on my pizza got an extra crispy crust in the wood fire oven. The above is actually a copy of the descriptions from their menu and it is typical of the food culture in the Pacific Northwest. Focussing on regional sourcing and sustainability, the origin of ingredients is very important and you can see lists of suppliers mentioned on pretty much every menu!
After dinner, we drove up the very windy Coxcomb Drive to The Astoria Column ($5 entry fee per car). This 125-foot (38m) tall column was erected in 1926 and depicts several events in the early history of Oregon and Astoria, which is named after industrial mogul J.J. Astor who financed the construction of Fort Astoria in 1811.
In this region (both on Washington and Oregon side), the story of the Lewis & Clarke Expedition (1804-1806) is omnipresent via lookouts, trailheads, interpretive centers, museums, etc. This expedition was the first to cross the Northwest of the current USA further to the acquisition of Louisiana territory from the French in 1803. Lewis and Clarke were tasked by president Jefferson to assert U.S. sovereignty over the recently acquired territory but their expedition was also commercial in nature: as they also needed to find the most direct and practicable water communication across the continent and to map the resources of the acquired Louisiana territory and the Northwest. During their well documented trails, they also recorded the whereabouts and cultures of more than 24 American Indian tribes that inhabited the Northwest.
Climbing the 164 steps of the spiral staircase of Astoria Column comes with a great reward with the astounding views (also down…), but is not recommended just after having dinner…